Splash’s NFL Conference Championship Team of the Weekby Ryan Potts February 2, 2022 1 comment
With the Conference Championships in the books, it is time to look at the best performers at each position from last week. It should be a mix of usual suspects and random one-game wonders. If a player is not on the list, it does not mean that the individual did not have a great game. Not all positions are created equal. Prior performance has no bearing on this list. With that said, let’s look at the best 11 offensive players and best 11 defensive players from the opening round of the playoffs.
You can find the NFL Divisional Round Team of the Week here.
Be sure to check out our NFL Team of the Week every week for the playoffs.
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
It was a rough week for quarterbacks, but Stafford slipped away after a clutch fourth quarter. He posted 337 yards, the most of any quarterback, and he added a pair of touchdowns. Stafford earned the highest quarterback grade of the week, and he led the week with three big-time throws. Either way, he did enough to put the Rams in their second Super Bowl in four years.
Running Back: Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
After a week that saw two quarterbacks lead in rushing yards, there were no rushing touchdowns this week. Mixon, however, did run for the most yards of the week: 88. He earned the top rushing grade of the week, and he had 73 yards after contact. He broke more tackles than the rest of the running backs combined. Mixon tacked on three 10-yard runs in a week that no other player had two.
Wide Receiver: Odell Beckham, Los Angels Rams
Beckham exploded for 113 yards on nine catches. He was successful on his only contested-catch opportunity, and he contributed to six first downs. He earned a 79.6 receiving grade as well as an 81.0 overall offensive grade. Beckham now has 236 yards and a touchdown in this year’s playoff run. The former All-Pro will have his opportunity to shine in the Super Bowl in two weeks.
Wide Receiver: Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
In a battle of talented receivers, it was Higgins that led the way over both Tyreek Hill and Ja’Marr Chase. He posted 103 yards on six catches, including a 44-yard catch. He converted on two of his three contested catches, and he even forced a missed tackle. Higgins helped the Bengals to five first downs, and Joe Burrow had a 105.3 passer rating when targeting Higgins.
Wide Receiver: Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Kupp led the week in catches (11), yards (142), and receiving touchdowns (two) en route to a Rams victory. He earned an 84.2 receiving grade. While Kupp did drop a pass, he forced a missed tackle, and he contributed to seven first downs. Only the tight end selection for the team contributed to as many. Kupp has season stats of 170 catches, 2,333 yards, and 20 receiving touchdowns.
Tight End: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Kelce’s playoff run ended, but it was not his fault. Kelce racked up 95 yards and a touchdown, turning his 11 targets into 10 receptions. Across three playoff games, Kelce had no fewer than 95 yards in any game. He scored in all three playoff games, and he scored in the final six games (including playoffs) of the season. Kelce forced three missed tackles.
Left Tackle: Jonah Williams, Cincinnati Bengals
Previously Appeared: Week 4
Williams was PFF’s No.2 graded left tackle, but unlike Andrew Whitworth, Williams only allowed one pressure. The other three primary left tackles allowed at least four. Williams earned a solid run-blocking grade of 64.6, and he earned the top pass-blocking grade of the week among left tackles (71.8). While the rest of the Bengals’ offensive line is a disaster, Williams has been a bright spot.
The Joel Bitonio Award for Best Left Guard: Joe Thuney, Kansas City Chiefs
Previously Appeared: Wild Card
It was a two-man race at left guard. David Edwards had a strong day for the Rams, but the nod goes to Thuney. He earned a spectacular 89.1 pass-blocking grade, allowing zero pressure on 48 pass-blocking reps. While he was just an average run blocker, he was so dominant as a pass blocker that he earned the spot over the competition.
Center: Alex Mack, San Francisco 49ers
Previously Appeared: Week 8
All four centers had reasonable pass-blocking performances. However, Mack gets the nod due to his run blocking. He was the only center to allow pressure, but he also earned the best run-blocking grade among centers. While the rest of the 49ers’ offensive line became turnstiles on Sunday, Mack had a solid day of protecting Jimmy Garoppolo and paving the way for the likes of Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel.
The Zack Martin Award for Best Right Guard: Trey Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Previously Appeared: Wild Card
Unlike other positions, there were two good choices at right guard this week. Austin Corbett earned the top pass-blocking grade (80.8) while finishing second in run-blocking. Smith flip-flopped the order, being the top run-blocker and finishing second in pass-blocking. Both allowed just one pressure with Corbett’s turning into a hit. Smith edged Corbett in overall grade, but both deserve to be in the team.
Right Tackle: Rob Havenstein, Los Angeles Rams
Havenstein led all right tackles in run-blocking and pass-blocking grades, but the other three tackles were utter disasters. Either way, he earned a 93.7 run-blocking grade, one of the best by any tackle on the season. While he did allow two pressures, only Andrew Wylie allowed fewer among right tackles. Havenstein had an elite day as a run blocker, and he was just good enough to hold on as a pass protector.
Interior Defensive Line: Jarran Reed, Kansas City Chiefs
Reed has a strong week despite the loss for the Chiefs. He earned a 70.0 or better in run defense, tackling, and as a pass rusher. His four pressures tied for the second-most among interior defenders. He recorded two stops, and he had the highest grade among all interior players. Reed’s season was underwhelming, but he played well down the stretch, earning back-to-back 80.0 or better grades to end the season.
Interior Defensive Line: B.J. Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Hill finished third in PFF grade behind A’Shawn Robinson and Reed, but his ridiculous interception of Patrick Mahomes made his inclusion trivial. He also posted two pressures and a sack. His run defense was not exactly optimal, but he was strong in every other facet. He had two defensive stops, and he helped the Bengals to their first Super Bowl since January of 1989.
Edge Defender: Sam Hubbard, Cincinnati Bengals
Previously Appeared: Week 7
Hubbard earned the highest PFF grade among players who played 20 snaps at edge this week. He racked up three pressures including a pair of sacks. He posted three defensive stops. Hubbard even added a forced fumble. He earned a strong 79.3 pass-rushing grade and a 77.1 tackling grade. All told, Hubbard earned a respectable 80.4 grade, and he will have a chance to make another Team of the Week next week.
Edge Defender: Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals
Hendrickson led the week with seven pressures, notching a pair of sacks. He earned a strong 77.4 pass-rush grade en route to a 78.1 overall grade. Seven pressures were the second-most Hendrickson has generated in a game this season, and it was his first multi-sack game since Week 8. On the season, he is up to 86 pressures and 19 sacks according to PFF.
Linebacker: Travin Howard, Los Angeles Rams
Howard was the only linebacker to pick off a pass this week, icing the Rams’ victory over the 49ers. Howard was the No.4 linebacker of the week, but his interception solidified the selection. He earned a stellar 83.0 grade in coverage and a 74.8 tackling grade. Howard had one defensive stop in 24 snaps played for the NFC champions.
Linebacker: Anthony Hitchens, Kansas City Chiefs
Hitchens earned the best grade of any defensive player this week, posting a 92.3 overall grade. He was dominant in run defense, earning 91.3 grade. He was sturdy in coverage, posting an 80.0 grade. Hitchens allowed two yards on two targets while in coverage, allowing a 56.3 passer rating. He earned three defensive stops despite the loss for the Chiefs.
Cornerback: L’Jarius Sneed, Kansas City Chiefs
Sneed was the only cornerback to nab an interception this week. While he was picked on for over 100 yards, his interception was massive in postponing the inevitable collapse of the Chiefs’ offense. Sneed allowed a 75.4 rating when in coverage. Sneed was PFF’s No.3 cornerback of the week, but he earns the spot around weaker performances at the position.
Cornerback: Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams
Previously Appeared: Week 2
Ramsey notched a pair of pass breakups en route to a 73.0 overall grade. He earned a 73.4 coverage grade, and he had a mediocre 63.7 run-defense grade. Ramsey finished second in PFF grade this week, the best of his season since Week 16. For as great of a season as Ramsey had, he had not had a game with multiple pass deflections since Week 15.
Safety: Vonn Bell, Cincinnati Bengals
No safety cracked a 70.0 grade, but Bell was the closest. His 69.3 overall grade was bolstered by a strong 82.3 tackling grade. The rest of his day was fairly average, but he converted all five of his tackle opportunities, and he posted a pair of defensive stops. Bell also nabbed an interception in overtime to set the Bengals up for their win.
Safety: Jimmie Ward, San Francisco 49ers
Previously Appeared: Week 10
Ward finished 10th out of 11 safeties in PFF grade, but he did nab an interception. In coverage, Ward allowed a 37.5 passer rating. Ward was productive in run defense, and he was seven-for-seven in his tackle attempts. He earned a 75.0 run-defense grade and an 82.9 tackling grade. His 50.7 coverage grade was a disaster, but the rest of the safeties did not do enough to pass Ward.
Defensive Back: Eric Weddle, Los Angeles Rams
Weddle allowed 41 yards and a touchdown while in coverage, but he was nothing short of special as a run defender. He posted five defensive stops and 10 total tackles. He earned a 91.0 run defense grade with an 83.7 tackling grade. His 47.5 coverage grade put a damper on the day, but he ended the day with a 64.8 overall grade.
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