News & Analysis

NFL Week 3: PFF's Top Units of the Week

We are three weeks into the season, and teams’ season-long outlooks are beginning to take shape. Week 3 saw some of the largest point-spreads the NFL has ever seen, and we were treated to seeing some of the Super Bowl hopefuls square off. Here, we look at the units that made the most significant impacts this week.

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RUNNING BACKS: BALTIMORE RAVENS

Kansas City played Baltimore in an oft-labeled “Game of the Week” on Sunday. The former checked a W in the win column, but the ladder produced one of the highest-performing offensive units in the entire NFL.

Baltimore’s running back corps, led by Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards, earned 82.7 and 87.2 rushing grades, respectively, both of which warranted a top-five mark at their position. Ingram touted a league-high eight first downs and six forced missed tackles, which helped comprise his stellar grade, and it’s probably worth noting that he punched it into the end zone on three occasions. Though in a more diminutive role, Edwards contributed 53 yards — 33 of which came after contact — four first downs and two forced missed tackles en route to a 7.6 yard-per-carry average.

RECEIVING CORPS: ATLANTA FALCONS

Atlanta appears to be one of the more up-and-down teams in the league thus far, but their group of talented pass-catchers shined in Week 3. Eighteen players saw 10 or more targets in Week 3, but just one of those players earned a higher passer rating when targeted than Julio Jones (152.1). The standout wide receiver snagged eight passes, six of which went for 15 or more yards.

Far from a one-man show, the Atlanta offense also featured Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper, who caught seven passes each. Sanu registered five first downs, but Hooper was the one to leave his mark on the scoreboard after finding the end zone on two separate circumstances.

OFFENSIVE LINE: DALLAS COWBOYS

One of the great offensive lines in recent memory found their way onto this list, once again led by left tackle Tyron Smith. The nine-year veteran recorded 36 pass-block snaps, surrendered zero pressures and maintained a perfect 100.0 pass-block efficiency rating. All told, the Dallas offensive line only allowed six quarterback pressures on the day and just one sack. More impressively, three of the five players that form this unit earned an 86.0-plus offensive grade. No matter who's in the backfield, Ezekiel Elliott or Tony Pollard, this offensive line continues to clear lanes and be the dominant force in the Cowboys’ offense.

DEFENSIVE LINE: DALLAS COWBOYS

If games are won and lost in the trenches, then Dallas has the right mindset. The Cowboys were one of six teams this past week who did not concede a passing touchdown, and the pressure generated by their defensive line played a substantial factor in that feat.

The usual suspects of Demarcus Lawrence and Maliek Collins had no issues finding their way to Miami’s quarterback, but the addition of Robert Quinn was what truly put this unit over the top. Quinn managed to accumulate five quarterback pressures (with a sack to boot) which resulted in his top-ten 90.0 pass-rush grade. More impressively, he generated a 33.3% pass-rush win rate which tied for first at his position. If Quinn continues his rally with his new team, expect this unit to appear on this list again soon.

LINEBACKERS: TENNESSEE TITANS

In a Thursday Night Football bout that was dominated by the Gardner Minshew narrative, the Titans linebackers deserve recognition. Jayon Brown’s Week 3 resume was good enough to earn himself the best coverage grade among linebackers (90.0) and the only linebacker to earn elite status in said facet of the game. He also registered four defensive stops and six tackles without recording a whiff.

Like his Tennessee counterpart, Rashaan Evans also excelled on Sunday, earning positive grades in run-defense, pass-rush and coverage. 

SECONDARY: CAROLINA PANTHERS

Carolina lit up the scoreboard on Sunday, but it's their defensive secondary that makes the list of highest-graded units. Led by Donte Jackson, the Panthers' cornerbacks and safeties surrendered just 73 passing yards as a whole. Not to bury the lede, Jackson secured two interceptioens with one coming on a play where he nearly jumped out of University of Phoneix Stadium.

The group also surrendered just four first downs on 16 total receptions. There is no question that the Carolina secondary boasts one of the most impressive all-around performances of Week 3.

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