NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 12: PFF Team of the Week, key takeaways, player awards and more

Deshaun Watson continued his hot streak of play since Bill O’Brien's departure, Patrick Mahomes got even with Tom Brady, and the NFC Wild Card picture is now a little murky with the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals suffering upset losses.

PFF is here to break down NFL Week 12 in greater detail using advanced data and our unique play-by-play grading. Here, we present to you the PFF Team of the Week, the big takeaway and player awards from Week 12 of the 2020 NFL season.

PFF TEAM OF THE WEEK

Offense

QB: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
RB: Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
WR: Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns
WR: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
FLEX: Will Fuller V, Houston Texans
LT: D.J. Humphries, Arizona Cardinals
LG: David Edwards, Los Angeles Rams
C: Alex Mack, Atlanta Falcons
RG: Nate Davis, Tennessee Titans
RT: Taylor Moton, Carolina Panthers

Defense

DI: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
DI: Zach Kerr, Carolina Panthers
EDGE: Montez Sweat, Washington Football Team
EDGE: Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles
LB: Nicholas Morrow, Las Vegas Raiders
LB: David Long, Tennessee Titans
CB: Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins
CB: Chris Jones, Minnesota Vikings
S: Darnell Savage, Green Bay Packers
S: Jimmie Ward, San Francisco 49ers
FLEX D: Logan Ryan, New York Giants

THE BIG TAKEAWAY

The 2021 NFL Draft might tie the 1983 draft for most quarterbacks taken in Round 1

The most quarterbacks ever selected in the first round of an NFL draft came all the way back in 1983. That year, six signal-callers heard their names called in Round 1, three of which ended up being Hall-of-Famers (John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino). Given the current state of a few NFL franchises, as well as the play of some college quarterbacks, I think it’s likely we see that record tied next April. 

Six college quarterbacks — Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Kyle Trask and Mac Jones — have or currently produced at a level that warrants early-round consideration. And plenty more than six NFL franchises will be searching for a franchise quarterback come next April — from the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars, who are all but locked into the first and second overall picks, to the teams that will likely own a fringe top-10 pick, such as the Chicago Bears or Washington Football Team, to teams with aging quarterbacks that are picking in the back of Round 1, such as the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers

There is a lot of supply and a lot of demand. Lawrence and Fields are penciled in as future members of the Jets and Jaguars, but the rest of the bunch is where it gets interesting.

As we saw on Sunday Night Football, the Bears will be in the conversation to nab the third quarterback off the board in April. Mitchell Trubisky made his return to the starting lineup and responded with an NFL-high five turnover-worthy plays against the Green Bay Packers. He failed to record a big-time throw and posted a 46.5 passing grade on the night. Chicago started the season with a 5-1 record and has since lost five in a row. 

The Football Team will also be in the running for that third quarterback, assuming they are unable to win the disastrous NFC East. Alex Smith hasn't quite been a liability at the signal-caller spot, but the veteran quarterback who is two years removed from one of the worst injuries in NFL history isn’t a long-term solution. Smith earned a 67.9 PFF grade in his team's win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving day, bringing his season-long mark to 67.1.

However, those aren't the only teams picking in the first half of Round 1 that could be looking for a quarterback in 2021. A handful of wild cards are in that range, too, such as the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.

Atlanta is setting itself up to be in quarterback purgatory with the aging Matt Ryan and a roster that isn’t built to win now. Ryan has had moments where he looks like he is in his prime, posting four single-game grades above 83.0 this season, but he has also flashed signs of decline — such as against the Las Vegas Raiders this past week. Ryan posted a 70.4 PFF grade, the fifth-best mark of his 11 starts. That ranking isn’t necessarily horrible, but it’s less than ideal and far from the level we saw from him in his prime years prior to last season. He’s entering the final stages of his playing career, but the Falcons are nowhere near close to being able to win now.

As for the Broncos, they may be looking to hedge their bet with Drew Lock due to the 2019 second-round pick’s performance to date. He has started just 13 games in his NFL career, but it has been entirely underwhelming. Lock's career passing grade sits at 57.4, and he showed no signs of progress in his most recent starts prior to missing Week 12 due to COVID-19 protocols. On throws of 10-plus yards downfield this season, Lock ranks second-to-last in uncatchable pass rate, at 46.3%. A quarterback in Round 1 certainly isn’t out of the question for Denver.

But perhaps the most interesting team of them all is the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick has three options: Extend Cam Newton, draft a quarterback in the first round or both. Considering Newton’s performance this season, there’s a strong chance we see one of the latter two. Newton had his worst game as a Patriot against the Cardinals on Sunday, generating a 32.5 passing grade. He has led New England to rank 24th in per-play passing efficiency this season, and he now ranks third-to-last in big-time throw rate.

That's already six teams, and it's without discussing the franchises in the back half of the first round — Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. On top of that, we could see dark horses in the conversation, as well, such as the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers

Regardless of how you feel about fringe first-round prospects like Trask and Jones, it seems probable at this rate that they make their way into Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft to tie the 1983 record. There is just too much demand at quarterback for that not to be the case and some of the play in Week 12 verified that.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

WR Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns

This was a close one between Landry and Tyreek Hill, but PFF Offensive Player of the Week ultimately went to the Browns receiver for his incredible per route production. Landry picked up more yards per route run against the Jaguars on Sunday than any wide receiver in a single game this season at 6.81. That is also over 4.4 yards more per route run than in any other game of the season for Landry. His 93.9 receiving grade for the game is the best we have seen this season and tied for the third-best over the last five seasons. Landry and quarterback Baker Mayfield connected for more explosive receiving plays of 15-plus yards than they ever have with six. That duo helped give the Browns the fifth-most efficient passing offense of Week 12, ultimately bringing Cleveland to an 8-3 record on the year.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

S Darnell Savage, Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers secondary had to be licking their chops when they found out Mitchell Trubisky would be starting at quarterback for the Chicago Bears. And second-year safety Darnell Savage took advantage of Trubisky under center, as he came up with two interceptions at deep safety for the Packers and came away with a career-best 96.3 PFF grade. Not only was it the highest grade of his young NFL career, but it was the best we have given to a safety since Week 13 of 2012 when Kerry Rhodes posted a 97.0 PFF grade.

The safety did get some help from Trubisky launching one into double-coverage on his first interception in the second quarter then launching another into triple-coverage on his second one in the third quarter. But at the end of the day, Savage tracked the ball, came up with the interceptions and didn’t get dinged for any mistake throughout the entirety of the game.

ROOKIE OF THE WEEK

S Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers

He had not one but two fumble recovery touchdowns… on back-to-back plays. Of course Jeremy Chinn is the PFF Rookie of the Week!

Chinn’s rookie campaign hadn’t been going all that well prior to Week 12. He had just two single-game grades above 70.0 and five that fell short of 47.0. Then against Minnesota on Sunday, Chinn came out and had himself by far the best performance of his young NFL career. The Southern Illinois product posted an 89.9 PFF grade for the game featuring his highest run-defense grade of the year by nearly 20 grading points at 91.6 and a season-high four defensive stops.

Carolina may have fallen short against Minnesota, but it was a promising performance as a whole for the 64th overall pick that had up-and-down production in previous weeks.

OFFENSIVE LINE OF THE WEEK

Tennessee Titans

No offensive line combined to produce a higher unit PFF grade this week than the Titans against a DeForest Buckner-less Indianapolis Colts. The group was one of three offensive lines on the week to not allow a single sack or hit on their quarterback and overall surrendered just three total pressures on the day. Though the big reason why they earn Offensive Line of the Week honors is largely due to the lanes they opened up for Derrick Henry. Tennessee’s ground game generated the highest successful run rate of any team this week at 54% and more explosive runs of 10-plus yards with nine. And the backbone of that success was the offensive line’s NFL-high 86.2 run-block grade for the week. While the yardage and touchdowns may belong to the ball-carrier in the stat sheet, it’s important we give credit to the big men up front who are just as responsible.

SECRET SUPERSTAR OF THE WEEK

Edge Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Atlanta Falcons

After spending all of 2018 and the first half of 2019 as a UDFA on Atlanta’s practice squad, Tuioti-Mariner has been a key rotational piece for the Falcons. But he never quite had any success in that role. Prior to Week 12, Tuioti-Mariner had generated just 11 career pressures on 214 pass-rushes and earned a poor 50.6 pass-rush grade over the course of that span.  On Sunday against Las Vegas, however, he was one of the best pass-rushers of the week with a career-high 92.4 pass-rush grade. He managed to record over half of his career pressure total entering the week with four on 20 pass-rushes. One of which was a strip-sack fumble at the end of the first half when Las Vegas was on Atlanta’s 30-yard line with a chance to bring it to a one-score game as they were down just 13-3.

That was the second fumble recovery by Tuioti-Mariner of the game. Earlier, he scooped up a fumble caused by Foyesade Oluokun that put the Falcons at the Raiders’ 21-yard line and ultimately led to three points.

PLAY OF THE WEEK

It’s widely known at this point that Patrick Mahomes and his wide receiver Tyreek Hill are each human highlight-reels. Their showdown against the Buccaneers was chock-full of them, and the 75-yard touchdown the tandem connected on was hands down the best play we saw of Week 12.

That throw ties for the second-longest passing touchdown through the air this season at 53 yards from the line of scrimmage. Tampa cornerback Carlton Davis had no shot at keeping up with the Cheetah, who also had a monster day like his quarterback. This was one of seven explosive plays of 15-plus yards generated by Hill, tying for the most in a single game over the last five seasons. The Mahomes to Hill connection in Week 12 was just the third this season to have at least 10 targets in a single game and generate a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

Lethal is an understatement.

AN EARLY LOOK AHEAD TO WEEK 13…

Two NFC teams suffered crushing upset losses in Week 12 and will now face off in Week 13 in a matchup that is now even more impactful to the playoff picture. The 7-4 Los Angeles Rams will be traveling to take on the 6-5 Arizona Cardinals in the first of their two divisional showdowns this season.

L.A. is coming off hands down their worst offensive outing of the 2020 season. The Rams ranked third-to-last of Week 12 in EPA per play generated at -0.47. Their previous season low was nowhere near that bad at -0.21 in Week 8 and that mark was actually the second-worst of the Sean McVay era. From a pure passing standpoint, only the Denver Broncos had a more inefficient passing attack. Needless to say, we are likely to see some improvement in Week 13, but to what degree?

There is also a matchup with possible playoff seeding implications on the AFC side next week as the 8-3 Tennessee Titans take on the 8-3 Cleveland Browns. Specifically with the Browns who are now actually a playoff team after years of being the laughing stock of the league. Cleveland currently sits at the No. 5 seed in the AFC, and a win here will further help their odds of maintaining this spot. They are going to need Baker Mayfield on his A-game to do so, and that hasn’t been the case in 2020. Mayfield had a decent outing in Week 12 against a bad Jaguars defense with a passing grade of 81.1, but that was just the second time this season he has posted a grade north of 75.0.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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