The 7 Most Effective Offensive Players From Week 8
A huge week in the NFL sparked some great performances from a lot of players. In my eight weeks of doing this column, this is by far the closest and toughest it’s been to pick only seven guys “worthy” enough to make the All-Net Expected Points (NEP) team. So without any more delay, let’s get to the players who deserve recognition for their play in Week 8.
Ben Roethlisberger, Quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s been a trend of quarterbacks making this list and writing their names in the record books while doing so, and that was no different for Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday afternoon. Roethlisberger became the only quarterback in NFL history to have 2 games of 500 or more passing yards. Let that marinate for a minute. This is something neither Dan Marino nor Joe Montana accomplished. Even his current rivals, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady – two quarterbacks widely regarded to be in the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) discussion – have not reached this feat.
Roethlisberger wasn’t just slinging it either. He was being efficient with it. He finished Sunday with a Passing NEP of 33.83, which would have been the highest single-week Passing NEP total of any quarterback so far this season if not for Brady's mark of 35.05 this week. But because Roethlisberger’s day was so historic, he's getting the nod for the All-NEP squad this week.
Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and 6 touchdowns while connecting on 40 of 49 attempts. But the most impressive touchdown of all was a 47-yard bomb to Antonio Brown. As “Big Ben” avoided an ankle tackle for a would-be-sack, he loaded up and launched the deep ball to his receiver streaking across the field.
With his big day, Roethlisberger catapulted himself into the top eight in terms of Passing NEP.
Arian Foster, Running Back, Houston Texans
For the third time in four weeks, Arian Foster has run himself onto the All-NEP list. Foster is the first player to be honored three times, and he did so in big fashion. When healthy, Foster is a player that makers you say, “Wow,” and his first touchdown of the day encapsulates why. On 1st-and-10 from the Titans' 34-yard line, Foster took the hand off left. After not seeing anything, he cut back across the field, broke a tackle, and galloped towards the corner of the end zone, beating multiple Titan defenders. THEN when he finally got to the goal line he leaped over an oncoming tackler and somehow managed to reach the ball across the plane for a touchdown. Whew. I need to take a breath after explaining that one, and yet I’m still amazed he was able to score on that play.
That touchdown was only the measly first of his three on the day. Foster now has nine total touchdowns on the year in about six-and-a-half games worth of play. In Week 8, he totaled 24 touches for 173 yards. He earned a Rushing NEP of 8.59 and a Total NEP of 12.19 – the highest mark of any running back in Week 8. He’s been an absolute beast so far this season and is now fifth among running backs in the Total NEP category, even after missing a game this season.
Mark Ingram, Running Back, New Orleans Saints
Whatever Mark Ingram changed in his game, it’s working. He makes the All-NEP list for the second time this season, which is impressive considering he’s missed three out of seven possible games with a broken hand. Ingram has been a completely different runner this year than he has been during the rest of his tenure with the Saints, and the staff seems to notice as they fed him the ball 24 times on the ground Sunday night. What did he do with those 24 touches? Oh nothing spectacular - just 172 yards and a score.
His touchdown was as impressive as his yards-per-carry average. On a second-down hand off, Ingram bounced outside where he stiff-armed Davon House, breaking his tackle, and beat a second defender down the sideline into the end zone for the 21-yard score. Ingram also had 5 rushes of 10 or more yards and converted on third down twice. All this added up to a Rushing NEP of 8.65 on the night – the highest of any running back in Week 8.
Jeremy Maclin, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
Jeremy Maclin was very involved in the Eagles’ gameplan against the Arizona Cardinals. Even more so, he was effective with his high volume (16 targets) and did everything he could to put the Eagles in position to win the game. He ended Sunday afternoon with a line of 12 receptions, 187 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Maclin also had a freakishly-high 8 receptions of 10 or more yards. All of this was good enough for a Reception NEP of 16.32 for the week.
As I said, Maclin did everything he could for an Eagles victory. He even got a Gatorade bath on Sunday, even if his team did lose, and even if it was completely inadvertent and hilarious. But still, with his play, he deserved it. Both of Maclin’s scores on the day were go-ahead touchdowns. The first touchdown came on a wide receiver screen, and the second came on a deep ball from Nick Foles to give the Eagles a 17-14 lead late in the third quarter. Maclin is now 13th in Reception NEP among wide receivers and is having himself quite the year.
Golden Tate, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
Golden Tate has yet again found himself on the All-NEP list with Calvin Johnson sidelined. Tate once again put up a gaudy stat line powered by the big play. He finished his day in London with 7 receptions, 151 yards, and a score. Tate was a big reason for the Lion’s 22-point comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
He earned a Reception NEP of 14.13 due to his above numbers and the fact that he converted on third down twice. Tate also added 4 catches of 10 or more yards. However, his biggest third down conversion came late in the third quarter. On 3rd-and-25 from his own territory, Matthew Stafford found Golden Tate streaking down the sideline as Stafford escaped the collapsing pocket.
Like I stated last week, Tate has been on fire with Calvin Johnson out with an injury. It’s yet to be seen if he’ll keep that up once Johnson returns, but what we do know is Tate is the fifth best receiver in terms of Reception NEP.
Rob Gronkowski, Tight End, New England Patriots
Well it certainly looks like Rob Gronkowski is officially back. He was an absolute monster in the Patriots’ blow-out win versus the Chicago Bears. He caught 9 balls for 149 yards and looked like the unstoppable force we are familiar with.
Gronk also added three touchdowns, with his third being the most impressive. He took an intermediate pass over the middle and broke multiple open field tackles en route to the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown.
He really did look like a man amongst boys out there on Sunday, and finished with a Reception NEP of 20.10. That mark is by far the highest single-week Reception NEP by a tight end this season and is more than double that of our past three All-NEP tight ends.
Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
It’s good to see Larry Fitzgerald make this list. After years of abysmal quarterback play ruined his final elite years, Fitzgerald showed out Sunday and showed us why he’s still one of the best. He caught 7 receptions for 160 yard and a touchdown. In fact, his touchdown play looked mighty similar to his touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII – a slant route where he cut through the middle of the defense and raced off for an 80-yard touchdown.
Fitzgerald ended the day with a Reception NEP of 14.06, which was the third highest total of any receiver from Week 8. He’s now only 26th among receivers in the category, which is a shame, because this is one of the rare instances that that numbers don’t match the talent.