In amongst another win for the Broncos, an offensive explosion in New Orleans and another letdown in Philadelphia, there were some truly fine performances that should have captured the headlines. So we’re going to do what we always do and give those players the ink they deserve with our Week 12 Team of the Week.
For this installment you get even more reason why the choices for MVP and Rookie of the Year should be unanimous selections, plenty of Texans on defense and a group of offensive linemen who didn’t give up any pressure at all. Let’s get to it.
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, GB (+7.5)
Even when Rodgers is seemingly not playing his best, he’s still playing better than everyone else. That’s the level he’s at now, where an overthrow here or a three-and-out there makes us think he’s lost it. We simply expect him to be flawless.
Running Back: Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX (+3.5)
You take MJD out of the Jaguars’ offense and what do you have? A mess. The Jaguars feature back picked up 3.9 yards per attempt after contact as he tried to carry them to victory, while adding 77 yards after the catch. He’s proof there’s only so much one man can do.
Fullback: Moran Norris, SF (+1.6)
Sure Marcel Reece did some damage as a receiver, but I want my fullbacks to be punishing blockers. That’s exactly what Norris was as he returned to the starting lineup for the 49ers.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, NE (+4.6)
The new benchmark for what a complete TE should be? Other TEs had more yardage (Jermaine Gresham), receptions (Tony Gonzalez) or touchdowns (Dustin Keller). Some even had all three (Jimmy Graham), but none of them blocked like Gronkowski. A truly complete display.
Wide Receivers: Roddy White, ATL (+4.2) and Percy Harvin, MIN (+2.2)
It bodes well for Falcon fans that White and Matt Ryan seem be hitting the kind of form that guided Atlanta to the playoffs in 2010. On the other side of the field, Harvin did his best to keep Minnesota from losing again; causing problems whenever he got the ball in space, or was left one on one with a linebacker.
Tackles: Trent Williams, WAS (+5.3) and Tyson Clabo, ATL (+2.6)
It’s been coming if you ask those around Washington, as Williams has ironed-out a lot of those rookie struggles. This was a real coming out party, holding Chris Clemons pressure-less and flinging about Seattle defenders in the run game. Clabo was nowhere near as impressive, but kept his quarterback upright with a perfect day in protection and graded positively in the run game.
Guards: Daryn Colledge, ARZ (+6.7) and Paul McQuistan, SEA (+4.2)
Beanie Wells got all the headlines but the star of the game for the football purist was Colledge as the Cardinals beat the Rams. After a disappointing first year, this was the first indication Cards fans got he could be worth the money. McQuistan may be starting due to injury but he’s going to earn himself a gig somewhere if he continues to play like this. Perfect in pass pro and doing a good job in the run game? That will do nicely.
Center: Nick Mangold, NYJ (+2.5)
Motivated by a horrible display against the Broncos, Mangold gave up no pressure and won his battles at the line of scrimmage. Exactly what we’ve come to expect from him.
4-3 Defensive Front
Defensive Ends: Julius Peppers, CHI (+7.7) and Elvis Dumervil, DEN (+4.2)
Strong competition this week with both Will Smith and Terrell Suggs unlucky not to make this team. That said, Dumervil picked up three sacks and four more hurries in a sign he’s coming back and Peppers … well, Peppers was marvelous. A week after Jared Veldheer won his matchup with Jared Allen, he was completely dominated by the former Panther. The two sacks and six hurries don’t tell the whole story.
Defensive Tackle: Ahtyba Rubin, CLE (+6.2) and Brodrick Bunkley, DEN (+4.7)
I’ve written once already this week about loving the big guys who don’t get the kind of attention they deserve, so these picks give me great pleasure. Rubin beat up on both Bengals guards, while Bunkley continues to manhandle whoever lines up over him. The Bronco is becoming a real force in his contract year and someone needs to be paying attention to that.
Linebackers: Von Miller, DEN (+8.0), Rolando McClain, OAK (+3.9) and Sean Weatherspoon, ATL (+4.1)
I’m going to have to start inventing words to describe the continued excellence of Miller. He just keeps making plays and is now a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. It’s gone largely unnoticed how well Sean Weatherspoon is playing for Atlanta after a disappointing rookie year. He picked-up six defensive stops, with a number of them getting the Vikings off the field (including one on fourth down). If McClain could face Caleb Hanie every week we might be seeing his name on this team more often. A cure for his at times questionable play in coverage.
3-4 Defensive Front
Defensive Line: J.J. Watt, HOU (+4.1), Shaun Cody, HOU (+3.6) and Darnell Dockett, ARZ (+3.3)
When you pick up two sacks, two hits and three hurries (and a batted pass), you’ve got a good chance of making this team. That’s what Watt did, and that’s why he’s here. Dockett beats out his Cardinal teammate Calais Campbell after picking up five QB disruptions and adding two defensive stops in the run game. He may not always be consistent, but when he’s on, he’s hard to stop. That’s the best Shaun Cody has looked since becoming a Texan, let alone while playing in their 3-4.
Outside Linebackers: Connor Barwin, HOU (+5.9) and Justin Houston, KC (+4.6)
Houston only picked up one pressure (he had two others negated be penalties) but made plays in every phase of the game in his best performance as a pro. Barwin’s stats tell their own story, picking up four hits and six more hurries as he also had his best game. Always good to see.
Inside Linebackers: Takeo Spikes, SD (+4.1) and Daryl Washington, ARZ (+3.8)
He isn’t getting any younger and he even missed a tackle, but Takeo Spikes can still go. His work in run defense continues to be stellar. Washington is at the other end of his career while it was his work in coverage (three receptions allowed for 20 yards with one pass deflection on five thrown ats) that earned him a spot on this team.
Cornerbacks: Lardarius Webb, BLT (+3.9) and Aqib Talib, TB (+3.6)
There aren’t many cornerbacks in the league playing better than Webb right now, and he’s making a strong case for Pro Bowl consideration in a stacked AFC. Adding an interception and pass defensed (along with a sack) to his season stats won’t hurt. Talib picked up a pick six and didn’t allow a single reception. His talent is as undeniable as his character is questionable.
Safeties: Thomas Decoud, ATL (+2.2) and Glover Quin, HOU (+1.8)
Decoud didn’t do much wrong in a quiet week for safeties while Quin had the quite brilliant stats of: thrown at nine times, allowed three catches and 3 yards. Productive.
Ask Will Montgomery what he thinks of Red Bryant who blocked both an extra point and field goal … Kudos to Robbie Gould for two 50+ kicks and some excellent distance on his kickoffs … Shane Lechler didn’t give the Bears much of a chance of doing anything on special teams, including one 80-yard punt … Patrick Peterson had another PR TD, but the consistency of Jacoby Jones in a tight game was just as impressive.