Another week, another dominant performance taking on the opponent's top target. That was the case Sunday in Cincinnati, where Stephon Gilmore blanketed the Bengals Tyler Boyd.
Gilmore nearly matched Boyd's production by picking off a pair of passes while the wideout managed only three catches. The picks were the fifth and sixth of the season for Gilmore, establishing a new career high. He also returned one for a touchdown, becoming the first Patriot with a pair of pick-sixes in a single season since Tedy Bruschi in 2003.
All of which led to even more attention around the soft-spoken corner, who spent some time Sunday night chatting with Deion Sanders on NFL Network after the game. The attention is well-deserved, and it has grown steadily throughout the season to the point where many have tabbed him as a favorite to become the first Patriot win the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award.
His quarterback certainly thinks he deserves consideration. Speaking on his weekly appearance on WEEI, Tom Brady said Gilmore has been "incredible to watch."
"He's doing such a great job. He's covering the best players. Consistently making plays on the ball, scoring," Brady said. "He's done everything that you'd ask a Defensive Player of the Year to do. His impact on the games is just huge. You can't say enough good things about Steph, and not just what you guys see in the games but how he performs in practice. The attitude that he takes in practice, his leadership, his toughness.
"Not only does he play the pass but he's great in the run game too. He's one of the great corners to go down to ever play this game. We've got quite a few of those here, and it's been a privilege to play with those guys. Steph is just playing as well as anybody that's ever played the position. It's just incredible to watch."
Think Brady is biased? We took a look at the NFL's Next Gen Stats and found some eye-popping numbers to support Brady's claims. While often being tabbed to shadow the opponent's best receiver, Gilmore has dominated. According to Next Gen's numbers, Gilmore leads the league in almost every major coverage category. As the nearest defender, he's allowed a 45.5 percent completion percentage (-13.1% below expectation), a 38.6 passer rating and 4.9 yards per attempt, all of which lead 62 outside CBs with 40-plus targets this season. He also has the most targets (77) without allowing a TD."
All of which has led to Gilmore's status as a DPOY frontrunner despite losing out to Baltimore's Marcus Peters and San Francisco's Richard Sherman in the fan's portion of the Pro Bowl voting. Several betting website's including Bovada, have installed Gilmore as the odd-on favorite to capture the award, which will be given out Super Bowl weekend.
Here's a look at some of Gilmore's top competitors for the honor:
* T.J. Watt, DE, Pittsburgh – Watt has led a spirited Steelers defense that has won games almost on its own. He has 13 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and two interceptions this season.
* Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco – Niners rookie has 9 sacks and an interception while playing for one of the best defenses in football.
* Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams – The two-time defending DPOY is still dominant on the inside.
* Shaq Barrett, DE, Tampa Bay – Barrett leads the league with 16.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles for the suddenly red-hot Bucs.
* Tre'Davious White, CB, Buffalo – White is tied with Gilmore with 6 picks while performing well in both zone and man coverage for a stingy Bills secondary.