So what is in store in this edition of Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week? We’ve got a surefire Hall of Fame quarterback, a couple of rookie linebackers and a cornerback making a big case for an All-Pro nod. As ever, this is based just on the performances from Week 10 and goes beyond the box scores of the game after watching every player on every play.
Quarterback: Peyton Manning, DEN (+7.3)
He is looking very good, isn’t he? It seems strange to think we doubted how good the new Manning would be. He’s as hot as any QB in the league right now and destroyed the Panthers with ease.
Running Back: C.J. Spiller, BUF (+5.0)
He had only 13 touches but forced five missed tackles and accumulated 131 yards from scrimmage. Spiller should scare every defensive player in the league.
Full Back: Bruce Miller, SF (+1.9)
Some nice lead blocking is always likely to get you in this team.
Tight End: Tony Gonzalez, ATL (+3.5)
Scott Chandler was a superior blocker but the receiving work of Gonzalez was something to behold, even with a late drop. His usage of his body to prevent defenders from having a hope of making plays on the ball is legendary. Still got it.
Wide Receivers: Danny Amendola, STL (+5.3) and Calvin Johnson, DET (+2.1)
Amendola was a no-brainer. He had 102 yards and was cruelly denied more by an illegal formation. He’s earning himself a bigger offseason deal the more he plays. Johnson picked up a lot of yardage and made some big plays even though his fumble hurt his team. Not a classic week for receiver play.
Tackles: Jared Veldheer, OAK (+5.0) and Chris Hairston, BUF (+3.6)
Well that was some performance by Veldheer. He didn’t allow a single pressure on his quarterback and made some nice blocks in the run game. Hairston had a similar impact in the run game, and giving up just one hurry is always a good day at the office.
Guards: Steve Hutchinson, TEN (+3.4) and Jon Asamoah, KC (+2.6)
There have been times this year when Hutchinson has looked like the All-Pro he once was. This was one of them. Asamoah was a big part of the Chiefs’ ability to run to the right side of their line with great success.
Center: David Baas, NYG (+4.4)
I know the cool thing is to lay into the Giants’ offensive line, but credit where it’s due. Baas played really well against the Bengals.
Defensive Front 4-3
Defensive Ends: Chris Long, STL (+5.3) and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, TB (+4.6)
So there’s the real Chris Long. After a midseason slump, he rebounded in fine fashion with a 10-QB disruption day that was impressive in keeping Charles Johnson out of the team. A first appearance for ‘DTN,’ who feasted on Mike Harris.
Defensive Tackle: Kyle Williams, BUF (+6.8) and Marcell Dareus, BUF (+4.9)
This was the kind of performance the Bills envisaged from their defensive tackle duo. Williams has been pulling his weight all year, but games like this have been few and far between from Dareus. The two combined for some serious pressure up the gut on the Patriots.
Linebackers: Von Miller, DEN (+9.4), Luke Kuechly, CAR (+3.9) and Lavonte David, TB (+3.9)
No surprises here with Miller, a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate, on this team again. He wreaks havoc so consistently it almost beggars belief. Lavonte ‘Tackling Machine’ David just keeps making defensive stops, adding another eight this week. Another rookie, Kuechly looks like a much improved player since moving to the middle.
Defensive Front 3-4
Defensive Line: Brett Keisel, PIT (+4.9), Earl Mitchell, HST (+1.6) and Muhammad Wilkerson, NYJ (+4.8)
Where’s J.J. Watt? He was outperformed this week so doesn’t make it for the first time this year. Instead Keisel and his two sacks, two hits and three hurries are on the team, joined by a Jet who can be happy with his performance because Wilkerson was his usual force in the run game. Mitchell took full advantage of a rare start with some fine work in the run game, including four defensive stops.
Outside Linebackers: Justin Houston, KC (+6.1) and Anthony Spencer, DAL (+5.2)
I could have plumped for Ahmad Brooks here, but felt this duo offered more balance. Houston showed what he can do when you let him rush the passer with a sack, hit and three hurries, while Spencer didn’t let an interception called back for a penalty slow him down. He’s continuing to play like he’s in a contract year, adding some fine work in run defense and a sack, hit and two hurries.
Inside Linebackers: Derrick Johnson, KC (+5.3) and Lawrence Timmons, PIT (+3.9)
At times Johnson seemed on a mission to hand the Chiefs a much-needed victory. He made a number of key stops, picking up nine in total. Unfortunately his quarterback didn’t spot Timmons, and the Steeler made the game-winning play to cap a good day that also featured a hit and a hurry.
Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman, SEA (+4.8) and Adam Jones, CIN (+4.6)
Sherman, a legit All-Pro candidate, was thrown at four times and the end results were zero completions, one pick and two pass deflections. Jones forced a big fumble of Ahmad Bradshaw and also broke up three of the 10 balls into his coverage.
Safeties: Quintin Mikell, STL (+3.4) and Danieal Manning, HST (+2.8)
That’s the kind of performance the Rams thought they’d be getting from Mikell when they snapped him up in 2011. They’ve been too far and too few. Manning earned the congratulations of former teammates, and plaudits from us, for his playmaking display.
Kicker: Rob Bironas (TEN)
Punter: Brad Nortman (CAR)
Returner: Trindon Holliday (DEN)
Special Teamer: Dekoda Watson (TB)
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