Best players at every position from Week 14
There were some big box score performances on Sunday, as the yards flowed for quarterbacks and the sacks flowed for pass rushers. But going beyond that, who would the tape determine worthy of a place on the PFF Team of the Week?
Let’s find out.
Quarterback: Cam Newton, Panthers (+5.7)
There’d be no arguments with Russell Wilson here, with both he and Newton practically flawless as they tore their oppositions apart.
Running Back: Todd Gurley, Rams (+2.6)
This is more like it from Gurley, who found his spark this week and promptly used just 31 snaps and 16 rushes to put a world of pain on the Lions. When he’s good, he’s very good.
Fullback: Michael Burton, Lions (+2.0)
The rookie Burton was excellent at Rutgers, and has a made nice adjustment to the NFL. Even in a demoralizing Lions’ loss, he still looked good.
Tight end: Zach Miller, Bears (+3.6)
Some strong competition this week at TE, with Miller edging the likes of Gary Barnidge, Jordan Reed, and Ben Watson. His strong run blocking was the difference, but his work after the catch the star, with four forced missed tackles.
Wide receivers: A.J. Green, Bengals (+2.5) and Alshon Jeffery, Bears (+2.4)
Both our receivers this week caught touchdowns and surpassed the 100-yard mark (and not for the first time this season). That’s all the more impressive for Green, who had to work without his starting quarterback for most of the game.
Tackles: Joe Staley, 49ers (+4.8) and Joe Barksdale, Chargers (+3.0)
While Staley allowed a couple of pressures, he was so good in the run game that nobody came close to his grade. As for Barksdale, it’s easy to overlook his performance when the rest of his line is constantly getting beaten, but he continued his largely impressive year against the Chiefs.
Guards: Shaq Mason, Patriots (+4.1) and Kevin Zeitler, Bengals (+5.7)
While Mason did allow a sack, it was comfortably his best effort of the year, as he played every down and showcased a pedigree that belies his “project” tag. One of the lesser-referenced components of the Bengals’ excellent season, Zeitler has graded positively in every game bar the season opener now, with this his best effort yet.
Center: Joe Berger, Vikings (+3.8)
This isn’t the first time that we’ve written about Berger, who is no longer just looking like an able fill in for John Sullivan, but a contender for end of season awards.
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: Aaron Donald, Rams (+6.9), and Kawann Short, Panthers (+6.7)
Another appearance for Donald, who had three sacks, three further hits, and another hurry, as he continues to make his case for Defensive Player of the Year. Short might not be at that level (yet), but with two sacks and two forced fumbles, he’s already something of a playmaker.
Defensive interior – Nose: Dontari Poe, Chiefs (+5.1)
Nice work on the nose by Poe, who showed how good he is on every down with a seven-hurry performance.
Edge rushers: Khalil Mack, Raiders (+14.3) and Mario Edwards Jr., Raiders (+6.2)
This all-Oakland duo tells you both how good the Raiders can be, and how bad the Broncos are on the line right now. Mack was the star of the show, with a five-sack performance that was as good as the numbers make it sound. But credit to the rookie Edwards Jr.; he may have disappointed in his final year at Florida State a little, but he’s become a big player for the Raiders straight away.
Linebackers: Thomas Davis, Panthers (+4.6) and Telvin Smith, Jaguars (+3.8)
Fantastic effort from Davis, who did most of his damage in the passing game. There he forced a fumble, beat a tackle for a hit, and then destroyed a back for a sack. Smith was better in coverage, where he allowed just 1 yard into his coverage on six throws.
Cornerbacks: Trumaine Johnson, Rams (+5.2) and Ronald Darby, Bills (+4.1)
We were starting to worry if Darby had hit a rookie wall, but he was back to his best as he allowed just three-of-seven balls into his coverage to be completed, breaking up two for good measure. Johnson had one of the plays of the day with his patient pick-six, continuing his much improved season.
Safeties: Anthony Harris, Vikings (+4.1) and Kurt Coleman, Panthers (+3.1)
Coleman had another pick (it will become a story when he stops intercepting balls) and also brought his sure tackling to the Panthers’ defense. Meanwhile, on Thursday night, Harris made a big impression against the run to earn the highest safety grade of the week.
Kicker: Chris Boswell, Steelers
Not a big week for kickers, but Boswell was perfect on the day.
Punter: Pat McAfee, Colts
The plus side to the Colts’ struggle is more punts for McAfee. Granted, that’s not much of a plus point for Indy fans, but it is for fans of fine punting.
Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings
Patterson continued to look dangerous on kick returns, even against a strong Cardinals’ special teams unit.