NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 15 winners and losers: Eagles' A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith come out on top in Week 15

Chicago, Illinois, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) runs the ball after a catch on Chicago Bears safety Jaquan Brisker (9) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

As part of PFF's grading process, we chart every matchup on the football field, allowing us to take a detailed look at the in-game battles and highlight the players who come out on top each week.

There can be obvious matchup victories, such as a wide receiver putting up 150 yards against a struggling cornerback or an edge rusher repeatedly beating the same tackle to sack the quarterback. But there can also be those hidden wins, such as a guard quietly beating his opponent on every pass-block rep or a cornerback holding his receiver to zero targets over a game.

Here are the players who got the better of their matchups in Week 15.

DI Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. LG Brady Christensen, Carolina Panthers

Heyward won eight of his 18 pass-rush reps against Christensen for two sacks and five total pressures. That’s a dominant day.

EDGE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers vs. LT Charles Cross, Seattle Seahawks

Bosa lined up opposite Cross 23 times and won 10 of those reps. He produced six pressures, including a sack.

EDGE Montez Sweat, Washington Commanders vs. RT Evan Neal, New York Giants

It might not be obvious at first, as he was unable to come away with a sack, but Sweat decisively won his matchup with Neal. He won seven of his 18 pass-rush reps against him, racking up four pressures in the process. 

RT Brian O’Neill, Minnesota Vikings vs. EDGE Kwity Paye, Indianapolis Colts

O’Neill had the disadvantage of blocking for a trailing team the whole day yet lost only one of 44 pass-blocking snaps against Paye. Unfortunately, that one loss resulted in a sack, but that was out of O’Neill’s control.

LT Jordan Mailata, Philadelphia Eagles vs. EDGE Dominique Robinson, Chicago Bears

Mailata kept a perfectly clean sheet against Robinson — no pass-block losses, no pressures allowed, and, of course, no sacks allowed.

WR Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. CB Keith Taylor, Carolina Panthers

Johnson and Taylor met just eight times on Sunday, but we graded Johnson positively and Taylor negatively on five of these routes. Johnson caught 34 yards and two first downs against him.

WR DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles vs. CB Kyler Gordon, Chicago Bears

On nine routes against Gordon, Smith was positively graded five times and came away with 38 receiving yards.

WR CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys vs. CB Tre Herndon, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lamb was positively graded on seven of his 13 routes against Herndon. He put up 96 yards and four first downs on these plays.

WR Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers vs. CB Greg Mabin, Tennessee Titans

Williams usually isn’t known for his ability to create separation, as he is stronger at the catch point than in the route-running phase. However, he was positively graded on five of his 11 routes against Mabin and recorded 43 yards and two first downs against him.

WR A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles vs. CB Jaylon Johnson, Chicago Bears

In a highly anticipated matchup between two stellar players, A.J. Brown ultimately got the better of Johnson, racking up 124 yards on 21 routes against him. Brown was positively graded on 10 of these routes.

CB Stephon Gilmore, Indianapolis Colts vs. WR Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

Gilmore struggled somewhat against Justin Jefferson, but who doesn’t? However, he kept a clean sheet against Thielen: He wasn’t graded negatively once and didn’t give up a target.

CB Sauce Gardner, New York Jets vs. WR D.J. Chark. Jr., Detroit Lions

Gardner covered Chark for 13 routes; he wasn’t downgraded in route coverage and didn’t give up a target. In fact, Gardner did exactly the same against all other Lions receivers, only on fewer snaps.

LB Deion Jones, Cleveland Browns vs. TE Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

Jones was tasked with covering Andrews 10 times. He didn’t give up any separation and gave up only one yard on two targets.

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