With week seven wrapped, we're almost halfway through the season and the cream is beginning to rise to the top in certain divisions. This gameweek saw several names mentioned last week as players to watch go out and have big games.
Let's get in the zone.
Player of the week
Johnson Bademosi (New England Patriots #29) - Cornerback
Following on from his solid performance in the Patriots' win over the New York Jets last week, Bademosi continued making the most of his opportunities to get on the field for the Patriots, in situations other than special teams, in their win over the Atlanta Falcons.
With cornerbacks Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore out injured, the Nigerian-American from Silver Spring, Maryland took to the field for the Patriots and more than held his own in the secondary. Bademosi lined up across from Julio Jones and limited Jones for much of the game (Jones finished with nine catches for 99 yards and a touchdown).
According to Pro Football Focus, Bademosi held Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to a 70.9 percent passer rating when Ryan targeted Bademosi. The cornerback had a very good game but was best in the first half when he was targeted just twice and allowed only one catch. Bademosi finished the game with seven tackles and one pass breakup. He also ended up playing 55 of the Patriots 57 defensive snaps in the game.
It was a timely breakthrough for a player expected to provide more help on special teams than on the Patriots defense, and now he's catching the attention of Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick.
Alex Okafor (New Orleans Saints #57) - Defensive End
The New Orleans Saints defensive end is back on the notable performances list again after a productive Sunday. In the Saints' victory over the Green Bay Packers (and backup quarterback Brett Hundley), Okafor tallied four tackles, two tackles for a loss, and had a sack with a forced fumble in the game.
For the season, Okafor is now up to 23 tackles, three sacks, and three forced fumbles. The Nigerian-American from Texas isn't just getting to opposing quarterbacks and helping take some of the focus off fellow defensive end Cameron Jordan, but is also excelling at stopping the run as Pro Football Focus has him in the top 10 of defensive ends in run stop percentage this season.
Eli Apple (New York Giants #24) - Cornerback
Continuing his recent string of good performances, the New York Giants second-year defensive back has rebounded nicely after his rough start to the season. The Ghanaian-American from Ohio State University played his part for the G-Men on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks but was unable to help the Giants get the victory.
Apple finished the game with six tackles. He was targeted six times by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, while only allowing two catches (unfortunately for Apple, one of them was for a touchdown) for 17 yards and had two pass breakups. Giants fans, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, will be hoping Apple carries his confident form into the second half of the season.
Yannick Ngakoue (Jacksonville Jaguars #91) - Defensive End
Another defensive end back on the notable performances list, Ngakoue was fairly quiet over the past couple of weeks but rebounded in a big way on Sunday. In the Jacksonville Jaguars' win over the Indianapolis Colts, Ngakoue, the son of a Cameroonian father, ended up with four tackles, 2.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, and two quarterback hurries in his 31 snaps.
So far this season, Ngakoue has 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in seven games for the Jaguars. Last season, Ngakoue ended up with a Jags rookie record of eight sacks and three forced fumbles in 16 games. This season, he has almost reached that total in less than half the games.
KweséESPN Quick Hits with... Yannick Ngakoue
Q. Your father is from Cameroon but you haven't been there. Any plans to visit and meet family still there?
A. I don't speak to my father but I've got to take a trip to Cameroon. It's my roots. I'm pretty sure I have a lot of cousins back there.
Q. What's different about this Jaguars team in 2017?
A. [It's like] A whole different team, a whole different mindset, a whole different energy. We just got guys that are buying in. Everything's been so far so good this season.
Q. How has the transition from rookie to second year player been so far?
A. I feel like things are just slowing down so much for me, it's just a blessing. God has just put me in the right position just being a Jaguar and just being able to learn the game. I feel like last year, it felt like normal but as far as things slowing down, I have the trust from my defensive coordinator. They've given me responsibility and I have more of a voice now. I just appreciate that. The team... I see us going far.
Q. Do you watch other players at your position, and where do you think you are right now in terms of young edge rushers in the league?
A. Von Miller. That's the only player I really watch. They say he's the best right? That's what I'm coming for. I'm coming to be the best. I want to be the best. When you talk about edge rushers in the NFL I want to be the best.
Post game quotes - Johnson Bademosi
On what the Patriots did well this week:
"We played good team defense and we all did our jobs. We tackled well, we defended the pass well and we played penalty-free for the most part."
On his personal contributions to the team thus far:
"Our coaches do a great job of preparing us to play, and I owe a lot to them and to my teammates."
On stopping Atlanta on third downs:
"If you want to win games you have to be able to stop teams on third down, and everybody knows that. We have to do that on defense."
Players to watch in Week 8
Rees Odhiambo and Germain Ifedi (Seattle Seahawks tackles)
The Seahawks' two African tackles (Kenya and Nigeria respectively) had mixed results in week seven. Odhiambo played his best game of the season as he allowed no sacks and only allowed one QB hurry on the pass blocking snaps he lined up for. Ifedi had a less stellar game as he allowed seven QB pressures but ultimately neither allowed a sack on quarterback Russell Wilson.
Next up for the two O-linemen will be the Houston Texans. Despite playing without All-Pro J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus (both out for the season), the Texans still have a competent group of edge rushers. From Jadeveon Clowney to recently signed veteran Lamarr Houston and Nigerian-American second-year player Ufomba Kamalu, the Texans are still capable of breaking through a weak offensive line.
Jeremiah Attaochu (San Diego Chargers #97) - Defensive End
Finally active this season after missing the Chargers prior six games, defensive end Attaochu was activated for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos and the Nigeria-born player contributed to the Chargers victory. With two tackles and a tackle for a loss, Attaochu made his case to be on the field for more game snaps.
The Chargers have Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa as the bookends on their defensive line and Attaochu has to continue putting pressure on both, while making the most of his opportunities when he gets on the field against the New England Patriots.