The Award Section
Offensive Player of the Week
DeSean Jackson, WR/PR, Philadelphia.
He's 95 percent as electric as Devin Hester was two years ago, and he's much better from scrimmage. He came off his concussion two weeks ago to have a huge impact on the Eagles' 45-38 victory over the Giants Sunday night, returning a punt 72 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, tiptoeing along the sideline for 20 yards of it, and catching and running 60 yards with a Donovan McNabb pass for another touchdown reception. Jackson, a second-round pick from Cal in 2008, is tied for the NFL record with eight touchdowns of 50 yards or more this year. For the game, Jackson had eight touches for 261 yards, including six catches for 178 yards.
Defensive Player of the Week
Brian Orakpo, OLB, Washington.
Who'd have thought Orakpo would have rushed the pass more productively in the first 13 games of his rookie year than Demarcus Ware, Julius Peppers and LaMarr Woodley? By the measure of sacks, he has. His four-sack day at Oakland (sacks for losses of nine, nine, nine and 10 yards) gave him 11 for the year.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Brian Moorman, P, Buffalo.
Moorman punted four times for a 53-yard average -- with not a single return yard -- at Kansas City, with these exact results: a 46-yard punt to the Kansas City 10, a 52-yard punt to the Kansas City 9, a 73-yard punt to the Kansas City 7, and a 41-yard punt to the Kansas City 27 (the slacker!). The Bills-Chiefs game was totally invisible to the masses Sunday (rightfully so), and I don't want to let a superior performance get lost because of the meaninglessness of the game.
Coaches of the Week
Eric Mangini and Rob Ryan, coach and defensive coordinator, Cleveland.
The Arctic weather (minus-5 wind chill) helped in a 13-6 beatdown of the Steelers, certainly, because the Steeler receivers were neutralized by the deep freeze and the slippery field. But give lots of credit to Mangini, who has steadfastly maintained he is building a program, cleaning up the salary cap and adding draft choices for future Browns teams he plans to build in his image. (Whether he gets to do that, time will tell, but this game did help his Cleveland longevity.)
The Cleveland team Mangini put on the field Thursday was a battling, hustling, never-say-die group that wanted to win about five times more than did the defending Super Bowl champs. Ryan choreographed an aggressive and schematically imaginative game plan that had corners, tackles and linebackers rushing from all over the map, like one of those classic Ravens' jail-break defenses his brother Rex made famous. Rob Ryan showed he knew the way to get to a plodding quarterback was to send rushers from different slots on almost every passing down, and it resulted in an eight-sack game ... and holding the Steelers to a measly 3.5 yards per play, Pittsburgh's lowest in the last 25 games.
Goat of the Week
Randy Moss, WR, New England.
A dog performance by one of my all-decade wide receivers, I'm ashamed to report. In fact, I'm very close to wishing I gave that spot to Torry Holt now. In the wake of being sent home after showing up late for a Wednesday meeting, Moss had a bad day in the 20-10 win over Carolina. He had one catch (which he fumbled), one bad drop, one alligator-arm incompletion and one poor effort that resulted in a Carolina interception.
In the third series of a scoreless game, right in front of the New England bench, Moss stopped short on a sideline pattern, and instead of at least breaking it up, he allowed Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble the chance to intercept the ball, and Gamble did. On the next series, he caught a short throw from Brady over the middle and immediately had the ball popped out by Gamble. On the sidelines at one point, Brady went to him and looked like he was trying to pump up Moss, and Moss sat there, lifeless. It's almost like the guy had the air popped from his balloon. There's nothing there. It goes back to failing to try to break up the end zone interception by Miami cornerback Vontae Davis in the end zone last week.
Moss looks totally disinterested. He's a captain. Despite Moss' tardiness Wednesday, Bill Belichick let him go out with the captains for the pre-game coin toss. I'm not sure how I'd handle this if I were Belichick; he's in a fairly impossible situation. But there's no question Moss isn't the guts-out player he's been for much of his three-year Patriots career anymore.
Stat of the Week
Ndamukong Suh, at 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds, is an amazing specimen, a player with the quickness to interior-rush and the strength to play the nose. His ability to make disruptive plays is precedent-setting. I call "disruptive plays'' the combination of sacks, other tackles for loss, quarterback hits, forced fumbles, interceptions, passes broken up and blocked kicks. In the last two years, covering 26 games, he's had an extraordinary 114 of these disruptive plays. Breaking them down:
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. Nine picks in his last five games. But Manning stays in this spot because you're going to have picks with new receivers (Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon), and the Colts are 13-0, and Manning's getting the least help from his running game of the three main dudes. Colts running game is 28th, Saints fifth and Vikes 10th.
2. Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota. Leads all quarterbacks with a plus-21 TD-to-pick differential. Have you heard he's started to carry his AARP card?
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. I know Peyton Manning is one percentage point more accurate (70.0 to 69.1 percent), but I don't believe I've seen a passer have a more accurate season, as deep as Brees throws the ball.
4. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego. In the eight-game streak, he's won at three very tough places to win -- East Rutherford, Denver and Dallas.
5. Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay. There are a few candidates for the Defensive Player of the Year, but I think Woodson's body of work -- he got his eighth interception Sunday at Chicago, and he has two sacks, four forced fumbles and 14 passes broken up -- is the best of all defensive players right now. And I emphasize "right now.''
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
The Chargers' director of player personnel in 1998 was Billy Devaney, and he was part of the group that scouted and drafted the ill-fated Ryan Leaf number two overall for San Diego.
Devaney is now the general manager of the Rams. Last spring he drafted quarterback Keith Null from West Texas A&M in the sixth round. Because of injuries to Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller, Null started his first NFL game Sunday at Tennessee.
Null's position coach at West Texas A&M: Ryan Leaf.
Last spring, Devaney, who will be forever linked with Leaf, left the disastrously failed quarterback a voice message saying, "You did a great job with Keith Null.''
Null probably wishes he could void his first NFL start. Five interceptions, lots of 10-inch-gain dump-offs.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
Aaaah, Manhattan at the holidays. Though crowded, it is beautiful here. And fragrant. On Sunday morning, as I puttered away at this column and made and received a few Ndamukong Suh-related phone calls at a midtown Starbucks, a disheveled man with some OCD tendencies (continually straightening his straggly hair, checking his watch every half-minute) sat down next to me. He took off his parka, then a lighter coat underneath it, and then pulled a deodorant stick from the pocket of the parka, uncapped it, and put it underneath his shirt, applying it to first his left underarm and then his right.
Well, hello neighbor.
NFL Truth & Rumors