It’s Wednesday. Awards day.
During the season (because it would make no sense to do it if games weren’t being played), we pick the best of the week that was in five categories — offensive player of the week, defensive player of the week, rookie of the week, coach of the week, and play of the week.
For Week Eight, here they are.
Offensive player of the week: Eagles receiver A.J. Brown.
The first-year Eagle scored three touchdowns in the first half, all on “go” routes. The first one happened despite Brown being covered. By two players.
“I feel like safety was a little flat footed,” Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts told PFT by phone after the game. “That was enough for me to make a decision. He made a big-time play.”
Indeed he did. Three in all, as part of a day in which he caught six total passes for 156 yards.
Other finalists: Titans running back Derrick Henry (219 rushing yards, two touchdowns), 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (rushing, receiving, and passing touchdown), Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill (12 catches for 188 yards), Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins (12 catches, 159 yards, one touchdown), Saints running back Alvin Kamara (158 yards from scrimmage, three touchdowns).
Defensive player of the week: Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith.
The performance from Smith made him the league’s current sack leader with 8.5. He took inspiration from the induction of Jared Allen into the team’s Ring of Honor, paying homage to Allen by performing his trademark sack celebration.
Allen spoke to the team last Wednesday, and Smith told him it was coming. Smith, however, didn’t know Allen’s horse would be coming on Sunday, too. Smith told PFT after the game that he has two horses in Florida, and that the next time he’s there he’ll be recreating the moment.
One specific part of the moment will be difficult to fully simulate. As Allen rode his horse onto the artificial surface in Minnesota, the horse did what horses often do. And then it was time to play 30 more minutes of football on the field.
“You know what?” Smith said, “I smelled it.”
He smelled it, on a day when he definitely dealt it.
Other finalists: Browns linebacker Myles Garrett (1.5 sacks, one pass defensed), Browns cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. (two interceptions), Eagles defensive back C.J. Garner Johnson (one sack, one interception).
Rookie of the week: Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely.
The rookie had an opportunity to step up on Thursday night, after starter Mark Andrews suffered a shoulder injury. Likely got it done, with a nifty toe-tap touchdown in the back of the end zone, one of six catches for 77 yards.
He also recovered an onside kick while the Bucs were still very much alive, an outcome that Likely made look easy on a play that rarely is.
If Andrews misses time, it’ll be a lot easier for the Ravens to replace him, given Likely’s performance on Thursday night.
Coach of the week: Saints coach Dennis Allen.
Revenge is a dish best served with a cold, hard shutout.
That’s exactly what the former Raiders coach did when the opportunity arose, authoring a zero-point effort by a defense that put together its best performance of the year, by far.
“Everything that was talked about doing your job,” defensive end Cam Jordan told PFT after the 24-0 drubbing of the Raiders. “It’s just everybody taking that to the next level.”
Indeed they did, and it became obvious that the outcome carried extra meaning for Allen.
“He wasn’t going to say anything but, afterward, you know it meant a lot to him,” Jordan said.
It was stunning enough that people are now wondering whether new Raiders coach Josh McDaniels is heading for the same fate, perhaps even sooner than Allen was relieved of his duties by owner Mark Davis.
Other finalists: Titan coach Mike Vrabel, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Play of the week: DJ Moore‘s touchdown catch and helmet removal.
The cause seemed lost for the Panthers on Sunday. Down six with fewer than 30 seconds to play, they decided to go for it all — at a time when the Falcons weren’t prepared to defend a Hail Mary.
The incredible catch was balanced out by an incredibly boneheaded decision by Moore (and by tight end Stephen Sullivan) to remove their helmets as part of the celebration. The 15-yard penalty made the extra point a 48-yard field goal, which kicker Eddy Piñeiro missed.
He missed a far shorter kick in overtime, and the Panthers blew their chance to send the entire NFC South into a 3-5 scrum.
Other finalists: 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey’s touchdown catch, Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ one-handed touchdown catch, Cowboys linebacker Micah Parson’s fumble recovery and return for a touchdown, Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin‘s late-game catch to set up the game-winning touchdown, Cowboys running back Tony Pollard‘s 54-yard touchdown run, Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson‘s deep throw to receiver K.J. Hamler on Denver’s game winning touchdown drive, roughing the passer penalty that wiped out pick six that would have put the Jets up 17-3 late in second quarter.