PFF Team of Week 9
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 9.
(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: Tom Brady, NE (+6.1)
It might seem odd that seven-touchdown stud Nick Foles didn’t make the first team, but we always tell you to look beyond the number of touchdowns and yards, instead looking at things more situationally. Both were superb but against a better defense Brady really got his game working, including the downfield stuff.
Honorable Mention: Nick Foles (PHI)
Running Back: Giovani Bernard, CIN (+4.5)
Bernard has made himself a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate and nothing highlighted that quite like his play versus the Dolphins. He only needed nine carries to grab the attention of anyone who wasn’t already aware of him, forcing five missed tackles and scoring two touchdowns (including one of the most eye-popping you’ll see this year).
Honorable Mention: Adrian Peterson (MIN)
Full Back: Collin Mooney, TEN (+3.0)
The Titans “Moonster” full back got the job done, using his 28 snaps to help kick Chris Johnson out of his funk.
Honorable Mention: Erik Lorig (TB)
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, NE (+2.5)
He’s not quite back to his best (as evidenced by his -1.9 blocking grade) but his impact to the Patriots passing attack can’t be measured. Or maybe it can. He caught 9-of-10 balls that were thrown his way with the usual touchdown for good measure.
Honorable Mention: Tony Gonzalez (ATL)
Wide Receivers: Pierre Garcon, WAS (+5.5) and Andre Johnson, HOU (+4.9)
That was some performance from Garcon. It wasn’t just the 172 yards on 32 pass routes, but rather the nature of the catches with three of them being replay worthy at any time of year. As for Johnson he went to work on the Colts’ defensive backs, and the 229 yards and three touchdowns are proof of that.
Honorable Mention: Keenan Allen (SD) and T.Y. Hilton (IND)
Tackles: Jake Long, STL (+3.8) and Lane Johnson, PHI (+3.3)
It’s one of the quiet stories of the season but Jake Long is really getting back to his best in new surroundings. He was perfect in pass protection against a Titans defensive front that has caused many a tackle trouble. On the right side Phil Loadholt was on his way to picking up the top spot until he went down hurt, allowing rookie Johnson a chance to make his first appearance on this list.
Honorable Mention: King Dunlap (SD) and Tyler Polumbus (WAS)
Guards: Matt Slauson, CHI (+5.2) and Brandon Fusco, MIN (+4.2)
While Bears fans might rather see another guard make this list Slauson is continuing to prove one of the value signings of the off season and this was his best performance to date. On the right side it’s good to see Fusco respond from his poor outing against the Packers.
Honorable Mention: Chris Chester (WAS) and Kory Lichtensteiger (WAS)
Center: Ryan Kalil, CAR (+3.4)
The hurry he allowed is never ideal, but his run blocking was on another level. Kalil is starting to find some of the consistency that has many viewing him as one of the top centers in the league.
Honorable Mention: John Sullivan (MIN)
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: J.J. Watt, HOU (+6.5) and Gerald McCoy, TB (+5.6)
Just the usual Sunday for Watt who ended the day with a sack, four quarterback hits, three hurries and a batted pass. Like I say, the usual. Similar case for McCoy who let himself down with a couple of penalties but showed everyone why he’s so highly rated by us (and many others). Two quick-fire hits and four hurries did the job.
Honorable Mention: Antonio Smith (HOU) and Kendall Langford (SL)
Defensive Interior – Nose: Aubrayo Franklin, IND (+2.9)
Two defensive stops in the run game don’t do justice to impact Franklin had against the run, and that cements his spot on the nose in this formation.
Honorable Mention: Brodrick Bunkley (NO)
Edge Rushers: Cameron Wake, MIA (+4.9) and Jarret Johnson, SD (+4.6)
Normally this team is filled with pass rushers, but this week that’s only half the story. That half of the story is obviously Wake who looked on top form after a nagging injury that had sapped him of some of his explosiveness. His game winning play (one of three sacks) suggests we can move on from that. Johnson makes an appearance as he channeled his Ravens days to shut down near enough anything that was run over to his side. Note to teams: don’t leave him blocked one-on-one with a tight end.
Honorable Mention: Chris Long (SL) and Ryan Kerrigan (WAS)
Linebackers: Pat Angerer, IND (+3.8) and Dont’a Hightower, NE (+4.0)
We haven’t always seen the best from Angerer who has battled injuries over the past couple of years, but more outings like this won’t hurt. A pass break up and six defensive stops are just what the doctor ordered. If Hightower, who picked up the slack with Brandon Spikes quiet, can play like this week in and week out then the Patriots will be extremely happy.
Honorable Mention: Bruce Carter (DAL) and Dannell Ellerbe (MIA)
Cornerbacks: Orlando Scandrick, DAL (+3.3) and Joe Haden, CLE (+2.4)
Another test overcome for Haden who was able to go toe-to-toe with Torrey Smith and just give up three receptions with a pick for good measure. The quietly impressive Scandrick got back to business after negatively graded games in his last five with his highest grade of the season. He’s repaying the faith the team is showing in him.
Honorable Mention: Dimitri Patterson (MIA) and Chris Owens (CLE)
Safeties: Mark Barron, TB (+3.2) and Dawan Landry, NYJ (+3.1)
No denying who the stars of the safety class were this week. Barron was a tackling machine and added a pick for good measure. The reliable Landry has been one of the less publicized if not more consistent members of the Jets’ defense.
Honorable Mention: Chris Clemons (MIA) and Earl Wolff (PHI)
Kicker, Nick Folk, NYJ: He lives to kick field goals and he’s enjoying life right now.
Punter: Johnny Hekker, STL: He just keeps booming balls here, there and everywhere.
Returner, Leodis McKelvin, BUF: As good as Golden Tate was (and he was very good) McKelvin broke more than a few ankles with his cutting only for his TD to be called back. It doesn’t change the plays he made.
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