To go along with our favorite question (this week’s top performance), we’ve hit some areas that we’d be interested to hear your opinions about. A player off the radar but on his way, one eyeing the end, and a handful of this-guy-or-that choices. And a division prediction to boot.
You watch the games, you read along and check the stats, so please do chime in and let us know your answers for this week’s questions. Agree with one of our guys? Got one that wasn’t mentioned but should have been? Let us know in the comments section below.
1) Best performance of the week? (individual, team, or otherwise)
Khaled: Has to be Charles Tillman. Thrown at relentlessly, he kept Calvin Johnson in check and put up more points than Megatron. The touchdown he had was the icing on a very tasty cake.
Neil: Tim Tebow may get all the ink in Denver but someone had to stop the Chiefs getting more than 17 points at home and no one did more in that regard than Von Miller. A sack, four hits and three hurries on 33 rushes. Don’t think defensive rookie of the year – think All-Pro
Ben: Week 10 started last Thursday and I’m heading back there this week, Kamerion Wimbley. Utterly destructive display, defensive player of the week without doubt.
Sam: I’m tempted to go for any one of a couple of obscene one-handed catches (Brandon Lloyd, fine work sir), but I can’t look past the day Von Miller had. He was utterly destructive against the Chiefs and is the primary reason you’re now hearing about Matt Cassel missing time injured down the stretch.
Nathan: I’ll go with Charles Tillman of the Bears. There were 15 times where Calvin Johnson was thrown at while Tillman was covering him. In that time, Johnson was limited to just five catches for 73 yards. Tillman also had an interception and pass defended when covering Johnson. Against an average receiver those numbers are good, but against Johnson they were amazing and played a big role in the Bears’ blowout.
2) I’m looking for one guy, regardless of position, who isn’t on anyone’s radar anywhere. He may not be at the top of our positional rankings, but he’s one guy you’d stake your name to as an off-the-wall call that’ll soon be a household name. Who is he?
Khaled: I’m not sure how off the wall this is but Lamarr Houston is only getting better the more he plays.
Neil: How about Antwan Barnes in San Diego. The one thing that seems to hold is when people show they can get pressure they rarely then slip back. Barnes has consistently shown over the last two years an ability to get to the QB and I think he’ll just get better with more playing time.
Ben: Lamarr Houston had a very good rookie year but with other players around still gets absolutely zero national press. He plays with an aggression and intensity to match the Raiders’ ethos and is capable of some astonishing performances. If the Raiders can mount a serious playoff drive, their defensive line will come under close scrutiny as the best unit on the team and Houston is a match for any player on that line.
Sam: It’s tough to fly under the radar as a receiver, but I’m going to go with a guy I was very high on before the draft, and who impressed me no end with his first serious game time as a pro – Vincent Brown of the Chargers. Brown can get separation and made a couple of great catches against the Raiders, going up above two defenders for one in that way Charger receivers seem to specialize in. I’m interested to see some of the answers the others come up with, but I’m going to stick to my pre-draft opinion on Brown.
Nathan: In Pittsburgh, wide receiver Antonio Brown has been excellent in recent weeks. Hines Ward has seen his role shrink, and I believe Brown will continue to start. Since the AFC is a mess, the Steelers can make a run in the playoffs, and Brown could make a name for himself there.
3) Flipping that, give me one guy who’s got the notoriety already but is steaming toward NFL oblivion.
Khaled: Don’t know if it’s the pay day or the new environment, but whenever I’ve seen Quintin Mikell play he just hasn’t been the same player that I saw in Philadelphia. Too many missed tackles and too many bad angles.
Neil: Surely this is Joey Porter’s last season? Has he done anything worthwhile since he the 2005 playoff run? Throw out the Pro Bowl season in Miami, that was based on an awful lot of unblocked sacks and little else.
Ben: David Diehl has a lot of notoriety – in New York at least – always viewed by many (but not us) as just good enough at tackle, but if the Giants could ever find a “true” tackle he’d return to guard and play to an All-Pro level. Well, he’s returned to guard this year and played terribly. He’ll surely have to fight for his job next preseason if he doesn’t buck the trend of his current form.
Sam: I really loved Casey Hampton in his prime. I have a big soft spot for immovable objects in the middle of the D-line, but Hampton doesn’t look like he can cut it anymore. There comes a time in the playing days of all mammoth defensive tackles where they just can’t anchor on the move anymore, and Hampton seems to have hit that mark now. The Steelers are still excellent around him and they play enough nickel to keep him off the field a lot and disguise his play, but they have to realize it might be time to stick the fork in him.
Nathan: Joey Porter of the Cardinals. On 136 pass rushes for the season, he’s had just four pressures. Arizona has other young players who will likely take his snaps as the season goes on, and his time is likely over.
4) Gronkowski or Graham? Wake or Ware? Forte or Foster? Give me the TE, OLB, and HB you’d want for your team.
Khaled: Graham – He had an off day against at Atlanta but he’s a bigger mismatch. Ware – longevity. Foster – he just glides when he runs and is so fantastically decisive he nearly always makes something happen.
Neil: Easy – Gronkowski is the next great tight end because not only is he a quality receiver but he can block as well as anyone too. Ware because he has that longevity and never (ever) has a bad year and Forte because he’s doing it behind the Bears’ offensive line while Foster is doing it behind the Texans’ (the best in the league)
Ben: I’ll take Gronkowski at tight end, Graham is a better receiver but not by such a stretch that I’ll ignore that Gronkowski is a much more capable in-line blocker. Ware would be my outside linebacker, he’s as good a pass rusher as Wake but is more rounded in run defense. Running back is a much more difficult choice but I really like the all-around threat that Forte offers over Foster, but that is probably the closest call of these three.
Sam: You know, I really thought I would go Graham here, that’s the type of player I’m drawn to, but now you’ve asked the question I’m going Gronkowski – the new Jason Witten. I’d take Ware over Wake, he’s just a much better all-around player. I’m taking Foster over Forte. He’s not the receiver the Bears’ back is, but I think he’s a much more physical and punishing runner.
Nathan: Gronkowski basically for his run blocking as well as his receiving, Ware because he’s shown he can consistently play this well, and Forte because he’s played better this season behind a worse offensive line.
5) We’ve hit some of the other divisions in previous weeks, who ends up atop the no-one-wants-to-win-it AFC West?
Khaled: The Raiders because Carson Palmer makes them a better, more complete team. Jason Campbell was serviceable but Palmer will make you less reliant on a very good defense. They could do things in the playoff with the formula they’ve worked on.
Neil: Oakland – If Tebow has to win a game against a good team I don’t see it happening, the Chiefs are awful and San Diego can’t beat the Raiders at home. That said the Chargers have done this before I believe.
Ben: Hang on, let me flip a coin a few times; we’re essentially at that stage right now with this. At various moments in the last few weeks every team in the division has staked their claim and made it blatantly apparent that they don’t want it. The Chargers appear to be capitulating so I’ll go for the Raiders doing just enough with their running game and defense to take the crown.
Sam: This time last week I’d have said the Chargers, but I just watched the Raiders take them to task, so they assume the mantle until I’m convinced otherwise.
Nathan: As much as I want to say Tim Tebow to make things interesting, I think the Raiders will get it done. I think Palmer will only get better at quarterback, while the Chargers and Chiefs are on the decline.