Games going down to the wire, overtime ties, and the return of a controversial quarterback ensured that Week 13 had its surprises, but most games went the way of the betting favourites. Here are the rookies that stood out this week:
Daron Bland, Cornerback – Dallas Cowboys
Despite the overwhelming 54-19 score line, the Colts had kept the game within a score against the Cowboys, but when Dallas scored early in the fourth quarter to make it 28-19, the Colts imploded in dramatic fashion. Indianapolis turned the ball over four times in the space of 13 minutes, and rookie Daron Bland had a hand (literally) in two of them.
Bland, who has filled in for injured corner Anthony Brown, has been steadily improving in recent weeks, with the exception of a poor performance against the Packers in Week 10, but his performance against Indianapolis was by far his best. After spending the majority of the game in tight coverage, Bland showed almost telepathic knowledge of where the ball was going on both interceptions, finishing with two interceptions and one pass break-up while allowing only two catches for nine yards on seven targets.
Jalen Pitre, Safety – Houston Texans
A few weeks ago, the Texans made the decision to move Pitre to free safety, and they seem to be reaping the rewards as the rookie out of Baylor looks much more comfortable. During the game against the Cleveland Browns, he not only had one of his best games against the Browns but also broke a Houston Texans defensive record.
Pitre recorded a season-high 16 tackles against the Browns, breaking ex-Texan linebacker DeMeco Ryans record from 16 years ago of 15 tackles. Interestingly, in that game against the Raiders on the 3rd of December 2006, Ryans also had an interception, something Pitre also matched, as he picked off a pass intended for Amari Cooper by the returning Deshaun Watson, who incidentally was playing in his first game in 700 days due to injury and suspension.
Christian Watson, Wide Receiver – Green Bay Packers
Christian Watson received his first nomination in my condensed Week 10 rankings after an impressive four receptions for 107 yards and three touchdowns. Against the Chicago Bears, Watson was able to continue this recent success as he showcased his ability as both a receiver and a rusher, scoring a pair of touchdowns.
His first, a 14-yard pass from Aaron Rogers on fourth down with only 17 seconds left in the first half, was likely the catalyst the Packers needed to mount their comeback, and his second was a simple jet sweep that completely fooled the defence, allowing him to turn on the afterburners for a 41-yard rush. Watson now has 8 touchdowns in the last four games, giving him the distinction of sharing the record for most touchdowns scored over a four-game span with Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
Reed Blankenship (Philadelphia Eagles), Greg Dulcich (Denver Broncos), Garrett Wilson (New York Jets), Jack Sanborn (Chicago Bears), Brian Robinson Jr (Washington Commanders),