Today I want to look at some individual players and moments from the week that stood out, in both good and not so good ways.
In some cases, there may be two deserving winners in a category, some weeks none. For the former, I will award an honorable mention. For the latter, I will make do with who was best and try to use any film analysis or game action I was able to catch.
So without further ado, the Week 11 best of the AFC West awards.
Catch of the Week
With all apologies to Courtland Sutton, Mike Williams’ catch that put the Chargers in position to tie the game at the end of regulation on Monday night has to be the winner.
While Sutton’s great catch was mostly the product of a perfectly thrown ball by Broncos’ quarterback Brandon Allen, Williams had to do more with less on his remarkable grab.
The fact Phillip Rivers even attempted such a pass is crazy. Granted, the Chargers had to make a big play, but Rivers also was about as inaccurate in Monday night’s game as he’s been at any point in his career. In this case, he got bailed out.
With Williams’ combination of size, speed, and athleticism, he makes these kinds of catches look relatively routine. Yet, they are no less outstanding. To go up between two defenders on the sideline, snatch the ball and come down in bounds, yet still have the presence of mind to get out of bounds to stop the clock, is nothing short of remarkable.
Plays like this one are why the Chargers drafted the Clemson product No. 7 overall and why the Chargers’ offense should be a lot better than it is.
This was the catch of the week in the division, and maybe the entire league.
Receiver of the Week
Williams’ spectacular catch was not enough to earn him receiver of the week, though. His teammate Keenan Allen has a better claim, but the winner is Courtland Sutton.
The second-year receiver is doing things some scouts projected he could, but weren’t sure he would, especially at this early stage of his career. He has made up for Demaryius Thomas growing old and being traded. He has even made up for the trade of Emmanuel Sanders.
He finished with five catches for 113 yards, added two carries for 10 yards, and even had a pass completion for 38 yards. Sutton has become a matchup nightmare for defenses, using a combination of size and speed to beat defenders. He makes everyone better by his mere presence on the field.
On Sunday, he took advantage Minnesota’s secondary. It didn’t matter who was matched up against him, he made that defender look silly.
Sutton should be a Pro Bowl wide receiver, and has a case as one of the 10 best receivers in football right now. He’s going to be a problem for everyone in the league for years to come. Yet another reason the Raiders are trying to invest in long, strong cornerbacks who can win at the catch point.
Defensive Player of the Week
The quality of competition argument doesn’t really matter when you record FOUR sacks in a game. Maxx Crosby was everywhere for the Raiders’ defense on Sunday.
I’m not sure even Crosby’s biggest fans, and I was one of them, could have predicted this kind of success early in his career.
Adding a forced fumble to a stat line of four tackles, three tackles for loss, and four sacks makes the argument a complete one. Other defenders in the division had nice games or big moments. None compared to Crosby’s performance on Sunday.
Honorable Mention: Broncos DT Shelby Harris (3 sacks, 2 tackles for loss)
Quarterback of the Week
It wasn’t always pretty on Sunday for the Raiders, but how can you argue with a game where the quarterback goes 25-for-29 for 292 yards and a touchdown?
Derek Carr was in control all day long, taking exactly what the Bengals’ defense gave him. He was a perfect four-for-four on targets to Tyrell Williams. He completed five of seven passes to tight end Darren Waller. He found rookie slot receiver Hunter Renfrow for important conversions. And he even got Zay Jones involved.
He showed incredible touch and the right amount of zip on a number of throws. He put together a teaching tape on playing the quarterback position.
Add in the amazing play he made as a runner to score on third-and-goal in the second quarter and you have one of the week’s finest performances at the position in the entire league.
Running Back of the Week
Austin Ekeler has a serious claim for this award after doing most of his damage Monday night as a receiver. But it is the Raiders rookie, Josh Jacobs, who takes the cake.
The numbers weren’t necessarily eye-popping: 23 carries, 112 yards. He had a fumble as well. But the 4.9 yards per carry are more in line with what the Raiders envisioned for him when they drafted him in the first round.
Adding three catches only helps his case.
Being able to produce in such manner when the opposing defense knows it is coming is impressive. Outside of Jacobs’ output, the Raiders only gained a single yard on the ground on 11 carries.
Offensive Lineman of the Week
Linemen aren’t sexy to talk about, but they deserve some love.
Raiders right tackle Trent Brown had a really nice game on Sunday. Even on the drop backs in which Carr was sacked, Brown handled his assignment, keeping his man far away from the pocket.
In the run game, Brown was strong, getting a piece of a defensive linemen and getting up to the second level to open running lanes for Josh Jacobs.
It wasn’t a perfect game for Brown as I’m sure the coaches would tell you. But he played well and was a big reason the Raiders had a fairly clean offensive game.
Rookie of the Week
This has to go to Crosby as well.
Honorable Mention: Trayvon Mullen (first career interception)
Player of the Week
This was the toughest call of all the awards. Even for the Raiders, it was tough. Which was more essential to winning? Carr’s highly efficient passing game or Crosby’s dynamic sack show?
On top of that, Sutton almost singlehandedly stole a victory against a potential NFC playoff team on the road.
You might even be able to make a case for Patrick Mahomes, who despite not being on his A-game as a passer, came up with several key conversions using his feet and more or less willed his team to a key division game victory.
Ultimately, I’m going to go with the rookie pass rusher. He may never have another game like this again. He’s deserving of any and all accolades he receives this week.
Play of the Week
The other two candidates for this award came in a losing effort, so Carr’s acrobatic scramble into the end zone gets the trophy for play of the week.
Carr is an underrated athlete at the quarterback position and he showed it off on the second quarter run. Quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be able to juke defenders and escape the pocket only to pirouette into the end zone.
Yet, that’s exactly what Carr did on Sunday.
“OH NO!” moment of the Week
Chargers fans are simply used to the kind of stupid loss they suffered on Monday night. Broncos fans, on the other hand, are not as accustomed to the kind back-breaking defeat they suffered at the hand of the Vikings on Sunday.
It’s one thing to have a pass dropped perfectly into the hands of rookie tight end Noah Fant by a no-name quarterback as time expires and to see that ball fall incomplete.
It’s another to have that happen in the same game in which your team held a 20-point lead.
Raider Nation loves to see it.
Who won the week
It’s close. Maybe even a toss-up between the Raiders and Chiefs. If the Raiders had lost, all the good feelings about this team would have felt like a distant memory. If the Chiefs had lost, we’d be looking at essentially a half game lead in the division, with a contest between the two teams coming in Week 13 to potentially decide who wins the division.
For the Chiefs to lose their best offensive playmaker, their starting center, be down to one healthy running back and still come out ahead in a relatively wild division game is huge. It was a gutty performance for a team more known for its flash.
The Raiders can still make it up. But the Chiefs maintained pole position in the AFC West.