NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 11

As the final bye week approaches we’re starting to get a good idea of the great and the good in this year’s league, but still every week throws up a few surprises. Week 11 was no difference, with big performances from rookies and practice squad players to go along with the established stars. This week promised some of the biggest matchups of the season and didn’t disappoint, so without further ado here’s our NFL Ireland Team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

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Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

It’s been six weeks of dominance from the Packers’ QB as he continues to put up the kind of numbers that get him benched (in a good way). The Packers Defense and Special teams got a lot of the plaudits but Rodgers’ performance was exemplary, going 22 of 36 for 341 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions. It’s getting harder by the week to see anybody else take the MVP crown this year.

Running Back: Jonas Gray – New England Patriots

Belichick seems to do this every now and then. An unheralded running back comes in to take the place of the injured starter (Ridley, Vereen or both) and has a career day. The Colts gave up 4 TDs to LeGarrette Blount in the playoffs last season as the Patriots marched their way to the AFC title game, and this week the same team gave up another 4 scores to New England’s newest backfield sensation Jonas Gray. The Pats leaned on the former practice squad player all game, and he took full advantage as he romped into the end zone again and again, racking up 199 yards from scrimmage in the process. Regardless of whether or not he can produce like this again, this was a career day for Gray.

Tight End: Coby Fleener – Indianapolis Colts

In a season where the returning Dwayne Allen has hogged both touchdowns and headlines for the Colts, Fleener has seemed somewhat overshadowed. He made up for it on Sunday night as he hauled in all seven passes thrown in his direction, totalling 144 yards through the air. Even though the Colts were eventually worn down, Fleener was a bright spark in the offense and this performance was a timely reminder of the Stanford product’s ability and importance.

Wide Receiver: Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Evans is now making it a weekly habit. Big plays downfield just go his way, and the no.7 overall draft pick is proving to be everything the Bucs had hoped for. His size, speed and safe hands were all on display as he torched the Redskins secondary, grabbing seven passes for 209 yards and a pair of scores. It doesn’t matter if it’s Mike Glennon or Josh McCown throwing him the ball, Evans is producing week-in, week-out.

Wide Receiver: A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals

Welcome back A.J. Green! After missing time through a niggling foot injury and being visibly frustrated as Andy Dalton imploded last week against the Browns, the Bengals superstar wideout returned to form with a vengeance this week. He took the inconsistent Saints defense to task as he caught six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, which was about as classic an A.J. Green score as you’ll see.

Offensive Line: New England Patriots

After the Broncos surprise loss to the Rams on Sunday afternoon the AFC matchup between  the Colts and the Patriots took on extra importance as the race for home-field advantage in the playoffs began. The Patriots drew away from the Colts in the second half, and this game was won at the line of scrimmage. The Pats O-line is now settled after early-season experimentation saw the offense sputter and stumble, and on Sunday they didn’t allow a single sack on Tom Brady while also creating the holes for Jonas Gray’s breakout 4-TD performance. This unit is currently the best in the AFC by some distance.

Defense | Offense

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Defensive Line: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Maybe Lovie Smith isn’t done in Tampa. In what has been a dreadful season so far the Bucs have been poor on both sides of the ball, but things are starting to click and, incredibly for a team with only two wins, they’re not out of the NFC South title race just yet. Breaking a 5-game losing streak against the hapless Redskins, the Bucs D-line got to Robert Griffin III on no fewer than 6 occasions, spreading the sacks around between the excellent Gerald McCoy, Jacquies Smith, Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald. This is the fearsome front people expected to see this season, and it might be coming good at just the right time.

Linebackers: Kansas City Chiefs

In a week when your team gives up over 200 rushing yards it might seem that your front seven are to blame, but the Chiefs linebackers corps were all over the field against one of the strongest rushing attacks in the game. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are closing in on All-Pro years and they could yet be joined by the increasingly impressive Josh Mauga. Their performances this season so far are making this unit look like the best linebacking corps in football. The numbers put up were a case of volume as Seattle’s poor passing attack meant they leaned on Lynch and Wilson time and again, and time and again the Chiefs had the World Champions under control.

Cornerback: Darrelle Revis – New England Patriots

Revis may not be the best defensive player in the league anymore, but he’s still a top corner in this league. On a day when Andrew Luck saw no help on the ground and was forced to throw again and again, Revis kept everyone he was asked to cover in check, throwing in two pass breakups. Reggie Wayne said before the game that this is the best Patriots secondary he’s ever faced, and they showed it with Revis leading the way on Sunday.

Cornerback: Johnathan Joseph – Houston Texans

People will look to Ryan Mallett, J.J. Watt and Alfred Blue as the reasons the Texans romped to victory in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon, but don’t forget about Joseph. On a day when Brian Hoyer threw for 330 yards, he slung seven passes into Joseph’s area of coverage. Per PFF, Joseph allowed just one catch for zero yards and broke up another two of those passes. That’s about as good a day in the secondary as you can ask for.

Free Safety: Husain Abdullah – Kansas City Chiefs

Abdullah makes his second appearance of the season on these pages, following another big game against big-name opponents. He was solid in coverage against the Seahawks, breaking up a pass and batting down another, and he also managed five combined tackles to keep the Super Bowl winners in check anytime they broke the line of scrimmage. Abdullah is another of the supposed small-name players having big years in Kansas City this year, as this defense keeps making plays and winning games.

Strong Safety T.J. McDonald – St. Louis Rams

The Rams D had a big day on Sunday, shutting down Peyton Manning’s Broncos attack and making big plays time and again. While the plaudits will go to the star-studded front seven, safety T.J. McDonald managed a pass defensed while giving up just ten yards on 8 balls throw into his area. This is the second strong game in a row for the second-year starter, and his improving form is a boon for the Rams’ inconsistent secondary.

NFL Betting Preview – Week 11

First off, apologies for the lack of column last week. This column is written every Friday, however last week was taken up by the wedding of the best running back in Ireland, while the weekend was spent getting skint in London seeing the future Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys dismantle a hapless Jaguars outfit. Anyhow let’s back on the horse this weekend!

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ WAHSINGTON REDSKINS

This is a sneaky matchup in terms of points. Robert Griffin III returned for Washington last time out against Minnesota and did well, engineering five scoring drives. Meanwhile, Josh McCown was drafted back in under centre for the Bucs last time and also did well, finishing with 340 all-purpose yards. OVER 45 PTS @ 10/11 kicks off this week’s treble.

The usual Alfred Morris stat gets rolled out each time Griffin makes his return from any injury problem but it’s worth highlighting. With Griffin under centre, Morris has 4.86 yards per carry as opposed to 3.69 yards per carry without him. The threat of the read option with the former Baylor Bear calling the shots allows more room for Morris and he should run well. Griffin should also go well against a Tampa defence that has allowed a 103.7 passer rating to opposing QB’s – third worst in the NFL.

Washington’s defence has been badly affected by injuries with pass-rusher Brian Orakpo and top cover man DeAngleo Hall done for the year. Bashaud Breeland has been a rookie success, but David Amerson has been poor and big targets Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans could have success.

OVER 45 PTS @ 10/11 opens this week’s bet, with a scoreline somewhere in the region of 27-24 either way predicted here. V-Jax to score the first touchdown at 9/1 makes do.

HOUSTON TEXANS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS

Not the most attractive match on this week’s NFL slate, but we’re here to make money. Ryan Mallet is in at quarterback for Houston, but he has to take on a Cleveland defence that hasn’t given up more than 17 points over last three games. Coming off the back of a huge divisional win in Cincinnati, a 3 point spread at home looks to small for this Browns team. CLEVELAND -3 PTS @ 10/11 is next on the slip.

Over the last 5 games, the Browns unit has allowed only five touchdowns, while intercepting 10 passes and sacking the quarterback 12 times. Joe Haden has rediscovered his shutdown cornerback status and with an immobile quarterback under centre, it could be a long afternoon for the Texans offence.

Cleveland’s success on offence has come on the ground. The Browns ran it an NFL-high 52 times last week, with Crowell, Tate and West all getting involved. Brian Hoyer has been the stereotypical game-manager getting the ball out quickly, until the Browns take the Lamborghini out of the garage next week, with Josh Gordon’s return. Houston are allowing 4.38 yards per carry to opposing backs so expect plenty of the three-headed monster this week.

CLEVELAND -3 PTS @ 10/11 is next with a low-scoring Browns win in the region of 21-14. Ben Tate went in first last week, he’ll do again this week at a price of 9/1.

DENVER @ ST LOUIS

St Louis has finally generated a pass rush from it’s heralded linemen over the past two weeks, sacking the opposing trigger man 11 times over the last 2 games. However the Rams take on Peyton Manning under a roof, and that spells trouble for St Louis. DENVER -9 PTS @ 10/11 rounds off this week’s selections.

Manning and co bounced back from their loss to the Pats, with a win over the Oakland Raiders last week. Despite their pass rush success the last fortnight, expect Peyton to know this and a gameplan to revolve around getting the ball out quickly to a host of playmakers. Also as we mentioned the game is indoors. Manning has played three games indoors over the last two seasons with Denver, where he threw for 1200 yards (8.45 YPA) and an 11:2 TD-to-INT ratio.

Shaun Hill is under centre for the Rams, with coach Jeff Fisher finally losing patience with rookie Austin Davis, after a drop-off in play the last few months. Hill has played a total of 73 offensive snaps since the end of the 2010 season and is knocking on a bit – turning 35 by season’s end.

DENVER -9 PTS @ 10/11 with Denver handling St Louis by a score of 31-17. Touchdown machine Julius Thomas once again will do for first touchdown at 11/2.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

  • Minnesota has given up 55 receptions to running backs, good for 6th most in the NFL. They go up against the best pass-catching back in the league tomorrow in Matt Forte. Big day expected for the former Tulane man.
  • Mark Ingram has been straight balling, finally showing his Heisman-winning talent despite a bum shoulder. He’s rushed for over a tonne his last 3 games, and now goes up against a Bengals D that was gashed to the tune of 169 yards and 3 touchdowns last week against a previously-terrible Browns running attack.
  • Carolina allowed Mark Sanchez to pass for 300+ yards last week. They get Matt Ryan this week with the Falcons finally getting the monkey off their back and winning on the road for the first time in over two years. Expect a big day for Matty Ice.
  • Two runners who should have plenty of touches – Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch. The last 4 games the New York Giants have allowed 680 yards and four scores on the ground, while Marshawn Lynch is all the Seahawks have on offence at the moment. Pair that with Kansas City’s top ranked pass defence, it could be tough-sledding for Russell Wilson in Arrowhead.
  • Litmus-test for Mark Sanchez this week. On the road at Lambeau against a white-hot Green Bay squad. Will the real Mark Sanchez please stand up? It’s a tough ask for the former Jet, as he’ll be going toe-to-toe with the best player in football at the moment Aaron Rodgers. A-Rod has video game numbers at home – he’s not thrown a pick at home since December 4th 2012, and has 15 td’s already this year at Lambeau. Green Bay will win this football game.

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 8

Week 8 marks the halfway point for most teams and it’s a good time to sit back, take stock and appreciate what we’ve got. The NFL Ireland Team of the Week has been dishing out the most-sought after honours in sport for half a season now, and the players keep making plays, each one desperate to get their name on the teamsheet! Whether it’s a quarterback making history or a veteran DB revisiting his island, Week 8 saw great performances from some of the top players in the league. Here’s your NFL Ireland Team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

 

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Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers

In case you were living under a rock this weekend, on Sunday Ben Roethlisberger gave us one of the greatest QB performances of all time. He was completely error-free, with a box score full of numbers so good they’d make Rachel Riley blush: 40 of 49, 6 passing TDs, 522 passing yards, 0 INTs, 0 sacks. Although he finished a TD shy of tying the single game record, and just 32 yards short of the all-time single-game passing record, Big Ben’s performance made him the first player in NFL history to have TWO games with over 500 passing yards. And this Colts team came into the game looking like one of the better defenses in the NFL. Ben, we salute you.

Running Back: Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram is often the victim, sometimes of injuries, more often of the many-headed running back committee in New Orleans. With Darren Sproles  now injured in Philly and Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson both forced to sit out the Saints’ Sunday matchup against the Green Bay Packers, Ingram was finally used as the featured back his Heisman-winning college career promised he could be. The 4-th year veteran didn’t disappoint, carrying the rock 24 times for 172 yards and a touchdown as the Saints got their season back on track with a 44-23 win. Have they finally found how to use the talented back?

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots

We’ve said it before: Gronk is back and when he works, the Patriots work. The tight end and Tom Brady were partying like it was, well, 2011, as they hooked up on 9 passes for 149 yards and  3 TDs in a blowout win against the misfiring Bears in Foxboro. With Gronk in this kind of form, he only needs to stay healthy to keep the Patriots offense firing. Of course that’s always been his problem, but he is the key to New England booming or busting.

Wide Receiver: Jeremy Maclin – Philadelphia Eagles

Maclin is putting any fears about his ACL recovery to bed this season. Having hauled in a scary 12 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ painful loss to the Cardinals this week, he’s also showing why Chip Kelly had no problem in letting DeSean Jackson walk this offseason. Maclin’s performances have made Nick Foles look good and saved Philadelphia’s blushes on a couple of occasions. It wasn’t enough this time, but if he maintains this form the Eagles will always be in with a chance.

Wide Receiver: Mohamed Sanu – Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals improbably top the AFC North despite putting in some absolute stinkers since their bye week. A big reason for these bad performances has been the continued injuries of A.J. Green, but in his absence, Mohamed Sanu has stepped into his considerable shoes and performed admirably. In a tight divisional game against the Ravens, Sanu caught five balls for 125 yards, adding another 27 yards on two rushing attempts. Plays like this bobbling catch-and-run reception to bring the Bengals into scoring range are a big part of what Sanu does every week, and to do it in this tough a matchup was impressive.

Offensive Line: Denver Broncos

The Broncos managed to keep Peyton Manning’s jersey clean all day Thursday against the Chargers. As well as keeping their QB sack-free, they made the holes for Ronnie Hillman’s second rushing game of at least 100 yards this season. The Broncos O-line has been a strong base from which this offense is able to get downfield and score, which they do better than anybody.

 

Defense | Offense

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Defensive Line: Tennessee Titans

Looking for bright spots as a Titans fan is tough right now, but their D-line is starting to click again having faded after a promising start to the season. Jurell Casey, Sammie Lee Hill, Mike Martin, Al Woods and Ropati Pitoitua served as a reliable rotation in the hybrid fronts of Roy Horton on a team struggling for reliability on both sides of the football. Now if only they could get some help.

Linebackers – Buffalo Bills

So the Bills aren’t missing Kiko Alonso as much as people might have feared. Against a hapless New York Jets side they held the opposition running backs to just 78 yards while also forcing a fumble and taking an interception. A good game for a unit that continues to impress despite injuries to key players.

Cornerback: Darrelle Revis – New England Patriots

The Patriots big offseason acquisition has been a solid performer in recent weeks. Against the Bears he was targeted 8 times but he only gave up 23 yards for 3 receptions. He also managed to catch his second pick since moving to New England. If he continues to perform like this the Patriots will be looking at another deep postseason run.

Cornerback: Antonio Cromartie – Arizona Cardinals

Cromartie landed in Arizona as the second corner behind Patrick Peterson. He’s been a good contributor at times this year, but his talents really shone on Sunday against an Eagles side who like to throw the ball. He had a pass breakup and by the end of the game Cromartie was also celebrating his first multiple-pick game since 2010. He also had this glorious juke on a red-zone interception return to leave two Eagles players smashing into each other.

Free Safety: Tashaun Gipson – Cleveland Browns

After a strong start to the season that saw him make our team in Week 2, Gipson’s form slipped slightly at the start of the month. He’s bounced back in the last two weeks with 3 passes defended, all picks. His most recent interceptions came against Derek Carr and a Raiders team who found it difficult throwing his way, and the Browns safety chipped in two tackles for good measure. With continued good all-round play, Gipson is fast being recognised as a quality safety in the NFL.

Strong Safety: D.J. Swearinger – Houston Texans

Swearinger’s return to form this season has been somewhat overshadowed by the stellar form of J.J. Watt, and his performance against the Titans was again quietly efficient. He didn’t allow a single reception into his area of coverage per PFF, breaking up one pass and picking off another. He’s always been strong against the run but his work in coverage this year has improved, and he has proven to be an excellent and consistent performer for the improved 2014 Texans.

Houston Texans @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Week 7

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Kick Off 1:30am Tuesday, Ireland on Setanta Sports & British Eurosport HD

As uncertainty grows around Mike Tomlin & Co., some things are for sure heading into the Steelers’ Week 7 matchup with the Texans; Le’Veon Bell will, for the seventh week in a row, record 100+ yards from the line of scrimmage, Arian Foster will dominate, both teams’ receivers will show up and show off, and Ryan Fitzpatrick will throw another beard-induced pick, well probably. Also, it wouldn’t be a 2014 game for the Pittsburgh Steelers unless they got flagged for something ridiculous, so that too will happen.

At first thought, the Steelers and Texans both probably deserve to be at 3-3, but after a bit more thinking, a disparity becomes clear – the Steelers have been blown out twice (once to the Ravens and once to the Browns) and won just one game convincingly, ironically against their most capable opposition yet, the Carolina Panthers, while the Texans lost one game by just 13 points and the other two by less than a touchdown. Of course, that isn’t to say Sunday’s matchup will be one-sided, this is the National Football League, anything can happen, and the Steelers will have their home crowd behind them.

Perhaps the most enticing storyline to keep an eye out on is the potential return of the 2014 NFL Draft’s number one overall selection, Jadeveon Clowney. The defensive end who is most known for his monster hit on running back Vincent Smith during the 2013 Outback Bowl (video below) has just one tackle on the season having torn the meniscus in his right knee in Week 1. Fun fact: on the Houston Texans website, their depth chart has Clowney listed as ‘JLB’, which stands for ‘Jack LineBacker’ and means that player can roam freely within an imaginary box, called the ‘Jack’. For that fact alone, I’m going to include this preview in the ‘”Hurry Up” & Learn’ tab.

Now, some nuggets:

  • The Steelers have won 15 straight Monday Night Football games at home, which means Mike Tomlin has never lost one, but this little ‘nugget’ of information means next to nothing – Houston could storm in and dominate from the get-go.
  • Thanks to Thursday Night Football, the Texans have had three more days of rest than the Steelers however, which is promising considering the losing teams of TNF have won more games than they’ve lost the following week.
  • It could be a rough night for the black and gold secondary, as veteran Ike Taylor is out with a broken arm and fourth-year cornerback Cortez Allen has reportedly been demoted in favour of Brice McCain – another enticing storyline, as McCain was drafted by the Texans in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft and released by them in the offseason just past.
  • I wrote back in August that the Steelers offensive line would be “central to any success Pittsburgh enjoy this coming season” and it stands true, as they have allowed the fifth-most sacks in the NFL so far (17) and as already established are at 3-3. That figure is only going to get worse against the Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt. He already has four sacks, six passes defended and three touchdowns on the season.
  • Perhaps fellow defensive end, but Pittsburgh Steeler Stephon Tuitt can provide the spark his team needs in his first NFL start.

Expect a close game, but ultimately a home win that sees the Pittsburgh Steelers punch through the .500 ceiling (22 Jump Street reference). Don’t be fooled by what may appear as a defensive resurgence, i.e. a “beard-induced pick”, as the Colts travel to Pittsburgh in Week 8 with Luck on their side – the league leader in passing yards, passing yards per game and touchdowns can tear apart any defence. The Texans meanwhile, expect them to win next week in Tennessee and touch back down in Houston with the aim of besting the Eagles in Week 9 to finally go positive.

Find me on Twitter @thejohnkerr

NFL Ireland Running Back Rankings after Week 6

The running back scene in the NFL is a changeable one. This is clear when we notice the fact that before last season, Trent Richardson would have been sitting near the top of many running back rankings. After six weeks of the 2014 season he isn’t even his team’s best running back.

The point is, these rankings need to be regularly updated if we want them to be anything close to accurate. For this reason, NFL Ireland’s weekly positional rankings are going to focus on the running back position this week.

These rankings are mostly based on this season’s form (Although past success may influence the results slightly). This is a ranking of the 32 currently starting running backs in the league (Even if there are backups who could be better than another team’s starter) , so we’re going to exclude players who are sitting on the bench, backs who are currently suffering from long-term injuries, and those who are having legal troubles.

Guys who should be worrying about their job!

32. Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars: To start in this league, Gerhart has to do better than failing to eclipse 50 rushing yards in a game after 5 starts. The fact that he has only recorded one touchdown in that span doesn’t improve the situation. He always looked impressive as a backup in Minnesota, but he doesn’t seem up to task of being a starter in this league.

31. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers: Is he even the Panthers starting running back? That whole situation is a mess of injuries. No Panthers back has played enough to tell how they compare to the rest of the pack. Maybe it’s wrong to assume that he’s better than Gerhart. Let’s do it anyway.

30. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It’s easy to see why Martin is losing carries to Bobby Rainey. He has also failed to reach the 50 yard rushing mark in a game (Although he has played fewer games). He had a brilliant rookie season, but that was a long time ago, and since then Martin hasn’t looked like a starting NFL running back.

29. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders: McFadden is carrying the load in Oakland’s running game. Injuries aren’t the problem for McFadden anymore, a lack of production is. He has struggled to a 3.4 YPC this season. Maurice Jones-Drew isn’t getting anywhere near as many carries as McFadden at the moment, but expect that to change in the coming weeks as McFadden’s lacklustre play continues.

28. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions: Bush is coming off the best season of his career, but that seems like a distant memory now. He has been hampered by injuries, but even when healthy, his play hasn’t been impressive.

27. Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans: Before the season started, Sankey was expected to be the starter in the Tennessee backfield. Shonn Greene held him at bay for a while, but his hamstring issues have made Sankey the lead back for the Titans. Sankey has looked competent in his limited appearances, and in his start last week. Not spectacular, but competent.

26. Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos: Montee Ball was ineffective as the starter in Denver, but Hillman is going to start for the next few weeks. Hillman looked impressive in his first start, going off for 100 yards on the ground. However, he once again showed off his fumbling issues late in the game. We’ll need to see more from him to get a fair indication of his rank.

Decent with the rock put you’re not going to hang your franchise on them.

25. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons: Jackson is the primary rusher for the Falcons, but that doesn’t mean much. The Falcons are often left chasing games through the air, leaving Jackson with little to do. He’s clearly not the same player he used to be, but he can still play.

24. Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings: McKinnon has effectively become the starter in Minnesota. He has dominated the carries in the Vikings backfield (11 last week), but he has also made an impression in the passing game. Overall, he has about 300 yards from scrimmage in the last 3 weeks. McKinnon is going to be a big factor for the Vikings this year.

23. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots: With Ridley out, Vereen is going to have to step up. He’s likely to be the leader of a committee, so he’ll need to produce more rushing yards. However, his talent as a receiver out of the backfield can’t be denied.

22. Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns: Tate has been unstoppable since his return from injury. He has over 200 yards, and 2 touchdowns in only two games. His carries are stacking up (25 last week), but it doesn’t look like an issue for him.

21. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams: This year, Stacy isn’t getting the carries that made him such a superstar last season. His stats seem to decline every week, and the committee running back strategy is knocking at his door. Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham seem to be taking more and more carries away from him.

20. Khiry Robinson, New Orleans Saints: It’s hard to know what Saints running back should be sitting on this list, but Robinson has certainly been their most effective rusher in recent weeks. He has come close to 100 yards rushing in his last two games, and has dominated the carries in New Orleans. Thomas has been a non-factor in terms of carries, and Ingram is only recovering from injury.

19. Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers: Oliver has rushed for over 100 yards in his last two outings. He has three total touchdowns in that span. He’s not just a fill-in for Ryan Mathews, this guy can be a big part of this San Diego offense even when Mathews is healthy. Just don’t call him “The Next Sproles”.

The Middle of the Road

18. Rashad Jennings, New York Giants: Jennings won’t play this week, but he should be back after their bye week. He has secured close to 400 yards on the ground, and he has more of a chance to succeed as the Giants passing game improves. He’ll be a solid producer for the rest of the season, unless Andre Williams impresses in his absence.

17. Chris Ivory, New York Jets: Ivory, and the Jets are a match made in heaven. The Jets love playing ground-and-pound with tough running backs, Ivory loves being a tough running back. He easily shook off Chris Johnson, and proved he was the starter. If the Jets passing game was more threatening, Ivory’s numbers would improve.

16. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills: CJ Spiller’s presence in the Buffalo backfield doesn’t seem to bother Jackson. He has gathered almost 500 yards on the ground, and continues to get most of the carries. However, Spiller is a talented back, and would also be on this list if he started for a different team. He limits Jackson’s ceiling.

15. Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins: Miller is quickly becoming the back people thought he would be last year. His YPC is over 5, and he has secured 330 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, he also has 3 fumbles leaving a stain on his stat sheets. He’s now set to lead the Dolphins rushing attack for the rest of the season, with Knowshon Moreno injured.

14. Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts: I don’t care how many carries he gets, I refuse to put Richardson in this list instead of Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s YPC is far superior to Richardson’s, and plays a much bigger part in the passing game. Let’s just pretend that Bradshaw is the starter.

13. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers: Nothing’s going right for Lacy this season. He’s getting the touches, but he’s not getting the yards. He’s had injury troubles, but even when healthy he hasn’t reached the same heights as he did last year. It’s strange that in such a dynamic offense, Lacy can’t keep his YPC above 4.

12. Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals: Ellington seems to have constant injury problems, but he still manages to be his usual playmaking self. However, many of his yards come through the air. He could be a more effective rusher if his team gave him the chance.

Top Tier

11. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Gore laughs in the face of those of us who age. No matter how many seasons he plays, Gore still produces 1000-yard seasons like they’re nothing.

10. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: Charles hasn’t been given much of a chance this year. Injuries limited the first few weeks of his season, but he has also been utilised less in this offense than usual. He is still putting up good numbers, but he can do better.

9. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins: Morris is like a young Frank Gore. He just churns out yards quietly every season. There’s not a lot to say about Morris, he just does his job, and he does it well.

8. Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens: It looks like Ravens fans won’t be mourning the loss of Ray Rice for too long, given the way Forsett is playing right now. He has over 6 YPC, and 400 rushing yards after 6 games. Ray who?

7. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals: Bernard is electrifying. He’s quick, he’s always a threat to break off a big play, and plays a big part in the passing game. He has put up well over 500 yards, even though Jeremy Hill is stealing carries off him.

6. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: People thought that Lynch would collapse this year. People were wrong. Lynch is the same machine that he always was. He’s scored 6 total touchdowns already this year.

The Best

5. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: People have been disappointed by McCoy so far this season, but he has still amassed over 400 rushing yards in 6 games. When he starts getting back in the end zone, people will stop worrying about him.

4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears: He has 775 total yards.

3. Arian Foster, Houston Texans: It’s not easy being Arian Foster. He seems to always have some sort of injury, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is his QB. However, he has managed to put these problems behind him this year to rush for over 500 yards in 6 weeks.

2. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: Bell’s consistency is ridiculous. He has put up over 100 total yards in every game he has played this season. That’s enough for 2nd place on the list.

1. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: No running back in the game is playing as well as DeMarco Murray is right now. Sure, his offensive line is solid, but we can’t take his numbers away from him for that. His 785 rushing yards are by far the most in the league, and his 6 rushing touchdowns lead the league too. Yes, he has trouble holding on to the ball, but when he’s on pace to beat the single-season rushing yards record, he has to be at number 1.

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 5

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

 

TOTW-5-Offense

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

 

TOTW-5-Defense

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!

Week 5 Gifs

A selection of some of the best plays from week 5.

Warning: This one takes a while to load!

Seattle Seahawks 27 – 17 Washington Redskins


Cousins gets lit up


Wilson’s great escape

Chicago Bears 21 – 24 Carolina Panthers


Jeffrey’s one handed catch


Cam blocks Breeze

St Louis Rams 28 – 34 Philadelphia Eagles


Shady’s fumble

Buffalo Bills 17 – 14 Detroit Lions


Watkins’ juggle catch

Arizona Cardinals 20 – 41 Denver Broncos


Manning stops a touchdown


Ellington has get away from the cops speed

Baltimore Ravens 13 – 20 Indianapolis Colts


Luck takes a big hit and Ngata intercepts

Atlanta Falcons 20 – 30 New York Giants


Julio Jones one handed catch


Odell Beckham Jr’s touchdown catch

Houston Texans 17 – 20 Dallas Cowboys


Romo avoids JJ Watt sack


Arian Foster jukes Barry Church

Kansas City Chiefs 17 – 22 San Francisco 49ers


Brandon Lloyd’s athletic catch

Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Week 5

Each week during the season, deciding on who to start for your fantasy football team is the most pivotal decision. Each week in my Rankings, Starts and Sits article, I will list the players at each position. This will show you who the best play at each position is. I will also recommend a less obvious player at each position who is primed for a big week, and a player at each position who you should avoid. If you have any start/sit questions feel free to contact me on twitter @JamesMaguire21 where I would be happy to answer all questions.

Quarterbacks

Pittsburgh Steelers v Dallas Cowboys
QB Start of the Week
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)
Even though his team lost last week, Big Ben put in a great performance scoring 28 fantasy points. His success should continue this week as he has a great matchup against a Jaguars defence that is ranked dead last against the pass, allowing the most touchdowns and fantasy points to opposing QB’s.

QB Sit of the Week
Tom Brady (NE)
Brady had been a real disappointment this season, and if you started him last week he more than likely will have cost you your game. Unless he shows a vast improvement over the next few games, he won’t even be worth rostering in most formats. He needs to be benched for the foreseeable future, especially this week as he faces a Bengals team that has been good against the pass so far this season, and stopped Brady from scoring a TD last season when they met.

QB Rankings:
[columnize]1              Aaron Rodgers GB (vs. MIN)

2              Peyton Manning DEN (vs. ARI)

3              Philip Rivers SD (vs. NYJ)

4              Andrew Luck IND (vs. BAL)

5              Drew Brees NO  (vs. TB)

6              Ben Roethlisberger PIT  (@JAC)

7              Matthew Stafford DET  (vs. BUF)

8              Matt Ryan ATL (@NYG)

9              Eli Manning NYG  (vs. ATL)

10           Tony Romo DAL  (vs. HOU)

11           Russell Wilson SEA (@WAS)

12           Nick Foles PHI  (vs. STL)

13           Jay Cutler CHI  (@CAR)

14           Colin Kaepernick SF (vs. KC)

15           Joe Flacco BAL (@IND)

16           Cam Newton CAR  (vs. CHI)

17           Andy Dalton CIN (@NE)

18           Alex Smith KC  (@SF)

19           Blake Bortles JAC (vs. PIT)

20           Mike Glennon TB  (@NO)

21           Teddy Bridgewater MIN  (@GB)

22           Austin Davis STL (@PHI)

23           Drew Stanton ARI  (@DEN)

24           Kyle Orton BUF  (@DET)[/columnize]

Running Backs

-cbe35277cfe8d4d4
RB Start of the Week
Rashad Jennings (NYG)
I was very high on Jennings coming into the season and thought he was a real draft bargain late in drafts. He has been brilliant so far this season, and now that the Giants offence finally seems to be coming together, the sky is the limit for Jennings. This weeks matchup is a fantastic one for Jennings, as he faces a Falcons team that is awful against the run. I could see him being one of the top 5 RB’s this week as the Falcons give up the most ppg and TD’s to opposing runners.

RB Sit of the Week
Donald Brown (SD)
Brown looked primed for a big game last week only to completely disappoint. It is possible that he could improve as the season goes on as he practically has the backfield to himself with Matthews and Woodhead injured. However I have to recommend that you keep him benched. This week he faces a Jets defence that has been brilliant against the run: in fact they have yet to concede a rushing TD by a RB.

RB Rankings:
[columnize]1              DeMarco Murray DAL (vs. HOU)

2              Marshawn Lynch SEA (@WAS)

3              Le’Veon Bell PIT (@JAC)

4              Rashad Jennings NYG  (vs. ATL)

5              Giovani Bernard CIN (@NE)

6              LeSean McCoy PHI  (vs. STL)

7              Jamaal Charles KC  (@SF)

8              Matt Forte CHI (@CAR)

9              Eddie Lacy GB  (vs. MIN)

10           Arian Foster HOU  (@DAL)

11           Zac Stacy STL  (@PHI)

12           Matt Asiata MIN  (@GB)

13           Montee Ball DEN (vs. ARI)

14           Andre Ellington ARI  (@DEN)

15           Frank Gore SF  (vs. KC)

16           Ahmad Bradshaw IND  (vs. BAL)

17           Reggie Bush DET  (vs. BUF)

18           Doug Martin TB  (@NO)

19           Chris Ivory NYJ (@SD)

20           Khiry Robinson NO  (vs. TB)

21           Bishop Sankey TEN  (vs. CLE)

22           Justin Forsett BAL  (@IND)

23           Ben Tate CLE  (@TEN)

24           Shane Vereen NE  (vs. CIN)

25           Lorenzo Taliaferro BAL (@IND)

26           Isaiah Crowell CLE (@TEN)

27           Carlos Hyde SF (vs. KC)

28           C.J. Spiller BUF (@DET)

29           Alfred Morris WAS  (vs. SEA)

30           Fred Jackson BUF  (@DET)

31           Trent Richardson IND  (vs. BAL)

32           Chris Johnson NYJ  (@SD)

33           Toby Gerhart JAC  (vs. PIT)

34           Jerick McKinnon MIN  (@GB)

35           Darren Sproles PHI  (vs. STL)

36           LeGarrette Blount PIT (@JAC)

37           Joique Bell DET  (vs. BUF)

38           Darrin Reaves CAR  (vs. CHI)

39           Robert Turbin SEA (@WAS)

40           Donald Brown SD (vs. NYJ)

41           Stevan Ridley NE  (vs. CIN)

42           Jeremy Hill CIN (@NE)

43           Steven Jackson ATL (@NYG)

44           Bobby Rainey TB (@NO)

45           Andre Williams NYG  (vs. ATL)

46           Travaris Cadet NO (vs. TB)

47           Alfred Blue HOU (@DAL)

48           Antone Smith ATL  (@NYG)[/columnize]

Wide Receivers

Keenan AllenWR Start of the Week
Keenan Allen (SD)
I recommended starting Allen last week and he delivered with his first good game of the season. I expect his success to continue this week as he faces a Jets defence that is allowing over 28ppg to opposing WR’s. With the Jets having such a strong run defence, I expect the Chargers to throw often and Allen will benefit from this.

WR Sit of the Week
Andre Johnson (HOU)
Johnson has been mediocre at best this season and has yet to score a TD, and this trend could continue this week. The Cowboys defene has been much better than anyone expected and has held some top WR’s in check.  Factor in that Hopkins is emerging as a better fantasy option in Houston., and I would temper my expectations on what Johnson will do this week.

WR Rankings:
[columnize]1              Antonio Brown PIT  (@JAC)

2              Jordy Nelson GB (vs. MIN)

3              A.J. Green CIN (@NE)

4              Julio Jones ATL  (@NYG)

5              Randall Cobb GB  (vs. MIN)

6              Demaryius Thomas DEN (vs. ARI)

7              Calvin Johnson DET  (vs. BUF)

8              Dez Bryant DAL  (vs. HOU)

9              Brandon Marshall CHI  (@CAR)

10           Victor Cruz NYG (vs. ATL)

11           Keenan Allen SD (vs. NYJ)

12           Jeremy Maclin PHI  (vs. STL)

13           Kelvin Benjamin CAR  (vs. CHI)

14           Reggie Wayne IND  (vs. BAL)

15           Alshon Jeffery CHI (@CAR)

16           Emmanuel Sanders DEN (vs. ARI)

17           Steve Smith BAL  (@IND)

18           Michael Floyd ARI (@DEN)

19           DeAndre Hopkins HOU (@DAL)

20           Vincent Jackson TB  (@NO)

21           Michael Crabtree SF  (vs. KC)

22           Sammy Watkins BUF  (@DET)

23           Roddy White ATL (@NYG)

24           Percy Harvin SEA (@WAS)

25           Julian Edelman NE  (vs. CIN)

26           Andre Johnson HOU  (@DAL)

27           Terrance Williams DAL  (vs. HOU)

28           Brandin Cooks NO  (vs. TB)

29           Golden Tate DET (vs. BUF)

30           Eddie Royal SD (vs. NYJ)

31           Marques Colston NO  (vs. TB)

32           T.Y. Hilton IND (vs. BAL)

33           Rueben Randle NYG  (vs. ATL)

34           Brian Quick STL  (@PHI)

35           Larry Fitzgerald ARI (@DEN)

36           John Brown ARI (@DEN)

37           Wes Welker DEN (vs. ARI)

38           Eric Decker NYJ  (@SD)

39           Pierre Garcon WAS (vs. SEA)

40           Allen Robinson JAC  (vs. PIT)

41           Jordan Matthews PHI (vs. STL)

42           Cordarrelle Patterson MIN (@GB)

43           Torrey Smith BAL  (@IND)

44           Greg Jennings MIN  (@GB)

45           Malcom Floyd SD  (vs. NYJ)

46           Allen Hurns JAC (vs. PIT)

47           Devin Hester ATL  (@NYG)

48           Hakeem Nicks IND (vs. BAL)[/columnize]

Tight Ends

NFL: New York Giants at Detroit Lions
TE Start of the Week
Larry Donnell (NYG)
Donnell has been one of the surprises of the season and has emerged into one of Eli’s favourite targets. He had a monster performance last week and as long as Eli keeps targeting him in the endzone, I expect him to finish the season as a top 10 TE.

TE Sit of the Week
Jason Witten (DAL)
I have listed Witten as a sit multiple times this season and he has proved me right on each occasion. He is having a terrible year from a fantasy perspective, and some of this is down to his increased role as a blocker. I expect him to have another disappointing outing this week as he faces a Texans defence that has held opposing TE’s in check all season.

TE Rankings:
[columnize]1              Julius Thomas DEN (vs. ARI)

2              Jimmy Graham NO (vs. TB)

3              Rob Gronkowski NE  (vs. CIN)

4              Martellus Bennett CHI (@CAR)

5              Larry Donnell NYG  (vs. ATL)

6              Antonio Gates SD (vs. NYJ)

7              Greg Olsen CAR  (vs. CHI)

8              Zach Ertz PHI (vs. STL)

9              Delanie Walker TEN  (vs. CLE)

10           Travis Kelce KC  (@SF)

11           Heath Miller PIT  (@JAC)

12           Dwayne Allen IND  (vs. BAL)

13           Jordan Cameron CLE  (@TEN)

14           Owen Daniels BAL (@IND)

15           Coby Fleener IND  (vs. BAL)

16           Garrett Graham HOU  (@DAL)

17           Eric Ebron DET  (vs. BUF)

18           Jason Witten DAL (vs. HOU)

19           Austin Seferian-Jenkins TB  (@NO)

20           Clay Harbor JAC (vs. PIT)

21           Luke Willson SEA  (@WAS)

22           Derek Carrier SF (vs. KC)

23           Scott Chandler BUF (@DET)

24           Jace Amaro NYJ (@SD)[/columnize]

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 4

The first bye week is always tough, and with six teams sitting it out Week 4 needed players to step up and entertain us poor football fans. They didn’t disappoint as we saw upsets, big games and standout debuts from big names and surprise starters alike. See the best of the best from the NFL as we present the lucky few who made the NFL Ireland team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

 

TOTW-4-Offense

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

Let’s be honest, Rodgers has been poor this season. The team needed the refs and some sketchy secondary play to see off the Jets in their lone win before this season, but the QB wasn’t worried, telling fans and reporters to RELAX ahead of their trip to divisional rivals the Chicago Bears this weekend. The Super Bowl winner obviously saw something the rest of us hadn’t, as he threw 22 of 28 for over 300 yards, 4 TDs and no interceptions in a dominant 38-17 victory at Soldier Field. Now everybody can relax, except Packers opponents.

Running Back: DeMarco Murray – Dallas Cowboys

Here at NFL Ireland we like to spread the love around. The Team of the Week is about casting our eyes far and wide to find someone who has been not just great, but great with a story, so we’re reluctant to shower praise on any one individual too much. That said, 149 yards and two TDs against the Saints is enough to grab our attention, and so for the second time in 3 weeks Murray makes the grade as our RB. He’s the best runner in football right now, and it’s not even close.

Tight End: Martellus Bennett – Chicago Bears

With Murray repeating, we might as well keep the ball rolling. Making his second appearance in as many weeks in our team of the week, Bennett was phenomenal against the Packers, catching 9 balls for a whopping 134 yards while his blocking helped Matt Forte to hit a season-high 122 yards on the ground. On this form, Bennett looks a complete tight end.

Wide Receiver: Steve Smith – Baltimore Ravens

When Steve Smith was cut by the Panthers in March, he promised that if he returned to the Bank of America Stadium in another team’s colours there’d be ‘blood and guts everywhere’. The 35 year-old veteran was as good as his word (figuratively speaking), torching his former team for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Smith is averaging over 107 yards per game since his arrival in Baltimore, and after last week the receiver-needy Panthers must be kicking themselves for letting him go.

Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen – San Diego Chargers

After kicking off the season with three fairly anonymous performances despite the Chargers posting big numbers, last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year exploded against the Jaguars, grabbing ten balls for 135 yards. That’s more yards than in his first three games combined! As Philip Rivers continues to spread the ball around Allen might not always see so many targets, but it was great to see that his ability, and reliability, are back.

Offensive Line: New York Giants

Against a Redskins line that had racked up 10 sacks in the first three games of the season, the Giants improved markedly to keep Eli Manning upright and unhurried. After being written off in Week 1, the Giants offense, and the line in particular, are starting to put it all together under new coordinator Ben McAdoo. If they can continue to keep Eli’s shirt clean like they did here, we’ll be talking about the Giants offensive line as a strength once more, rather than a weakness.

Defense | Offense

 

 

TOTW-4-Defense

Defensive Line: Houston Texans

Expect to hear this a lot this season: J.J. Watt is the best player in the NFL right now. He was all over E.J. Manuel in the Buffalo backfield and, while he didn’t notch up a sack, he got a pick-six for his second touchdown of the season. Jared Crick and Tim Jamison combined for the team’s two sacks, rounding off a dominant day for the Texans line.

Linebackers: Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs linebacker group trod all over the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Tamba Hali, Josh Mauga and Justin Houston combined for 3 sacks and two forced fumbles, breaking the brittle Pats offensive line time after time and helping shut out Tom Brady and co. completely in the first half. For a defense that struggled down the stretch last season, this was a complete performance.

Cornerback: Sean Smith – Kansas City Chiefs

Keeping up the theme, Smith had a great night in coverage against the Patriots, while also adding a pick in the middle of the third quarter to ice any comeback aspirations. The Chiefs secondary will need performances like this from their no.1 corner if they are to stay relevant this season.

Cornerback: Brandon Flowers – San Diego Chargers

Another player on the repeat list, having made this team just last week, Flowers improved on his Week 3 performance by allowing just three yards into his area of coverage, while also adding an interception. The Chargers defense looks like a unit to be taken seriously this season, and leading the sea change has been the excellent free agent cornerback signing.

Free Safety: Husain Abdullah – Kansas City Chiefs

Rounding out the impressive performances from the KC D this week is free safety Husain Abdullah. His eight tackles contributed to a solid run defense but the cherry on top was a fourth quarter 53-yard pick six. Even though he suffered an unjust penalty after the play for praying in the endzone, he won’t mind too much if he’s running home interceptions again this season.

Strong Safety: Mike Adams – Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have some problems in the secondary, but Mike Adams wasn’t one of them this week. He hauled in two interceptions to keep Charlie Whitehurst and the Titans offense in check and ensure a solid win and keep the Colts close to the Texans in the AFC South.

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