QB Philip Rivers
Statistically, this was not the flashiest performance of the season for Philip Rivers. But as is the case often in sports, stats didn’t tell the story on Thursday night. Rivers threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, but did have two interceptions. However, the real story was the comeback and clutch game-winning drive that Rivers put together in order to beat the Chiefs.
The clutch aspect is one that is overlooked often and Rivers was so clutch. His head coach even trusted him enough to go for two instead of kicking an extra point to tie the game. Rivers solid play is a huge reason why the Chargers are a team that could end up representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.
RB Derrick Henry
Henry followed up a breakout week against the Jaguars with another outstanding performance against the Giants. The Titans featured a heavy rushing attack as Henry had 33 touches in the game while Marcus Mariota threw for only 88 yards. This style offense was still enough to beat the Giants and eliminate them from the playoffs as Henry rumbled for 170 yards and two touchdowns. It seems Henry is finally starting to find his own in the NFL and it will be interesting to see if he can keep this pace up and become the star people thought he would become when he was drafted out of Alabama.
WR DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins has had a fantastic season to this point and continues to add to his resume as one of the top receivers in the NFL, some considering him the best. “Nuk” led all NFL receivers with 170 yards on 10 receptions against the Jets and added two touchdowns as well. Houston’s high-flying offense has led them to win 10 of their last 11 games and with Hopkins red hot they should continue to roll as they head into the playoffs sitting at the two seed as of right now.
TE Garrett Celek
Another week, another 49ers tight end on the Studs List. With two receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown, Celek was a pleasant surprise for a 49ers offense that upset the Seahawks on Sunday. Performances like these show promise for the future as the 49ers await the return of Jimmy Garoppolo and their first winning season since 2013.
QB Cam Newton
Newton has had some solid performances this season but has done nothing overly impressive. His performance on Sunday was about as ugly as ugly gets late in a game. Gifted a chance at a game-winning drive due to a fumble out of the end zone and a touchback, Newton couldn’t come through.
Never seeming to get into a rhythm, and awkwardly throwing the football, Newton and the Panthers were unable to move the ball whatsoever and were handed a loss. Not to mention Newton threw for just 131 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. The Panthers playoff chances are slim to none and they have a lot to improve on if they are going to compete next season.
RB Saquon Barkley
Barkley has proven to be one of the best running backs in the NFL this season, in some cases carrying the Giants offense. However, in a shutout against the Titans, Derrick Henry outplayed Barkley, and the Penn State grad struggled to help the Giants produce any form of offense.
Recording just 31 yards rushing and 25 yards receiving Barkley had a down week that he is expected to bounce back from. The Giants will definitely make it a priority to get Barkley some help on both sides of the ball in order to try and compete for a playoff spot next season.
WR Josh Gordon
Gordon, who has been a welcome addition since his trade from the Browns, struggled to produce in any form against the Steelers. A key drop and just one reception for 19 yards represented Gordon’s worst week since coming to the Patriots and he will need to improve on this if the Patriots are going to compete at all in the playoffs against AFC powerhouses like the Chiefs and Chargers.
TE Rob Gronkowski
The Patriots offensive weapons made it hard for Tom Brady to succeed on Sunday, as not only did Josh Gordon and other weapons disappear but Rob Gronkowski did as well. Gronkowski had just two receptions for 21 yards and continues to underwhelm for the Patriots offense this season. Granted, one of his catches was a key first-down catch late in the game, but they will need him to have more than just one key catch if they are to compete in the playoffs at all. The Patriots cannot have key weapons like Gordon and Gronkowski disappear like this. Further, key drops and undisciplined penalties plagued the Patriots against the Steelers. It is not looking great in Foxboro right now but if there is any team that can turn it around, it is Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots.