The NFL’s first-ever Week 18 won't be forgotten any time soon.
First, the heavily favored Indianapolis Colts were eliminated from playoff contention following a shocking loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers then salvaged their postseason hopes by edging out the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Rams, respectively.
But the most memorable Week 18 game of them all was the “win and you’re in” — or “tie and you’re both in” — game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers, which ended in a game-winning 47-yard field goal in overtime to send the Raiders into the playoffs.
After this chaotic week, the NFL playoff picture is set. But before we get there and break down the matchups, it’s time to highlight Week 18’s top performers. Here, we present PFF’s Team of the Week and player awards from Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season.
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PFF TEAM OF THE WEEK
QB: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
RB: Latavius Murray, Baltimore Ravens
WR: Danny Amendola, Houston Texans
WR: Quez Watkins, Philadelphia Eagles
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Flex: Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons
LT: Dion Dawkins, Buffalo Bills
LG: Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns
C: Corey Linsley, Los Angeles Chargers
RG: Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys
RT: James Hudson, Cleveland Browns
DI: Dalvin Tomlinson, Minnesota Vikings
DI: Zach Sieler, Miami Dolphins
Edge: Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders
Edge: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
LB: Jamie Collins Sr., New England Patriots
LB: Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints
CB: Cameron Sutton, Pittsburgh Steelers
CB: D.J. Reed Jr., Seattle Seahawks
S: Bobby McCain, Washington Football Team
S: Nasir Adderley, Los Angeles Chargers
Flex: A.J. Parker, Detroit Lions
Offensive Player of the Week: QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
No passing offense was more efficient than the Cowboys' in Week 18, as Dak Prescott & Co. generated 0.84 expected points added (EPA) per pass play and a 63% successful pass rate.
Prescott’s mistake-free play was the main reason for that. The Dallas passer didn’t record a single turnover-worthy play and threw only one uncatchable ball, yet he produced three big-time throws.
He was pinpoint accurate from a clean pocket, too, completing 19-of-23 clean-pocket attempts for 276 yards and three touchdowns.
Dak Prescott on 10+ yard throws in Week 18:
???? 8/9, 198 yards, 2 TD, 3 big-time throws, 1 drop
Both he and OC Kellen Moore had a hell of a night. this is a nice 1st down play-action concept with guard Connor McGovern at FB pic.twitter.com/s19glOfPsS
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) January 9, 2022
Defensive Player of the Week: Edge Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders
Most edge defenders would have been gassed if they had to rush the passer over 60 times in a game — with most coming in the fourth quarter and overtime — as Crosby did on Sunday night.
The breakout Las Vegas Raider looked more than up for the challenge, though, and was a threat to get after the quarterback on every rep from start to finish. Crosby generated 10 total pressures, five of which were a sack or a hit, and won 10 other pass-rush reps on top of that. His 29.4% pass-rush win rate is an unbelievable mark, considering that rep total.
Highest pass-rush win rate in a game with 60 or more pass rushes in the last decade
|Player (Year/Week/Opponent)||Pass-Rush Win Rate|
|Maxx Crosby (2021 W18 vs. LAC)||29.4%|
|Myles Garrett (2020 W2 vs. CIN)||25.4%|
|J.J. Watt (2015 W6 at JAX)||23.8%|
|Myles Garrett (2018 W7 at TB)||23.3%|
Most of those wins came against right tackle Storm Norton, who has been up and down this year.
Crosby also made some plays against the run, as evidenced by his 78.6 run-defense grade for the game. The 2019 fourth-round pick closed out his breakout regular season as the second-highest-graded edge defender in the NFL.
Rookie of the Week: QB Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
Lawrence closed out his rookie campaign with a bang. The former No. 1 overall pick earned the highest PFF grade of his debut season in Week 18. He earned an 85.1 passing grade while leading the Jaguars to one of the biggest upsets of the season over the Indianapolis Colts.
The team as a whole generated 0.21 EPA per pass play, their second-highest mark of the year. Lawrence delivered accurate and timely throws when free from pressure and in rhythm, but he also made some plays when things didn’t go according to plan.
On this high snap near the goal line, the play could have resulted in a fumble but instead ended in an unbelievable touchdown throw from the quarterback on the run.
Trevor Lawrence is cool af pic.twitter.com/cgow9VgZYd
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) January 10, 2022
Lawrence was sharp all game, as he finished with two big-time throws, zero turnover-worthy plays and the second-lowest uncatchable pass rate and negatively graded throw rate for the week.
look at him open up this throw with his eyes pic.twitter.com/FUEElxiZiF
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) January 10, 2022
While his season-long PFF grade ends in “poor” territory at 59.6, the rookie showed a lot of promise in Year 1 and is bound to be a breakout player in 2022 with an all-around improved situation.
Offensive Line of the Week: Dallas Cowboys
Not only did the Dallas Cowboys offensive line earn the highest unit PFF grade of Week 18 against the Philadelphia Eagles, but it also put up the highest unit grade in a game this season (94.6).
All but one of the eight offensive linemen to see game action earned a grade north of 75.0. The group combined for no sacks or hits on the quarterback and allowed a mere four pressures overall for the game.
From a run-blocking perspective, the Cowboys just dominated. The Dallas running back room averaged 2.2 yards before contact per attempt, third for Week 18, while the offensive line posted an NFL-leading negatively graded and positively graded run-block rates.
Secret Superstar of the Week: T James Hudson, Cleveland Browns
Hudson was coming off a true nightmare performance. Last week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was just his third career start at right tackle, and star edge defender T.J. Watt had his way with the fourth-round rookie. Hudson allowed three sacks, one hit and one hurry for a poor PFF grade of 50.9.
This week, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle righted the ship and earned a 90.0 PFF grade against the Cincinnati Bengals — the highest of his young career by over 36 grading points. He didn’t allow a single pressure and tied for the third-most positively graded run blocks of any offensive lineman this week.
Play(s) of the Week: Justin Herbert clawing the Los Angeles Chargers out of the grave
While the Chargers ultimately fell short of the win — or tie — and are now in offseason mode, there’s no denying that quarterback Justin Herbert was the definition of clutch on Sunday Night Football.
The young gunslinger was the sole reason why the Chargers even got it to overtime after being down 15 points halfway through the fourth quarter. Herbert went a perfect 6-of-6 for 106 yards and one touchdown with two big-time throws on fourth down alone. The play that sparked the comeback was an unbelievable laser into the end zone on fourth-and-21.
4th & 21 LASER from Justin Herbert ????
— PFF (@PFF) January 10, 2022
The play that got them to overtime was an anticipatory bullet to the end zone on the final play of regulation between two defenders.
THE TIE CAN STILL HAPPEN
— PFF (@PFF) January 10, 2022
Biggest Game-Changing Moment(s): Kansas City Chiefs edge defender Melvin Ingram III forcing a fumble on Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III, which was scooped up for a score by rookie linebacker Nick Bolton
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 9, 2022
Chiefs Win Probability Change: +54.1%
Controversial pass interference penalty on the Los Angeles Chargers at the end of the first half to give the Las Vegas Raiders a punch-in score
Raiders Win Probability Change: +19%