By Juan Lozano and Marc Harper | September 15, 2020
Welcome to the first edition of our weekly newsletter.
In securing the Cowboys job, Mike McCarthy claimed he watched every play of the 2019 season. While we now know that’s not true, we promise to watch every play of the 2020 season so that you don’t have to. Along the way, we hope to provide you with meaningful insight on the players that helped their teams win each week.
We introduce a new column this week where we want to highlight those players that were instrumental in their team’s victory but whose contribution didn’t show up in the stat sheet or their contributions were completely unexpected.
We are calling this the “WOW” or “Winners of the Week”.
WINNERS OF THE WEEK
Thursday: Texans 20, Chiefs 34 – Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB)
- The defending Super Bowl Champions returned almost all key players from last year’s squad, but the impact player this week? Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Nothing like 138 yards on 25 attempts in your first game in the NFL to announce your presence with authority. Those who watched LSU play last year knew the Chiefs got something special at the end of the first round. Now, everyone else knows too.
Sunday: Eagles 17, Washington Football Team 27- Fabian Moreau. (CB)
- The fourth-year cornerback from UCLA made the game’s biggest play for Washington. His late second quarter interception of a Carson Wentz pass gave Washington the Ball at the Eagles 45-yard line.
- Five plays later, Washington found the end zone to cut the Eagles lead to 17-7. Washington would score a total of 27 unanswered points to win this key NFC East contest.
Sunday: Dolphins 11, Patriots 21- Patriots Offensive Line
- Most offensive lines don’t like, or at least pretend not to like individual attention. The Patriots offensive line, especially left tackle Isaiah Wynn were the unsung heroes of this AFC East clash.
- The New England offensive line protected quarterback Cam Newton well in his first start as a member of the Patriots. The Pats ran for 18 first downs, averaged over 5.2 yards a carry and had possession for 34:49. Simply, the Pats O-line was dominant. They bullied Miami. The Patriots are now on to Seattle.
Sunday: Packers 43, Vikings 34 – Elgton Jenkins (OL)
- The Packers were comfortably ahead of the Vikings throughout much of this game. While Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams dazzled, Elgton Jenkins was an unsung hero for the Packers offense. Jenkins started the game at guard, moved to tackle due to injury, back to guard due to another injury, and then back to tackle due to an additional injury. He played all 78 offensive snaps on an offensive line that committed zero penalties and allowed zero sacks. Not a bad day in a dominating win for the Packers.
Sunday: Colts 20, Jaguars 27 – C.J. Henderson (CB)
- The Jaguars are not supposed to be winning games this year. They’ve traded away top defensive talent and let Leonard Fournette walk a week before the season start. On the other hand, the Colts are trying to be good. They think they have a window to make a deep run in the post-season. Early in a 7-0 game, and after two Jaguars three-and-outs, Henderson jumped in front of a poor Phillip Rivers pass. The interception sparked a score for the Jaguars and kept them in a game that could have gotten away from them early.
Sunday: Bears 27, Lions 23- Akiem Hicks (DL)
- Most of the media coverage of the Bears’ nearly improbable come from behind win focused on quarterback Mitchell Trubiksy’s night-and-day performance.
- The Bears were down by as many as 17 in the fourth quarter. They were still down 23-13 with 5:39 in the fourth quarter when defensive lineman Akiem Hicks sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on 2nd & 8 for a 9-yard loss, placing the ball on the Bears 42-yard line. Two plays, Detroit missed a 55-yard field goal. Hicks’ sack made the field goal attempt, a more difficult one.
- Chicago got the ball back at their own 45-yard line and scored a touchdown five plays later to cut the Lions lead to 23-20.
Sunday: Raiders 34, Panthers 30 – Cory Littleton (LB)
- This could have easily gone to all the players on the Raiders defensive line for a 4th-and-1 stuff to end the game. But Littleton deserves credit for coming in late to clean up Carolina RB Alex Armah and stopping him from fighting through for a first down. The defensive line blew up the play, and it came down to Littleton to make the play to win.
Sunday: Jets 17, Bills 27 – Jordan Poyer (S)
- While this game wasn’t close for very long, the Jets started to make things uncomfortable heading into the 4th. They cut the lead to ten and had the ball back. Jordan Poyer, made a beautiful strip of Chris Herndon after reading the play the entire way. The Bills would go on to kick a field goal later that drive and the game was all but over. Poyer played 100% of the defensive snaps during a game in which the Jets could never really get anything going offensively.
Sunday: Browns 6, Ravens 38- Mark Andrews (TE)
- This game got out of hand quick. The discussion of the Ravens offense has been on Lamar Jackson and is blazingly fast receiving corps for most of the offseason. And for good reason. They’re really good.
- Ravens tight end Mark Andrews hauled in two touchdowns, including a tremendous one-handed catch for the first score of the season and was tied for the team in catches (five). The third year tight end out of Oklahoma is just another option that teams have to prepare for when they play the Ravens. Good luck to everyone in the AFC North.
Sunday: Seahawks 38, Falcons 25 – Chris Carson (RB)
- Understandably, Russell Wilson is the best player on this team. But Chris Carson out of the backfield was a nightmare for the Falcons early, providing two early red zone scores for Seattle. Seattle pulled away early in the third through the air, but Carson set the tone early.
Sunday: Chargers 16, Bengals 13- Josh Kelley (RB)
- Kelley, a 2020 4th round pick out of UCLA (via FCS UC Davis) had 12 carries for 60 yards and the Chargers lone touchdown of the game and erased the Bengals advantage. Without the benefit of preseason games, people didn’t get to know about Kelley. They should after Sunday’s performance.
Sunday: Cardinals 24, 49ers 20- Ezekiel “Zeke” Turner (S)
- There’s more than one “Zeke” in the league. With 7:05 left in the first quarter, “Zeke” Turner of the Cardinals blocked a Mitch Wishnowsky punt. At the time, the 49ers were up 10-0. The very next play, the Cardinals scored on a 10-yard pass from Kyler Murray to Chase Edmonds.
- Turner an undrafted free agent out of Washington is in his third year in the league and is emerging as one of the top special team players in the NFC. While you’re busy re-filling your drink, we are watching Turner, a real impact player.
Sunday: Buccaneers 23, Saints 34- Margus Hunt (DL)
- Hunt, a second-round Bengals draft pick in 2013 out of SMU was 26 years old when he made his NFL debut. The now thirty-three-year-old Hunt has had seven sacks in his NFL career. He made the most memorable play of his career on Sunday versus Tampa Bay.
- Down 14-7, the Bucs attempted a 54-yard field goal. Hunt, one of the most prolific kick blockers in NCAA history, broke through a porous Bucs line and blocked the recently signed Ryan Succop attempt.
- The Saints went on a 10 play drive and extended their lead to 17-7 right before the half. This ten-point cushion put the Saints in the driver’s seat all game.
- Hunt was recently one of two players recently promoted from the Saints practice squad. This is a part of the NFL’s new rules that permit a team to call up a player to the practice squad for participation in a game and return him to the practice squad without exposing him to waivers. A team can do this twice, per practice squad player, during the season.
Sunday: Cowboys 17, Rams 20- Jordan Fuller (S)
- Fuller, a rookie strong safety led the Rams in tackles and had a critical fourth-down stop on the most important play of the game, the ill-advised attempted fourth down conversion. Look for Fuller to continue to get the starting nod over second-year player Taylor Rapp. Fuller was a 6th round pick (199th overall) in the 2020 NFL Draft. Twenty years earlier, that same pick was used to select Tom Brady.
Monday: Steelers 26, Giants 16 – The Steelers Defensive Line
- The entire line was a problem for the Giants and Daniel Jones all night. They wreaked havoc on an overmatched Giants offensive line playing without Nate Solder. The two biggest plays of the game were TJ Watt dropping into coverage for an early interception that led to a touchdown, and Bud Dupree blasting Daniel Jones to force a red zone interception at the end of a 19 play and 97-yard drive, effectively ending the game.
Monday: Titans 16, Broncos 14 – Corey Davis (WR)
- Would it have been fair to give this award to Stephen Gostkowski even after going one of four on field goals? Maybe, he did hit the game winner. Instead, we’ll give the award to Corey Davis who had 7 catches for 101 yards. He found a way to get open all game on a night in which Derrick Henry only managed 3.7 yards per attempt. Davis has had a disappointing first 3 years to his career after being a first-round pick, but with defenses crowding the box to stop Henry, and focusing attention on A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith, this could be the year for him to take a big step.
Opinions expressed are solely of the author and do not express the views or opinions of Headcoachranking.com.