Derek Carr, QB (Raiders)

OAK 30 at TB 24

This is the first time in 2016 Carr is making this list and it probably won’t be the last.  At the season halfway point, the Raiders third year QB threw for a whopping 513 yards, 4 TDs, & 0 interceptions in a thrilling overtime game vs the Buccaneers.  With these stats, Carr set a franchise record and became 1 of only 3 NFL QBs to throw 500+ yards and have 4 TDs in a game (Y.A. Tittle & Ben Roethlisberger are the other 2).  His Week 8 stats are not a fluke this year, as Carr is showing major signs of maturity.  His QBR is 66.2 so far this season, up from his overall QBR in 2015 of 46.3 and in 2014- 45.7.  He is also completing 66.3% of his passes and has a passer rating of 100.9.  This improved performance is helping the Raiders stay atop the AFC West with the former Super Bowl Champs Denver (Tied for 6-2 record).  Next up for Oakland are the Broncos on SNF and arguably, it is the Raiders most important game of the season thus far.  A win will help make the team legit in the eyes of the league (finally) and also Carr could show the world he is living up to his potential (finally).

Amari Cooper, WR (Raiders)

OAK 30 at TB 24

Funny how it works this way.  When a QB puts up a career performance, so does his WR.  The proof is Cooper’s Week 8 performance when he had 12 catches for 173 yards (both career highs), averaged 14.4 and got 1 TD which also helped to cement his reputation as a topflight wideout in the league.  Cumulatively, the 22-year-old former Alabama record-setter is putting himself in the company of elite players like Odell Beckham, Jr. & Randy Moss, the only other NFL players since 1970 to have 7+ games with 120+ receiving yards.  And, we’re not done with the season yet… And, while Cooper only has 2 TDs on the season so far, his compatriot Michael Crabtree makes up for it as the league leader in points.  Together, this dynamic tandem leads all others in the league in receptions (99) and receiving yards (1,356).

Jordan Howard, RB (Bears)

MIN 10 at CHI 20

Nice to see a Chicago RB top this list midseason.  In Week 8, Howard rushed for 153 yards, averaged 5.9, had 49 more receiving yards and 1 TD.  His performance helped him to garner the NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, making him the first Bears rookie to win the award since 2001.  His contributions aided Chicago in breaking down the Vikings defense which hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and were keeping receivers down to just 3.7 yards per carry.  Howard’s average of 5.9 yards on 26 attempts surpassed those totals and shut down one of the NFL’s best defenses.  As a first year player, he’s had some ups and downs, but is learning from the experience.  Bears Head Coach John Fox said, “I’ve been very impressed with him from the onset.  He’s a rookie running back that has grown pretty fast. He got thrown into the fire. We had some injuries at running back. He stepped up when we’ve needed him and he’s done that every time we’ve called on him.” This confidence in Howard is the reason Chicago let him play 82% of the snaps on offense in this game.

Star Lotulelei, DT (Panthers)

ARI 20 at CAR 30

There haven’t been many bright spots for Carolina this year.  The former Super Bowl contenders currently sit at 2-5 and 4th in the NFC South.  They have also lacked any league accolades all season, until Week 8 when 4th year defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.  He was able to collect the award (and his first ever) with a career-high 3 sacks against the Arizona Cardinals and 6 tackles.  His first sack also caused a fumble which led to a 46-yard TD return early in Q1. Lotulelei’s performance is also notable given the fact that he had only 7 career sacks to his name before last week.  But, his hard work was much needed and could be a spark to help get the Panthers turned around as we head into the second half of the season.

Adam Vinatieri, K (Colts)

KAN 30 at IND 14

“He is just money… 21 years in, 43 years old… and doing the things that he’s doing is just incredible.” ~Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano said recently regarding Indianapolis kicker and future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri who was just named Special Teams AFC Player for the Month of October by the NFL.  In October, Vinatieri was a perfect 12-12 on field goals and 13-13 on extra points.  And, his 100% on scoring has continued.  That is, he is now 18-18 for Field Goals made and 20-20 on Extra Points so far this season.  He also set a new NFL record during Week 7 with 43 consecutive field goals made. Including the 2 from last week, let’s see how many more this ageless wonder can tack on before the season is over.

Denver Broncos Offense

SD 19 at DEN 27

Every week, I receive Pro Football Focus’s Power Rankings in my email box.  Heading into Week 9, they of course have New England sitting atop the list with a combined Offense ranked 3rd and Defense 5th.  But, in their #2 slot overall was the Broncos.  I don’t really understand this reasoning as they ranked Denver’s Offense 24th & their Defense 1st.  This is the 2nd most unbalanced team, according to PFF’s own rankings (next to New Orleans).  And, while I see that having the best defense in the league conveys a great deal of weight, Denver’s offense is pedestrian and very inconsistent. According to NFL league stats, the Broncos rank 27th in overall offense (total yardage) and 26th in yardage per play.  They also remain one of the worst teams with points scored in the first quarter (2.0 on average) & third quarter (2.5), but are the best in the fourth quarter (11.4) (according to  Additionally, Denver’s offense is designed to run, but they rank 29th and nearly 26% of their drives end with a 3 and out. And then there’s the 2nd year QB Trevor Siemian who has minimized turnovers, but has looked downright crummy at times, including last week vs the Chargers when he had 0 TDs, 1 interception and a 39.5 QBR.  I guess only time will tell if Siemian settles down better and learns the system.  I’m just not sure this team is worthy of being considered 2nd best overall in the NFL right now with that offense playing the way it is.


Source : NFL Stats

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