In a week of big comebacks and close wins, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. The honour of making the NFL Ireland Team of the Week has to be earned, and this collection of heroes managed to do just that. Here’s our Team of the Week for Week 5:
Offense | Defense
Quarterback: Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
It was a close-run thing between Manning and Tom Brady this week, as both wily old veterans had milestone games. Brady passed the 50,000 career passing yards mark, while Manning broke 500 career touchdown passes. In the end, plumping for Manning was the only choice as he threw for 4 TDs and 479 yards against a Cardinals D that had been tough to break down so far this season. Oh, Peyton only needs 6 more TDs to hold the career total touchdown passes record. Who’d bet against him getting it this weekend at the Jets?
Running Back: Arian Foster – Houston Texans
As the Texans passing attack came shuddering to a halt, the decision to start Ryan Fitzpatrick looks as bad as we predicted in preseason. Thankfully the Texans have the return to form of their star running back to lean on. Foster hit local rivals the Dallas Cowboys for 157 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns in a close game proving that, if he can stay healthy, he’s still one of the best backs in football.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
A return to form in an offense designed around his strengths once more, the Pats star TE hit the previously stingy Bengals defense for 100 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. It’s no coincidence that the Patriots offense found a spark in their best receiving weapon, and after working slowly back from ACL injury in the offseason a healthy Gronk spells trouble for the rest of the league.
Wide Receiver: Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos
After a comparatively slow start to the season Broncos fans must’ve gone into last week’s bye wondering when Thomas was going to show up. They didn’t have to wait long as the star wideout went for 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 8 receptions. He had another 77-yard TD called back for a chop block by Julius Thomas on Calais Campbell. Had it stood, Thomas would have had a day for the ages. As it stands, he had to settle for just a franchise record in yards for a wide receiver.
Wide Receiver: Vincent Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As Mike Glennon has settled back into the starting QB role in Tampa, he’s found comfort with his old favourite target Vincent Jackson. VJ came out against the Saints for 144 yards on 8 receptions, leading the line in a narrow overtime divisional loss. If he can reproduce this form consistently the Bucs might just stand a chance of being relevant this season.
Offensive Line: Cleveland Browns
The Browns offensive line has been quietly productive all season long. Allowing just one sack on QB Brian Hoyer and creating the holes that allowed Ben Tate 124 rushing yards, Alex Mack and co. were the bedrock upon which the Browns’ historic comeback road win was based. The AFC North has a number of the leading offensive lines in the business. Might this group be the best of the best?
Defense | Offense
Defensive Line: Buffalo Bills
The Bills had a last-gasp win at the Detroit Lions, continuing their good form against the NFC North. The win was based upon dominance in the trenches, as the defensive line was all over Matt Stafford. Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams combined for 12 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and six sacks as they took the Lions line to town in a frighteningly efficient performance. More of the same and Kyle Orton will be playing with the lead a lot more in 2014.
Linebackers: Carolina Panthers
Making their second appearance on these pages the Panthers once again dominated against the Bears. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are the best linebacker duo in football, and while forcing Matt Forte into receptions and out of the running game, they also allowed just 67 yards combined in coverage. They’re carrying the load for a Panthers defense which is patchy at other spots.
Cornerback: Chris Harris – Denver Broncos
It wasn’t just on offense that the Broncos shone this week. Harris didn’t allow any receptions on seven attempts into his coverage, per PFF, as the Denver secondary held the combined talents of Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas under 200 passing yards on the day. A solid performance from an underrated player.
Cornerback: Alterraun Verner – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another repeat defender on our list Verner was once again on song as the Bucs nearly clinched a victory in New Orleans. Adding an interception on Drew Brees to two passes defended and just 42 yards allowed in his coverage, the free agent signing continues to prove shrewd business in his new home in Florida.
Free Safety: Harrison Smith – Minnesota Vikings
In an otherwise miserable loss to the Green Bay Packers, the continued good form of Harrison Smith proved to Minnesota’s lone bright spot in the rain of Lambeau. With almost no help whatsoever Smith managed a team-high five tackles with a pass defended and an interception to boot in a game with not a lot riding on it after half time. A solid performance from an improving player.
Strong Safety: Morgan Burnett – Green Bay Packers
On the other side of Thursday night’s game, Burnett was a monster for the Packers. His tackling stats and a forced fumble don’t even begin to tell the story of his performance. He was good in coverage and against the run, stopping the Vikings on five of his eight tackles, and looked like a leader for this defensive secondary. In bad weather, in divisional matchups at home you want your players to stand up and stand out, and Burnett did just that.
Who did we forget? Tell us on twitter, facebook or right here in the comments!