Sunday's five most valuable players: Steve Smith, Eli's buddy

Steve Smith, Wide Receiver, New York Giants. The departure of Plaxico Burress(notes) is looking like the best possible thing that could've happened to the Giants, though I wish we could've gotten to that point without any bullets entering anyone.

Everyone -- myself included -- was so concerned about the loss of Plax, and then the fact that the Giants didn't move to pick up any big names in his absence. We didn't bother to think that maybe there were some guys underneath Plax on the depth chart who only needed a glimpse of the field to become stars themselves. Like Steve Smith, for example.

Eleven catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns? That's an all-day dominance of a secondary. I don't care if it's not a very good one. A man does not put up those numbers without being a superstar-caliber player.

Patrick Willis(notes), Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers. Okay, so it was an across-his-body, across-the-field throw from Kyle Boller(notes) that Patrick Willis intercepted and took to the house. It was still a sweet play. The two-and-a-half sacks Willis added to the mix might've been more important, anyway.

That's how you blow a team out despite only racking up 228 yards of total offense -- you hold them to 177, and their star running back to under 80. The 49ers defense put forth a dominant effort yesterday.

Rashard Mendenhall(notes), Running Back, Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers could've brought Bam Morris out of retirement and put him in the line-up, and he would've went for 150 yards last night against that Chargers defensive front, but still, Rashard Mendenhall did some things that made you say, "Damn ... Willie Parker(notes) can't do that."

If he can get his head screwed on to Mike Tomlin's satisfaction, he's a piece of the puzzle that the Steelers have been needing for a while now. He's big, he's strong, he's physical, and he can wear out a defense. He's a weapon that could take that offense to another level.

Mike Sims-Walker(notes), Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars. I'll admit to being shocked by yesterday's result in the Titans/Jags game. I thought the Titans had some fight in them, and I didn't think the Jags were capable of beating a team through the air like that. David Garrard(notes) threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns, and Sims-Walker was his favorite target. He caught seven balls for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

Robert Mathis(notes), Defensive End, Indianapolis Colts. Dwight Freeney's(notes) Tonto had three sacks and two forced fumbles yesterday in Indy's clobbering of Seattle. The Colts shut down the Seahawks running game and jumped out to a big lead, effectively making the Seahawks a passing team, which isn't good for them when Matt Hasselbeck(notes) is on the bench.

What to Read Next