Offensive players of the week
Bailey Zappe, quarterback, New England. Another start, another win (38-15 at Cleveland) for the fourth-round rookie from Western Kentucky. In his three appearances for the Patriots, Zappe’s passer ratings: 107.4 at Green Bay, 100.0 against the Lions at home, and 118.4 at Cleveland. On Sunday, Zappe recorded his first 300-yard passing game, going 24-of-34 for 309 yards. The 23-year-old from Victoria, Texas, just might be threatening Mac Jones’ hold on the starting job.
Matt Ryan, quarterback, Indianapolis. Matt Ryan is buying his offensive line a drink today. In the Colts’ 34-27 win over the Jaguars, Ryan dropped back 58 times and wasn’t sacked once. That’s a first for Ryan and Indianapolis this season (the QB was sacked six times in Denver last week alone). The time allowed Ryan to throw for 389 yards, with three touchdowns and zero picks. Quietly, Ryan just passed Dan Marino for seventh place on the all-time passing-yardage list.
Joe Burrow, quarterback, and Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver, Cincinnati. LSU’s dynamic duo did not disappoint in their return to Louisiana. In their first game at the Superdome since winning the 2019 National Championship game as Tigers, Burrow and Chase combined for two touchdowns in the Bengals’ win over the Saints, including the game-winner with just over two minutes remaining. Burrow threw for 300 yards and three TDs, while Chase had seven receptions for 132 yards. Burrow arrived before the game wearing Chase’s LSU jersey and said post-game: “I wanted to pay tribute to people in Louisiana. What better way than wear a Ja’Marr championship jersey?”
Defensive players of the week
Two top-five rookies, playing just miles apart in New Jersey, share the award this week with a seasoned veteran.
Sauce Gardner, cornerback, N.Y. Jets. What a win for the entire Jets organization, and what a statement game for the rookie cornerback. Even with his game-opening pick six of Aaron Rodgers reversed, his elite ballhawk capabilities were on full display. Gardner tallied two pass breakups, including interrupting a Rodgers deep throw intended for Allen Lazard.
Sauce Gardner has serious coverage skills.
— NFL (@NFL) October 16, 2022
Kayvon Thibodeaux, edge rusher, N.Y. Giants. After missing the start of his rookie season with a knee injury, it took until week six for Kayvon Thibodeaux to get the breakout moment fitting for his status as the number five overall pick. With the Giants holding a slim four-point lead and the Ravens driving late in the fourth, Thibodeaux strip-sacked Lamar Jackson, and Leonard Williams recovered to seal the win for the G-Men. The moment clearly meant a lot to Thibodeaux, whose Giants are now 5-1 and keeping pace in a red-hot NFC East.
KT a real one. Play of the game and then the emotion afterwards.
— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) October 16, 2022
Von Miller, linebacker, Buffalo. Through six games, the 33-year-old has shown himself to be one of the smartest offseason acquisitions of 2022. He has six sacks on the season, including two of Patrick Mahomes in Buffalo’s 24-20 win over the Chiefs on Sunday. The linebacker put pressure on Mahomes all afternoon, perhaps most impactfully on Kansas City’s final series of the game, with the Chiefs down four and looking for the go-ahead score. Miller split through the Chiefs’ O-Line on the first play of the drive, forcing Mahomes out of the pocket and into a game-sealing pick caught by Taron Johnson. The interception won’t show on Miller’s stat line, but he was the powerhouse behind it, and he’s the powerhouse of a Bills defense laser-focused on the Super Bowl.
Special teams players of the week
Will Parks, safety, N.Y. Jets. Toward the end of the third quarter, the Jets held a 10-3 lead when a Quinnen Williams sack ended a Packers drive. Rookie Micheal Clemons powered through the Green Bay line to block Pat O’Donnell’s punt and Will Parks snagged it at the 20-, taking it in for the score to make it 17-3. Even though the Packers would get within seven again, that score went a long way to making the game feel out of reach. It was the first touchdown of Parks’ career and the Jets’ second block of the day.
Ryan Wright, punter, Minnesota. The Minnesota Vikings are 5-1 and Wright was a huge factor in the fifth win. Wright boomed a 73-yard punt in the first quarter (net 75 after Tyreek Hill went back two yards on the return), and Wright’s 10 punts went for a combined 441 yards, with six downed inside the 20.
Quinnen Williams, defensive lineman, N.Y. Jets. On a rainy day in Green Bay, when an early three points would be especially golden, he blocked Mason Crosby’s 47-yard field goal attempt, keeping the game tied at zero and notching the first of what would be two blocked kicks for the Jets. In addition to the block, Sunday’s stat line for Williams included two sacks, three QB hits and a forced fumble. Jets coach Robert Saleh described Williams as “playing at a different level. If he keeps doing this, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be Pro Bowl, All-Pro, all the different accolades you can get.”
Coaches of the week
Arthur Smith, head coach, Atlanta. After starting 0-2, the Falcons have now won three of their last four, including a 28-14 win over the 49ers this week. The Falcons held the 49ers scoreless in the second half and Marcus Mariota, Smith’s prize QB pupil, was the picture of efficiency, going 13-of-14 for 129 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. With $77 million in dead cap money, Smith is finding creative ways to win games.
Robert Saleh, head coach, N.Y. Jets. So much of New York’s 4-2 start comes back to the top. In his second season with the big job, Saleh has found a way to build a strong defense and to empower the offense to play his style, which will always include a strong run game. After the game, Saleh shared some of his halftime speech: “Just keep giving ‘em blow after body blow after body blow.” That’s what the Jets have been doing for six weeks now. Saleh has the receipts to prove it.
Goat of the week
Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Ravens. Lamar Jackson has shown himself to be more than capable of making magic this season. But in week six he showed himself capable of making truly terrible decisions. Up 20-17 in the fourth with a chance to put the game out of reach, Jackson bobbled the snap on third-and-five but retrieved it, launching a pass on the run intended for Patrick Ricard. It went right into the hands of Giants safety Julian Love, and Saquon Barkley leapt into the end zone on the ensuing drive to put the Giants up 24-20. The Ravens got the ball back for their final drive of the game and Jackson was strip-sacked on second-and-ten, sealing the win for the Giants. A show of force from New York defensive coordinator Wink Martindale against his former team, and a costly error from Jackson that the Ravens can’t afford, even in a middling AFC North.
Hidden person of the week
Justin Reid, safety, Kansas City. The quarterbacks are bound to get the vast majority of attention in a KC-Buffalo game. Rightfully so. But Reid saved the home team four points—very likely—with a play early in the second quarter in the red zone. Buffalo had third-and-nine at the KC 21-, and Josh Allen found Isaiah McKenzie with a sliver of space just past the first-down sticks. A completion and first down here, and Allen, who moved up and down the field with ease in the first 16 minutes, would have brought Buffalo to the doorstep of a 7-0 lead. CRUNCH! Reid drove through McKenzie with a legal hit that made the ball pop out. Incomplete. Field goal. Buffalo led 3-0, but it was a win for the KC defense because of Reid.
Chiefs safety Justin Reid lays a FIERCE hit on #Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie to force the incompletion on 3rd down. Tyler Bass' field goal is good. #Bills – 3#Chiefs – 0#ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/p407uTLOH2
— Devon Clements (@DevclemNFL) October 16, 2022
The Jason Jenkins Award
Antonio Hamilton, cornerback, Arizona. Hamilton had earned a starting job in training camp with the Cards when, the morning after the last preseason game, he suffered severe burns on his feet in a cooking accident at home. After being treated at the Arizona Burn Center in Phoenix, Hamilton returned to play in week five against the Eagles. Then he brought four teammates with him and visited children at the Burn Center last Tuesday, per Howard Balzer of gophnx.com. Hamilton spent time with 10 burn victims and their families, taking his socks off to show them his burns and how he’s recovered. He wanted to remove the stigma of being a burn victim. “It’s just a blessing to able to come here and be with you all because we all share the same type of scars,” Hamilton told them, per Balzer. “Be proud of our scars. You are no different than anybody else. We just have a different story to tell.”