Julio Jones: NFC Offensive Player of Week 16


Julio Jones had an outstanding game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16 and earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.

Julio Jones had the game-altering 70-yard touchdown reception in Sunday’s Week 16 upset at home over the Carolina Panthers for the Atlanta Falcons. His nine catches for 178 yards and that glorious touchdown was enough to give Jones his second NFC Offensive Player of the Week Honors for 2015.

Jones first earned the honors in Week 1 versus the Philadelphia Eagles at home on Monday Night Football, another of the eight Falcons’ victories on the season, where he caught nine passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Julio Jones also earned NFC Offensive Player of the Month in September and will go to his third Pro Bowl of his professional career in a few weeks.

All eyes were on the Atlanta Falcons’ game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, as the Panthers were then an undefeated 14-0 on the verge of clinching home field advantage in the NFC Playoffs en route to a perfect season. Jones’ vertical strike was ultimately the difference in the 20-13 game. It was a play that the Panthers could not overcome down the stretch.

More from Atlanta Falcons

On Sunday against the NFC South rival New Orleans, Julio Jones has an outside shot at breaking two NFL single-season receiving records: Marvin Harrison‘s receptions record and Calvin Johnson‘s receiving yards record. Jones will need to have another monster receiving game to pass two of the NFL’s all-time great receivers.

What elevated Julio Jones’ performance to being NFC Player of the Week honors worthy was not necessarily the stat lines, but the sheer quality of the opponent he and his Atlanta Falcons team bested. Carolina’s roster is full of Pro Bowlers all across the gridiron.

Julio Jones routinely outplayed Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, who for most of 2015 has been the league’s best shutdown corner. At times this season, it was more efficient to spike the football on every down than to throw in Norman’s direction, according to cornerback rating.

Jones’ 70-yard touchdown made All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly look foolish. How a middle linebacker was even supposed to cover Julio Jones on that play is still head scratching. Kuechly had his worst game on defense in 2015 and having already been out three games with a concussion, Julio Jones’ performance in Week 16 may end up costing Kuechly the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Next: Paul Soliai on IR, D.J. Tialavea promoted to 53-man roster

If the Atlanta Falcons intend to move to 9-7 by beating the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, expect quarterback Matt Ryan to target Julio Jones a bunch at the Georgia Dome to stretch the field against the Saints’ historically bad defense. Should Jones break either Harrison’s or Johnson’s single-season record, then he may have put up enough stats to win NFC Offensive Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks.