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 17.
(Note: Team will be updated after Wednesday when All-22 footage helps us study plays in even more detail where needed with an asterisk noting any change.)
Quarterback: Drew Brees, NO (+4.5)
That’s how you want to go into the playoffs. Brees was at his surgical best in completing 24-of-31 and compiling a 157.4 QB rating. That’s never bad.
Honorable Mention: Mike Glennon (TB)
Running Back: LeGarrette Blount, NE (+3.0)
The big-bodied former Buc got his heaviest workload as a Patriot and responded in emphatic fashion. Bills defends were taken for a ride to the tune of 193 yards and two touchdowns.
Honorable Mention: Lamar Miller (MIA)
Full Back: John Conner, NYG (+1.9)
The Giants may not have room on their roster for Conner but he’s done his chances of latching on with another team next year no harm with displays like this.
Honorable Mention: Rhett Ellison (MIN)
Tight End: Jason Witten, DAL (+3.2)
Outside of one drop did all he could to carry Kyle Orton and the Cowboys into the playoffs. It wasn’t enough but he still deserves credit for his effort.
Honorable Mention: Brent Celek (PHI)
Wide Receivers: Jordy Nelson, GB (+6.1) and Golden Tate, SEA (+3.8)
A massive day for Nelson who hit top form with Aaron Rodgers back in town. Catching 10-of-15 targets with just one drop and forcing five missed tackles, is a good way to 161 yards on the board. Tate was no less spectacular as he continued to shove the Rams trash talk back from whence it came. He forced five missed tackles of his own while picking up 129 yards.
Honorable Mention: Jerrel Jernigan (NYG) and T.Y. Hilton (NYG)
Tackles: Tyron Smith, DAL (+5.5) and Justin Pugh, NYG (+5.4)
It was a good week for a number of tackles which made getting a spot on this team extremely hard. Smith earned the highest grade thanks to a near flawless display despite the best efforts of Trent Cole. On the right side rookie Pugh has got better as the season has gone on which bodes extremely well for that rebuilding Giants line.
Honorable Mention: Jason Peters (PHI) and D.J. Fluker (SD)
Guards: Andrew Whitworth, CIN (+4.6) and Mackenzy Bernadeau, DAL (+3.9)
It’s not easy switching positions midseason, but Whitworth is making look so. This was another accomplished display from the tackle filling in at guard, proving the ultimate (and productive) team player. There was less competition for a spot on the right side but Bernadeau, who has quietly played pretty well this year, had himself another solid outing.
Honorable Mention: Travelle Wharton (CIN) and David DeCastro (PIT)
Center: Jason Kelce, PHI (+4.6)
A lot is made about the size of Kelce, but he didn’t have many problems getting movement at the point of attack against the Cowboys this week.
Honorable Mention: Dominic Raiola (DET)
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 (3-4 defensive ends or defensive tackles and two linebackers (all inside linebackers and 4-3 outside linebackers).
Defensive Interior – Ends: J.J. Watt, HOU (+9.6) and Allen Bailey, KC (+4.1)
It’s fitting that Watt would end the season playing so well. Sure nobody seems to have noticed it, but it’s been another remarkable year from a truly remarkable player. In an audition of sorts, Bailey took full advantage of the Chiefs resting their starters to make a big case for an expanded role going forward.
Honorable Mention: Billy Winn (CLV) and Pat Sims (OAK)
Defensive Interior – Nose: Brandon Mebane, SEA (+6.9)
This was about as good as it gets for Mebane. The prototypical crooked nose, he made his usual noise in the run game and added five quarterback disruptions. A true force.
Honorable Mention: Marcell Dareus (BUF)
Edge Rushers: Greg Hardy, CAR (+5.8) and Robert Mathis, IND (+5.5)
Hardy is heading into the postseason on the back of some tremendous work. This was his second +5.8 grade in a row, building on his nine quarterback disruptions from last week with 11 this. For Mathis, he capped the perfect regular season, with the shadow of Dwight Freeney well and truly lifted.
Honorable Mention: Robert Quinn (SL) and Derrick Morgan (TEN)
Linebackers: Bobby Wagner, SEA (+4.9) and NaVorro Bowman, SF (+3.7)
After his superb rookie year Wagner hasn’t quite reached those heights in 2013. But this was a glimpse of what he still has in him with an action back display against the run. As for Bowman, he’s finished the season incredibly strongly, adding four more defensive stops this week.
Honorable Mention: Jerrell Freeman (IND) and Curtis Lofton (NO)
Cornerbacks: Trumaine McBride, NYG (+5.4) and Dee Milliner, NYJ (+5.2)
In a poor year for the Giants McBride has been a real bright spot. His two pick, four pass break up day against the Redskins highlighted that. Over on the green side of New York they’ll be encouraged by the late season play of first round pick Milliner who has really upped his game after a slow start.
Honorable Mention: David Amerson (WAS) and Desmond Trufant (ATL)
Safeties: Brandon Meriweather, WAS (+3.8) and Eric Reid, SF (+3.0)
Do the 49ers miss Dashon Goldson? The answer is no and it’s because of how well Reid has played as a rookie. Meriweather has earned a lot of negative press this year but he’s got talent and can make an impact on a game like he did versus the Giants.
Honorable Mention: Eric Weddle (SD) and Michael Griffin (TEN)
Kicker, Rob Bironas, TEN: Went a healthy 3-from-3 including one from over 50.
Punter, Sam Martin, DET: The rookie ends a fine first year in Detroit with a fine performance.
Returner, LeGarrette Blount, NE: Not a big week for returners, but Blount picked up 145 yards on his two returns.
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