Matthew Stafford, QB (Lions)

DET 30 at GB 17

The highest paid QB in the league earned his keep during the Lion’s Week 9 win over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau.  The 29-year-old looked dominant and helped his ailing team keep their playoff hopes alive at the halfway point when he threw for 361 yards, had a 78.8 completion percentage, 2 TDs and 0 Interceptions and finished with a 132.4 passer rating.  The uptick in the 9-year veteran’s performance comes just in the nick of time as Detroit’s favorable schedule down the stretch bodes well for a playoff run.  They are scheduled to face only 1 team with a winning record (Vikings); the rest have a combined winning percentage of .385 (Browns, Bears, Ravens, Buccaneers, Bengals and Packers).  But, can the Lions take advantage of their easy schedule and find a way to take their 4-4 record to the playoffs?  Statistically speaking, Football Outsiders calculated this probability as a 40.6% chance.  It remains to be seen, however, if the Lions can actually be consistent the rest of the way behind the best QB in the division that is healthy and elite.

Adrian Peterson, RB (Cardinals)

ARI 20 at SF 10

One word to describe the 32-year old former NFL MVP’s Week 9 high-level performance?  How about: vintage.  The future Hall of Famer rushed for a career-high 37 times against the 49ers for 159 yards which broke the record for the most carries in league history for a player in his 30’s.  Peterson also moved into 14th place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.  And, with 1 more TD, he’ll reach 7th all-time, breaking a tie with the legendary Barry Sanders.  Having the opportunity to still rush for big numbers at his age on a team that needs him helps keep Peterson’s career alive.  But, I love his eagerness and intensity. He said after the game, “I want those guys to know that ‘hey, you can trust me.’ If you want to give it to me 40 times a game, I’m going to be ready… I’m ready to tote the load no matter the cost… No matter what it is, I’m ready to get it done.” This attitude is what made the former Pro Bowler great and continues to do so.

T.Y. Hilton, WR (Colts)

IND 20 at HOU 14

It’s no accident that all 3 of the Colts wins this season have come when this 27-year old receiver has had his best performances and longest TD runs.  Week 9 was 1 of those games when Hilton had 5 receptions for 175 yards and 2 TDs, including an 80-yard TD run which helped him to earn his first career AFC Offensive Player of the Week award.  The game also marked Hilton’s 7th career multiple TD game and his 175 yards was his 3rd career highest during the regular season.  He admitted this week that he was aware of his effect on the team’s score when he lights it up.  “That’s what they need me to do,” Hilton said. “I’m a big-play guy, so for me it’s just go out there, play my game and make the big plays. Normally when I make those plays, we win.”  Unfortunately for Indy this week, Hilton showed up on Thursday’s injury report (groin) and remains questionable for Sunday’s game against the Steelers. Obviously, without him, the Colts have no chance to pull the upset against one of the best teams in the NFL.

Dwight Freeney, DE (Seahawks)

WAS 17 at SEA 14

The week’s leading sacks leader was this 37-year old who just signed with the Seahawks 2 weeks ago as a midseason free agent.  Against Washington last Sunday, he posted 2.0 sacks for 25 sack yards and had 2 QB hits along with 2 tackles.  Add another sack posted in Week 8’s game versus Houston and a couple other close calls, the 16-year league veteran is making a contribution in Seattle and providing as a nice “complement” to the core defensive group, as head coach Pete Carroll recently said.  Freeney has credited his lasting durability to physical discipline, good eating habits and his… portable Hyperbaric chamber, which he says he’s used after every practice since the beginning of his career.  Described as a “therapeutic healing method that increases the amount of oxygen dissolved into the body”, he claims an hour inside the device is equivalent to eight hours of sleep.  So where do I get one of these things?

Karlos Dansby, ILB (Cardinals)

ARI 20 at SF 10

Another ageless wonder at 36-years old (are you sensing a theme here?) Dansby earned Week 9’s NFC Player of the Week award for making 7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits and breaking up another pass against San Fran.  With his interception, Dansby also became only the fifth player ever to record 20 Interceptions and 40 sacks in league history.   Probably most impressive is the fact that the 14-year veteran won his Player of the Week award almost exactly 10 years after getting his first (Week 10 of the 2007 season).  Dansby recently said of his accomplishment, “I have been playing this game for 14 years… I have seen the evolution of the game and how it is changing. For me to be able to still have success and be successful on the field, all praises go to God for that one. He gave me a great gift and I am just trying to use it.

Jameis Winston, QB (Buccaneers)

TB 10 at NE 30

Unfortunately, Winston makes the dubious portion of this column 2 weeks in a row.  This time, it’s not for his poor performance on the field, but for 2 utterly immature incidents during Week 9’s loss against the Saints.  The first was prior to the game when Winston attempted a pre-game motivational speech for his players.  Instead of being a traditional pep talk, it turned into what is being called the “weirdest pregame speech you’ll ever hear”.  With eyes wide open, he began licking his fingers and pulled them out of his mouth to pretend eating a “W”.  He said, “That’s a W. Let’s eat one! How many people want to eat a W?!”  You have to see it for yourself.  Bizarre.  Then, during the game after he was pulled for a shoulder injury, Winston stepped onto the edge of the field and antagonized Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore by pointing at him, jabbing the back of his neck and smack-talking.  Lattimore turned around and shoved Winston, while Winston kept pointing as if trying to incite a brawl.  Then fellow Buccaneer Mike Evans dove at Lattimore and knocked him down to the ground and which ultimately led to a fight between the two teams on the sideline.   Winston wound up apologizing for starting the fight, received a fine and Evans was suspended a game.  I guess we all shouldn’t be surprised by the bad decision-making and childish behavior by Winston.  I recently looked at a timeline of all the stupid incidents he got himself into during his college career (which included getting arrested for shooting squirrels with a bb gun, accused of rape, helping himself to soda at Burger King without paying, stealing crab legs from a supermarket, and going on a sexually charged expletive-laced rant caught on video).  So, why did we all think he’d stop acting on instinct like a dumb kid rather than man-up and be a leader on and off the field?  Maybe we assumed that he’d grow up knowing how high the stakes are and the huge responsibility he now carries as a professional football player in the NFL.  Sadly, he has not done that and is embarrassing himself and his team in the process.


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