By Nick Shook
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Another subpar week from road teams can’t discourage us. We still found some stars, even in the 5-8 week the squads away from home put together. Plus, we’ve definitely seen worse weeks from them.
It can’t be easy to be a road warrior. You sleep in unfamiliar beds, hotel sheets tend to be a little too stiff (at least for my liking) and never overlook the effect of long flights on your body. I fly coach, and those guys fly chartered, but a flight is still a flight.
There is a good thing about hotels, though: Free coffee. The best coffee is free coffee.
Enough about hotels, and more about football. Here are your greatest players away from home from Week 8.
Greatest on the Road
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
We rarely give this honor to a player who comes out on the losing end of a game, but Watson was magnificent against the Seattle Seahawks.
The fearless rookie engaged in a shootout with the Seahawks, taking on the vaunted Legion of Boom in an old-fashioned, high-noon duel. Watson completed 19 of 30 passes for 402 yards and four touchdowns. He wasn’t without mistake, tossing three interceptions, but threw the Texans to leads, watched Seattle regain it and then threw Houston to leads again.
Watson connected with DeAndre Hopkins eight times for a staggering 224 yards and a touchdown, and with Will Fuller for five completions, 125 yards and two touchdowns in what was a wild, points-filled affair. You get a touchdown! And you get a touchdown!
But thanks to one final fantastic drive from Russell Wilson, Watson didn’t take home the win. But maybe if someone in Houston slides this URL into his DMs (anyone? Anyone? Bueller?), he’ll feel a little better about his performance — even after he just lost his left tackle in a trade with the team that beat him.
Also considered …
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Smith-Schuster’s most notable detail prior to the last couple of weeks was that he rode a bike around town because he didn’t have a driver’s license.
It’s quirky, but it isn’t 97-yard touchdowns.
Oh, Sunday night. Smith-Schuster took advantage of increased playing time (awarded via Martavis Bryant bashing him on Instagram — yes, seriously), catching seven passes for 193 yards, including the aforementioned 97-yard sprint to glory and into the Steelers‘ history book. Pittsburgh came away with a 20-15 win, with plenty of credit due to Smith-Schuster.
He also celebrated by chaining up the sideline stationary bike as a reference to his personal bike, which was stolen and later turned into police. Talk about a busy week for the rookie.
Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings
Yeah, that’s right. I’m doing this. I’m giving this honor to Case Keenum, and you can’t stop me from doing it!
I had to defend the play of Keenum on Sunday, after he’d completed 27 of 43 passes for 288 yards and carved up Cleveland’s defense on consecutive drives to take a commanding lead in a come-from-behind 33-16 win over the Browns at Twickenham Stadium in London (they’re both on the road, so this qualifies in my book). What’s not to like?! Keenum was precise in the second half, firing bullets and lofting pretty passes to Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. The latter two each scored touchdowns, including a trip to the end zone that effectively put the game out of reach for the punchless Browns offense (their defense wasn’t so bad).
With Teddy Bridgewater nearing a long-awaited return, Keenum’s days as Minnesota’s starter are probably numbered, no matter what he does. But what he’s done in the last month-plus has proven he’s a good backup quarterback and deserves a roster spot somewhere in this league, be it Minneapolis or elsewhere.