By Juan Lozano and Marc Harper | December 30, 2020
Vikings @ Saints – Alvin Kamara (RB)
- Kamara scored 6 touchdowns in a game.
- You know who he is. We will spare you a unnecessarily wordier story about Kamara’s contribution to winning that we reserve for less recognizable contributors.
- Kamara’s game totals: 22 carries for 155 yards and three catches for 17 yards and 6 touchdowns.
- Yes, other Saints made critical plays in the game, but Kamara had six rushing touchdowns.
Bucs @ Lions – Mike Evans (WR)
- Nearly every player on the Tampa Bay Offense is worthy of recognition this week: Brady, Godwin, Fournette, Gronk, AB. All of them made plays. We chose Mike Evans.
- Evans had 10 catches for 181 yards and two scores. He’s now only 40 yards away from another 1,000-yard season. And now, the longest tenured member of the name players is headed to the playoffs for the first time.
- The Bucs hit when they drafted him, seven years ago.
- We wonder if former Bills General Manager Doug Whaley and CEO Russ Brandon kick themselves for trading up for the wrong receiver.
- The Bucs were happy to capitalize on the Bills’ mistake. It’s taken awhile for the organization to put a winning team around Evans, but they’ve finally assembled a team capable of making a deep playoff run and Evans, of course, is a key part of that
49ers @ Cardinals – Jeff Wilson, Jr. (RB)
- The defending NFC Champion 49ers have had a roller coaster 2020 season. They are not even playing at home in the Bay Area down the backstretch of the season and have had to take on a “spoiler” role as they are out of playoff contention. The 49ers almost ruined the Arizona Cardinals chances with a surprise victory on Saturday. What made it more surprising is that the they were forced to start third-string quarterback C. J. Beathard against the Cardinals’ who boast a highly touted offense.
- Third-year running back Jeff Wilson, Jr. was a workhorse for the Niners as he rushed 22 times for 183 yards. His lone catch came in the first quarter and Wilson went for 21 yards and the 49ers first score of the game.
- Wilson, an undrafted free agent out of North Texas has been with the 49ers since 2018. He’s made prior contributions to the team, after all, he has five rushing touchdowns this season and a total of nine in his career. However, Saturday was Wilson’s most productive day as a member of the 49ers.
Dolphins @ Raiders – Myles Gaskin (RB)
- For good reason, this game will probably be remembered by Dolphins fans as the game where Ryan Fitzpatrick took over for Tua and won the game for Miami preserving their playoff hopes in highly dramatic fashion. This game might already have been given a nickname to remember the game by.
- Neither is our W.O.W.
- This is the second week in a row where Miami’s WOW is a former Washington Huskies running back. Last week it was Savion Ahmed. In Week 16, it is Myles Gaskin.
- The Dolphins offense struggled as they were without some injured key players.
- Gaskin was a weapon in the running and passing game as he rushed 14 times for 87 yards and would also catch five passes, two of which were touchdowns for 82 yards.
- His two touchdowns both came in the second half. The first score, a ten-yard pass from Tua Tagovailoa tied the game 13-13 early in the third quarter.
- The second touchdown was a pass from newly inserted veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick that Gaskin took 59 yards to give the Dolphins a 23-22 lead with 2:55 training the game.
- Gaskin, one of the most decorated running backs in PAc-12 history was Miami’s seventh round pick in 2019. He was the last running back taken in that draft.
- In 2019, Gaskin only appeared in seven games as a rookie and finished the season with just 133 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown and seven receptions for 51 receiving yards.
- The Dolphins have relied on a number of different running backs in 2020, the previously mentioned Ahmed, Matt Breida, and even now-departed Jordan Howard.
- Gaskin was placed on injured reserve in November and was activated in early December only to be made unavailable and placed on the Covid-19 list. Gaskin was activated before Saturday’s game. He appears to be the most explosive and consistent back Miami has.
Browns @ Jets – Jamison Crowder (WR)
- The Jets needed just enough offense to beat the nearly receiverless Browns. Fortunately, they got almost all of their offense from Crowder who was a jack-of-all-trades. Crowder had one carry for 14 yards, threw a 43- yard touchdown, and caught seven passes for 92 yards and another touchdown. In total, Crowder was responsible for twelve of the 23 points the Jets scored.
- Crowder has been one of the rare bright spots on a bad, but improving Jets team. Crowder has played for two of the most dysfunctional organizations (Washington Football Team and Jets) in the NFL, but has constantly been impressive. It’s unfortunate to be on bad teams, but all a guy can do is make the most of it. On Sunday, Crowder did.
Colts @ Steelers – T.J. Watt (OLB)
- The Steelers will go as far as their defense will take them. They aren’t doing enough on offense right now, but even with injuries they still have one of the best defensive fronts in all of football.
- On Sunday, Watt had a strip sack of Colts quarterback Philip Rivers that led to a Steelers score. These were Pittsburgh’s only points of the first half. If they didn’t steal one on defense, in this game where they were down 21-7 at the half, they would have had no chance to pull off the come-from-behind victory.
- Watt had a great game, notching 2 sacks, a tackle for loss and a QB hit. Even after losing difference makers like Bud Dupree and Devin Bush for the season, the defense still hums because of players like Watt.
Giants @ Ravens – Ravens OL
- The Baltimore Ravens were able to put Giants away early as they scored on all four first-half possessions. Baltimore scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and later kicked field goals on the final two possession of the half to take a 20-3 lead into halftime.
- The first possession was an 82-yard drive, thirteen-play drive that took eight minutes off the clock. That drive set the tone for the Ravens offense which dominated the Giants previously solid rushing defense. Baltimore ran for 249 yards on Sunday and Gus Edwards (85 yards), Lamar Jackson (80 yards) and J.K. Dobbins (77 yards) took turns gashing the Giants defense.
- Baltimore’s production was surprising considering the Giants’ defense entered Sunday’s game allowing just 3.9 yards per rushing attempt.
- The Giants have a lot of money invested in their front with linemen Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson and linebacker Blake Martinez. They got pushed around by a Ravens offensive line that has suffered key injured at center and tackle.
Bengals @ Texans – Samaje Perine (RB)
- Perine might not be Bengals running backs Joe Mixon or Giovani Bernard, but he was the most reliable back on the field, for both teams, on Sunday. He carried the ball thirteen times for 95 yards and two scores and added four catches for 44 yards.
- Perine is on his third different team (including a second stint with the Bengals), but he looked as good as any running back that’s suited up for them this year. The Bengals might not be playing for much as they have been out of playoff contention for a long time, but a player like Perine, showing enough down the stretch can help him stay in the league another year.
- For the Bengals, you have to wonder if it was worth paying Joe Mixon given the stable of running backs on the team. We liked the deal at the time, but Mixon has missed almost the entire year. It should be an interesting offseason in Cincinnati.
Bears @ Jags – Roquan Smith (ILB)
- The Jags appear to be “all-in” on “Tanking for Trevor” at this point in the 2020 campaign, but they still need to play the games. Uncomfortably for Jaguars fans that want Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the game felt tight through the first half.
- Fortunately for Jaguars fans, Roquan Smith finished the day with two interceptions while adding eight tackles.
- Smith’s interceptions led to 10 total points in a must-win game for the Bears. They’ll need a similar effort from Smith next week against the Packers if they want to make the playoffs.
- Also, this is Smith’s third straight week as our Bears W.O.W.
Carolina @ WFT – Curtis Samuel (WR)
- Samuel was the leading rusher with seven carries for 52 yards. He also had five catches for 106 yards. It might be strange to say, given the emergence of Mike Davis at running back, but the Panthers have replaced Christian McCaffrey’s production with Curtis Samuel.
- They line him up similarly, both in the backfield and at WR. They try to get him the ball in space as often as possible. At times, throwing the ball downfield to him instead of Roby Anderson and DJ Moore seems to be a mistake, but on Sunday he could do no wrong.
- We also just need to point out that even remotely competent quarterback play for the WFT would have been enough to win. The WFT lost every day this week by starting Dwayne Haskins. They admitted their mistake on Monday, cutting him after less than two seasons on the team, but I wonder why they bothered starting him on Sunday. Not a good look for a team that’s only one win away from making the playoffs.
- Samuel was a former Ohio State University teammate of Haskins. It’s fair to say he had the better day.
Falcons @ Chiefs – Demarcus Robinson (WR)
- In a game where the Chiefs offense struggled mightily, and their offensive weapons were kept quiet most of the day, it was one of their least recognizable offensive players, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson that had the game winning touchdown.
- Robinson was the recipient of a 25-yard strike from Patrick Mahomes after a dropped Falcons interception to give the Chiefs a 17-14 lead with 1:55 remaining in the game. It was Robinson’s second catch of the game. It was his second, last and most important catch of the day.
- Robinson, a University of Florida was a fourth round pick in 2016. He signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs before the 2020 season. He’s been a reliable option for Mahomes. It appears by his presence late in this game as well as his production that he is someone that Mahomes can count on in the future.
Broncos @ Chargers – Mike Williams (WR)
- The Chargers were without the services of Keenan Allen, who was out due to injury and tight end Hunter Henry who was on the Covid-19 list.
- Mike Williams stepped in and took over as primary receiver with four catches for 54 yards. A week ago, Williams was limited to two catches as he was not 100%. This week, Williams doubled his production and three of the four catches were for first downs, including two big catches to extend drives that resulted in Chargers scores. Williams was targeted ten times dung the game. Even though Justin Herbert could not connect with Williams, Denver spent a lot of defensive energy trying to slow him down.
- Williams’ best catch of the game wasn’t a reception. It was an interception. Williams was inserted into the “prevent defense” on the game’s final play, a Hail Mary heave from the 50-yard line by Broncos quarterback Drew Lock and he came down with a ball that had reached the end zone, to secure the Chargers win.
- Williams was drafted seventh overall by the Chargers in the 2017 Draft out of Clemson. He has been a steady performer for the Chargers. We expect him to sign a second contract with the team.
Rams @ Seahawks – Jamal Adams (SS)
- Adams is one of the most important players on the Seahawks defense. Adams’ improved health and availability is a big part of the turnaround on defense in recent weeks. Adams was everywhere on Sunday notching eight tackles and deflecting a pass.
- Adams’ most important play of the day was in the red zone in the third quarter. Rams running back Darrell Henderson ran right and it appeared as if he was about to score. Adams ran around from the other side of the field and knocked Henderson out of bounds at the two-yard line. The Rams managed to go four plays without scoring from the two-yard line, and the Seahawks held onto their 13-6 lead.
- Adams plays as hard and as fast as anybody out there on the Seahawks defense. Seattle won that trade this summer with the Jets.
Eagles @ Dallas – Michael Gallup (WR)
- Gallup is not one of the “big names” on the Cowboys. He doesn’t have the big contract. He’s not Elliot or Cooper or Lamb. He didn’t play for Alabama or Ohio State. But watching Cowboys games, you’ll notice the Cowboys love to go to the Colorado State alum in tight spots.
- After falling behind 14-3, Dalton hit Gallup for a 21-yard score to bring the game to 14-10. On the next drive, Dalton hit Gallup short and Gallup galloped for 55 yards, setting up a field goal. For the day, Gallup caught 6 of 8 targets for 121 yards and two scores.
- There is a lot of money invested in the Cowboys’ offense, but the two best players all year have probably been Gallup and Pollard. The Cowboys have a cacophony of weapons on offense, and if they are able to sneak into the playoffs, they’ll likely be a tougher out than many expect.
Titans @ Packers – AJ Dillon (RB)
- Rookie running back AJ Dillon was expected to spell starter Aaron Jones with Jamaal Williams being declared out due to injury. Instead Dillon took over the bulk of the work after Jones left the game briefly in the first half.
- Dillon would end the game with 21 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns, in a snowy game where the Titans loaded the box to attempt to stop the running game. Dillon’s first touchdown came on fourth-and-1 that he broke for a thirty-yard score.
- Dillon would also add a catch for five yards.
- Dillon is actually the highest drafted out of the Packers three running backs as he was drafted in the second round.
- Prior to the game, Dillon had only carried the ball 24 times for 115 yards in nine games. Dillon had missed five games thus far, due to battling Covid-19. Both Jones and Williams are free agents at the end of the season. It will be interesting to see if the team allows either or both of them to depart in free agency with the emergence of the highly regarded Dillon.
Bills @ Pats – Lee Smith (TE)
- The Bills offense has a lot of firepower, especially at wide receiver with Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. The running back duo of Devin Singletary and Zach Moss is also proving to be productive. Yet, the offense manages to get contributions from other personnel. Lee Smith, a tight end that looks like an offensive lineman is one such player. ,
- Smith, a ten-year veteran caught a four-yard pass from Josh Allen with 5:32 remaining in the first half to give the Bills a 17-9 advantage. Smith finished with two catches for 31 yards and a touchdown.
- It was sweet and fitting that Smith scored against the team that drafted him in the fifth round with the 159th pick in 2011 and that cut him after training camp that season. The Bills immediately picked him up and he stayed with the team until 2014. He then signed with the Raiders and was a member of the team from 2015-2018 before finally returning back to Buffalo in 2019. Smith has had a long career, but this post-season will only be his second playoff appearance having reached the playoffs with the Raiders in 2016. We think Smith and the Bills have a great opportunity to make a deep playoff run.
Opinions expressed are solely of the author and do not express the views or opinions of Headcoachranking.com.