By Juan Lozano and Marc Harper | November 18, 2020
Colts @ Titans – E.J. Speed (LB)
- Speed is known for having one of the better names in pro football. Now he’s known for making an impact on special teams.
- Speed’s contributions on punt return/ punt block teams led directly to the Colts impressive road win against their division rival, Tennessee Titans.
- In the third quarter, the Colts were stopped and turned the ball over on downs at the one-yard line. The Titans held a four-point lead and were later stopped on the ensuing drive and were forced to punt from the 10-yard line. Speed, along with a teammate, pressured new Titans punter Trevor Daniel who shanked the ball for a 17-yard kick.
- Four plays later, the Colts find the end zone and take a 20-17 lead. The Titans next drive ends and they are forced to punt again from their own 26-yard line. Speed goes undetected and blocks the Daniel punt. The ball is scooped up by TJ Carrie who returns it for a touchdown and gives the Colts a commanding two-score lead.
- Speed has emerged as a special teams’ standout. It’s the type of effort that will get him in the linebacker rotation at some point soon.
- Speed, is a 2019 fifth-round pick out of Division II Tarleton State in Texas. (Tarleton State is transitioning to an FCS program and were slated to play their first FCS season this season).
- The second-year linebacker is the ultimate Chris Ballard – type of player. Ballard, a former Texas small school coach loves players from small schools in Texas.
Eagles @ Giants – Daniel Jones (QB)
- There has not been a lot of good in any NFC East game this year. However, based on our highly scientific twitter poll, I’d argue the Giants are the best coached team in the NFC East. In fact, I think they are coached much better than a 3-7 team. Much better? Maybe not, but definitely better than 3-7.
- Why have they lost seven games you ask? There’s many reasons, but Daniel Jones has been a turnover machine. Every big spot. Every big red zone opportunity. You could almost count on him to make a mistake trying to do too much. He isn’t one to throw the ball away, or tuck the ball and take a sack.
- On Sunday, Jones did not turn the ball over once. No fumbles. No interceptions. And they won the game. Sure the Eagles are bad, but the Giants have lost to bad teams before. We’d imagine this is something Joe Judge is stressing in practice every week. Every session. No turnovers. With more weeks like this from Jones, the Giants should be the favorites to win the NFC East from this point forward in the 2020 season.
Jaguars @ Packers – Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR)
- In 2020, the bulk of the Packers passing offense has gone through wide receiver Davante Adams, that is, when he’s been healthy. Otherwise, it’s been a different player that has had to contribute each week.
- Against the Jaguars, Adams had 8 catches for 66 yards and 1 touchdown. But another pass catcher emerged on Sunday, Marquez Valdes-Scantling aka “MVS”. The third-year wideout caught a 78-yard pass to start the second quarter that gave the Packers a 10-7 advantage. MVS finished the game with 4 catches for 149 yards, a career high, and a touchdown. It was the fourth 100-yard game of MVS’ career.
- As the season goes on, and with the weather changing and injuries mounting, the Packers need to develop a downfield threat to take some of the focus off Davante Adams. MVS is on the field consistently for over 75% of Green Bay’s snaps. He could be the player that steps up for Green Bay.
Wash @ Lions – Deandre Swift (RB)
- Swift got off to a rough start this season. He dropped a wide-open, potential game-winning touchdown in the season opener. But he has bounced back and is showing the reason he was one of the top running back prospects in the last draft.
- Swift has come on very strong the last couple of weeks and is doing whatever the offense needs. He had 16 carries for 81 yards, and then added five catches for 68 yards and a score. The Lions have been committed the last couple of weeks in getting him involved in the offense, and it has paid dividends.
- There is no reason the Lions need to be running Adrian Peterson at all. The team is not good, and would be better served developing Swift and Kerryon Johnson. While Johnson has been largely phased out, Sunday was a step in the right direction for Swift.
Texans @ Browns – Nick Chubb (RB)
- The weather was not conducive to offensive football on Sunday. In fact, the start time was pushed back 30 minutes due to weather.
- No matter for Chubb, who was making his return from injury. He ran 19 times for 126 yards and a score (We also want to acknowledge Cleveland running back Kareem Hunt who rushed 19 times for 104 yards). Any time a team is averaging over five yards per carry, it’s a good sign.
- Running the ball is probably the key for a Browns team right in the thick of the wild card hunt. For them to advance the playoffs, they need to continue running the ball and play good defense. Another key to victory – Don’t let Baker Mayfield do too much (i.e. turn the ball over).
Bucs @ Panthers – Ronald Jones (RB)
- It was an ominous start for the Buccaneers and third-year pro Ronald Jones. His first touch of the game resulted in a one-yard gain. On his second touch, he caught a Tom Brady pass and ran for 6 yards before fumbling. The Panthers would recover and score the first points of the game, a touchdown.
- This was not the start that Tampa Bay needed in a crucial NFC South road contest, just six days after an embarrassing home Sunday Night Football performance against the Saints.
- The Buccaneers have been splitting carries between Jones and Leonard Fournette. We fully expected that the Buccaneers would go away from Jones after that costly fumble. To the Bucs’ credit, they didn’t.
- Jones would reward the Bucs for their belief in him. In the third quarter, Jones scored on a 98-touchdown run, the longest rushing play in Buccaneers history. The run gave the Buccaneers a two- score lead. Jones would finish with 192 yards on 23 carries.
- Tampa Bay rushed 37 times on Sunday versus the Panthers. This is in sharp contrast to the five attempts they had in Week 9 in the blowout loss against the Saints.
Chargers @ Dolphins – Salvon Ahmed (RB)
- Rookie running back Salvon Ahmed had his first NFL start on Sunday in a winning effort against the Los Angeles Chargers. Ahmed rushed for 85 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown.
- Ahmed started in place of Myles Gaskin who is currently on injured reserve due to a knee sprain. Veteran running back Matt Breida is out with a hamstring injury and since-released Jordan Howard was a healthy scratch, leaving Ahmed, undrafted second-year back Patrick Laird and recently acquired DeAndré Washington to run the ball for the Dolphins.
- Ahmed like Gaskin, a second-year player is an undrafted running back out of the University of Washington.
- The 6-3 Dolphins are in the playoff hunt and will continue to need strong efforts from Ahmed and the rest of the running backs down the stretch.
Broncos @ Raiders – Jeff Heath (S)
- The Raiders defense absolutely dominated the Drew Lock throughout the day. They hit him and they forced turnovers whenever they needed it. Heath had two interceptions and also knocked down two passes as part of a four interception afternoon for the Defense.
- Heath was a four-year player at Saginaw Valley State University, was not invited to the combine and went undrafted. Since then? He’s played eight impactful years in the NFL. In fact, Heath never even played on a practice squad, he impressed so much out of camp that he made the opening day roster. Lots of misses across the NFL on Heath. Hard work has paid off for Heath.
Bills @ Cardinals – Zane Gonzalez (K)
- This game is already being recognized as the “Hail Murray” game for the seemingly impossible game-winning touchdown pass from quarterback Kyler Murray to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
- The Cardinals Air Raid offense was held touchdown-less for the first half. They were only down 13-9 because kicker Zane Gonzalez made all three field goal attempts. He would later add a 45-yard field goal with 3:05 left in the third quarter to cut the Bills lead to 23-19.
- Gonzalez was short on a 49- yard field goal attempt in Week 9.
- He would redeem himself in Week 10 and helped the Cardinals to victory as he was perfect on the day with both field goals and extra points. The Cardinals are 6-3 and their last three games have been decided by a field goal or less. We anticipate that they will need Gonzalez to remain consistent as they face what is likely the hardest stretch of their schedule as they go on the road to play Seattle and New England before returning home to face the Rams.
SF 49ers @ Saints – CJ Gardner-Johnson (CB)
- The Saints offense did not play particularly well (especially after quarterback Drew Brees left the game), which opened the door for the 49ers to make this game interesting. Gardner-Johnson slammed the door shut. On Sunday, he had eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, three QB hits, and a pass deflection.
- He was everywhere throughout the game. The Saints brought him on the blitz multiple times to force quick throws. He was physical getting off blocks to make tackles in the run game.
- Gardner-Johnson is often known for instigating fights and commotions. Just this year he got in a practice fight with Michael Thomas and also made Bears wide receiver Javon Wims so mad he threw punches at Gardner-Johnson. However, he’s also one of the best players on the Saints defense, and they need his physicality on a defense that often doesn’t respond when getting punched in the face. Gardner-Johnson set the tone on Sunday and they’ll need more of him as the season winds down.
Seahawks @ Rams – Leonard Floyd (OLB)
- The Rams defense absolutely dominated the day. They made Russell Wilson look ordinary. (It might have destroyed his MVP chances). Wilson never got comfortable. Floyd and the entire defensive line was a huge part of that.
- Floyd had five tackles on the day. Three of those were sacks. The other two were tackles for loss. Oh, he also hit Wilson five other times on the day. He stopped Wilson from getting into a groove the entire day.
- For most of Sean McVay’s tenure at the Rams, the team has been known for the offense. This year, the defense is the key to success. The offense, led by Jared Goff, is simply not good enough to win shootouts the way it once did. If the defense plays like this, it might not matter. In Week 11, they face a good test against the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. If they have another performance like this, it might be time to start taking the Rams seriously.
Bengals @ Steelers – TJ Watt (DE)
- Watt had a similar game to Leonard Floyd. He racked up four tackles. Two were sacks, the other two were tackles for loss. He added four QB hits for good measure. The Steelers defense held the Bengals to 10 points, and for another week probably had Joe Burrow wishing he was still in college.
- Days like Sunday are why some teams want to keep their rookie QBs on ice for the first season. Burrow was sacked four times and hit nine times on the day. There have been many games like that this year, and the hits start to add up. We’ve seen quarterbacks lose confidence from much less. Sure there is a benefit to sitting behind a veteran and learning, but for the Bengals the real issue is they can’t protect Burrow, especially against the likes of Watt.
- The Steelers defense is great, and their defensive line is a big part of that.
Ravens @ Pats – Kyle Dugger (S)
- Patriots rookie safety Kyle Dugger made the most of his first NFL start on Sunday night against the Ravens in a torrential downpour.
- The Lenoir-Rhyne product, a second-round draft pick of the Patriots led both teams with 12 tackles.
- With the Patriots up six points with 12:21 left in the game, Dugger along with cornerback Jonathan Jones tackled Willie Snead for a ten-yard gain on a 3rd & 12 from the Ravens 24-yard line to force a punt.
- And on the game’s final drive played in the heaviest rains of the evening, Dugger kept fellow rookie, running back J.K. Dobbins in bounds, on a tackle and prevented the Ravens from threatening a comeback.
- Dugger finished with a game-high 12 tackles in his first NFL start. Not bad for a Division II player that only started playing football in his senior year of high school in Decatur, Georgia. We anticipate Dugger getting the starting nod more frequently in 2020 and beyond.
Vikings @ Bears – Justin Jefferson (WR)
- Adam Thielen, scored both of Minnesota’s touchdowns in the Monday Night victory over the Bears. While rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson didn’t find the end zone, he made a significant impact in the game with eight catches for 135 yards.
- It was his fourth game this season with over 100 yards receiving. The last Vikings wide receiver with four 100-yard receiving games? Randy Moss. Jefferson was the 21st pick overall in the 2020 Draft while Moss was the 22nd pick, twenty-two years earlier, in the 1998 Draft. Jefferson was a teammate of Moss’ son, Thaddeus at LSU.
Opinions expressed are solely of the author and do not express the views or opinions of Headcoachranking.com.