How about go big and go home? While several teams are working desperately to avoid elimination from the playoffs, Ben Roethlisberger put the Steelers in position to play in Pittsburgh throughout January. He was one of a half-dozen players recognized for outstanding performances in Week 14.
Here are the NFL Players of the Week:
Big Ben passed for 506 yards, eclipsing half a grand for the third time in his career -- the most in NFL history. Roethlisberger set career highs in passing attempts (66) and completions (44) and threw a pair of touchdowns. The Steelers needed all of it to outlast the Ravens, 39-38, and nestle into the driver's seat for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Roethlisberger is the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Intercept arguably the best quarterback in league history twice in the same game and you're the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. It's a simple formula, really. Miami's Xavien Howard gets the nod thanks to his pair of picks, catapulting the Dolphins' dominant defensive effort (and upset) against the Patriots on Monday Night Football. The second-year corner previously had just two interceptions in his career -- and they both came last week against the Broncos.
OK, so Jaydon Mickens didn't score on his 72-yard punt return late in the third quarter against the Seahawks. But Mickens' mad dash was maybe the most important single play of the game, seeing that it put the Jaguars on Seattle's 1-yard line. One play later, Jacksonville took a 14-point lead, giving it just enough of a cushion to hold off the Seahawks and take a one-game lead in the AFC South. For that, Mickens, for the second time this season, is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
If you've closely followed Jonathan Stewart's career, you'd know there's usually a couple days each year in which he's likely to go off. This past Sunday against the Vikings was one of those days. He ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns, the latter being a career high. His final score proved to be the game winner. His first one went for 60 yards. Not bad for a 30-year-old, 240-pound running back playing in his 10th season. He is the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Falcons linebacker Deion Jones is the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. His interception of Drew Brees in the end zone, with less than 90 seconds left, sealed Atlanta's 20-17 victory over the Saints on Thursday. That was Brees' first red-zone interception of the season and the latest highlight from Jones, who also had 13 tackles in what was a must-win game for the Falcons.
The Cleveland Browns kicked to Trevor Davis and paid for it. They paid even more for punting to him. The Packers' return specialist had 138 yards on just five touches (27.6 average), the final one producing a 65-yard gain that set up the tying score. Green Bay went on to win in overtime, keeping its playoff hopes alive in the wake of Aaron Rodgers' return. Davis' effort earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.