PFF All-Star Team: 3rd Quarter
Four weeks have passed since we announced our mid-season All-Pro team, Thanksgiving has been and gone and that means it’s time for us to put out our All-Star team for the third quarter of the season.
Using the same format as our All-Star Team of the Week and All-Pro teams here’s our tip of the cap to the players who have put themselves and their team in position for a special end of the season over Weeks 10 to 13.
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, GB (+17.1)
A spectacular string of games for Rodgers as his weakest performance of the month was in Minnesota with just a pair of touchdown passes and no interceptions. He had a nearly perfect 149.3 passer rating off of play action, going 20 of 24 for 248 yards and three touchdowns for November.
Honorable Mention: Drew Brees, NO
Running Back: C.J. Anderson, DEN (+15.3)
Anderson took full advantage of injuries ahead of him on the Broncos’ depth chart in a month that saw him carry the load for the Denver offense. No back played more than his 250 snaps in November. The touchdowns and passing game may have stayed with Manning but Anderson was the engine driving the Broncos’ offense this month.
Honorable Mention: Marshawn Lynch, SEA
Fullback: Ryan Hewitt, CIN (+4.7)
About 40% of Hewitt’s snaps have come in the last three weeks and his quality showings as a lead blocker against New Orleans (+2.3) and Tampa Bay (+2.9) propels him ahead of the ever-present Anthony Sherman this month.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Sherman, KC
Tight End: Brent Celek, PHI (+7.4)
His biggest receiving game of the season came at home to the Panthers and kickstarted his month. Even though he only had seven catches for 66 yards in the following three games, his work as a blocker didn’t diminish for the surging Eagles offense.
Honorable Mention: Rob Gronkowski, NE
Wide Receivers: Odell Beckham Jr., NYG (+7.1) and Dez Bryant, DAL (+7.8)
His rookie season will be remembered for that catch of lore. Even without that snag this was a terrific month for Beckham who is proving to be the shining light in a largely disappointing season for the Giants. He is joined by Bryant who ensured that Beckham’s efforts in Week 12 were part of a losing effort and lit up Wembley stadium for a pair of touchdowns against the Jaguars in Week 10 as well.
Honorable Mention: DeAndre Hopkins, HST and Emmanuel Sanders, DEN
Tackles: Joe Staley, SF (+10.8) and Lane Johnson, PHI (+7.1)
After an inconsistent start to the season Staley rediscovered his best form in the last month surrendering only four pressures (1 Ht, 3 Hu) and producing a series of punishing displays as a run blocker. Opposite him, Lane Johnson has provided the sure pass protection that the Eagles struggled for at right tackle during his suspension early in the season.
Honorable Mention: Jason Peters, PHI and Sebastian Vollmer, NE
Guards: Evan Mathis, PHI (+12.1) and Marshal Yanda, BLT (+11.1)
After missing almost all of the first 10 weeks of the season, Mathis has slipped seamlessly back into the Eagles’ lineup and his best form. Mathis is still dominant as a run blocker and expect him to keep rising through the rankings in the final four weeks of the season. However, that top ranking will be out of reach with Marshal Yanda showing no signs of slowing up as his three games this month extended his record to 17 straight games with a positive grade.
Honorable Mention: Joel Bitonio, CLV and John Greco, CLV
Center: Nick Mangold, NYJ (+7.8)
Completing a powerful interior trio, Mangold graded positively in every game this month as a run blocker including a destructive display as the anchor for the Jets’ 277-yard rushing effort on Monday night. Adding to that power is the fact that Mangold also didn’t surrender a pressure in his three starts, with only five (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 3 Hu) having been surrendered all season.
Honorable Mention: Jeremy Zuttah, BLT
Defensive Interior – Ends: J.J. Watt, HST (+21.4) and Fletcher Cox, PHI (+17.4)
Sam Monson has more to say about Watt who is now adding offensive production to his defensive efforts. That this kind of performance is now becoming what you expect from Watt is incredible. Alongside him this month is Cox who produced the best four game spell of his career which included tying Watt for the most pressures (19 total with 3 Sk, 16 Hu) by a 3-4 defensive end.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Donald, SL and Ndamukong Suh, DET
Defensive Interior – Nose: Terrance Knighton, DEN (+9.1)
It was around this time last year that Knighton came alive with a spectacular run through to the end of the season. After a solid start to 2014 it would seem that he is preparing to repeat that run. He has converted four of his five pressures into a hit or sack and picked up six stops in run defense on only 56 run defense snaps in three games.
Honorable Mention: Marcell Dareus, BUF
Edge Rushers: Von Miller, DEN (+19.4) and Mario Williams, BUF (+12.5)
This was Miller’s best four-week spell of the season to date in terms of grade as he continues to be the driving disruptive force in the Broncos’ defense; almost as much of an expected selection in these teams as Watt at this stage. Opposite him on the team is Williams, one of only three edge rushers to top Miller’s 20 total pressures this month. Williams’ 23 pressures (7 Sk, 2 Ht, 14 Hu) on 121 pass rushes saw him finish the month with the highest Pass Rushing Productivity rating (15.7) for any 4-3 defensive end.
Honorable Mention: Ezekiel Ansah, DET and Justin Houston, KC
Linebackers: Chris Borland, SF (+12.4) and Luke Kuechly, CAR (+8.6)
No. 1 (27 for Borland) and No. 2 (22 for Kuechly) in terms of stops for linebackers this month in spite of both being nowhere near the top of the playing time charts for the last four weeks. Borland has drawn comparisons to Kuechly since he’s entered the lineup and with his ability to be around the ball-carrier close to the line of scrimmage, it’s easy to see why. Kuechly added some pass rushing to his game this month with his six total pressures (2 Sk, 1 Ht, 3 Hu), the most among inside linebackers on only 14 pass rushes.
Honorable Mention: Nigel Bradham, BUF and Dont’a Hightower, NE
Cornerbacks: Darrelle Revis, NE (+11.2) and Xavier Rhodes, MIN (+7.5)
For the month these two have allowed a combined 11 catches on 40 targets for 140 yards and one touchdown with nine pass defenses and an interception. Revis graded +2.1 or above in coverage in his three games, each against prolific passing attacks. Rhodes meanwhile, surrendered a Passer Rating of just 15.1 for the month including shutting out the Panthers on seven targets with three pass defenses this Sunday.
Honorable Mention: Chris Harris Jr., DEN and Desmond Trufant, ATL
Safeties: T.J. McDonald, SL (+11.1) and Antoine Bethea, SF (+5.0)
The Rams laid down a marker earlier this month with their suffocating defeat of the Broncos and T.J. McDonald has been on fire ever since the team acquired Mark Barron from the Buccaneers. His 13 stops were second only to Ryan Mundy this month while also breaking up three passes. Staying in the NFC West, Bethea’s performances this month have put that one down display against the Broncos well behind him with his steady play proving to be a seamless replacement for Donte Whitner.
Honorable Mention: Kam Chancellor, SEA and George Iloka, CIN
Kicker: Matt Bryant, ATL: A perfect 14-for-14 by Bryant this month including 6-for-6 beyond 40 yards.
Honorable Mention: Phil Dawson, SF
Punter: Sam Martin, DET: Launched a punt with at least 5.0 seconds of hang-time in three of four games this month.
Honorable Mention: Johnny Hekker, SL
Returner: Josh Cribbs, IND: It says something for the importance of returners these days when one the caliber of Cribbs can be picked up off the street after Week 11.
Honorable Mention: Adam Jones, CIN
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