He hadn't produced much consistency for the majority of the season, and he was going against the Jacksonville Jaguars' still formidable defense. He was playing on a short week. Sit him, the logic whispered in folks' ears.
How did they do it? Well, by being unstoppable, of course.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
Thursday qualified as December, which means it's Henry Time. He didn't disappoint.
Henry took carries of all kinds and found success on a variety of gains, rumbling through the defense and running over defenders for one touchdown, hitting the edge for another, taking it in from three yards and gaining healthy yards on non-scoring plays in between.
Oh, and there was also that 99-yard touchdown run.
In all, he finished with 238 yards and four touchdowns on just 17 carries, dominating a Jacksonville defense that hasn't seen this type of performance in quite some time. And he kept the Titans squarely in the playoff conversation with another late-season performance that's starting to become his modus operandi.
Also considered ...
Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
"He is an incredible player," Prescott said of Cooper, via The Dallas Morning News. "I knew he was good. I knew he was going to get separation and get open and make great catches.
"But when you just see the run after catch and breaking tackles, and being that great of a player. As I said, I'm just thankful we got that trade."
That trade -- which we shouldn't forget was blasted by many who said a first-round pick was too much for Cooper -- has changed everything for the Cowboys, an offensively inept team that has since vaulted to the top spot in the NFC East, twice defeating the defending Super Bowl champions with almost all of the credit due to Cooper. How does one receiver deserve such praise? Well...
Cooper single-handedly (well, he and Dak Prescott) dismantled the Eagles' defense, serving as an unstoppable connection for a Cowboys team that needed a go-to option after struggling early. He even caught the game winner, an improbable catch and run off a tip that sent the Cowboys to a massive victory in the battle for the NFC East title.
Seems like that's worth a first-round pick.
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
Kittle exploded in the first half, racking up 210 yards and a touchdown on seven catches -- and did it all in two quarters. He was just four yards from tying Shannon Sharpe for the most receiving yards in a game for a tight end in NFL history when he entered the break.
And then, he was stopped.
That would seem to disqualify him for mention in this space, right? Wrong. While Kittle didn't catch another pass in the final two quarters, his presence still made a difference. Kittle commanded attention from Denver's defense, and his existence helped other receivers get open. Case in point: On Trent Taylor's reception to get a first down and ice the game for San Francisco, he ran his route underneath Kittle, who drew more attention. It opened enough space for the completion to secure the win.
Kittle impacted the game in the box score in the first half and in non-statistical ways in the second half. Altogether, it produced a win -- and a new standard for Niners tight ends.