Watson mows down rib injury, 'Fins with five-TD game

Deshaun Watson, if nothing else, is one tough cookie.

The quarterback and brightest ray of hope shining from within the Texans franchise has been playing through a painful rib injury for weeks now, going as far as taking a bus 12 hours from Houston to Jacksonville just so he could avoid complications from flying and still play.

The Texans won that game. They won on Thursday night, too.

Watson and his Teflon toughness are our pick for this week's Unstoppable Performer.

Unstoppable Performer

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

A week after the quarterback took the Watson Cruiser from Houston to Jacksonville and earned an important divisional win over the Jaguars, Watson returned home and balled out.

It was unexpected, not because Watson isn't capable -- we saw that he's more than equpped to do so in his short 2017 campaign -- but because of his existing rib injury. Could a bruised Watson really torch a Dolphins defense that has potential to be stifling?

Answer: Yes.

Watson completed 16 of 20 passes for 239 yards and five -- count them, five -- touchdowns in a 42-23 shellacking of the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football. Watson nearly posted a perfect passer rating, and again struck a match to light the flame of excitement burning for the first-place Texans.

And more important than anything here is the demonstration that Watson can lead the Texans' offense, and do so with conviction and authority. They'll need that if they want to regain the AFC South crown.

Also considered...

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

Everyone's saying it, and you know what? I'm going to say it too.

James Conner had a nice debut as a starter against the Browns on the ground. But he one-upped that by fulling reprising the Bell role and helping make both Bell's absence and his eventual departure much easier for Steeler Nation to bear.

Conner logged his third-straight 100-plus-yard game in Week 8, rumbling for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. His second score effectively put the Browns away (and led to Hue Jackson's Monday firing). And most importantly, his five receptions for 66 yards made him a full-blown dual threat in the backfield.

This kind of production, when sustained, makes the Steelers the favorite to win the division and a legitimate threat in the AFC. And makes everyone move on from the Bell saga. Win-win for Western Pennsylvania.

Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins

If you want a chuckle, search "Adrian Peterson" and a variety of "washed-up" terms (like "washed," "done," "finished," "old") on Twitter.

Funny, right? (Wait, am I in there?)

Peterson doesn't have the top-end speed his younger self possessed, but he's still a damn good runner and gave the Giants an up close and personal look at that Sunday. The veteran ripped up 149 yards and scored a touchdown on 26 carries, including a 64-yard scamper, and added another score with a reception.

He also passed Tony Dorsett for ninth on the all-time rushing list. He's more than halfway to 1,000 yards in just eight weeks. He's 33 years old. This shouldn't be happening.

And yet, it is. And the Washington Redskins are loving every second of their lucky find.

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