By Nick Shook
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Age is nothing but a number.
That’s the theme we’re rolling with for the Week 12’s best players. Honors are due to a couple of graybeards — well, one of the two is clean shaven, but still — who made major contributions to their team’s successes over the holiday weekend.
(Speaking of Thanksgiving, did you — *DAD JOKE ALERT* — get your Phil on Thursday? I’ll be here all season.)
We begin with the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, quarterback Philip Rivers. The 35-year-old signal-caller didn’t need an electric knife to carve up the Dallas Cowboys, completing 27 of 33 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns to turn a close game into a blowout in a 28-6 win on Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the holiday, Rivers spread the wealth, connecting with receiver Keenan Allen 11 times for 172 yards and a score and tight end Hunter Henry five times for 76 yards and another touchdown. The win put the Chargers at 5-6 and squarely in the conversation for late-season risers into contention.
The Steelers ran into a surprisingly upstart Brett Hundley on Sunday night. Thanks to Cameron Heyward, they were able to escape with a win. The Pittsburgh defensive end was part of a Steelersrush that sacked Roethlisberger four times. Two of those quarterback takedowns belonged to Heyward. That’s worthy of AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
The exciting contest on Sunday night wasn’t exactly matched in entertainment level on Monday night, but we did get a trick play to remember. With the Ravens facing a fourth-and-6 in the first half, punter Sam Koch went from a foot-driven talent to a surprising arm talent. The punter took the long snap, paused and threw a pass to the group’s gunner, second-year man Chris Moore for a 22-yard gain. It was arguably the best throw of the night, and was more than worthy of the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honor.
Welcome back to relevance, Julio Jones. The Falcons receiver blew the doors off the Tampa Bay defense on Sunday, catching 12 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-20 win over the Buccaneers. His output was his greatest since his 300-yard performance against Carolina in Week 4 of 2016, and keyed one of Atlanta’s best offensive displays of the season. Citizens of Earth, meet your NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Luke Kuechly had a pretty good game statistically, but he’s in this group of winners for one specific play: His 34-yard scoop-and-score. Kuechly’s graceful scoop of a Josh McCown fumble and dash to the end zone served as a major turning point in a close victory for the Panthers, who continue to pile up the wins. A scoop and score is good for NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
We’re thankful for kickers who can still do their thing, even in their 40s. This group includes newly enshrined Hall of Famer Gary Andersen, Colts boot Adam Vinatieri, Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, and this week’s desert hero: Phil Dawson.
The veteran kicker, who spent the majority of his career with the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers, is in the middle of his first campaign in Arizona. He made his greatest impact on Sunday in a 27-24 victory over Jacksonville, drilling four field goals, including a game-winning 57-yarder. He’s no stranger to game-winners, of course, having made plenty with the Browns (yes, seriously) and one especially clutch kick at a frigid Lambeau Field as a 49er. This one is a little more impressive, though, considering he did it at 42 years old. That was good enough for NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.