Best players at every position in Week 15

David Johnson, Carson Palmer, Darren Fells, and Tyrann Mathieu highlight our Team of the Week for Week 15.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

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.

  • shaunhan murray

    Uhhh.I’m not comfortable with high grades for Mike Michell.

    • pacodagreat_est

      Yea that guy cant cover lol

      • shaunhan murray

        He is just kindda weird u know? I think he is our best DB but that isnt saying much.

  • Johnathan Sanders

    Cam Newton did something that hadnt been done ever in the history of the nfl

  • Adam

    what was Vikings’ Brian Robison’s grade??… was pretty dominating all day long in destroying the Bears (and Teddy for that matter… only 3 incompletions, 4 td’s plus a rushing score…)

  • Forrest

    You guys should probably take into account outlier performances. Did Ingram play that good… or was it the fact that he was matched up with a mediocre LG who was suddenly thrust into the LT position because of injury? Maybe not for the single game numbers… but definitely for the season grade.

    • Zack23

      I agree, but almost too hard to do. Give up a sack to JJ Watt? -0.5; Give up a sack to idk Bud Dupree? -1.5.

      I think it’s more important to just take numbers overall. Over 16 games it will balance out. Just like a batter in baseball hitting a HR off bad pitches, over 600 at-bats the numbers balance out.

      • crosseyedlemon

        I agree with Zack that there’s a limit to how much you can micro manage the analysis factors. Consider his Watt example – does the -0.5 represent a grade against a healthy Watt or a Watt with his hand in a cast? If you go too deep into variables the grading will eventually become irrelevant.

  • bigtrip

    So 2 Dolphin defenders had 2 of the 3 highest grades. What was the score in that game again??????

    • Cant FixStupid

      11 players made up the defense on the field, not 2. If 2 play fantastic, but the 9 play horrible, you really think the 2 are gonna really change the outcome?? They aren’t.

      • bigtrip

        I really believe that the San Diego OL is so bad that the Dolphins didn’t play as well as the grades indicate and that the Chargers knew there would be pressure on every play, so they adjusted their game plan accordingly, especially playing without their top 2 WRs, but you can’t fix stupid.

  • jeff

    Okay now I’m convinced that either this site doesn’t acknowledge the totality of a quarterback or just completely biased against Cam Newton. 100 yards rushing doesn’t affect his score ? What about 5 passing TDs ? Not to mention the guy who said that Cason Palmer should win the MVP. I understand everyone is entitled to their opinion but to under mind the impact newton has had shows lack of football knowledge and its treating this as if it were a metric sport. Give credit where its due or lose credibility.

    • TJ Smith

      Didn’t Cam Newton won the best QB spot the past 2 weeks. Even over Russell Wilson. Yet somehow PFF has a bias. I’m thinking Russell has went 19 TDs-0 picks like 80% completion without getting the top QB spot.

      Just to note Newton had some bad throws including one that should have been an easy pick 6.

      • JT

        pretty sure 1 dropped interception isn’t negative enough to knock out 5 passing TDs to a single one while leading your team with 100+ rushing yards….pretty sure Eagles dropped a couple of long ball picks as well when Palmer was throwing in triple coverage to Brown…

        • TJ Smith

          They also had Cam 1 for 7 on downfield throws. You have to understand PFF isn’t about conventional stats. Saying he had 5 touchdowns means nothing if not put into context. Things like how much YAC was there. How much pressure was he getting. How difficult were the throws. Anyway they gave Cam a really high grade for a game against perhaps the worst defense in the NFL. Carson’s was a little higher. Not sure why the tears.

          • JT

            not whining at all but Palmer didn’t even come close to playing that well…their grade measures are so off….and David Johnson has a worse game after breaking practically 11 tackles on a single play? Practically half of the Cardinals offense was David Johnson.

          • Chuck

            Palmer played great, numbers would have been off the charts if Brown hadn’t dropped to passes for TDs.

          • TJ Smith

            Your in essence ignoring Newton having some terrible throws and drop interceptions and Palmer having some big plays dropped and better deep throws. Not really sure why your even on the site if all you want is standard stats.

          • Stephen J Brady

            Because he had a 100 yards rushing and made history by being the only player with three hundred pass yards, 100 rush yards, and 5 touchdowns without a pick. Without Jonathan Stewart. Palmer had a RB that had 180 something yards and 3 td’s and ended up with like 247 yards I think..? If they factored in rushing yards and how many sacks and negative plays Cam avoids, Cam or Russel would be on top the last month and half or so.

      • Stephen J Brady

        Should’ve.. Doesn’t really matter though does It?

  • crosseyedlemon

    The Falcons won’t complain they didn’t get anyone on this list….their just happy the bleeding has stopped.

  • jared

    Ok I’m sorry but can Newton deserves no awards just yet. The Panthers have the easiest schedule in the leauge. When you play nothing but dolphins, buccaniers and titans and under .400 rating teams of course you are going to have a winning season. Ya there the best of the worst teams . But they will be eliminated first round in the playoffs. And that’s fact. I give it to Carson any week of the season over cam. Also with the cardinals winning 40-17 and the Panthers winning by 38-35 there’s a big difference in all around team skill .

    • Condor

      Palmer has been incredible this year but he has done so with top tier wide receivers around him. Cam’s #1 receiver is Ted Ginn Jr… Whenever the panther’s D has a bad game Cam is out there bailing them out practically by himself. I’ve got nfl game pass and have watched every game for both of these teams this season. Palmer has been playing great, but he is just one piece in a great offense. Replace Palmer with a so-so qb like Jay Cutler and that offense would still be really good, albeit not as great as it is with Palmer. Replace Newton with Cutler and that Carolina offense would be absolutely terrible. Cam has gotten much better at his deep throws this year and has committed way fewer turnovers, but the most impressive thing he has learned his how to put just the right amount of power on a ball so that his terrible receivers can catch his passes. Cam is a good among mere mortals this season, and Panthers are going to win the super bowl. I would have said that the Cardinals had a real shot of beating them before this week, but I think your championship hopes died with the honey badger’s ACL

      • Seth

        What do you think about the cardinals now, even with the loss of Mathieu…. hahahahaha

    • Stephen J Brady

      Yeah, it’s probably really hard to throw it to all the weapons Carson has. Probably much harder then losing Kelvin Benjamin and having Ted Ginn drop close to 300 yards and 5 touchdowns from Cam. Carson Palmer wouldn’t do shit if he was the Panthers quarter back. Cam would do even better if he had the weapons the Cardinals have on offense. Your shitty team is going to get knocked out of the playoffs by us again.

  • jared

    Well with that loss to the falcons it proves my point that the Panthers are not a real contender. Loosing to a 7-7 team says they can compete with .400 teams. But are they playoff worthy noooooooo!!!!!!