Jared Goff, QB (Rams)

HOU 7 at LA 33

The transformation of this 23-year-old second year QB since last season has been remarkable.  Last year, the 2016 1R draft pick out of Cal struggled under the former 59-year-old Rams head coach Jeff Fisher when he finished the season with an 0-7 record, and had only 5 TDs to his 7 Interceptions.  Subsequently, the Rams finished 2016 with a 4-12 record and were the lowest scoring offense in the league.  But since Jan, everything changed when LA fired Fisher and brought in the 30-year-old Sean McVay, who became the youngest head coach in modern history.  McVay turned Goff’s performance around and brought out the potential everyone seemed to know the kid had, except possibly Jeff Fisher.  Through Week 10, the Rams are currently 1st in the NFC West (7-2), have the highest-scoring offense and Goff is amongst the best rated passers in the league.  Last week was an example of his metamorphosis when he threw for 355 yards, had 3 TDs, 0 interceptions and a 125.4 passer rating.  If he keeps up this performance, he will become an MVP candidate and could take his team deep into the post season.  I wonder what Jeff Fisher would think of that as he looks on from his Montana home.

Mark Ingram, RB (Saints)

NO 47 at BUF 10

During Week 10, this 27-year-old seven-year veteran out of Alabama became the rushing yards leader with 131 on 21 attempts and a career high 3 TDs.  But like other successful RB duos, we can’t point out Ingram’s performance without also noting that of his 22-year-old rookie teammate, Alvin Kamara.  Combined, Ingram and Kamara rushed for 237 yards on 33 carries on Sunday, scored a total of 4 TDs and each surpassed 100 rushing yards and 130 yards from scrimmage.  During the course of the season, both backs have been contributing big to the success of the Saints offense since Adrian Peterson was traded away on Oct 10.  And, in fact, the Saints offense has been relying on the run game hard during their 7-game win streak.  This is unusual given the pass-making abilities of their Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees.  When asked about this newly-found game-winning rushing formula for the Saints, Brees said, “When we’re running the ball effectively and playing the type of defense we’ve been playing, it’s not necessary to throw the ball 35, 40 times a game. If we can throw the ball mid-20s, rush the ball 40-something times and win the way that we have, that’s great.” Maybe some of the credit should also go towards New Orleans’ O-Line who did not give up a sack last week and were PFF’s top run-blocking unit of Week 10.  If they stay healthy and allow these RBs and Brees to do what they do best backed by a surprisingly above-average defense, this team will remain one of the best in the NFC.

Robert Woods, WR, (Rams)

HOU 7 at LA 33

Another player who seems to be benefitting from working with Coach McVay on the Rams is this 4-year veteran who was Week 10’s receiving leader with 171 yards on 8 of 10 receptions and 2 TDs.  It was the most receiving yards for a Ram since 2003 (Torry Holt) and his  94-yard TD was the longest offensive score by a Ram since 1964.  For the last 4 seasons with the Bills, Woods was seen to be an “average” player at best and described as merely a “possession receiver with good blocking skills”.  But, after signing with LA in the offseason and being under McVay’s system, the 25-year-old is thriving and has become one of QB Goff’s biggest target, if not his #1 receiver.  Through 9 games, Woods has caught 39 passes for 622 yards and 4 TDs, better than any previous year’s stats with Buffalo.  Goff recently said about him, “He’s been huge,” Goff added. “He’s been as big as anybody on this team. Take everything he does on Sundays away, it’s been truly impressive seeing him day in and day out — the way he works, the way he brings guys along. His attitude daily and the way he communicates with me is impressive. I’m happy to have him, and I know he’s happy to be here.”

Adrian Clayborn, DE (Falcons)

DAL 17 at ATL 27

It’s not enough to say that this 29-year-old out of Iowa had a historical game during Week 10.  What he accomplished against Dallas on Sunday was nothing short of extraordinary, maybe even legendary.  The seventh-year edge rusher single-handedly shutdown Dallas’ offense with his 6 sacks, 6 QB hits, 6 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble return.  Those 6 sacks are the second best single-game sack performance in NFL history.  Combined, the NFC Defensive Player of the Week now has 8 sacks on the season which contractually earned him a $750,000 bonus (or a fifth of his 2017 base salary ($3.75 million) for just one day of work) for reaching that feat on the season.  For 10 sacks, he could receive a $1.25 million bonus.  And, he’s motivated.  After last week’s game Clayborn said, “You strive for that 10 sacks, not six or eight.  Getting that 10 means way more than getting the money to me because then you go in the books as a defensive end in the National Football League that had a 10-sack season. [Ten sacks] has always been my goal. I was never healthy enough to get to it.” Well, with the Seahawks coming up next and that shoddy O-Line followed by the Buccaneers during Week 12, I’d say he should start clearing some room in his bank account now.

A.J. Bouye, CB (Jaguars)

LAC 17 at JAX 20

In the offseason, Jacksonville signed this five-year veteran to help reinforce its secondary.  And, so far, the 26-year-old has been a major reason the Jags have been one of the best defenses in the league.  During Week 10, Bouye really shined when he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for helping the Jags win in overtime when he intercepted Chargers QB Philip Rivers midfield and returned it to the LA 2-yard line to set up the game-winning field goal.  Also, through the first 10 weeks, Bouye has allowed “just 20 receptions (41.7 catch rate) for 300 yards, 0 TDs and 3 Interceptions for a 36.8 passer rating, the lowest passer rating in coverage among cornerbacks that have played at least 75% of their team’s defensive snaps” (according to PFF).  He is also the 3rd Jaguar to win the AFC Defensive Player of the Week award, the most in a single season in franchise history and most by any team in the NFL this season.  It’s safe to say that this JAX defense is for real and a legitimate threat to help the team possibly win out the rest of the season.  Only 3 of its 7 remaining competitors will have their starting QBs at the helm (Browns, Seahawks, Titans) and those 3 are vulnerable in my mind.  Could this team actually go 13-3?  Only if their inconsistent QB Blake Bortles steps up his accuracy and minimizes turnovers.

Vontaze Burfict, LB (Bengals)

CIN 20 at TEN 24

Troublemaker, controversial, dirty, reckless, out-of-control, violent.  These are some of the words I’ve seen used to categorize this Bengals linebacker who has received tens of thousands of dollars of fines and multiple suspensions over the course of his 6-year career as punishment for his unsportsmanlike conduct on the field. (Ex- deliberate helmet to helmet contact, defenseless targeting, starting brawls, illegal tackles, middle fingers to the crowd, and causing season-ending injuries, among others.)  And, according to SB Nation, Burfict has had a “lengthy history” of dirty play going back to high school and through college.

He continued this style of inappropriate behavior during Week 10 when he was ejected for contact with an official.  When he walked off the field, Burfict held up the “Johnny Manziel money sign” with his hands to the crowd.  He wasn’t punished any further by the league, but it makes one wonder why the Bengals signed this player to a 3-year contract extension earlier this year for about $36 million.  Is he really worth it?  All the costly penalties, suspensions and now getting thrown out of a game your team had the chance to win?  Sure, the man can play. He is a powerful monster at 6’1, 248 pounds and is known for his quickness and “explosive” use of his size to beat out competitors.  Also, according to PFF, Burfict has been amongst the highest-graded outside linebackers in the league in recent years.  It’s just beyond annoying to see this guy in constant trouble and out of control.  I also fear for the teams that will come up against him the remainder of the year, including the Steelers (Dec 4) who he has a lengthy history of bad blood with.  He has targeted WR Antonio Brown in the past, injured QB Roethlisberger, and caused a season-ending knee injury to RB Le’Veon Bell in 2015.  Pittsburgh can’t afford to have any one of those players out if they want to go to the Super Bowl.  Hopefully, the officials will keep an eye out for this guy and his dangerous behavior.

But, oh yes, Burfict and his teammates said this week that game officials have tried to provoke him and have targeted him unfairly in recent games by talking to him “disrespectfully” and trying to get a flag from him.  Of course, Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was on record saying that he reminded Burfict that he will be “held to a different set of standards” because of his history.

And, so he should be.


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