NFL Breakout Performance of the Week
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
By James Pike.
James is our new NFL Analyst and joins us after another thrilling week of NFL action and starts his writing tenure at GridironXtra by taking a look at the breakout performance of the week. James is an aspiring writer, has been a Patriots fan since 2002 and a self confessed below average fantasy football GM!
Week 6 didn't disappoint
Week 6 of the NFL season was an absolute doozy on paper, and boy ohh boy did it not disappoint.
The Texans and the Titans had an awesome back and forth battle in Tennessee, with Derrick Henry making millions of fantasy football managers happy with his two touchdowns and 264 yards from scrimmage. The Chicago Bears improved to 5-1 off the back of an outstanding effort from their defense, and a shocker in New England which saw the undermanned Denver Broncos upset the Patriots off the back of another outstanding defensive performance.
However, a game that piqued my interest was an incredibly hard-fought battle between the 3-2 Indianapolis Colts and 1-3-1 Cincinnati Bengals. Two teams on completely different trajectories in terms of their outlook for the 2020 season, however the Bengals were able to push the Colts and their vaunted defence past the two-minute warning before a late interception iced the game. All in all the Bengals should be happy with how they played against a team widely considered as playoff contenders, and it was the performance of one of the Bengals rookies which was a big reason why this game was so close at the end.
Clemson wideout emerges
And no; it wasn’t the performance of Joe Burrow! Tee Higgins is kind of the forgotten man of the loaded Wide Receiver class of the 2020 draft. With his fellow classmen seemingly going off for a monster game every week; Higgins' steady play has been completely overshadowed. However in week 6 up against one of the most dominant defences in the entire league Higgins looked every bit on par with his peers.
Higgins caught six of his eight targets in this contest, for 125 yards through the air. He also added one rushing attempt for two yards in this game. All in all, there were more standout performances from wide receivers on Sunday, but it was the manner in which Higgins was used in the offence that will be encouraging to Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. Higgins’ number was consistently called on long passing plays. Burrow consistently targeted the 6’4” 215 pounder down the field; giving the big man the opportunity to make a play on the ball.
The chemistry has been building week by week between the 1st and 2nd round picks, and this was on full display when Higgins blew by Rock Ya-Sin on a 67-yard strike that could have easily gone for a touchdown. Then later in the game, on a crucial 3rd down in the third quarter: Higgins grabbed an incredibly tough pass in a tight window to keep the drive alive. In the end though the play of the first year wideout was not enough for Cincinnati to overcome as the Colts went on to win by a final of 31-27, but all signs point to Higgins being a key contributor to the Bengals going forward.
The key thing that Bengals fans have to realise this season is that their team is not expected to be good. They arguably play in the toughest division in football (although the Steelers seemingly brought the Browns expectations crashing back down to earth today), and it was always going to be a long hard slog of a season for the team. However, Cincy have stuck around in games far longer than they have had any right to so far this season.
In the first two weeks of the season they pushed the underrated LA Chargers all the way. Only losing to a last second field goal. Then they played a tough matchup against the improved Cleveland Browns. They tied against the Eagles before claiming their first win of the season against fellow strugglers Jacksonville. A crushing defeat against the Ravens in week 5 is the only game so far this season which could be looked at as a stinker, but encouraging signs are there for fans and coaches alike. The Bengals are no longer a pushover.
However, prior to this game against the Colts, Higgins was not heavily featured in the offense. Apart from a two-score game against Philly; he hadn’t been featured much in the game plan and hadn’t had more than five receptions in a game all season. In fact, through his first five games he only broke 50 yards receiving once with a four catch, 77-yard day in the win against the Jaguars being the only other notable performance of the season. In week 6 though; Higgins was used as a focal point of the offence, and he took his opportunity with open arms.
A long term replacement for wantaway Green?
All signs point to Higgins’ confidence growing with each passing week, and with recent developments about another Bengals wide receiver potentially on his way out; performances like today’s could become a regular feature on the stat sheet. With AJ Green reportedly wanting out of Cincinnati as soon as possible, it looks like more opportunities could be heading Tee’s way in the weeks to come. And if his performance against one of the most potent defensive teams in the entire league is anything to go by; expect this to be the start of great things for the 21-year-old.
So don’t worry Bengals supporters. It’s not all bad news coming out of Ohio this weekend. You may have just found a future star in the making.