Week 11 came with a few surprises.
Did you see what happened in New Orleans? What about in Indianapolis? Are we choosing players from both of those games? You betcha.
A one-win team (the Raiders) and a two-win squad (the Giants) also earned consideration for a Victory Monday thanks to their close triumphs.
Sometimes, not much needs to be said. Lead the horse to water and it will drink (ideally). Here's hoping these selections quench your thirst, because they did more than enough for their triumphant squads Sunday.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Make it five weeks in which Andrew Luck hasn't been sacked. And yes, while that has to do with why Luck is back to the level that once had him among the league's elite quarterbacks, plenty of it is also Luck spreading the ball, and Frank Reich's lack of fear of using a vast range of schemes.
You'll find Luck under center, in the shotgun, running play action, tossing quick hitters and airing it out deep. And in between is a well-paced ground game, led by the efforts of Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines.
All the while, Luck is engineering the Colts' offense at near maximum efficiency, besting his career averages in completion percentage by 7 percentage points and posting a 101.8 passer rating, well above his career rate of 89.2
Pro Football Focus lists Luck as the league's fifth-best QB according to player grades. In the last five weeks, he's the third-ranked QB, behind only Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes. The game tape reflects the grades.
Sunday, he made quick work of the Titans, completing 23 of 29 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns. One-hundred and fifty-five of those yards went to a familiar face in T.Y. Hilton. The Colts jumped out to a huge lead in a dominant win over the Titans, with Luck serving as the main reason for such a resounding win.
Don't look now, but the Colts have won four straight and are in prime position to contend for the AFC South down the stretch. With Luck healthy and tearing up opponents, they shouldn't go overlooked.
Tre'Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints
Sure, his yards-per-catch average wasn't as high as Michael Thomas' number, but we're picking Smith because of the sheer volume of his contributions Sunday. And because he was essentially the odd man out before he ever got a real chance, as evidenced by New Orleans' signing of Dez Bryant and then Brandon Marshall, Sunday was about the best chance he'd likely get.
He took full advantage of it.
With Philadelphia doing its best to take away Thomas (who still had four catches for 92 yards), Smith stepped into the spotlight, catching 10 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown on 13 targets. It came as part of a 48-7 rout of the defending champions in New Orleans' most emphatic win to date.
"Coming in, I expected to catch one or two balls, [but 10 catches?](https://www.neworleanssaints.com/video/tre-quan-smith-they-covered-mike-so-it-was-my-
time-to-shine)" Smith said, per the team's official site. "No, I didn't expect that, but as the game goes on, you got to do what you got to do."
What the third-round pick out of UCF had to do was ball out in his best chance to do so. Maybe the Saints didn't need a veteran wideout after all.
"You got to know your job is at risk because if you mess up, you got a veteran right there trying to take your job," Smith said. "But I know if I do what I got to do week in and week out, I'm at a good place."
Yep, 150-plus receiving yards is indeed a pretty good place. So is first place atop the NFC South.
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
The Giants entered Week 11 without a win at home. Anyone who's ever been a kid -- everyone -- knows few things cut deeper than when a parent tells his/her son they're "not mad, they're disappointed" in them.
Sunday was the day the Giants got an A on their test, didn't miss curfew and mowed the lawn. More specifically, it was Saquon Barkley doing all of that (while Eli Manning washed the dishes).
Barkley rushed 27 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a touchdown pass to bring his Sunday total to three. He was both the engine and the lynchpin of New York's offense yet again, powering a Giants attack that saw Eli Manning atttempt just 18 passes, yet put up 31 points.
(Some credit for that is due to New York's defense, which scored via a pick six and forced three additional turnovers.)
It was another typical Barkley game -- we can't say "vintage Barkley" yet because he's only a rookie -- serving as the lone bright spot for an otherwise forgettable Giants team.