Derek Carr, QB (Raiders)

KC 30 at OAK 31

When I saw the stats after last Thursday night’s game in Oakland, I knew Carr would finish Week 7 as the passing leader.  The 26-year-old went 29-52, threw for a whopping 417 yards, had 3 TDs, 0 interceptions and outdueled the surging Alex Smith for the win.  Also, according to PFF, Carr’s 10 deep passes (to targets 20+ yards downfield) against KC were “the most deep attempts by any QB in a game this season.” But, Carr should mostly be lauded for his effort in the 4Q last week.  When the Raiders trailed their division rival by six points with minutes left, he made 4 fantastic throws to win the game and salvage for Oakland what could have been a 2-4 start to the season.  (Not to mention – He did all of these heroics with 3 broken bones in his back.) In a season when the AFC wild card will be up for grabs, it was crucial that Oakland stopped their 4-game loss slide. Carr said he was able to boost his performance by “remembering who I was and having funThat’s everything that I stressed to my teammates. . . I told [them] that I loved them, but it’s time to have some fun. I think all of Oakland was able to have some fun tonight”.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Cowboys)

DAL 40 at SF 10

With all of the distractions hanging over the 2nd year powerhouse back for Cowboys, it’s a wonder Elliott was able to light it up against the 49ers for the win during Week 7.  On 26 attempts, he ran for 147 yards and had 2 TDs, plus he had 72 more receiving yards & another TD (combined for 219 yards).  It was the best game of the young star’s career so far and a huge boost for the Cowboys currently trailing the Eagles (6-1) in the NFC East with a 3-3 record.  Looking ahead, Dallas has a brutal schedule midseason and could be without Elliott if a USDC Judge does not grant him a preliminary injunction on Oct 30 to stop his 6-game suspension from happening.  That means the most valuable sports team in the world will have to face the Chiefs, Falcons, Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins without their most dynamic playmaker.  Only time will tell (and the justice system) if/when Elliott’s suspension will kick in. It’s just a shame Dallas did not capitalize on his talents while he has been on the active roster this early season.

Amari Cooper, WR (Raiders)

KC 30 at OAK 31

It was great to see this rising 3rd-year player break out last week & have one of the best games of his young career.  Cooper caught 11 passes for 210 yards (a career high) and 2 TDs.   He was also named AFC Player of the week for his performance (his first award of this kind).  This is a stark contrast to the previous 6 games combined where he had only 18 receptions for 146 yards and 1 TD.  The difference for this game seemed to be that Oakland put the former Alabama alum “in the slot” more (11 out of 19 targets), instead of having him line up on the outside or inside exclusively.  This ability to play in multiple strategic schemes impressed QB Derek Carr who this week said Cooper was like “LeBron James” with his intelligence and diversity. Given this success of using Coop more in the slot, it’ll be fun to see how the Raiders line him up on Sunday against the Bills.  Buffalo’s passing defense has only allowed an average 16.8 points per game so far this season.

Yannick Ngakoue, DE (Jaguars)

JAX 27 at IND 0

This 3R-2016 draft pick broke the Jaguars rookie sacks record in 2016 (8) which stood for 10 years.  Starting out the 2017 season, he’s lived up to the bar he set for himself and already has 6.5 sacks through Week 7.  On Sunday against the Colts, Ngakoue and his Jags teammate sacked QB Jacoby Brissett 10 times (including 2.5 from Ngakoue). It was his third multi-sack of the season which also tied a season-high 4 tackles & 7 QB pressures.  Combined, the sophomore has 14 career sacks so far, the most through 23 career games in Jags history (stat credit: Tad Dickman).  What makes the young Ngakoue special and consistently good is his incredible work ethic & help from Defensive Line Coach (Marion Hobby) & Asst Def Line Coach (Jason Rebrovich).  The two coaches have reportedly pushed their players this season to become “better student[s] of the game” and this has helped the Jags pass-rush become one of the best in the league.  While the Jax run defense still needs work, they are actively working on improvement in this area. Having great young enthusiastic players on your team like Ngakoue helps, too.

Kevin Byard, FS (Titans)

CLE 9 at TEN 12

Byard was PFF’s “highest graded safety in Week 7” for obvious reasons.  He had 3 interceptions against the Browns on Sunday, 4 combined tackles (2 total + 2 assists) and was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.  With this performance Byard became the first Titan defender to record 3 interceptions in the same game since 2007 and the first NFL player this season to do so.  The 24-year-old has also played every defensive snap for Tennessee this season (480-480) and has been a consistent disrupter all season long.  So far, he has made 38 tackles, 4 interceptions and a fumble recovery.  He credits this endurance & success to all of the off-season work he’s put in.  Lucky for the Titans that Byard and the defense was there to pick up the slack from the offense that simply didn’t play well enough.  In fact, as the offense has looked stagnant all season and dealt with serious injuries to key personnel, it is common sense to think games like this will continue to be the norm until Tennessee fulfills their potential and becomes more consistent on both sides of the ball.

Joe Flacco, QB (Ravens)

BAL 16 at MIN 24

It’s hard to criticize a guy who got absolutely clocked by a defender during last night’s TNF Week 8 game and sustained what appears to be a bad concussion. But, Flacco’s late slide was just another example of the bad decisions & poor play the 10-year veteran QB has made this season. Taking Week 8’s game performance out of the picture though, Flacco has been terrible.  His QBR rank is 29 and he has thrown twice as many interceptions as TDs.  His stats have been so crummy that they rank below other QBs who have been benched by other teams. Granted, injuries have been an issue for this Ravens team this season, but it appears to me that Flacco has given up on his offense. So what if his O-line has been bad and he has had subpar receivers to work with. The QB is supposed to set the example and rise up above the fray. It’s what makes Tom Brady so special, and successful.  When Flacco returns, it’s likely that Baltimore’s season will be in trouble.  But hopefully he can still summon the energy needed to stay competitive in games and motivate the personnel he does have to play better, good or bad.  Perhaps then he won’t feel compelled to make dangerous runs/slides and put his health at risk.



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