Sundays are for football. Wednesdays are for awards.
Five categories. You know the drill by now.
If you don’t, get acquainted with it below.
Congrats to the finalists and nominees. To everyone else, you’re just a week away from recognition.
Unless your team is on a bye.
Offensive player of the week: Bengals running back Joe Mixon.
Struggles along the offensive line had make it hard for the Cincinnati running game to get going. Against the Panthers, it got going and then some.
Running back Joe Mixon exploded, for a franchise-record five touchdowns — one short of the NFL record of six. He did it with 153 rushing yards and another 58 receiving yards.
After the game, Mixon gave due credit to the blockers for making it all happen.
Mixon deserves plenty of credit, too. If he keeps playing the way he played on Sunday, the 5-4 Bengals (the same record they had through nine games a year ago) can do the same thing they did in 2021.
Other finalists: Bears quarterback Justin Fields (178 rushing yards, 123 passing yards, four total touchdowns), Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (43 for 68, 446 yards, 63 rushing yards), Titans running back Derrick Henry (115 rushing yards, two touchdowns), Chargers receiver Josh Palmer (eight catches, 106 yards), Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (53 yards from scrimmage, two touchdowns), Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (eight catches, 100 yards, one touchdown), Jaguars running back Travis Etienne (28 carries, 109 yards, two touchdowns).
Defensive player of the week: Ravens linebacker Justin Houston.
To cap the weekend during which we literally turned back the clock, Houston figuratively did it, with 2.5 sacks and an interception against the Saints. It was an eye-popping performance for a Ravens defense that hasn’t had enough of them this year.
That performance can lift his teammates. It already is.
“It’s just inspiring to be in the room with a guy like that,” Odafe Oweh said, via the team’s website. “It was impressive to see. He told me this summer when he was working out in Georgia that he was really tapped in, in terms of this year and what he really wanted for himself. You see it obviously. I don’t know what it is, but I’m trying to get whatever he’s got.”
Houston has 8.5 sacks this year, more than he’s had in any season since 2019. And he has played in only six games. That’s roughly the same per-game rate as 2014, when he racked up 22 of them in 16 total games.
Rookies of the week: Lions safety Kerby Joseph.
If you intercept Aaron Rodgers twice in the same game, you get an award.
The Lions rookie did just that in Sunday’s 15-9 upset of Green Bay. He also had 10 tackles and three passes defended.
Joseph, who had been close to breaking out all year, said it best on social media after the game: “𝑻𝑩𝑯 𝑰 𝑱𝑼𝑺𝑻 𝑩𝑬𝑬𝑵 𝑭𝑨𝑹𝑻𝑰𝑵𝑮, 𝒀𝑨𝑳𝑳 𝑨𝑰𝑵’𝑻 𝑺𝑬𝑬𝑵 💩 𝒀𝑬𝑻.”
Other finalists: Texans running back Dameon Pierce (139 rushing yards), Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier (10 carries, 99 rushing yards), Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (one interception), Seahawks running back Ken Walker III (109 rushing yards, two touchdowns).
Coach of the week: Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell.
He’s been nominated a few times this season, and for good reason. After Sunday’s latest rabbit-out-of-their-butts routine — for a sixth straight close win — it can’t be called a coincidence.
O’Connell has infused a new culture and chemistry in Minnesota. Players, in clutch moments, are performing. They believe in themselves, and in each other.
Dalvin Cook, for example, exuded a raw determination on Sunday, as the Vikings were on the brink of wiping out a 10-point second-half deficit and flipping it into a win. The players are loose, but locked in. They’re playing based on hope, not fear. And it all traces to the man who has dramatically changed the mood of the team, and in turn enhanced its accomplishments.
Other finalists: Jets coach Robert Saleh, Lions coach Dan Campbell, Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
Play of the week: Patrick Mahomes’s 14-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion run.
On a night when Mahomes came within two of the single-game attempt record of 70 and two of the single-game completion record of 45, Mahomes made the most significant impact with his legs. And his head.
Proving yet again that he has an uncanny understanding of the movement of his body in relation to the bodies of those trying to tackle him, Mahomes gained 63 rushing yards against the Titans, punctuated by a 14-yard touchdown run that, with the two-point conversion run, forced overtime.
As noted on Twitter during the game, Mahomes doesn’t look fast. But he makes everyone chasing him look slow.
He also risked making himself look foolish, by head-butting the wall after racking up the game-tying two-pointer. It was shades of Gus Frerotte, the former Washington quarterback who once did the same thing — and injured his neck in the process.
Other finalists: Bears quarterback Justin Fields’s 61-yard touchdown run, Commanders receiver Curtis Samuel‘s touchdown catch in triple coverage, after an official takes out Vikings defensive back Cam Bynum, Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack taking the ball from Falcons receiver Drake London, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady‘s one-yard game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Cade Otton, Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s 36-yard touchdown run.