© Kim Klement / USA Today Sports

Former Georgia Bulldogs in the NFL - Week 15

An MVP candidate is still in the hunt for the playoffs, a rookie linebacker is getting recognition for a potential Rookie of the Year award, another rookie clinched a playoff spot and a former rookie of the year continues to struggle.

Todd Gurley, Alec Ogletree and the Rams kicked NFL week 15 off on Thursday night without their head coach Jeff Fisher in Seattle. Changing the head coach didn’t change Todd Gurley’s production on offense. In fact, it was worse than it’s been all season. With 14 carries for a season low 38 yards and no touchdowns, the frustration for Gurley is setting in, tweeting at a fan frustrated with Gurley's fantasy football production. 

The Los Angeles Rams are now ranked 30th in offensive efficiency, only ahead of the winless Cleveland Browns and hapless San Francisco 49ers. This team has a multitude of issues that even a player as talented as Gurley can’t fix on his own, and it shows no sign of fixing by the end of the season. Gurley is now officially predicted to rush for less than 900 yards. At 778 yards, Gurley will need 222 yards in the next two games to eclipse 1,000 yards against the 49ers this week (the worst rushing defense) and the Arizona Cardinals (the 10th best rushing defense).

On the other side of the ball, Alec Ogletree topped his season high in combined tackles with seven against the Seahawks. At 124 combined tackles this season with two weeks left, Ogletree is having a career year as the signal caller for the Rams. He is currently ranked tied for sixth in total

With the second half of December absent of college football on Saturday’s, the NFL will fill the gaps with primetime game the next two weeks, starting with the Jets and Dolphins last week. Jets rookie linebacker and former Dawg’s defensive captain Jordan Jenkins has shown signs of promise this season. Against the Dolphins, he recorded his first solo sack and five tackles for the first time since his first game week three. Jenkins hasn’t been as productive as Leonard Floyd, but being a more traditional outside linebacker than Floyd (who rushes the passer more frequently), Jenkins is getting more comfortable in his position and the production has trended upward.

On FOX’s Sunday Game of the Week, Matthew Stafford and the Lions traveled to New York to battle the Giants in the only matchup of 9-4 teams this week. Stafford faced the toughest challenge in the league as the Giants defense has been the top ranked pass and rush defense the last seven weeks. Not only were the opponents tough, but Stafford also combatted against more adverse weather conditions than he’s used to with a one-fingered glove to accommodate the ligament damage on his finger. The conditions and glove didn’t seem to bother the streaking MVP-candidate, as his passing was on point, but a fullback fumble in the red zone kept the Lions from tying the game before the half. Stafford was close to completing touchdowns on several plays, but the Giants defense got in the way on incredible pass break ups. 

Unable to break into the end zone, the Lions offense also struggled mightily on 3rd downs all afternoon, converting only five of 12. Trailing 10-6 in the fourth quarter, the Lions were in familiar territory, but unlike the last four games in five weeks, they were unable to complete the comeback to clinch the NFC North title. They’ll have to wait for the same opportunity either against the Cowboys next week on Monday Night Football or against the Packers in Week 17.

Speaking of the Packers, the Bears’ rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd had a non-existent game against the team that he previously recorded two sacks against, one of them a strip sack that he recovered for a touchdown. Despite the quiet game, the Bears are now campaigning for their outside linebacker to be considered for Defensive Rookie of the Year. They released this video last week:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">You might call him Flo. <br>You might call him #94. <br>With stats like this you might be calling <a href="https://twitter.com/Leonard90Flo">@Leonard90Flo</a> &#39;Defensive Rookie of the Year.&#39; <a href="https://t.co/sdhcE06Bgz">pic.twitter.com/sdhcE06Bgz</a></p>&mdash; Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) <a href="https://twitter.com/ChicagoBears/status/810129958064373764">December 17, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Those stats are impressive for the rookie outside linebacker, especially with missing a couple of games and overcoming a scary neck injury. Even though the Bears’ season was over weeks ago, Floyd continues to impress and will be a cornerstone for the Bears during their turnaround in the coming years.

After four touchdowns and 21 receptions in the last four weeks, rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell had a much quieter week against the Broncos last week. Only recording one catch for 14 yards on his only target, Mitchell’s production had a lot to do with Denver’s ability to frustrate the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady – Brady was 0/6 throwing in the first quarter. Mitchell’s one catch also wasn’t routine, reaching behind his momentum across the middle to convert a first down into the red zone. With the win, the Patriots clinched a division title, meaning we will undoubtedly see Mitchell in the playoffs. Against easier pass defenses’ in the coming weeks, Mitchell stands a chance to shine in the absence of Rob Gronkowski and possibly Danny Amendola.


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