Tom Brady, QB (Patriots)

BAL 23 at NE 30

Brady outperformed all other QBs during Week 14 versus a potent Baltimore defense by completing 25 of 38 pass attempts for 406 yards and 3 TDs.  Those numbers are impressive but as Jeff Howe from the Boston Herald pointed out in detail this week, Brady’s real strength was in all the prep work he so obviously did before the game.  He was easily able to poke holes in the weaknesses of the NFL’s No. 1-rated defense, “diagnose” blitzes with ease, and take advantage of mistakes the Ravens made.  Next up for New England is Denver at Mile High Stadium.  It’s going to be fun to see the likely Defensive Player of the Year (Von Miller) take on the likely Offensive Player of the Year (Brady).

Chris Hogan, WR (Patriots)

BAL 23 at NE 30

Even after a hand injury forced Hogan out of the game briefly in the first quarter, he still managed to put up the most receiving yards for the week (129 yards) on 5 receptions.  He also scored a 79-yard TD in the 4Q (the longest TD of the season for NE) and which ultimately put the game out of reach for the Ravens.  Hogan is a good weapon for the Patriots to have late in the season after injuries forced TE Rob Gronkowski out for the year and WR Danny Amendola out until the playoffs.  What makes Hogan so dangerous is his ability to be a “deep threat” and his reported “freak athleticism”.  The 6-foot-1, 205-pound receiver has been known to be good at every sport he tries, especially lacrosse which he played in college over football.  These qualities are probably what Head Coach Bill Bellichick saw in Hogan when he lured him away from Buffalo as an unrestricted free agent in the off season for a three-year, $12,006,240 contract with $7.5 million guaranteed. Much better than the league minimum Hogan got in his first five seasons with the Bills, eh?

Le’Veon Bell, RB (Steelers)

PIT 27 at BUF 20

When I first saw the numbers on Twitter that Bell put up on Sunday, I had to double-check the stats.  Get this: In 38 attempts, he rushed for a whopping 236 yards and had 3 TDs.  Those total yards were good enough to be 18th most ever in a game.  (Adrian Peterson holds the record for most – 296 yards in 2007.) This stellar performance helped Bell win the AFC Offensive Player of the Week Award and will also make him an even bigger target on Sunday when the Steelers take on the Bengals in Cincinnati.  Bell said of his knee injury sustained by safety Reggie Nelson in Week 17 of 2014 and when LB Vontaze Burfict knocked him out of last season, that the Bengals have “tried to hurt him” and “take [him] out of the game”.  But, he’s stated that he’s “not going to let it happen a third time”.   There surely will be fireworks on the field Sunday since both Burfict and Bell were out of Week 2’s matchup between these two teams.

Nick Novak, K (Texans)

HOU 22 at IND 17

This kicker deserves a little love this week as he went 5 for 5 in field goals and 1-1 in extra points which led him to put up 16 of Houston’s points for the win over Indy and a season overall record of 7-6 in the AFC South.  Novak’s clutch foot has been instrumental all year, as the Texans have had major trouble scoring in the red zone (only 41.46% – good for 31st ranked).  But, this has enabled Novak to attempt 33 field goals, tied for second in the NFL.

Vic Beasley, Jr., OLB (Falcons)

ATL 42 at LA 14

Beasley was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his impressive Week 14 performance.  He posted 3 sacks for 27 yards lost against Rams QB Jared Goff including a forced fumble that he picked up on the 21-yard line and scored for his first career TD.  The sophomore is now tied for the league lead in sacks (with Von Miller) and has 6 forced fumbles, more than any other player in the league.   Beasley said after the game, “I think our defense is making great strides and moving in the right direction. I think players are stepping up, even myself, I’m making great strides.” With their current 8-5 record in the NFC South, Atlanta is projected as the 4th seed in the NFL Playoffs, but Tampa Bay is on their tails also standing at 8-5 in the division and projected as the 6th seed.

Jacksonville Jaguars (Team)

When I scouted the Jaguars in the pre-season, I was as optimistic as the experts that this team would make a run and finally win their division (AFC South).  Everyone was feeling good, particularly because the team finally spent bigtime on defense by picking up players like DL Malik Jackson, CB Prince Amukamara, safety Tashaun Gipson, and acquired top draft picks CB Jalen Ramsey and LB Myles Jack.  They also brought in RB Chris Ivory to help QB Blake Bortles who just came off of a break-through 2nd season and they were also getting back DE Dante Fowler Jr. from injury.  Bortles told SI in August, “In the three years I’ve been here, it is the most excited this town and fan base has been. I think the town is dying for a successful Jaguars team because that is really all there is here.”  Alas, the Jags now stand at 2-11, they’ve lost 8 straight and have been officially eliminated from the 2016-17 playoffs.   What went wrong was the lack of a good running game, too many turnovers, unable to win close games, horrible special teams play, and Bortles has regressed.  On the upside, their defense is young and has the ability to become elite, they are currently on pace for the 3rd pick in the next NFL Draft, and Cleveland (0-13) and San Francisco (1-12) will finish with worse records than them.


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