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 8 action:
1. Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
You won’t find a more typical Brandon Graham performance than the one he managed on “Sunday Night Football” against the Dallas Cowboys. Graham totaled 11 pressures – eight hurries and three hits – but didn’t end the game with a sack on the stat sheet, and the Eagles ended up losing in overtime, so it will largely go unnoticed. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott was under pressure on 23 snaps, and just under half of them were because of Graham alone. He also recorded four defensive stops in the run game and was generally one of the most destructive players in the game overall. He now sits atop PFF grades among all edge defenders for the season.
2. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Getting Eifert back turns the Bengals offense into an entirely different proposition to defend. The Redskins tried to take A.J. Green away by having Josh Norman track him (more on that later), but Eifert was too much for them to contend with elsewhere. He was thrown at 11 times in the tie with Washington, catching nine of them for 102 yards and a score, and he earned good grades as a run-blocker, too. A healthy Eifert isn’t just a game-changer for the Bengals, but he is one of the league’s best tight ends.
3. Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland Raiders
The 2015 version of Khalil Mack made a return this week. In Oakland's win over Tampa Bay he notched three sacks, but also had two hits, five hurries and five defensive stops for the game, as he dominated in both the running and passing games over his 55 defensive snaps. This was the Mack we have been waiting to see all year, and if the Raiders can get this player the rest of the season rather than the guy who has been good but unspectacular before this week, they are a different beast on that side of the ball.
4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Coming into this week's overtime win over Philadelphia, Elliott has had no trouble generating yardage. The Dallas offensive line has been one of the league’s best, and it has been generating him huge yardage simply via blocking. Only five runners had a greater percentage of their rushing yardage come before contact than Elliott heading into this week, but against the Eagles that disappeared. He posted 96 rushing yards, but 89 of them came after contact, and he needed to break seven tackles on 22 carries to get that far. This was the game we got to see what Elliott could do outside of the framework of a dominant offensive line, and it was very impressive.
5. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Brady simply carved up the Buffalo defense this week in the Patriots' victory. He completed 87.0 percent of his passes for a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when he was kept clean in the pocket by the Patriots blockers, and the Bills just didn’t get enough pressure (14 of 38 dropbacks) for the other plays to matter enough. Brady passed for 288 yards from those clean pockets alone, and showed a masterful command of the position.
6. Dont’a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots
Hightower might be New England’s best pass-rusher. He doesn’t come from a typical edge-rusher alignment, or lined up on the defensive line, but he is a monster on the blitz from his inside linebacker spot. Against the Bills he led the team with five total pressures (from only 12 blitzes), getting a sack, hit and three hurries in his pass rushes. Add in a good display against the run and in coverage and you have one of the best performances of the week at any position.
7. Kawann Short, DT, Carolina Panthers
Like Mack, Short is another 2015 stud making his first real impact of the 2016 season. This was Short at his best, and it’s no coincidence that the Panthers won the game when it happened. Short wrecked the interior of the Arizona line – Mike Iupati in particular – to the tune of two sacks, a hit and two hurries over the course of the game, and was the kind of game-changing force he was for most of the last season.
8. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
If you’re going to try and cover Green with just one guy – even a really good one – the Bengals are going to take those odds and roll the dice. A lot. Green was targeted 15 times over the game, catching nine passes for 121 yards, 76 of which came against Josh Norman. That doesn’t even count the four (!) penalties Green drew for illegal hands to the face from Norman’s attempted jams at the line, which effectively bought the Bengals four free first downs. You better bring more than one guy if you’re gonna try and stop Green.
9. Bradley Roby, CB, Denver Broncos
Stepping in to start for an injured Aqib Talib, Roby was tested often by the Chargers, and responded with the kind of coverage Talib would be proud of. Nine passes were thrown his way during the game, but just two were caught for 34 yards, while he caught one himself for an interception and batted another away. Overall, Philip Rivers had a passer rating of 3.2 when throwing it at Roby in the Broncos' win.
10. Brandon Brooks, G, Philadelphia Eagles
Nobody gives the big uglies much love, but free-agent acquisition Brandon Brooks was excellent on Sunday night for Philadelphia. Brooks didn’t allow a pressure of any kind across 52 snaps of pass protection – the only member of the Eagles offensive line that didn’t – and was solid as a run-blocker, too.