Every Tuesday, PFF will be releasing its Team of the Week, representing the highest-graded players at each NFL position for that week. But Senior Analyst Sam Monson gets a jump on that by picking out the 10 most impressive individual performances from Sunday’s games.
Here are the 10 best players from Sunday’s Week 14 action:
1. Janoris Jenkins, CB, New York Giants
One of the big reasons the Giants were able to come out on top against Dallas on Sunday night, as well as slow down what had been an unstoppable juggernaut of a Cowboys offense, was the performance of Jenkins against Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant. Jenkins was targeted eight times, allowed just two catches for 17 yards, and gave up a passer rating of 0.0 for the game, about 40 points lower than if Prescott had just thrown the ball into the turf every snap. Jenkins caught as many passes intended for Bryant as Bryant managed to bring in himself (one).
2. Cameron Wake, Edge, Miami Dolphins
Rain will affect a lot of aspects of a game, and the rain in Miami on Sunday led to a deluge of lost footballs and turnovers, but it did little to slow down the relentless onslaught of Wake’s pass rush. Wake rushed the passer 28 times and racked up a sack, two hits, two hurries and a forced fumble on Arizona RB David Johnson in the Dolphins' win. Wake remains one of the league’s most destructive pass-rushers, and it turns out that even reducing the conditions to monsoon levels isn’t enough to slow him down or minimize his impact. He and the Dolphins' D-line will play a pivotal role in the team's stretch run, with QB Ryan Tannehill out for the year due to injury.
3. Kawann Short, DI, Carolina Panthers
San Diego’s offensive line has the tendency to go full disaster on occasion, and it did this week in a loss, capitulating in the face of the Panthers’ front four. Short took advantage to have arguably the best game of his season by racking up a pair of sacks, three hits and three hurries and a total of three defensive stops. Short also forced a fumble on Philip Rivers by strip-sacking him midway through the first quarter as he was in the act of throwing the football. This was Short at his best and typically this season the Panthers have been very successful when Short has had that kind of impact on the game.
4. Taylor Lewan, T, Tennessee Titans
Going up against Denver’s pass rush is typically a bad day at the office for offensive linemen, and though Lewan at left tackle has the easier task than his rookie teammate Jack Conklin on the right side – who faced Von Miller primarily – to come out of that game having surrendered just a single hurry over 28 pass-blocking snaps is impressive. Lewan was back to his early-season run-blocking form, too, moving bodies at the point of attack and allowing the Titans to put up 172 rushing yards on the ground.
5. Andy Levitre, G, Atlanta Falcons
If there’s one thing the Rams have going for them – and it really is only one – it’s that their defensive line is one of the best in the game. This week they were pretty much shut down by the Falcons scheme and the work of their offensive line. LG Andy Levitre was the best performer of the group, keeping a clean sheet when it comes to pass protection across 34 snaps, and run-blocking well. Levitre also didn’t get flagged in the blowout victory, and had his best game for the better part of a year.
6. Vic Beasley, Edge, Atlanta Falcons
Beasley’s sack-to-pressure ratio this season is ludicrous. League-wide this season edge rushers convert pressure into sacks about 15 percent of the time, while Beasley has converted pressure into a sack 28.6 percent of the time. Against the Rams he had six total pressures, but three of them were sacks, and one was the perfect pass-rushing trifecta of a sack, forced fumble and recovery for a touchdown. This year there have been few pass-rushers to make as many impact plays as Beasley.
7. Wesley Johnson, C, New York Jets
Early in this game the Jets looked destined to be blown out, but 145 rushing yards from Bilal Powell helped them claw back into the game, and the blocking of center Wesley Johnson was a big boost to that production. The 49ers have been playing this season effectively without a real nose tackle, and for a center that’s the cue to cut loose and dominate against undersized players in a tough spot. Johnson also had a perfect day in pass protection across 46 snaps of pass-blocking in the Jets' comeback win.
8. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
It came in a losing effort, but Thomas caught 10 of the 14 passes thrown his way for 126 yards, including moving the chains seven times for the Broncos in a game where offensive success was hard to come by. Thomas beat seven different Titans defenders for receptions, and was arguably the best thing about the Broncos offense in the game.
9. Isaac Seumalo, G, Philadelphia Eagles
Rookie offensive linemen tend not to produce from the outset, and Seumalo has had his struggles already this season, but not this week against Washington. This week he played 78 snaps and didn’t allow a single pressure, nor was he penalized in the game. He and left tckle Jason Peters were the only Eagles linemen to make it through the game without surrendering pressure of some kind, and this represents the best game of his rookie season so far.
10. Cody Whitehair, C, Chicago Bears
Whitehair has had ups and downs in a rookie season that has seen him kick inside from college tackle not just to guard, but all the way in to center. This week was the best performance of his season in the close loss to Detroit — which is saying something, given that he has had several very good outings. He didn’t allow a single pressure against Detroit over 37 pass-blocking snaps, but it was his run-blocking that really stood out. Chicago averaged 5.4 yards per carry on the ground, but 6.4 when they ran on either side of Whitehair’s blocking.