Best players at every position in Week 16
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 roster?
Let’s find out.
Quarterback: Matt Ryan, Falcons (+5.8)
Those contending for the MVP award took the week off, but Ryan afforded himself no such luxury, with a nearly flawless effort. He completed 23-of-30 pass attempts, but only two of those were off target, with drops and throwaways accounting for five of those incompletions.
Running back: Frank Gore, Colts (+2.7)
Gore rolled back the years, as he averaged 5.7 yards per carry while forcing five missed tackles. The only thing that stopped him from picking up a big day statistically was his number of rushes.
Fullback: Patrick DiMarco, Falcons (+0.9)
Not for the first time this year, DiMarco had the highest run blocking grade of any fullback.
Tight end: Jordan Reed, Redskins (+4.3)
Big day from Reed, who didn’t just post 129 yards and two touchdowns, but did so while blocking well in the run game.
Wide receivers: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans (+4.0) and Julio Jones, Falcons (+4.0)
It should tell you something that Jones made this team even though he dropped one ball and let another get knocked out of his hands. Outside of that, he was unstoppable. Hopkins had another big day, building on an excellent year that bodes very well for the future in Houston.
Tackles: Trent Williams, Redskins (+3.1) and Kyle Long, Bears (+4.9)
Williams got beat for a sack, but little else, as he scored the highest mark of all left tackles. There was more competition on the right side, but Long stood out with some fantastic run blocking.
Guards: Ryan Jensen, Ravens (+7.4) and Cody Wichmann, Rams (+5.2)
Jensen has gone from a liability to a stud by posting two stunning efforts in the past couple of weeks, with his showing against the Steelers truly remarkable. The rookie Wichmann has had some teething issues when he’s played this year, but this was a hugely encouraging display.
Center: Weston Richburg, Giants (+3.3)
It’s been a bad year for fans of the Giants, but console yourselves with the play of Richburg, who looks like he’s the long-term answer at the pivot.
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 (+9.9) and J.J. Watt, Texans (+7.8)
Another display from Donald that suggests he should be Defensive Player of the Year. What a season he is having. Watt edges out Kawann Short on the strength of his pass rushing.
Defensive interior – nose: Ian Williams, 49ers (+5.0)
It’s easy to ignore Williams playing on a 49ers team in turmoil, but his play the last five weeks has been stunningly good. He’s taken his opportunity this year with both hands.
Edge rushers: Khalil Mack, Raiders (+6.5) and William Hayes, Rams (+6.4)
Mack was back to his best with the kind of complete game we’ve become accustomed to seeing out of him. Hayes may just be a fill-in, but the veteran has had a very nice year, and he really took it to the Seahawks’ line with nine quarterback disruptions.
Linebackers: Sean Lee, Cowboys (+4.8) and Deone Bucannon, Cardinals (+2.9)
Big day for Lee, who logged double-digit tackles and earned positive marks in all facets of his play on defense. Bucannon isn’t your conventional linebacker, but his speed and aggressiveness shines through, and no more so than against Green Bay, where he earned his best grade of the year.
Cornerbacks: Delvin Breaux, Saints (+4.9) and Vontae Davis, Colts (+3.6)
What a year from Breaux. It’s amazing in a lot of ways that he’s even playing football, but also that he’s doing it at such a high level. He was thrown at eight times by the Jags, and allowed two completions for 4 yards, while picking off one ball and deflecting another two. Davis enjoyed his outing against his former team, picking off one ball and allowing just 7 yards into his coverage.
Safeties: Harrison Smith, Vikings (+3.6) and Harold Jones-Quartey, Bears (+3.3)
An eventful day for HJQ, who was beaten for a touchdown, but had a fantastic pick of his own in a strong effort. Smith returned to the Vikings’ lineup to notch a pick-six, and was as fearsome as usual against the run.
Kicker: Robbie Gould, Bears
Perfect on the day with one from over 50 yards.
Punter: Brett Kern, Titans
Two Team of the Week appearances in a row for Kern, who is having himself a nice year.
Returner: Taiwan Jones, Raiders
Not a big week for returns, but Jones did some damage on kickoffs.