Rookies rose to the occasion this past week as the NFL reached the halfway point of the regular season. Here are the main headlines coming out of Week 8:
Juju is a star
With Martavis Bryant watching on from the sidelines, rookie Juju Smith-Schuster took on a more significant role as Pittsburgh faced the Detroit Lions needing a win to return to the top of the AFC.
Matthew Stafford was unstoppable under center, slinging the ball down the field for 423 yards against a Steelers defence that led the league against the pass coming into the match.
But despite 18 offensive snaps inside the red zone, Detroit only came away with three field goals as Mike Tomlin’s defence held firm when it mattered, turning the ball over on downs twice on goal-to-go situations.
It ultimately cost the Lions in the end as Roethlisberger found Smith-Schuster on a 97-yard touchdown pass; the longest in franchise history, late in the third quarter to seal the 20-15 win.Rookie of the year
No, it isn’t Kareem Hunt or Leonard Fournette.
Houston’s rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson pushed Russell Wilson all the way in a wild shootout that ultimately finished 41-38 in favour of the Seahawks.
Watson abused Seattle’s historic defence all game, throwing for 402 yards (19/30), four touchdowns and three interceptions, in addition to 67 yards on the ground.
It was a case of student versus teacher in the end as Wilson, who had 452 yards, 4 touchdowns and one interception in his own right, responded with a game-winning touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham with 21 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Nevertheless, with already 19 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 103.0 for the season, the Texans’ first-round pick certainly deserves the praise he’s received thus far.
49ers finally have a QB
San Francisco’s lack of offensive production has cost them numerous close encounters this season.
Though their 33-10 defeat to the 7-1 Philadelphia Eagles was not one of those games, their season, and future, may have turned a corner after they successfully acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick overnight.
At 26, Garoppolo joins the 0-8 franchise knowing his worth as a starter in the NFL would be better served away from the ageless Tom Brady.
The fourth-year quarterback has played 17 games in his career, passing for a total of 690 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions.
While his experience is limited, Garoppolo’s talent may be enough to earn Kyle Shanahan’s men a few wins in the second half of the season.