With six teams on bye, some of the top rookie performers, like Teddy Bridgewater, Anthony Barr and Bashaun Breeland weren’t in action this week. However, consistent rookie performers for the Cardinals (John Brown, Deone Bucannnon) and Browns (Terrence West, Joel Bitonio) lead the list of rising rookie classes.
For the Browns, even without their first-round quarterback playing, their rookie class could help guide them to the playoffs. And without John Brown and Deone Bucannon, there’s no question the Cardinals wouldn’t be atop the NFC.
Rank-(LW) – Team
1-(1) Minnesota Vikings
Coming off the bye week, I’d expect a more precise Teddy Bridgewater and an even further improved Anthony Barr. Bridgewater especially needs to make strides on his deep balls.
2-(3) St. Louis Rams
Tre Mason has now begun to receive the lionshare of the carries, with 14 last week, but has yet to put together a highly productive game. Greg Robinson had some issues at left tackle, but that’s to be expected against a team like Arizona. He should be fine the rest of the way. Aaron Donald had another awesome day despite zero sacks, and has become the catalyst for pass-rush success for this team.
3-(4) Buffalo Bills
Sammy Watkins saw just four catches on eight targets, and couldn’t get free despite playing most of the game matched-up with safeties/slot cornerbacks. Preston Brown had another great performance in the run game, finishing with seven tackles and physicality at the line of scrimmage. Seantrel Henderson played poorly, and is still a liability on the right side.
4-(2) Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles really struggled against the Cowboys, having arguably his worse game yet as the Jaguars starter. Allen Robinson is now out for the season after a great last few weeks. The team will now rely on Marqise Lee to fill his role.
5-(8) Arizona Cardinals
John Brown had another big day, finishing with the game-clinching touchdown. Deone Bucannon has continued to be strong versus the run, limiting the Rams rushing success in the 31-14 victory.
6-(9) Cleveland Browns
Terrence West earned the most carries for the Browns and also finished with a touchdown (along with Ben Tate and Isaiah Crowell). West will likely get more carries moving forward. Joel Bitonio continues to be the team’s best offensive lineman after Joe Thomas. Justin Gilbert is still playing rotational duty for the Browns, but his snap levels have fluctuating mightily over the season, and was the 4th leading CB snap-getter vs. Cincinnati.
7-(6) New York Giants
Andre Williams struggled yet again, offering just 25 yard per carry and one rushing touchdown on a three yard gain. Odell Beckham is clearly a stud, and has already become the leading receiver (as I expected a few weeks back). He finished a fantastic catch over Marcus Burley for 26 yards, and caught four of his six targets against Richard Sherman. Weston Richburg struggled yet again, and it’s becoming clear that “being a rookie” is no longer a valid excuse for his struggles.
8-(5) Carolina Panthers
Kelvin Benjamin had another mediocre week despite the stat-line. One of his touchdowns was very late in the game, and he struggled mightily to get free in the middle of the field and against Bradley Fletcher, and also finished with a drop. Trai Turner was out for the Panthers, while Kony Ealy continues to get solid snaps behind Charles Johnson at right end.
9-(7) Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr struggled again, and has made slow yet noticeable strides across his game. 44 passes attempted is too many. Khalil Mack didn’t have his beset performance, and he seems to be over-running plays and getting a bit lost trying to do too much at times.
10-(11) Green Bay Packers
Davante Adams was pushed down the offensive weapons list for Rodgers this week, not getting in on the fun of the six touchdowns, and seeing just one catch for ten yards on just 38 snaps. HaHa Clinton-Dix was just okay, but the rest of the Packers defense (especially the front seven) did all the work for the Green Bay defense.
11-(29) San Francisco 49ers
Carlos Hyde had just four carries on 13 snaps, but did boast a touchdown. He’d been used more than go as a pass blocker in the past. Bruce Ellington didn’t see a snap. But Chris Borland has filled in remarkably well at inside linebacker, and Aaron Lynch has displayed why he had first-round talent coming into last year’s draft.
12-(10) Baltimore Ravens
Another week, another strong performance by CJ Mosley in run defense, though he wasn’t as active off the snap as usual. Lorenzo Taliaferro saw just three rushes for 10 yards, falling behind Bernard Pierce once again.
13-(12) Chicago Bears
Kyle Fuller struggled along with the rest of the Bears secondary in their atrocious performance against Aaron Rodgers. Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson didn’t offer a whole lot in relief either, but Sutton has flashed this year.
14-(13) Cincinnati Bengals
Jeremy Hill didn’t get the same amount of chances in the team’s extremely disappointing loss on Thursday night to the Browns. Look for his success to continues, albeit with less carries.
15-(20) Philadelphia Eagles
Jordan Matthews clearly has a great relationship with Mark Sanchez, and his production (seven for 138 yards and two touchdowns) won’t see a dip while he’s the starter.
16-(14) Dallas Cowboys
Zach Martin again was the best Cowboys blocker, dominating in the run game. Devin Street’s snaps improved, garnering 19, but wasn’t targeted.
17-(17) Miami Dolphins
Ja’Wuan James struggled mightily against the Lions, and now will be asked to play left tackle with Branden Albert out for the season. He’s been better in previous weeks. Jarvis Landry is the clear third option, and had the most targets and receptions for a receiver on the team.
18-(18) Tennessee Titans
Zach Mettenberger flashed his arm strength and progression development, but still has major pocket presence, timing and decision-making issues two games into his NFL career. Taylor Lewan did well enough in pass protection, but the line as a whole struggled to keep Mettenberger upright vs. 3-4 rushers. Bishop Sankey has become the lead back, but only had 3.4 yards a rush.
19-(15) New Orleans Saints
Brandin Cooks didn’t have a great day, struggled getting separation from the team’s cornerbacks, outside of a 40-yard catch over Tramaine Brock and a 31-yard play from Jimmie Ward. Still, five for 90 and a score is nothing to sneeze at.
20-(25) Pittsburgh Steelers
Ryan Shazier remained out, but Martavis Bryant has emerged as the new rookie leader for the Steelers. He had another big day, surprisingly, this time with 143 yards (80 of which on one play) and a score on four catches..
21-(16) Atlanta Falcons
Jake Matthews continues to struggle at left tackle for Atlanta, but not as bad as usual. He can thank a struggling Bucs defense for that.
22-(19) Washington Redskins
Cornerback Bashaud Breeland has been a huge success for the Redskins secondary, and look for him to only improve after the bye week.
23-(21) Tampa Bay Bucs
Mike Evans has become the most reliable receiver in the offense, finishing with 125 yards on seven caches and a touchdown. The offense hasn’t found overarching success, however.
24-(22) Denver Broncos
Bradley Roby had a solid game against the Raiders, despite letting in five-yard grab by Brice Butler. He was matched in the slot with James Jones twice, having success. He could be looking at more opportunities as the playoffs near.
25-(23) New York Jets
Jace Amaro is still the second tight end for the Jets in snaps, but was the only one to see a target, catching two passes, one for a score, from Mike Vick. Calvin Pryor didn’t play a single snap against the Steelers.
26-(26) Seattle Seahawks
Justin Britt had by far his best game of the season, especially in the run game, helping Marshawn Lynch substantially to kick off some of his runs. Kevin Pierre-Louis has seen a shape increase in his snaps garnering 42 last week, including 21 in coverage, showing his ability in obvious passing situations.
27-(27) Detroit Lions
Eric Ebron has been out the past few weeks, so hopefully he can return for next week’s game as the Lions return from their bye week.
28-(28) Houston Texans
Alfred Blue and CJ Fiedorowicz have been the only rookies getting meaningful snaps for the Texans, but their roles shouldn’t increase after the bye. However, Jadeveon Clowney hopefully will get his NFL chance next week.
29-(30) New England Patriots
Dominique Easley saw 32 snaps in back-up duty, but didn’t excite at all during those, and only received credit for one hurry. Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t get any action, but with the way Brady is playing, Garoppolo might get another chance at mop-up duty.
30-(31) Indianapolis Colts
Jack Mewhort and Donte Moncrief have been flashy yet not consistent rookies this year. Look for both to have a bigger impact coming off the bye week.
31-(24) San Diego Chargers
Jason Verrett and Jeremiah Attaochu have been hurt for the Chargers, and no sign has been given as to whether they’ll return after the bye.
32-(32) Kansas City Chiefs
Zach Fulton remained adequate at right guard, struggling in pass protection, but he’s not helped by the talent around him.