By Juan Lozano and Marc Harper | October 21, 2020
Cleveland @ Steelers– Minkah Fitzpatrick (S)
- After a Steelers field goal to start the game, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepts a Baker Mayfield pass and returns it 33 yards for a touchdown. This gave the Steelers a 10-0 lead with just under nine minutes remaining in the quarter.
- The Steelers defense was dominant and shut down a Browns offense that had been averaging over 30 points per game this season.
- Fitzpatrick has been a steady presence for the Steelers since being acquired last season in a trade with Miami. While the Steelers front gets a lot of credit for wreaking havoc, disrupting opponent passing games and shutting down the run, the secondary, led by Fitzpatrick has done their part as well in re-establishing the Steelers defensive dominance.
Bengals @ Colts– Julian Blackmon (S) and Marcus Johnson (WR)- TIE
- With :39 seconds remaining in the contest, Blackmon, a rookie from Utah intercepted a 3rd down pass from fellow rookie Joe Burrow at the Colts 19-yard line to secure the Colts comeback victory.
- Blackmon, a third round pick out of Utah, likely would have been selected earlier had he not torn an ACL in the Pac-12 championship game. We saw Blackmon play throughout his college career and knew he would make plays in the NFL, just not this soon. He’s ahead of schedule.
- Johnson, a former undrafted free agent out of Texas, caught five balls for 108 yards. His biggest catch of the game occurred two minutes into the second quarter, trailing 21-0, when he caught a 55-yard bomb to get down to the one-yard line.
- Two plays later, the Colts scored, and the comeback was on. Johnson was promoted to the active roster on gameday, and immediately made his mark. If Johnson can keep making plays, his days of being on the practice squad will be long gone.
Broncos @ Patriots – Michael Ojemudia (CB)
- To beat the Patriots, the Broncos had to play fantastic defense. Ojemudia is a third-round rookie corner thrust into the defensive backfield rotation for the Broncos. On Sunday, he had seven tackles, deflected a pass, and forced two fumbles. One of the fumbles was recovered and directly lead to three points.
- The Patriots offense was uncomfortable all day and receivers struggled to find separation. Ojemudia was a big reason why.
Lions @ Jaguars- D’Andre Swift (RB)
- Swift, a 2nd round draft pick in 2020 carried the ball 14 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns in a road victory over the Jaguars and their undrafted rookie sensation running back, James Robinson
- His first touchdown of the day, a one yard run, with 13:41 remaining in the second quarter put the Lions ahead 14-3 and gave the Lions some cushion.
- Swift looks to be the Lions back of the future. The franchise has been attempting to find a dynamic running back since Barry Sanders retired over 20 years ago. They might have found one in Swift.
Washington @ Giants– Matt Peart (OL)
- In games involving the Giants and the Jets it just doesn’t seem fair to pick players from those teams in the rare case they achieve victory. These teams are so bad.
- The Giants won, and the rules of this column state that I absolutely must pick a player from the Giants.
- That being said, Peart’s effort was commendable. He is a rookie third-round pick, making his first start because this year’s first round pick (Andrew Thomas) was disciplined for being late to a Saturday night meeting. Peart played 29 snaps and looked great in both run and pass protection.
- Given how bad the Giants offensive line, they will gladly take any production. They could have two future cornerstone offensive lineman with Thomas and Peart.
Texans @ Titans– Anthony Firkser (TE)
- Let’s get it out of the way right here. The Titans do not win without Derrick Henry. But that’s too easy. Firkser replaced an injured Jonnu Smith and had eight catches for 113 yards and a score. He’s got the “next man up” mentality that coaches and front offices look for in a player.
- Firkser played at Harvard and had less than 50 catches in his career prior to Sunday. He stepped us as the lead pass catcher in an absolute shootout on Sunday.
- He’s also our first player to be his team’s W.O.W. in consecutive weeks.
Bears @ Panthers- Tashaun Gipson, Sr. (S)
- On the first drive of the game, the Panthers were facing a 3-and-19 from their own 1-yard line when Gipson intercepted a tipped Teddy Bridgewater pass intended for wide receiver Robby Anderson. The Bears would score three plays later.
- Gipson would finish with six tackles and a pass defended in addition to the interception.
- Gipson is in his first year with the Bears after having played for the Texans in 2019, Jaguars from 2016-2018 and the Browns from 2012-2015. Gipson is making an impact on his new team.
Ravens @ Eagles- Justin Tucker (K)
- The Ravens had an 18-point lead and needed a two-point conversion stop to beat the Eagles. They needed the contribution of kicker Justin Tucker, even if they probably didn’t know it at the time.
- Tucker kicked 3 field goals including two in the 4th quarter. He kicked two 46-yard field goals, one in the second and one late in the fourth as well as a 55-yarder sandwiched in-between, also in the fourth quarter.
- Week in and week out, the Ravens can count on Tucker. He’s one of the best kickers we have ever seen.
Falcons @ Vikings- Keanu Neal (S)
- The Falcons were up 10-0 with 11:44 in the second quarter when Neal stopped Vikings running back Mike Boone on a fourth down and goal attempt at the one-yard line.
- The Vikings were never able to cut the lead to anything less than a double digit lead.
- Neal would end up with 6 tackles on the day, including two tackles for loss in a surprising and dominant Falcons win in interim head coach Raheem Morris’ first game as Falcons head coach.
Jets @ Dolphins– Myles Gaskin (RB)
- Please see our rule above for picking games involving the Jets.
- However, Myles Gaskin finished with 18 carries for 91 yards and added four catches out of the backfield in the domination over the Jets.
- Gaskin’s performance comes days after flirting with the prospect of bringing in the recently released Le’Veon Bell. The Dolphins are now in the AFC East race and performances from undrafted second-year players like Gaskin are the reason why. Adding Bell might have disrupted the team chemistry.
Packers @ Bucs– Jamel Dean (CB)
- Green Bay was up 10-0 and Tampa Bay punted on their first two possessions. They needed a big play and it came from an unlikely source, cornerback Jamel Dean. The second-year player out of Auburn intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass and returned it thirty-two yards down the sideline for a Bucs score.
- On the next possession, the Bucs would pick off Rodgers again and Tampa Bay would score another touchdown to take the lead.
LA Rams @ 49ers- Ben Garland (OL) and Dan Brunskill (OL)
- Beyond injuries, the biggest issue for the 49ers this season has been their interior O-line. Two weeks ago, they were brutalized by Fletcher Cox. This Sunday, they had all-world Aaron Donald coming to town. The 49ers, specifically Garland and Brunskill kept Donald far away from the quarterback all day.
- Brunskill actually made his debut at guard last year when the Rams came to town and had a miserable day against Donald. This week, he went one-on-one against Donald on seven occasions and got the better of him for most of the night. Keeping that interior pocket clean goes a long way towards the 49ers winning games.
Chiefs @ Bills- Bashaud Breeland (CB)
- Breeland was in his second game back after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse. He is vital to the Chiefs defense and was not eased back into the lineup as he took 51 snaps in his first game back against the Raiders. In his second game, against the Bills is when he made a significant impact.
- Consistent rain throughout the contest made throwing the ball difficult. Both teams were committed to running the football, thus the secondary and yes even the corners would have to play a role in stopping the run.
- Breeland tackled Bills running back Devin Singletary for a six-yard loss on 2nd & 3 at Kansas City 48-yard line with two minutes left in the half.
- Breeland’s play set back Buffalo’s drive, as they were now facing 3rd-and -long. The Bills predictably would try and get a first down by throwing the ball on this wet day. They would not convert on 3rd down and Buffalo had to punt. Kansas City would take a 13-10 lead into halftime.
Cardinals @ Cowboys- Budda Baker (S)
- Anybody who has watched a Cardinals game knows how good Budda Baker is. But not many people watch the Cardinals. They have to be on prime time for people to see them and take note. In Monday’s night thrashing of the Cowboys, the Cardinals and especially Baker, “showed out”.
- Baker was named the captain prior to Monday’s game due to an injury to Chandler Jones. He did not disappoint. Baker forced a fumble of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott early and with the game tied towards the end of the first quarter. The Cardinals recovered and scored on the ensuing drive. The rout was on. For good measure, Baker also intercepted a pass and had seven tackles on the night. It’s clear that Kyler Murray can score points, but the Cardinals will only be as good as their defense. When Baker plays like he did on Monday, they are hard to beat.
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