Best players at every position in Week 15
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 in the PFF Team of the Week?
Let’s find out.
Quarterback: Carson Palmer, Cardinals (+6.7)
It’s been a career year for Carson Palmer, a player whom many wondered if he had a career left after another serious knee injury in 2014. Palmer was fantastic once again, overcoming three dropped passes in an efficient display that challenged the Eagles all game long.
Running back: David Johnson, Cardinals (+3.9)
Featuring one highlight reel run and a series of other impressive efforts, Johnson’s increased workload has added an element to the Cardinals’ offense. How scared do you think the rest of the league is at that prospect?
Fullback: Jerome Felton, Bills (+2.0)
Felton hasn’t had his best year in Buffalo, but made each one of his 12 snaps count in Week 15.
Tight end: Darren Fells, Cardinals (+5.1)
Not a name you’d usually see on this team, but Fells is well worth his spot. Not just because of his three catches for 54 yards, but because his blocking was really on point.
Wide receivers: Antonio Brown, Steelers (+4.9) and Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos (+4.6)
To do what Brown did against one of the best cornerbacks in the league is simply remarkable: 189 yards and two touchdowns for the best receiver in football. On the opposite side of the field, Sanders had a nice game against his old team, with 181 yards of his own.
Tackles: David Bakhtiari, Packers (+4.3) and Doug Free, Cowboys (+3.5)
That’s much better from Bakhtiari, who has had an uneven 2015, but looks to be hitting his stride at a crucial time of the year. Free might have less to play for, but he’s reminding everyone he’s got some gas left in his tank.
Guards: Justin Pugh, Giants (+3.9) and Brandon Brooks, Texans (+5.5)
A monster run-blocking day from Brooks; when he gets it right, he’s a guard that can generate some real movement. Credit to Pugh, who was a big part of why Kawann Short had one of his quietest days of the year.
Center: Eric Wood, Bills (+5.3)
Superb from Wood. He’s having the best year of his career, and efforts like this will push him into the All-Pro conversation.
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: Ndamukong Suh, Dolphins (+8.4) and Aaron Donald, Rams (+7.6)
It might not fit the narrative, but Suh is continuing his excellent year against the Chargers much-maligned offensive line. Donald has made this team so much that it’s starting to get boring writing about him. Is there a better defensive player in football right now?
Defensive Interior – nose: Ian Williams, 49ers (+5.3)
A big effort from Williams, who anchored a 49ers’ defensive that was all over the Bengals’ running game. He ended the day with a massive five defensive stops against the run.
Edge rushers: Olivier Vernon, Dolphins (+12.7) and Melvin Ingram, Chargers (+8.7)
For those who decided that the Dolphins-Chargers game was their viewing choice on Sunday afternoon, you were treated to some fantastic edge rushing. Vernon ended the day with 11 quarterback disruptions, while Ingram himself had three sacks and three hits on the quarterback.
Linebackers: NaVorro Bowman, 49ers (+5.8) and Vontaze Burfict, Bengals (+4.7)
How good was it to see Bowman back to his very best? He was a force against the run, and while it’s been a long road to reach his elite levels of play, it looks like he’s there. From the same game, Burfict had a more rounded day, making a couple of big plays in coverage that show how important he is to the Cincinnati defense.
Cornerbacks: Malcolm Butler, Patriots (+4.2) and Tyrann Mathieu, Cardinals (+3.9)
Okay, so Mathieu is a hybrid back, but he spent most of his day in the slot, where he was fantastic, picking up an interception and closing on Eagles’ routes designed to get yards after the catch with speed and aggression. Butler was targeted five times, but allowed just two receptions for 12 yards while having a pick of his own.
Safeties: Mike Adams, Colts (+3.6) and Mike Mitchell, Steelers (+3.0)
A nice mix here, with Adams doing his best work against the run, while Mitchell was all over the field with strong marks in coverage and run defense.
Kicker: Connor Barth, Buccaneers
Perfect on a day that was anything but for his Bucs.
Punter: Brett Kern, Titans
Kern edges out Pat McAfee with some well-placed balls.
Returner: Benny Cunningham, Rams
Cunningham changed field position, even if he didn’t quite have it in him to get into the end zone.