PFF All-Postseason Team, 2008-2013
When you get to the postseason it is the best against the best. The level of competition is at its highest levels and it becomes a heck of a lot harder for players to deliver knockout performance after knockout performance.
Which is what made the play of Seattle safety Kam Chancellor just so memorable, and in turn what inspired us to look back at some of the most remarkable postseason runs we’ve seen in our six years of grading. The only catch being that a player had to be featured in at least three games.
What better way to present it than to make a team out of them? So, here they are… the best individual playoff seasons we’ve seen:
Quarterback: Eli Manning, 2011 (+20.6)
It had to be something special to beat out the 2010 year of Aaron Rodgers and boy was it. Manning did the unthinkable in overcoming ridiculous amounts of pressure to push his team to the big game where his Giants would win it all.
Running Back: Frank Gore, 2012 (+7.3)
The 49ers would ultimately fall short in the Super Bowl but the efforts of Gore should not be undersold. He averaged 5.1 yards a pop and was his usual stoic self in pass protection.
Fullback: Terrelle Smith, 2008 (+4.9)
Narrowly edging out both Bruce Miller (2012) and Henry Hynoski (2011), Smith only had 80 snaps to work with as Arizona made it to the Super Bowl, but that owed a lot to the fear of using him against the Steelers’ dominant defense. He did manage to grade out positively in all four postseason games.
Tight End: Vernon Davis, 2012 (+11.2)
A special nod to Heath Miller who, in 2008 and 2010, delivered the kind of play that has him in the second and third spots in this list. Still, neither year was as good as that of Davis who always saves his best for the knockout phase of the NFL calendar. He earned 254 yards and provided some fine blocking and is a truly rare athlete.
Wide Receivers: Larry Fitzgerald, 2008 (+13.0) and Hakeem Nicks, 2011 (+7.6)
When you see the gap between Fitzgerald and Nicks you see just how good Fitzgerald was in pulling the Cardinals to the promised land. It was a remarkable effort that saw him average over 111 yards in four games, including a herculean effort in the Super Bowl. Nicks has fallen on hard times with injuries, but if you think he has the talent he displayed in 2011, then you make him an offer he can’t refuse in free agency.
Tackles: Joe Staley, 2012 (+6.4) and Anthony Davis, 2012 (+7.4)
A number of guys missed out on not playing in enough games, but credit to the 49ers duo that were at the peak of their powers in 2012. They gave up just two sacks between them and seven total hurries while adding their customary strong run blocking.
Guards: Alan Faneca, 2009 (+5.7) and Josh Sitton, 2010 (+11.8)
It’s been the right guards that have dominated in the postseason. Sitton had to hold off strong competition from both Jahri Evans (+10.1 in 2009) and Marshal Yanda (+7.0 in 2012) to earn this spot. In comparison, life was a lot easier for Faneca who always did save his best for the big games.
Center: Matt Birk, 2012 (+9.5)
Can you end a career better than this? He didn’t put up boxscore stats, but Birk just played his heart out and walked into the sunset with a memorable stretch of play that was pivotal in the Ravens becoming Super Bowl champs.
As usual in these efforts, 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: Justin Smith, 2011 (+12.0) and Terrance Knighton, 2013 (+9.5)
It’s become fashionable to bow at the feet of the brilliance that is Justin Smith, but it really wasn’t commonplace until his attention-grabbing, offensive line bullying that went down in 2011. He’d always been that player in San Francisco, but it was impressive to see him do it with all eyes turned on him. Knighton had a quiet Super Bowl by his standards but his play before that was anything but. A true impact player.
Defensive Interior – Nose: B.J. Raji, 2010 (+8.7)
This player still lurks inside. Whether it is what the scheme is asking of him or just a loss of form, Raji has nosedived since his incredible postseason where he stole the show on the Packers’ defense.
Edge Rushers: Michael Bennett, 2013 (+11.5) and Lamarr Woodley, 2011 (+11.6)
Bennett can play on the edge or kick inside, but whatever is asked of him the answer is rarely different than an offensive lineman getting his backside handed to him. It might be 12 months later than it should have been but his payday is coming. Woodley, who also starred in 2008, was a terror for the Steelers and it’s no surprise their downturn in fortunes have coincided with his.
Linebackers: Ray Lewis, 2008 (+9.0) and Patrick Willis, 2012 (+7.5)
He might not have been the man of the media as he would be in 2012, but Lewis was much better with some sublime play in our first year of grading. The 2012 season of Willis narrowly made it in, just edging out the 2013 season of Willis by 0.1 grading point. There’s a reason he is the best linebacker in the game.
Cornerbacks: Tramon Williams, 2010 (+4.9) and Jabari Greer, 2009 (+4.9)
Focusing more so on the coverage aspect of corner play, these two edged out Richard Sherman from this year as well as a couple of vintage seasons from Darrelle Revis. Williams went big-play mad as the Pack won the Super Bowl, picking off three balls and deflecting three more as teams tried and failed to beat him. Greer didn’t have any picks but despite being thrown at 16 times allowed just 57 yards into his coverage all postseason.
Safeties: Kam Chancellor, 2013 (+12.6) and Ed Reed, 2011 (+8.3)
It might be fair to say this was the last we saw of Reed at his brilliant best. One interception and five pass break ups from the elite safety with the incredible range. As for Chancellor he might be only one of two Seahawks to make this team from 2013 but that says a lot about how consistently good they were and none more so than him. Generally speaking, safeties just don’t make the number of plays Chancellor did, ending the postseason with 10 defensive stops, two picks and three more pass breakups.
Kicker: Garrett Hartley, 2009 (+3.5)
There’s a reason Sean Payton kept faith in him for so long.
Punter: Steve Weatherford, 2011 (+7.3)
An underrated weapon in the Giants field position based attack.
Returner: Antonio Brown, 2010 (+3.0)
Chiefly did his damage on kick returns.
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