The season is halfway over, plus a week. And it’s getting interesting on the field.
Off the field, our admiration of the exploits becomes reflected in the awards for each group of games.
It’s the Week 10 awards. Same categories as always.
All award winners, plus finalists, appear below.
Offensive player of the week: Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson.
Usually, I try not to double up on awards. Sunday’s win by the Vikings arguably justified a clean sweep, but for the fact that the Vikings don’t have a rookie who contributed to the dramatic, inexplicable, rollercoaster win in Buffalo.
Although Week 10 featured plenty of great offensive performances, it’s impossible to not make Jefferson the player of the week. His 10 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown arguably would be enough, the fact that he made one of the best catches anyone has ever seen with the game on the line cements it.
In that same game, a 33-30 overtime win at Buffalo, Jefferson set the record for the most 100-yard receiving games (20) and the most 150-yard receiving games (seven) through the first three years of a player’s career — and he still has eight games to go.
If he keeps playing like he did on Sunday, he’ll add to both totals. And he could end up in the running for MVP, an award no receiver has ever won.
Other finalists: Giants running back Saquon Barkley (35 carries, 152 rushing yards, touchdown), Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (285 passing yards, three touchdowns), Dolphins running back Jeff Wilson, Jr. (143 yards from scrimmage, one touchdown), Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (147 rushing yards, touchdown), Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (331 passing yards, four touchdowns), Packers receiver Christian Watson (107 receiving yards, three touchdowns), Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (119 yards, one touchdown), Bears quarterback Justin Fields (147 rushing yards, 167 passing yards, four touchdowns),
Defensive player of the week: Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson.
The 12-year veteran had one of the best games of his career, with two interceptions. Both were critical.
With the Vikings trailing by 10 points with 10:42 to play and the Bills trying to re-establish a 17-point margin by going for it on fourth and two from the Minnesota seven, Peterson’s instincts and preparation took over.
Peterson explained to PFT by phone after the eventual win that, once Bills quarterback Josh Allen broke the pocket to the right, Peterson shoved his man, receiver Isaiah McKenzie, out of bounds. That took McKenzie out of the play. (You can see McKenzie standing there, watching everything that happened after he was pushed out of bounds.) Peterson then became basically a rover.
“I looked over to my right and I saw a tight end,” Peterson said. “I saw him streaking back towards me and I noticed Josh notice him and next thing you know I just stepped in front of the play.”
Fast forward through plenty of crazy plays and developments, and Peterson made the game clinching interception in the same end zone, not far from where he made the first one.
Thanks to film study, he knew the routes that receiver Gabe Davis ran when lined up on the far right of the formation. Peterson expected Davis to eventually break to the inside. Davis did. At that point, Peterson stopped covering the receiver and started guarding the quarterback, waiting for the throw that Peterson sensed was coming.
It came. Peterson caught it. Game over.
Other finalists: Buccaneers linebacker Devin White (two sacks, forced fumble), Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (1.5 sacks), Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah (pick six), Packers defensive back Rudy Ford (two interceptions).
Rookies of the week: Packers receiver Christian Watson.
Watson’s rookie season began by dropping what would have been a wide-open touchdown on a long pass in his first play from scrimmage. That doesn’t do much to earn the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
On Sunday, Watson earned all of it, with three touchdowns. Each was critical to the effort to snap a five-game losing streak with an upset of the Cowboys.
The first one, a 58-yard catch and run, tied the game at seven. The next one, a 39-yarder on fourth and seven, cut a 14-point deficit in half. The last one, a seven-yarder, helped force overtime.
Other finalists: Buccaneers running back Rachaad White (105 rushing yards), Texans running back Dameon Pierce (94 rushing yards), Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (199 passing yards, 51 rushing yards, rushing touchdowns), Commanders running back Brian Robinson (86 rushing yards, touchdown).
Coach of the week: Commanders coach Ron Rivera.
The Eagles hadn’t lost a game. They had 11 days to prepare. The Commanders, repeatedly distracted by off-field drama, were reeling from blowing a 10-point, fourth-quarterback lead against the Vikings.
Rivera got his double-digit underdog squad ready and focused and motivated to beat the league’s last unbeaten team and, in so doing, thrust the Commanders into the mix for a potential clean sweep of the three NFC wild-card berths by the second-, third-, and fourth-place teams in the NFC East.
Rivera recently lost his mother. He was emotional in the locker room. And he’s inexplicably keeping his team in the thick of things, despite unprecedented organizational turmoil.
Other finalists: Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell, Colts coach Jeff Saturday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur.
Play of the week: Justin Jefferson’s 32-yard, one-handed catch on fourth-and-18 with two minutes left in regulation.
What more can be said about the one of the most perplexing receptions anyone has ever seen? It was a cross between the OBJ one-handed in 2014 and the David Tyree helmet catch from early 2008.
The fact that it didn’t happen in a Super Bowl gives it less sizzle than the Tyree effort. Still, it had a big-game feel to it, as the Vikings hoped to show everyone (including themselves) that they could beat an elite team on the road, something they hadn’t done in years.
Bills cornerback Cam Lewis inadvertently helped Jefferson make an unthinkable catch. Instead of simply trying to break it up, Lewis wanted the interception. He kept trying to wrest the ball from Jefferson from the moment it arrived until the instant Jefferson somehow kept it off the ground.
Other finalists: Josh Allen’s goal-line fumble resulting in a defensive touchdown for Minnesota, Bills receiver Stefon Diggs‘s one-handed catch, Packers receiver Christian Watson’s 39-yard touchdown catch on fourth and seven, Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah’s pick six, the failed halfback pass from Bucs running back Leonard Fournette to quarterback Tom Brady, Colts quarterback Matt Ryan‘s 39-yard run, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor’ 66-yard touchdown run, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook’s 81-yard touchdown run, Titans receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine‘s 63-yard touchdown catch on a flea flicker, Bears quarterback Justin Fields’s 67-yard touchdown run.