10 best players from Sunday's Week 17 NFL action
Every Tuesday, PFF will be releasing its Team of the Week, representing the highest-graded players at each NFL position for that week. But Senior Analyst Sam Monson gets a jump on that by picking out the 10 most impressive individual performances from Sunday’s games.
Here are the 10 best players from Sunday’s Week 17 action:
1. Brent Grimes, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You’re not going to find a more dominant display from a cornerback than Brent Grimes in the Bucs’ win against Carolina. From the get-go he was flying up and making plays on underneath routes, jumping in front of receivers or making tackles for little to no gain. Rather than stop testing him, the Panthers then started trying to catch him with double moves, and every time they tried that, he broke the pass up. In six targets, Grimes allowed just three yards, broke up three passes and picked one off, taking it back for a touchdown for six decisive defensive points.
2. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Sometimes raw numbers do a pretty good job of representing a QB’s performance, and that’s the case for Matt Ryan this week. He completed 75 percent of his passes, for 331 yards (9.2 per attempt), threw four scores and was not intercepted for a passer rating of 139.9. When kept clean, that passer rating was 143.2, meaning when he was pressured it was still an excellent 97.4. Ryan has been great this season leading the league’s best offense, and this win over the Saints to earn Atlanta a first-round playoff bye was another fine outing.
3. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
Thomas was outstanding as a rookie for the Saints this season, and this was his best game of the season. He was thrown at 14 times, catching 10 of those passes for 156 yards. As has been the case all season, he did impressive work after the catch, with 49 of those yards coming with the ball in his hands, breaking three tackles along the way. Thomas also scored a touchdown, and broke the franchise rookie records for catches, receiving yards and touchdowns.
4. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Indianapolis Colts
Castonzo ended a fine season on a high note with a near-flawless outing in the Colts’ win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He allowed just a single hurry across 50 pass-blocking snaps, was not penalized all game, and run blocked well, even if that running game wasn’t a big part of the team’s game plan. This was the fifth game this season in which Castonzo allowed one or fewer total hurries.
5. D.J. Swearinger, S, Arizona Cardinals
With no Tyrann Mathieu in the Cardinals’ win over L.A., Swearinger got to moonlight as the Honey Badger, and he made a huge impact with his impersonation of the Cardinals playmaker. On just five pass-rushing snaps on the blitz, Swearinger notched a sack, a hit and two hurries, but he also led the team in defensive stops (five) and in coverage allowed just three yards on three targets.
6. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears
Chicago may have been comfortably handled by the Vikings this week, but that didn’t stop Howard from capping a fine rookie season with another excellent display on the ground. Howard carried the ball 23 times for 141 yards, with 69 of them coming after contact thanks to some good displays of power and three broken tackles. The longest carry he had all day was just 18 yards, but he averaged 6.1 per carry, and had success no matter what gap along the line he was hitting.
7. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
With no Jordan Matthews in the lineup this week, the Eagles were always going to load up Ertz with targets as the only viable receiving weapon, and he responded with a huge game. Ertz was thrown at 16 times, a season-high, and caught 13 of those passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Ertz gained 73 of his yards after contact and broke two tackles along the way. 13 receptions were a season-high mark as well for him, as was his yardage mark and two scores, and marks just the second time this year he topped 100 yards.
8. Trai Turner, G, Carolina Panthers
Turner may have been expected to do well against Tampa Bay’s defensive front in the run game – and he did – but he also kept a clean sheet from a pass protection standpoint in the face of sustained blitz pressure from the Bucs and an aggressive, attacking front line. Turner didn’t allow a single pressure or penalty over 38 pass-blocking snaps, and the team gained 39 of their rushing yards in the gap either side of Turner’s block over the game.
9. Malik Jackson, DI, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags made Jackson a very rich man in the offseason by acquiring him as a free agent from the Denver Broncos, and while he may not have lived up to that contract, he has been a definite upgrade on the defense, and this was arguably his best game of the season against a weak Indianapolis offensive line. Jackson notched two sacks, a hit and four hurries on Colts QB Andrew Luck on just 33 pass-rushing snaps.
10. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
It’s almost getting too routine, the ease at which Brady is able to just dismantle the opposition this season. In the win against Miami, he completed 75.8 percent of his passes for 276 yards and three scores, ending the game with a passer rating of 130.4. When Miami blitzed him, he had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 and posted 15.7 yards per attempt, scoring all three of his touchdowns against the blitz.