By Juan Lozano and Marc Harper | December 9, 2020
Browns @ Titans – Rashard Higgins (WR)
- Higgins has been a revelation for the Browns since Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL. On Sunday, he caught 6 of 9 targets for 95 yards and a score. The Browns pride themselves on running the football, and Jarvis Landry is the main receiving threat, so there are only so many passes to go around, but Higgins has made the most of his opportunities.
- Higgins signed a one-year deal for just under $1 Million this year. If he can continue to make plays down the stretch, he will be in line for a multi-year deal with some guaranteed money. Not a bad result for a fifth-round pick out of Colorado State.
- The Browns offense has seemed to flow a bit more after the Beckham injury, Higgins is a big reason why.
WFT @ Steelers – Logan Thomas (TE)
- Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas tied the game with 9:09 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard touchdown receptions from Alex Smith. WFT would later add two field goals in the quarter to overcome a fourteen-point deficit against the previously undefeated Steelers.
- Thomas would finish with nine catches for 98 yards.
- Thomas, a converted quarterback from Virginia Tech Was a fourth-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2014. After bouncing around as a quarterback, Thomas switched to tight end in 2016 as a member of the Detroit Lions. He later signed with the Bills and came back to the Lions before joining WFT in 2020. Prior to this season, Thomas had caught only 35 passes. In 2020, he’s caught 43 passes.
- He signed a one-year contract and will be a free agent at the end of the season.
- And speaking of tight ends…
Raiders @ Jets – Darren Waller (TE)
- We’ve seen Waller put up some big numbers this season, most notably in Week 1 against the Saints on MNF. Everyone knows what he’s capable of. To be in week 13, and not have a plan for him is coaching malfeasance. Much will be made about Gregg Williams going cover zero on the last snap of the game to lose. Rightfully so, but if the Jets made any effort to contain Waller, it wouldn’t have mattered.
- Instead, Waller hauled in 13 catches for 200 yards and 2 scores. Watching the game we thought he might end up with 20 catches. Still, while Waller (and TEs in general) are a matchup problem, he is not Tyreek Hill. You can guard him. You can build the defense around guarding him, but that’s not what the Jets do, and it burned them badly even before the final snap of the game.
Jags @ Vikings – Harrison Smith (S)
- Smith has had a very impressive season thus far. It would not be a stretch to say he’s the most important non-Dalvin Cook player on this team. Smith has had a knack for making big plays all season, and Sunday was no different.
- In overtime, after a quick three-and-out from the offense, Smith picked off Jaguars quarterback Mike Glennon to set up the game winning field goal. The Vikings defense had been gashed late in this one, and Smith getting them off the field quickly was instrumental to getting the win. He also added 6 combined tackles and seems to be everywhere.
- Smith is 32 and is entering the last year of his deal. He’s still one of the better safeties in the league, and has shown no signs of slowing down. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Vikings extend one of their most impactful players on defense.
Bengals @ Dolphins – Mike Gesicki (TE)
- This was an ugly game. There wasn’t much offense. There was a fight. The lone bright spot was Gesicki continuing to prove he is one of the better tight ends in this league.
- He caught 9 of 11 targets for 88 yards and a score. One of the best things you can do for a young quarterback is provide a nice big tight target as a security blanket, and Tua has been more than happy to take advantage of that.
- The Dolphins took Gesicki in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft, and it’s fair to say the pick has worked out quite well. Gesicki and Tua can be an effective pair for years to come.
Colts @ Texans – Jonathan Taylor (RB)
- There were a lot of questions when the Colts drafted Jonathan Taylor in the second round in the 2020 draft despite having Marlon Mack. Mack was lost for the year, early in the 2020 campaign. Taylor has shown exactly why he was drafted.
- On Sunday, he averaged 7.1 yards per carry while rushing for 91 yards. He added 3 catches for 44 yards and a score.
- Taylor has been ineffective in the last couple of weeks as the Colts leaned more on Phillip Rivers, but for this team to win in the playoffs, they’ll need to keep this balanced approach. If Taylor can keep it going, there won’t be many teams that can match the Colts.
Lions @ Bears – Romeo Okwara (DE)
- The Lions won the first game after both the general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia were fired. It wasn’t an easy win for the Lions as it was a road game against a desperate Bears team. For the majority of the game, it appeared as if the Bears would get the win. After all, they held a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter.
- Romeo Okwara thwarted victory celebration plans and ensured the Bears a sixth straight defeat.
- On 3rd & 4, with the Bears on their own seventeen-yard line, and with 1:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, the defensive end strip sacked Trubisky. The ensuing fumble was recovered by defensive tackle John Penisini at the Bears seven-yard line. The Lions would take over and two plays later running back Adrian Peterson scored a 5-yard touchdown that gave the Lions the come from behind win.
- In addition to the sack, Okwara finished with four tackles and two quarterback hits.
- This isn’t Romeo Okwara’s second strip sack of the season as he strip-sacked Matt Ryan in a Week 7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. He’s been making plays all season and is set to be a free agent at the end of this season. He is only 25 years old and yet is a five-year veteran. He first signed with the Giants and later joined the Lions in 2018. There’s a need for strong pass rushers in the league and we anticipate that Okwara is going to get PAID.
- Romeo Okwara is the older brother of Lions rookie defensive end Julian Okwara.
Saints @ Falcons – Jared Cook (TE)
- The Saints tight end Jared Cook has been an afterthought in the offense after Drew Brees went down with a rib injury. Cook had only one catch in the last three games. He had three on Sunday in a win against the Falcons. All three came on third down and all were either scores or lead to scores. Let’s take a look at those catches:
- In the first quarter, Cook caught a Taysom Hill pass for 7 yards on 3rd-and-6 from the Saints 35-yard line. This drive would end with a Tre’Quan Smith touchdown.
- At the end of the second quarter (1;45 remaining), Cook caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Hill to give the Saints a 14-6 lead.
- In the third quarter, facing a long 3rd-and- 7 from the Atlanta 31-yard line, Cook caught a Hill pass for a 10-yard gain. Running back Alvin Kamara scored on an 11-yard rush on the drive to give the Saints a 21-9 advantage
Giants @ Seahawks – Leonard Williams (DT)
- Is it possible for the Jets to lose two games in one day? Watching Leonard Williams on Sunday afternoon had us scratching our head. Why did the Jets trade him? The Jets traded him for a third round pick and a conditional fifth round pick. I understand that the Jets are rebuilding (or are they?), but it’s hard to get a player like Williams. Even if they let him play out his deal they would have been in line for a compensatory pick. Instead…
- Williams finished with 2.5 sacks on the day in a huge upset against the Seahawks. He was instrumental in the win. There was pressure against Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson all game and he never got comfortable. Williams was a big reason why. On the season, Williams has 8.5 sacks. Players like Williams make it clear that the issue with the Jets wasn’t just Gregg Williams. It’s everything.
- The NFC East might be much maligned, but there are some good defensive fronts. Williams headlined a great defensive performance and has the Giants in a battle against the Washington Football Team for the NFC East division title.
Rams @ Cardinals – Cam Akers (RB)
- Rookie second- round draft pick Cam Akers gained 72 yards on 21 carries in a road victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Akers also caught one pass for 22 yards.
- Those aren’t gaudy stats but his contribution was in helping the Rams hold the ball and keep the Arizona offense off the field. The Rams’ time of possession was 38:53 compared to the Cardinals’ 21:07.
- There was some concern that the loss of running back Todd Gurley would result in the loss of some effectiveness of the running game. That has not been the case. Rather, the 21-yard old, second-round pick out of Florida State appears to be taking the lead in this “running back by committee” situation.
Pats @ Chargers – Gunner Olszewski (WR)
- Gunner Olszewski is in his second season with the New England Patriots. He had not reached the end zone until the second quarter of the road game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
- Olszewski took a punt, seventy yards to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead.
- In addition to playing special teams, Olszewski is a wide receiver and got in on nine plays in the blowout win. On one of those plays, backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham connected with Olszewski for a 38-yard touchdown to put about the twentieth nail in the Chargers coffin.
- The second-year player is a Texas high school product and a converted cornerback from Division II, Bemidji State.
Eagles @ Packers – Rashan Gary (OLB/DE)
- We know what Davante Adams and Aaron Jones do. But this game was over because of the erratic play of Carson Wentz. The great defensive line play of the Packers was a big reason why.
- Gary had 1.5 sacks on the day and made his presence felt with two other QB hits. The Packers already have one of the best edge rushers in Za’Darius Smith. They drafted Gary in the first round in 2019 to help bolster their defensive line and make teams pay for doubling Smith. They were going up against a weak line, but if this defense can continue to generate pressure, they will be a tough out come January.
Broncos @ Chiefs – Harrison Butker (K)
- The Kansas City Chiefs had a difficult time reaching the end zone in an AFC West home contest. Their usual high octane offense was stymied by a stubborn Broncos defense. Luckily for the Chiefs, they had kicker Harrison Butker.
- Butker kicked five field goals in the game, including one to end the first half to cut the Broncos lead to 10-9.
- The longest of the game was his final one, a 48-yard field goal with 1:06 left to extend the Chiefs advantage to 22-16. Down six, Denver had to attempt to reach the end zone rather than get in makeable field goal range. The Broncos worked from a point of desperation and the Kansas City defense forced quarterback Drew Lock to throw an interception.
- There’s a lesson to be learned: Even potent offenses have off-days. This was one of those days for the Chiefs. This is a good lesson to those fans that always insist on attempting fourth down conversions at the goal line and high percentage field goal attempt range. There is value in kicking field goals, even early. You just never know when you are going to need points.
Cowboys @ Ravens – Patrick Queen (LB)
- Queen intercepted an Andy Dalton pass intended for Amari Cooper at the Dallas 38-yard line with 8:20 left in the second quarter.
- On the very next play, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson connected with wide receiver Miles Boykin for a 38-yard touchdown pass to give the Ravens a 14-10 lead. Queen would also contribute five tackles and one pass defended in the best winning effort.
- Queen is a 2020 first round pick out of Louisiana State University. He’s an impact on the Ravens defense already in his first year. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after a stellar Week Five performance. Like the Ravens, we anticipate Queen having a fantastic career in Baltimore.
Bills @ 49ers – Cole Beasley (WR)
- Beasley, a nine-year veteran is on pace to have his best season.
- In a Monday night win against the 49ers, Beasley had nine catches for 130 yards and a score. The touchdown, a 5-yard touchdown pass from Josh Allen tied the contest early. Two of his catches in the first half were over 30 yards each.
- Beasley, who spent the majority of his career with the Cowboys before signing with Buffalo in 2019, lettered at Southern Methodist University and was an undrafted free agent. Stefon Diggs gets much of the attention in Buffalo and he should be recognized for his contributions, but Beasley is an important piece of a much improved Buffalo offense in 2020.
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