Sam Bradford, QB (Vikings)

MIN 25 at GB 38

Bradford was the passing leader during Week 16 with 382 yards, 3 TDs, 0 Interceptions, 34-50, and a 110.6 passer rating.  He also has a league-best 71.3 completion percentage and if it holds, will break Drew Brees’ record for the stat in a single season (71.2% – 2011) and the Vikings franchise mark (69.2).  This past week, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer praised Bradford’s performance during the season overall especially given what the 29-year-old QB has had to deal with (“being traded, trying to learn a new system, having a new coach, having to learn teammates… injuries on offense.”) On the flip side, the team is 6-8 with Bradford as a starter and his QBR (the stat that measures a QB in game situations and types of throws) is only 57.2, which is 20th ranked in the NFL.  But, in the end, the team’s problems don’t start and end with Bradford.  Instead, a struggling offensive line, widespread injuries, and a defense that collapsed down the stretch are likely the cumulative culprits that caused the Vikings to squander a 5-0 start.

Jay Ajayi, RB (Dolphins)

MIA 34 at BUF 31

Ajayi ran for 206 yards this past week against Buffalo with a career high 32 carries and had 1 TD.  His performance also included a 57-yard run in overtime that helped set up the Dolphins’ 27-yard field goal for the win.  This performance makes it 3 times this season the RB has rushed for 200+ yards which adds his name to 2 prestigious lists: Only 4 RBs have ever rushed for 200+ yards in a game 3 or more times in a season (Ajayi, Earl Campbell, OJ Simpson & Tiki Barber) and only 3 RBs have ever done it against the same opponent in the same season (Ajayi, OJ Simpson, Jama Lewis).  Ajayi said recently, “My mentality is to run hard throughout the game and eventually wear down the defense…. “You understand a lot of teams can’t really stick with us all four quarters. We just have to stay diligent with it.”

Adam Thielen, WR (Vikings)

MIN 25 at GB 38

This was the 26-year-old and 4th year WR’s career breakout game with 12 receptions for 202 yards and 2 TDs including a 71-yard TD reception in the 2Q vs. the Packers.  Heading into the final week of the season, he is just 40 yards’ shy of hitting the 1,000-yard mark.  Thielen has been the benefactor of fellow WR Stefon Diggs injuries during the preseason, Week 5 and Week 11 which has allowed him to prove himself.  Ironically, despite the injuries, Diggs is right behind Thielen with 903 yards this season and also has the chance to top the 1,000-yard mark.  If both accomplish the same feat, it would be the first time since 2000 that the Vikings had 2 receivers to do so.

Jalen Ramsey, CB (Jaguars)

TEN 17 at JAX 38

He may be only 22, but the Jaguars rookie cornerback is making a name for himself.  This past week he was bestowed the AFC Defensive Player of the Week award after intercepting Titans QB Matt Cassel in the 4Q which he returned for 30 yards and a TD as well as registering 4 solo tackles and 4 passes defended.  It is the first time a Jags rookie DB won the honor and first time since 2015 that a Jags player received one.  Collectively, Ramsey has 61 tackles on the year, 1 forced fumble and 2 sacks which should help float his name around for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Jamie Mader, DE (Browns)

SD 17 at CLE 20

Mader only made 1 great play of the game, but oh, it was a huge one.  With a swat of his hand, he blocked a fourth quarter 32-yard field goal attempt by the Chargers kicker Josh Lambo which would have tied the game.  (Lambo was 18 for 18 on field goal attempts this season from inside 40 yards.)  The play allowed Cleveland to keep their 3-point lead and go on to win their first game of the season (and probably only one).  It was also the first time a Brown blocked a field goal since 2014.  For his performance, Mader earned the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award.

Trevor Siemian, QB (Broncos)

DEN 10 at KC 33

While some say Broncos QB Siemian doesn’t “deserve the blame” for the team failing to make the postseason a year after their Super Bowl win, his poor performance this season certainly hasn’t helped.  Granted, his O-line struggled to protect him, but his completion percentage Week 16 was a mere 39.5, he finished the game 17 for 43 passing with just 183 yards and 0 TDs plus 1 interception.  In fact, Siemian hasn’t thrown a TD since Week 14 vs Tennessee.  What it comes down to for Denver is this: Do they want to go through another year with this guy at QB (or fellow rookie Paxton Lynch) and hedge all their bets on their defense & Von Miller?  Either way, it means spending another year developing a young QB.  After their hopes just blew away in the wind and rain last week in Kansas City, I can’t imagine that they would repeat the same game plan next season.


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