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NFL Week 7: 7 takeaways from the week that was

Seven weeks are in the books for the 2019 NFL season. With each passing week, we get a better idea of which players can contend for the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

In this comprehensive breakdown of Week 7, we take a look at two players who entered the MVP conversation, and other thoughts from this week’s NFL action.

1. Nick Bosa emerges as Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite

The San Francisco 49ers boast a 6-0 mark for the third time in franchise history. Their defense did the heavy lifting on Sunday in a 9-0 win over the hapless Washington Redskins.

Nick Bosa, the NFL’s No. 2 overall pick, delivered a tremendous performance at a wet and slippery FedEx Field. The defensive end racked up seven tackles, four tackles for loss, one quarterback hit and one sack. He celebrated his fourth-quarter sack with a slip-and-slide on the muddy field.

Bosa has mustered four sacks in six contests. He is pressuring opposing passers at a higher rate than any player in the league, according to Next Gen Stats. No rookie has made more of an impact on defense than Bosa.

The 49ers’ tenacious defense has allowed only 10 points and 491 yards over the past three games.

2. Aaron Rodgers enters MVP conversation with career game

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers posted six total touchdowns and a perfect passer rating (158.3) on Sunday in what might have been the greatest performance of his legendary career. Crushing the visiting Oakland Raiders sans star wideout Devante Adams, Rodgers completed 25-of-31 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for a 3-yard touchdown.

Rodgers set career highs in average yards per pass attempt (13.8) and average adjusted yards per attempt (17.1). He spread the ball around, as eight different Packers caught at least two passes. A different player was on the receiving end for each of Rodgers’ TD throws—as Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Jake Kumerow, Jimmy Graham and Marquez Valdes-Scantling collected a touchdown apiece.

Spearheading the 6-1 Packers, Rodgers is firmly in the running for MVP. Rodgers, who captured the award in 2011 and 2014, has thrown 13 TDs against two interceptions this season. He joined the 350-TD club in the victory.

3. Lamar Jackson runs his way into MVP race

For the second consecutive game, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark. He totaled 116 yards and a TD on the ground in the Ravens’ upset of the Seattle Seahawks.

Jackson became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to produce 100 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown in consecutive games, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The second-year QB has rushed for over 100 yards three times this year.

Jackson’s touchdown dash came on a fourth-down play with the game tied at 13.

The Ravens (5-2) have won three straight and sit comfortably atop the AFC North. Jackson has spearheaded the winning streak with his unconventional style of play. He is difficult to defend because of his blazing speed, evidenced by his 576 rushing yards, the sixth-most in the entire NFL.

Jackson improved his career record to 11-3 as a starting QB. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was the MVP favorite entering Sunday, but Jackson made his case for the award by defeating the former Super Bowl champion in his house.

4. Kirk Cousins is on fire

A few weeks after facing a wave of criticism for his mediocre quarterbacking, Kirk Cousins has let his excellent play do the talking. Cousins threw for 337 yards and four touchdowns in the Minnesota Vikings’ 42-30 road victory over division rival Detroit.

Cousins has thrown four TDs in back-to-back contests. Furthermore, he became the first quarterback in league history to throw for 300 or more yards and generate a passer rating of at least 130 in three straight games. In this three-game stretch, Cousins has 976 passing yards, 10 touchdown passes and a 75 percent completion rate.

Adam Thielen’s early exit (hamstring injury) in the first half following his 25-yard TD catch did not slow Cousins down. Cousins spread the ball around to torch the Lions’ secondary, which lost star cornerback Darius Slay mid-game to a hamstring injury.

Cousins leaned the most on Stefon Diggs, who caught seven of eight targets for a team-high 142 yards. The only unsuccessful target came on a drop by Diggs, who was unable to grab what was a surefire touchdown. Cousins tossed touchdowns to Bisi Johnson, C.J. Ham and Kyle Rudolph in an outing that reminded folks why the Vikings gave the QB a massive contract before the 2018 season.

Cousins is playing arguably the best football of his career. His red-hot play should continue this week, as he faces the Redskins (1-6) in a Thursday Night Football home tilt against his former team.

5. Undermanned Saints keep winning

The New Orleans Saints traveled to Soldier Field without the services of Drew Brees, star running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook. Facing a Chicago Bears squad fresh off their bye week, the banged-up Saints dominated in eye-opening fashion.

Teddy Bridgewater threw for 281 yards and two TDs. He is 5-0 as a starter in place of Brees.

Latavius Murray, starting for the injured Kamara, turned 27 carries into 119 yards and two TDs. He added five receptions for 31 yards. Josh Hill, playing with the first-string unit with Cook absent, caught three balls for 43 yards and a score. Michael Thomas had a strong game as well, hauling in nine catches for 131 yards.

The Saints’ defense forced two fumbles, collected two sacks and held the Bears to a measly 17 rushing yards.

Overcoming a bevy of injuries, the Saints (6-1) are riding a five-game win streak. Head coach Sean Payton deserves plenty of praise for presenting a game plan that plays to the strengths of Bridgewater. To Bridgewater’s credit, the former first-round pick has executed time and time again. Bridgewater has thrown nine TDs with just two picks.

6. Colts, Jacoby Brissett maintain dominance vs. Texans

The AFC South rivalry between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans has been one-sided of late. The Colts, who eliminated the Texans from last year’s playoffs in the AFC wild-card round, beat their division foe on Sunday to leap into first place in the South. The Colts have won the past three head-to-head matchups.

The sudden retirement of Andrew Luck hasn’t halted the Colts’ success against the Texans. Jacoby Brissett put together his finest game of the year, throwing for career-bests in yards (326) and touchdowns (four). The efficient quarterback completed passes to eight different players. Zach Pascal was Brissett’s favorite target on Sunday, as the second-year wide receiver caught six balls for 106 yards and two TDs.

Brissett is 4-0 in his career against the Texans. Houston is 3-15 all-time in Indianapolis.

7. Patriots’ defense has chance to be greatest in NFL history

The New England Patriots (7-0) showcased their historically dominant defense during a 33-0 pummeling of the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. They intercepted Sam Darnold four times and produced six takeaways overall. They lead the NFL in interceptions (18) and turnovers forced (22).

Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Stephon Gilmore and Terrence Brooks all collected interceptions. McCourty leads the league in interceptions with five.

It was the second shutout of the year for the Patriots. The top-ranked defense gave up just 154 yards. New York managed just 2.9 yards per play in a humiliating defeat. The Patriots are giving up 223.1 yards per contest—only 1,039 yards total in 2019. The 1991 Philadelphia Eagles set the NFL record for fewest yards allowed in a 16-game season with 3,549 (221.8 yards per game).

The Patriots have yielded only 48 points all year. Allowing just 6.9 points per contest, the Patriots are on pace to be the best scoring defense in league history. They have already set a record for fewest points surrendered in the first seven games of a season during the Super Bowl era.