In a week where PFF celebrated its’ 1,000th game analyzed we were treated to an excellent set of NFL matchups that featured plenty of last-second drama, and, as ever, some excellent performances.
Whether it was the Giants overturning a two-score deficit with time running it out, or T.J. Yates throwing a game-winning pass, Week 14 was everything the NFL should be. So let’s thank those players who made it possible by recognizing their brilliance and offering them spots on our All-PFF Team of Week 14.
We’ve got a Super Bowl-winning QB being protected by a guy who two teams have given up on in 2011. That’s the kind of mix you’ll get when you throw together the week’s best performers … but enough intro – here’s the stars of the week gone by.
Quarterback: Eli Manning, NYG (+6.5)
If you haven’t watched how Manning inspired the Giants to victory against the Cowboys, you should. One of the best quarterback displays of the year and rewarded as such in our now-normalized QB grades.
Running Back: Brandon Jacobs, NYG (+2.7)
It wasn’t so much the bully side of Big Brandon that showed up against Dallas, but rather a smart running back who picked up decent yardage consistently while showing a knack for finding open space to run to.
Fullback: Vonta Leach, BLT (+1.9)
Safe to say this has been the best year of Leachs’ career. Excellent lead blocking and he continued it against the Colts; a team he always has joy against.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, NE (+5.2)
The king is dead, long live the king. Introducing the new standard-bearer at tight end, and not just because he added two more touchdowns to his now record-setting haul. ‘Gronk’ can do it all.
Wide Receivers: Larry Fitzgerald, ARZ (+3.3) and Antonio Brown, PIT (+3.3)
It was tough to leave out Steve Smith and even harder to ignore Hakeem Nicks, but Fitzgerald and Brown did more to help their teams win. Fitzgerald with two big plays, and Brown with a superb touchdown catch and run.
Tackles: Jared Gaither, SD (+3.5) and Zach Strief, NO (+4.0)
Gaither, who was perfect in pass protection, may have an attitude problem, but you know what else he has? Talent. San Diego may be forced into playing him, but sometimes out of necessity comes fortune and they’d be wise to stick with him. Strief continues to improve, giving up a pressure but more than making up for that with his run blocking.
Guards: Nate Livings, CIN (+3.8) and Chad Rineheart, BUF (+3.4)
Yes you read that right, Nate Livings on the Team of the Week. He did a number on Antonio Smith, something that is far easier said than done. Rineheart edges out Cooper Carlisle to continue his mostly impressive year.
Center: Nick Mangold, NYJ (+4.6)
Practically flawless against the Chiefs, the best center in the game has left it too late to make a run at the No. 1 overall ranking held by Chris Myers, but he’s hitting form at the right time.
4-3 Defensive Front
Defensive Ends: Terrell Suggs, BAL (+7.5) and Andre Carter, NE (+6.7)
If your All-Pro vote doesn’t have Suggs on it, you’re doing it wrong. Made it look so easy against Indianapolis. Carter showed the Redskins what they probably already knew; he’s a fearsome pass rusher. An undrafted rookie left tackle meant you couldn’t miss that, but once again it wasn’t just the pass rushing of Carter as his work in run defense was magnificent.
Defensive Tackle: Brodrick Bunkley, DEN (+4.3) and Marcell Dareus, BUF (+4.1)
For all those GMs paying attention, I believe Bunkley is a free agent at the end of the year. If you don’t think he won’t make your run defense better, you’re just plain wrong. After weeks of doing nothing, Dareus returned with a sack, hit, and four-pressure display. Can we get some more of that?
Linebackers: Von Miller, DEN (+5.8), Rey Maualuga, CIN (+3.2), and D.J. Williams, DEN (+2.9)
Two Broncos outside linebackers, one excelling going forward and the other dropping into coverage. We know how good Miller is (and we’ve told you enough), but Williams performance was a pleasant surprise after a disappointing year. You can’t blame Maualuga for the Bengals’ loss, he stepped up big with two forced fumbles and some key plays in the run game.
3-4 Defensive Front
Defensive Line: Stephen Bowen, WAS (+4.4), Sione Pouha, NYJ (+3.3), and Calais Campbell, ARZ (+3.6)
Am I cheating going with two RE’s? Does it matter when they combine for two sacks, six hurries and three batted passes? Bowen produced the kind of game that Washington expected when they signed him to big money, while Campbell put forth another display that will help him get his payday. Pouha is more than just a big man in the middle and even picked up a sack and a pressure (to go with a safety) as the Jets dominated the Chiefs.
Outside Linebackers: Tamba Hali, KC (+3.5) and Aldon Smith, SF (+3.3)
Six defensive stops, a sack and a forced fumble for Hali who was extremely active in the Chiefs’ defeat. Smith continues to be a sub-package menace, ending his Week 14 with a sack and four hurries.
Inside Linebackers: Karlos Dansby, MIA (+5.0) and D.J. Smith, GB (+5.0)
Is there a dilemma brewing in Green Bay, where D.J. Smiths’ performances are making some think they can live without A.J. Hawk. The sixth-rounder looks like one to watch. There’s no dilemma in Miami however, with the excellent Karlos Dansby making plenty of plays in a disappointing defeat to the Eagles.
Cornerbacks: Asante Samuel, PHI (+4.6) and Eric Wright, DET (+4.5)
Four times the Dolphins went after Samuel and the result was three receptions for 1 yard (with one pass break-up). Eric Wright seemed to enjoy playing against the Vikings’ ‘quarterbacks’ as he turned seven throws at him into an interception and three pass break-ups while allowing just 15 yards.
Safeties: Adrian Wilson, ARZ (+4.0) and Michael Griffin, TEN (+2.5)
Wilson was the first to admit his 2010 didn’t go the way he planned. Fortunately, he’s healthy now and playing as well as ever, as Alex Smith can attest to. Tennessee’s Griffin is an interesting one. So often on the wrong end of highlight reel plays, he put forth a strong effort against the Saints, allowing just 19 yards on five balls thrown at him (despite one of his receptions going for 20 yards).
How can you look past Matt Prater (+3.8) … He doesn’t get a lot of attention but Brandon Fields (+4.5) continues to be one of the best punters in the league … Stefan Logan (+2.3) still has it … Jason Pierre-Paul (+2.0) blocked a field goal that saw his team win the game. That’s special alright.