Each week the staff at Pro Football Focus watches over a combined 400 hours of football to ensure we know who the best players are. It makes us the premier outfit in player evaluation, used by NFL teams and fans alike to understand which guys are getting the job done and which guys aren’t.
It’s with this knowledge we can put out our Team of the Week, going beyond the box scores and the highlight reel plays to see who were the best players on every play of every game.
Here’s the Team of Week 16:
(Note: Team will be updated after Monday Night Football games are analyzed and on Wednesday when All-22 footage helps us study plays in even more detail where needed with an asterisk noting any change.)
Quarterback: Andy Dalton, CIN (+5.2)
Is it his time? Will the Bengals QB add his name to a list featuring players like Eli Manning and Joe Flacco who have got hot at the right time? If he can carry this form into the postseason then that’s something every team in the AFC should be watching out for.
Honorable Mention: Nick Foles (PHI)
Running Back: Joique Bell, DET (+6.5)
He had to go some way to keep McCoy out of the team, but with a lot of hard running leading to 191 yards from scrimmage Bell earned it.
Honorable Mention: LeSean McCoy (PHI)
Fullback: Erik Lorig, TB (+2.6)
It’s always nice when we can pick a fullback solely on the back of his excellent blocking. Kudos Erik.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Sherman (KC)
Tight End: Martellus Bennett, CHI (+3.1)
A healthy 85 yards and some good blocking. The latter hasn’t always been the case with Bennett this year, but this was the kind of complete display the team invested in.
Honorable Mention: Jospeh Fauria (DET)
Wide Receivers: Erik Decker, DEN (+4.9) and A.J. Green, CIN (+4.2)
It seems a long time ago when Decker was dropping balls for fun earlier in the season. This was his highest-graded performance of the season to date and he’s set to the enter the postseason in a rich vein of form. Joining him Green found the end zone twice as the Vikings’ secondary failed to deal with him.
Honorable Mention: Nate Washington (TEN) and Roddy White (ATL)
Tackles: Jason Peters, PHI (+6.9) and Zach Strief, NO (+6.3)
This was the dominant, pre-achilles injury Peters as he teed off on an overmatched Bears defense that could get no joy out of him. On the right side little was made in game of how well Strief played. Just one quarterback hit allowed and some tremendous work in the run game.
Honorable Mention: David Bakhtiari (GB) and Breno Giacomini (SEA)
Guards: Evan Mathis, PHI (+4.1) and Kraig Urbik, BUF (+6.1)
The fifth game of the year where Mathis gets himself a +4.0 grade or better. He won’t match his score of last year but it’s commendable he’s come so close. That’s the best we’ve ever seen from Urbik who has quietly had himself a very solid year.
Honorable Mention: T.J. Lang (GB) and Andy Levitre (TEN)
Center: Eric Wood, BUF (+5.3)
Joining his right guard on this team with a big day. Wood got this grade despite being flagged for two penalties such was his impact throughout the game.
Honorable Mention: Nick Mangold (NYJ)
Each week we put forward a hybrid defense that features two edge rushers (4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers), three players on the “interior” of the defensive line (defensive tackles or 3-4 defensive ends) and two linebackers (all inside linebackers and 4-3 outside linebackers).
Defensive Interior – Ends: Pat Sims, OAK (+7.2) and Kyle Williams, BUF (+5.9)
A monster effort from Sims who ended the day with an astonishing 10 defensive stops. The next most from a defensive interior player this week was five. Williams had four of them himself with two of those coming by way of sacks as he beat up on Sam Brenner.
Honorable Mention: Nick Fairley (DET) and Ndamukong Suh (DET)
Defensive Interior – Nose: Terrance Knighton, DEN (+6.4)
When Knighton is good, he’s very good. The good news for the Broncos is that he’s on top form right now and with their injuries that is much needed.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Mebane (SEA)
Edge Rushers: Greg Hardy, CAR (+5.3) and Robert Quinn, SL (+3.6)
Hardy didn’t get the start, but with 74 snaps saw plenty of action which gave him a long time to work over Terron Armstead. By the end of the day he had nine quarterback disruptions, two more than his partner in crime this week Quinn.
Honorable Mention: Terrell Suggs (BAL) and Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG)
Linebackers: Luke Kuechly, CAR (+5.5) and Jerrell Freeman, IND (+3.8)
No surprises here with the selection of Kuechly who had an astonishing 17 tackles with eight of them going for defensive stops. Joining him Freeman had two big picks as the Colts stunned the Chiefs.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Davis (CAR) and DeAndre Levy (DET)
Cornerbacks: Adam Jones, CIN (+3.5) and Logan Ryan, NE (+3.3)
Jones wasn’t giving Matt Cassel anything, allowing just 3-of-5 balls into his coverage for 20 yards with two pass breaks up. That’s not quite as flashy as the impressive two pick day for Logan Ryan, but just as noteworthy.
Honorable Mention: Nickell Robey (BUF) and Brandon Boykin (PHI)
Safeties: Eric Weddle, SD (+4.4) and Marcus Gilchrist, SD (+4.2)
A tandem that worked very effectively against the Raiders. Weddle had a nice pick, while Gilchrist was active with three defensive stops. If that wasn’t enough, the two added six quarterback disruptions as they made life hard for Matt McGloin.
Honorable Mention: Glover Quin (DET) and Antonio Allen (NYJ)
Kicker, Josh Brown, NYG: Three from three including one over 50 and a game-winner. Nicely done.
Punter, Sam Martin, DET: Topped our punt grades this week on his six efforts.
Returner, Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN: More kick returning goodness from the explosive rookie.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled