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NFL1000: Reviewing the 2017 Wild-Card Playoffs

Doug FarrarNFL Lead ScoutJanuary 10, 2017

NFL1000: Reviewing the 2017 Wild-Card Playoffs

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Aaron Rodgers put on some kind of show against the New York Giants in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, but his four-touchdown performance to help the Packers advance to the divisional frame didn't put the Green Bay quarterback at the top of this week's NFL1000 ratings.

    In fact, Rodgers didn't even make the top five.

    Moving into the top spot this week is that rarest of beings—a 38-year old pass-rusher who can still bring it on a regular basis. The Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison has enjoyed a long and storied career built out of sheer determination, and he was certainly determined to wreck the Miami Dolphins offense on Sunday. In the Steelers' 30-12 thrashing of the Dolphins, Harrison was a nightmare for quarterback Matt Moore—sacking him twice, amassing a quarterback hit and four hurries and totaling eight stops. Harrison's reps have dropped in the last few years, but he's still a strong and dominant edge-rusher when the need arises.

    Second on this week's list is Houston Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye, who we've mentioned before this season as a breakout player in Romeo Crennel's surprising defense. Against quarterback Connor Cook and the Oakland Raiders, Bouye was targeted seven times, and caught one more pass than he allowed. He added a pass deflection and allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 0.0. Yes, he was facing a compromised offense without Derek Carr at the helm, but Bouye has been good to great all season. Now, he has to put it on the line against the New England Patriots. Good luck with that. Bouye didn't play much in Houston's Week 3 shutout loss to New England, and the Texans weren't dealing with Tom Brady, either.

    If the Texans are to have any chance against Bill Belichick and Brady this time around, they'll have to do it with defense, which leads us to this week's third and fourth-ranked players—both pass-rushers for Houston. Jadeveon Clowney was an absolute freak against an Oakland line hurt by Donald Penn's injury—replacement left tackle Menelik Watson had no answer for Clowney, and fellow linebacker Whitney Mercilus was just as much of a problem. New England's offensive tackles are on notice.

    Rounding out this week's top five is a familiar face—Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, who rocked Miami's front seven for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. Bell has played like an MVP candidate all season, and Wild Card Weekend proved to be no exception.

    One of the advantages of Bleacher Report's NFL1000 is the ability to look at our grades from week to week (as you, dear reader, can) and suss out which patterns are turning into trends and which are flukes in the relatively small sample size of an NFL season.

    There are many ways to dissect and learn from what the NFL presents on the field every week, and the NFL1000 goes as deep as any to tell you just what's going on out there.

    With a 17-person crew of experienced evaluators, we comb through the game tape each week to bring you concise, clear evaluations of every player in the NFL. We tell you which rookies are rising and which undrafted players are coming out of nowhere to make an impact. We tell you which players are rising and falling in performance and why.

    There is no predetermined narrative with these grades. No mysterious "clutch factor." No tweaked-out quarterback ratings that defy explanation. Our grades are based on pure scouting, and lots of it. We grade the key criteria for each position based on a series of attributes and add in a score for positional importance.

    In the case of a tie, our scouts ask, "Which player would I want on my team?" and adjust accordingly.

    Is it a subjective process? Of course—that's what scouting is, and as we like to say, ties are no fun.

    Each player is evaluated and graded by our crack team of scouts, who possess more than 100 combined years of experience in playing, front-office work, coaching and media. Cian Fahey, John Middlekauff, Alex Kirby, Mark Schofield, Duke Manyweather, Ethan Young, Joe Goodberry, Justis Mosqueda, Charles McDonald, Zach Kruse, Derrik Klassen, Jerod Brown, Ian Wharton, Kyle Posey, Mark Bullock, Chuck Zodda and Doug Farrar have watched tape for months to bring you these grades, and we'll continue to bring you player grades based on the game action every week.

    Here are the NFL1000 player grades for the Wild Card Round of the 2016 NFL season.

        

    All advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

Methodology

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    The NFL1000 team of scouts was given a series of important attributes to grade for every player in their positional review. Using a grading scale that starts at zero and goes up to anywhere from 10 to 50 based on the position and the attribute, our scouts graded every player based on their own expertise and countless hours of tape review. Our evaluators were given specific positional assignments based on their fields of expertise.

    Every NFL player who plays an offensive or defensive snap was observed and graded based on a multitiered process that marks specific attributes for each position. As we combed through All-22 footage to assess each performance, there were additional factors to consider.

    We adjusted for opponent based on the obvious notion that a cornerback would be doing a better job if he's shutting down Antonio Brown than if he's negating the efforts of a seventh-round rookie.

    We also adjusted for players with multiple responsibilities during the course of a game and over the course of time. Think of guys like Mike Daniels and Michael Bennett on the defensive line—how they seamlessly switch from gap to gap. Or how some cornerbacks dominate outside and in the slot. Or how certain receivers bedevil those cornerbacks from multiple spots on the field.

    That's more important than ever in today's NFL, and we paid attention to it.

    We did not adjust for injuries. If a player is underperforming because of an injury, that's part of his performance, fair or unfair, and it needs to be graded accordingly.

    Grading any player is a subjective process, but with a series of attributes per position and specific direction about what to grade and how, we worked to make it as definitive as possible.

Top 25 Overall from Wild Card Weekend

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    It can't be easy to lose in the playoffs, but a few of the guys whose season is over can take some comfort in the fact they made our top 25 as individuals.

    Oakland's Khalil Mack put a severe hurt on the Houston offensive line, with two quarterback hurries, nine tackles and eight stops. It was a huge "what if" for the resurgent Raiders, who were left to wonder how far they would have gone with Derek Carr under center. But this team is on the right track with general manager Reggie McKenzie, and in Mack, it has the game's preeminent edge-rusher.

    Detroit Lions left tackle Taylor Decker finished an outstanding rookie campaign by keeping quarterback Matthew Stafford relatively clean against the Seattle Seahawks' outstanding and multifaceted pass rush. He did allow one quarterback hit and a handful of hurries, but that's better than many edge-blockers can do against Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark. The Lions have their left tackle of the future.

    And both of the Giants' safeties, Landon Collins and Leon Hall, landed in the top 25. That secondary will spend a long time this offseason wondering just how Aaron Rodgers was able to take it apart—then again, a lot of pass defenders spend their offseason wondering that same thing.

    Here's the full Top 25 player rankings for the Wild Card Round. 

    Top 25 Overall from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerPos.TeamNFL1000 Score
    1James Harrison3-4 OLBPIT86
    2A.J. BouyeCBHOU86
    3Jadeveon Clowney3-4 OLBHOU84
    4Whitney Mercilus3-4 OLBHOU83
    5Le'Veon BellRBPIT82
    6Aaron RodgersQBGB81
    7David BakhtiariLTGB81
    8Bryan BulagaRTGB80
    9Khalil Mack4-3 DEOAK79
    10Landon CollinsSSNYG78
    11Bobby WagnerILBSEA77
    12Duane BrownLTHOU77
    13Marcus GilbertRTPIT77
    14K.J. Wright4-3 OLBSEA77
    15Aaron RipkowskiFBGB77
    16Matt PraterKDET77
    17Russell WilsonQBSEA76
    18DeShawn SheadCBSEA76
    19Taylor DeckerLTDET76
    20Justin BrittCSEA75
    21Leon HallFSNYG75
    22T.J. LangOGGB75
    23Germain IfediOGSEA75
    24David DeCastroOGPIT75
    25Richard ShermanCBSEA75

Quarterbacks

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Despite facing one of the league's most intimidating defenses and losing his No. 1 receiver—on a play on which said receiver dropped a long pass—Aaron Rodgers was the top-ranked quarterback in the NFL1000 for the Wild Card Round.

    Rodgers' numbers were bloated slightly by a Hail Mary connection with Randall Cobb, but a second half that featured precision and patience in the pocket helped the Packers to a big win. Rodgers was fortunate to escape an interception early in the game when he under-threw Jared Cook down the left sideline and had a few off-target throws into tight windows, but those didn't spoil his overall grade too much. 

    Eli Manning suffered at the hands of his receivers with drops on many occasions, but his ball placement was also consistently off on downfield throws. It has been an issue for Manning this season—an issue that wasn't helped by his playing behind a problematic offensive line. That line, and Ereck Flowers specifically, was responsible for a lost fumble late when Manning got no protection on his blind side in the pocket.

    Ben Roethlisberger didn't have to do much for the Steelers, as they steamrolled the Dolphins. Roethlisberger's early success mostly came through Antonio Brown's yards after catch (YAC) before Todd Haley focused the offense around Le'Veon Bell. Roethlisberger's first interception hit Brown in the hands, but he had previously thrown the ball straight to a defender and not been punished. Roethlisberger finished the game with an awful decision for his second interception. It didn't cost Pittsburgh, but it did come with an apparent injury to Roethlisberger's ankle.

    In Seattle, Matthew Stafford's receivers dropped passes, but he also struggled with his accuracy. Russell Wilson's first half featured a lot of pressure he didn't respond well to, but he showed off impressive accuracy and made good decisions to secure the victory in the second half. Wilson was fortunate on at least one occasion—when Paul Richardson pulled in a pass for a touchdown that could have easily been an interception had the defender looked for the ball.

        

    Grading Scale

    Acc: Accuracy (Graded out of 25)

    Arm: Arm Strength (Graded out of 25)

    Press: Pressure/Run Threat (Graded out of 20—pressure weighted at 15, run threat at 5)

    Dec: Decision-Making (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Quarterback Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamAccArmPressDecPosOvr
    1Aaron RodgersGB182215161081
    2Russell WilsonSEA182013151076
    3Matthew StaffordDET152014141073
    4Eli ManningNYG142013141071
    5Ben RoethlisbergerPIT151913111068
    6Brock OsweilerHOU141713111065
    7Matt MooreMIA151710101062
    8Connor CookOAK1016881052

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

Running Backs

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Wild Card Weekend came and went, but some things in the NFL stayed the same. Le'Veon Bell was the highest-graded running back this weekend after he absolutely shredded the Dolphins. He was dominant Sunday, with 29 carries for 167 yards and two touchdowns. His patience, vision and physical nature were on full display, as he carried would-be tacklers throughout the contest. He has established himself as the league's best runner and will pose massive problems for the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend.

    Thomas Rawls was excellent Saturday night against the Lions. He ran with a violent nature, lowering his shoulder on contact, and consistently broke soft arm tackles. While he played Detroit's poor defense, averaging six yards per carry is not easy. He was also excellent in short-yardage situations. While he is not Marshawn Lynch, Rawls will need to play a similar role if Seattle wants to make an NFC run. From what he displayed Saturday, it will be hard not to expect him to continue succeeding on the ground. 

    While Lamar Miller didn't look 100 percent healthy in his return from an ankle injury, he was effective against the Raiders. Even without his typical explosiveness, he was productive Saturday afternoon thanks to his vision and vertical style. But the Texans will need him to be much better against the Patriots this weekend.

    Paul Perkins played well as the full-time starter in limited reps against the Parkers. His future seems bright, especially if the Giants can improve their offensive line this offseason—he has explosive attributes you look for in a runner.

    Latavius Murray ran hard in what might have been his last game as a Raider. Against a stacked box, Murray ran with a purpose, and he made a couple of explosive plays while also adding a touchdown. With an injury-riddled offensive line, there really wasn't much space for Murray to operate—but he played well.

    Christine Michael made plays for the Packers and may be forced to start against the Dallas Cowboys, as Ty Montgomery suffered a knee injury.

        

    Grading Scale

    In: Inside Running (Graded out of 25)

    Out: Outside Running (Graded out of 25)

    Rec: Receiving (Graded out of 20)

    Blk: Blocking (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Running Back Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamInOutRecBlkPosOvr
    1Le'Veon BellPIT22211617682
    2Thomas RawlsSEA19171517674
    3Lamar MillerHOU18171516672
    4Paul PerkinsNYG17161715671
    5Christine MichaelGB18171515671
    6Latavius MurrayOAK17161516670
    7Damien WilliamsMIA17151616670
    8Zach ZennerDET17141716670
    9DeAndre WashingtonOAK17151516669
    10Ty MontgomeryGB16151814669
    11Alex CollinsSEA16151616669
    12Jonathan GrimesHOU17151515668
    13Jay AjayiMIA16151516668
    14Rashad JenningsNYG17141417668
    15DeAngelo WilliamsPIT15151416666
    16Jalen RichardOAK15151514665
    17Bobby RaineyNYG14151514664

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Ameer Abdullah—injury
    • Theo Riddick—injury
    • C.J. Prosise—injury
    • Shane Vereen—injury
    • James Starks—injury
    • Eddie Lacy—injury
    • Alfred Blue—insufficient snaps

Fullbacks

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Wild Card Weekend was a quiet time for fullbacks. The highest-graded player was Aaron Ripkowski—who was excellent as usual for the Packers on Sunday against the Giants. Ripkowski was strong as a lead blocker, added a couple of catches and also had a carry. If Ty Montgomery is unable to go against Dallas, Green Bay will need Ripkowski to be much more involved carrying the football and operating as a more traditional runner. His versatility has helped the Packers during their seven-game winning streak and will be needed if they want to stay alive.

    Jay Prosch has been solid all year and was really good against the Raiders in limited opportunities. He was physical at the point of attack and was excellent while sustaining blocks on contact. He also had a carry, converting a first down in a short-yardage situation.

    Marcel Reece was effective for Seattle on Saturday night. While he is not a great lead blocker, he did an excellent job positioning his body and staying in front of Detroit defenders. He is not the most physical player, but he is willing to block, and that was on full display. His versatility has been a huge boost to the Seattle offense.

    Roosevelt Nix did a good job clearing holes for Le'Veon Bell. While he plays a limited role in the offense, he excelled as a hammer at the point of attack and while moving defenders on contact.

        

    Grading Scale

    Blk: Blocking (Graded out of 50)

    Run: Running (Graded out of 25)

    Rec: Receiving (Graded out of 15)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

     

    Fullback Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamBlkRunRecPosOvr
    1Aaron RipkowskiGB441811477
    2Jay ProschHOU44159472
    3Marcel ReeceSEA421510471
    4Roosevelt NixPIT44148470
    5Jamize OlawaleOAK43148469

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Michael Burton—inactive

Wide Receivers

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    For most of the season, Randall Cobb was a nonfactor for the Packers. But on Sunday, Cobb turned in his best performance of the season. Cobb won out of the slot, but more specifically, out of man coverage. He finally looked explosive again and created quick separation for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Hail Mary aside, Green Bay is a much better offense when Cobb is on the field.

    Davante Adams continued to impress. Adams failed to haul in one contested ball, but he won in other ways. Adams' ability to win on the outside has earned Rodger's trust. He usually draws teams' second-best corner, and he feasted on rookie Eli Apple.

    In the same game, Odell Beckham Jr. struggled. The Packers deployed a lot of double coverage versus Beckham, but Beckham dropped three balls and another one that was contested in the middle of the field. He created separation but just didn't make a difference.

    In the Detroit-Seattle matchup, Paul Richardson stole the show. The second-round pick from Colorado made two magnificent catches, including one for a score. Richardson has replaced Tyler Lockett as the Seahawks' deep threat and is quickly becoming a favorite of Russell Wilson.

    On the AFC side, there wasn't a ton of offense on display Saturday, as Raiders third-string quarterback Connor Cook made his first NFL start. Cook did get a bit of a spark when reserve wide receiver Andre Holmes entered the contest, and Holmes led Oakland with 50 yards and a touchdown on four catches.

    For Houston, DeAndre Hopkins displayed some good route-running, particularly on a slant for a touchdown, and he made a good adjustment on a vertical route along the sideline to pull in an over-the-shoulder catch.

    On Sunday, the Steelers started hot thanks to Antonio Brown. His second reception of the day went for a 50-yard touchdown on a wide receiver screen thanks in large part to Jesse James and Cobi Hamilton blocking in front of him. On Pittsburgh's next drive, Brown ran a good slant route and took that play 64 yards to the end zone, beating the free safety after the catch.

    Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills had some brights spots for the Dolphins. Specifically, Landry was good after the catch, and Stills made nice adjustments on two vertical routes.

        

    Grading Scale

    Route: Route Running (Graded out of 25)

    Hands: Hands (Graded out of 25)

    YAC: Yards After Catch (Graded out of 20)

    Blk: Blocking (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Wide Receiver Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamRouteHandsYACBlkPosOvr
    1Antonio BrownPIT18161613972
    2Randall CobbGB19181510971
    3Doug BaldwinSEA18181412971
    4Marvin JonesDET18171412970
    5Davante AdamsGB19181311970
    6DeAndre HopkinsHOU17171312968
    7Jarvis LandryMIA17171312968
    8Sterling ShepardNYG18161410967
    9Tavarres KingNYG17171311967
    10Golden TateDET17161311966
    11Odell Beckham Jr.NYG19141311966
    12Kenny StillsMIA16161212965
    13Paul RichardsonSEA16181210965
    14Anquan BoldinDET16151212964
    15Victor CruzNYG16161310964
    16DeVante ParkerMIA16161111963
    17Jermaine KearseSEA15161211963
    18Will Fuller VHOU15151211962
    19Eli RogersPIT14141112960
    20Geronimo AllisonGB14141111959
    21Andre HolmesOAK14141111959
    22Demarcus AyersPIT14141111959
    23Amari CooperOAK15131011958
    24Michael CrabtreeOAK14111311958
    25Cobi HamiltonPIT12131014958
    26Seth RobertsOAK14111012956
    27Darrius Heyward-BeyPIT13121012956
    28Jordy NelsonGB13121011955
    29Keith MumpheryHOU13121011955
    30Johnny HoltonOAK13121011955
    31Tanner McEvoySEA12121010953

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Andre Roberts—insufficient snaps
    • Wendell Williams—insufficient snaps
    • Braxton Miller—injury
    • Jaelen Strong—injury
    • Leonte Carroo—inactive
    • Jakeem Grant—insufficient snaps
    • Rashawn Scott—insufficient snaps
    • Sammie Coates—insufficient snaps
    • Markus Wheaton—injury
    • Tyler Lockett—injury

Tight Ends

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    In the NFC, it was a weak weekend for tight ends. The Giants' Will Tye was the top performer. Tye was OK in the run game, but his biggest play came on a catch-and-run down the seam that went for 51 yards. Tye isn't a great athlete, but he's been a useful player for the Giants offense of late.

    Jimmy Graham took a shot to the ribs early in Seattle's win but later returned to the game--finishing with three receptions for 37 yards.

    On the other side of the field, Eric Ebron got open versus Kam Chancellor and the Seahawks defense, but drops plagued him. It's a problem he's had throughout his career; he just can't put it all together at one time.

    AFC tight ends also had a quiet weekend, particularly in the passing game. On Saturday, the Texans' C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin hauled in a few passes, with Fiedorowicz catching two passes for 35 yards and Griffin catching three for 29. Griffin ran a few good routes, including an out route early in the game during which he displayed some short-area quickness on his break.

    The Raiders' Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford were relatively quiet while facing tough blocking matchups on the edges.

    On Sunday, Dion Sims caught five passes for 34 yards against the Steelers but was limited after the catch.

    The Steelers used their tight ends primarily in the blocking game, and Jesse James in particular excelled in front of the patient Le'Veon Bell. 

        

    Grading Scale

    Route: Route Running (Graded out of 20)

    Hands: Hands (Graded out of 25)

    YAC: Yards After Catch (Graded out of 20)

    Blk: Blocking (Graded out of 25)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Tight End Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamRouteHandsYACBlkPosOvr
    1Will TyeNYG15171517670
    2Jimmy GrahamSEA15171316667
    3Eric EbronDET15151316665
    4Jared CookGB14151317665
    5C.J. FiedorowiczHOU13151218664
    6Ryan GriffinHOU14141118663
    7Luke WillsonSEA13151118663
    8Dion SimsMIA13151019663
    9Mychal RiveraOAK13141117661
    10Jesse JamesPIT11141020661
    11Matthew MulliganDET11151017659
    12Clive WalfordOAK11121019658
    13David JohnsonPIT10121019657
    14MarQueis GrayMIA10121018656
    15Brandon A. WilliamsSEA10121017655
    16Richard RodgersGB10121017655
    17Dominique JonesMIA10121016654
    18Larry DonnellNYG10121016654

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Clay Harbor—insufficient snaps
    • Jerell Adams—injury
    • Nick Vannett—insufficient snaps

Left Tackles

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Green Bay's David Bakhtiari was the NFL1000's top performer at left tackle for Wild Card Weekend. The New York front seven had been stout against the run all season, but Bakhtiari found ways to get the job done, creating lanes in those "got to have it" moments. Bakhtiari was phenomenal in pass protection, surrendering one preventable pressure in 71 plays (based on film study).

    Houston's Duane Brown claimed our No. 2 ranking for the Wild Card Round. Brown came back from an injury-riddled 2015 and may have turned in his best performance of the season against the Raiders' dynamic pass rush, surrendering just three pressures in 73 plays, with no sacks or quarterback hits. Brown was also instrumental in the Texans' grinding out 123 yards in the running game, which helped Houston win time of possession 33:29 to 26:31.

    Two other performances of note were those of Detroit rookie Taylor Decker and Pittsburgh's Alejandro Villanueva. Decker played his first playoff game in one of the most hostile environments in football: Seattle's CenturyLink Field. There weren't many positives for the Lions, but Decker put an exclamation point on his rookie season with his performance against the Seahawks. As we noted throughout the season, Decker showed weekly improvement in all aspects of his game, and it was clear the stage was not too big for him when he faced the intense Seattle pass-rushers.

    Villanueva turned in a solid performance against Miami, surrendering only one pressure in 57 snaps. He also had some impactful blocks in the running game. One of those blocks that jumped out on tape was Villanueva and left guard Ramon Foster's combo block. Villanueva secured the line of scrimmage, shoved the defensive tackle over to Foster and climbed up to block a linebacker, opening a huge lane that resulted in a touchdown.

        

    Grading Scale

    Pass: Pass Protection (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Blocking (Graded out of 25)

    Power: Power (Graded out of 20)

    Agl: Agility (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Left Tackle Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamPassRunPowerAglPosOvr
    1David BakhtiariGB21191518881
    2Duane BrownHOU20181615877
    3Taylor DeckerDET19181516876
    4Alejandro VillanuevaPIT18201514875
    5Branden AlbertMIA17171415871
    6Menelik WatsonOAK16171413868
    7George FantSEA14171315867
    8Ereck FlowersNYG15161413866

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Donald Penn—injury

Right Tackles

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Green Bay's Bryan Bulaga was the NFL1000's top performer at right tackle for Wild Card Weekend. Bulaga has played at an high level all season, and that continued. He provided "executive" protection for Aaron Rodgers, which isn't always an easy task when Rodgers is extending plays and holding on to the ball for close to 10 seconds.

    In 71 snaps, Bulaga did not surrender a pressure, quarterback hit or sack. The Packers didn't necessarily control the clock by grinding out yards running the ball, but when a team's time of possession is 34:31, it's a testament to an offensive line getting it done and an offense moving the chains.

    Pittsburgh's Marcus Gilbert was our second-ranked right tackle of the weekend. Gilbert was solid in both the running game and pass protection. Le'Veon Bell had another huge day running the ball, and many of those runs were set up by Gilbert's blocks. As a pass protector, Gilbert was late to recover on a third down and surrendered a quarterback hit—his only blemish in 56 plays. 

        

    Grading Scale

    Pass: Pass Protection (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Blocking (Graded out of 25)

    Power: Power (Graded out of 20)

    Agl: Agility (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Right Tackle Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamPassRunPowerAglPosOvr
    1Bryan BulagaGB22191616780
    2Marcus GilbertPIT19201615777
    3Ja'Wuan JamesMIA17181614772
    4Garry GilliamSEA17171515771
    5Chris ClarkHOU17171414769
    6Corey RobinsonDET16161414767
    7Austin HowardOAK15171512766
    8Marshall NewhouseNYG16161313765

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Chris Hubbard—insufficient snaps

Offensive Guards

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Wild Card Weekend featured some pretty good guard play. T.J. Lang led the way, anchoring a Green Bay offensive line that gave Aaron Rodgers seemingly all day to throw the ball.

    Surprisingly, Germain Ifedi was right on his tail. And yes, this is the same Germain Ifedi whom we graded as one of the league's worst guards this year. Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell came out with a physical, run-first game plan against Detroit, which allowed Ifedi to cut loose and do what he does best: get into defenders' frames and drive them through the RAM A-gap.

    Ifedi showed signs of struggling outside the phone booth, though. We saw a little bit of the lunging, overextending and lack of quickness firing out of his stance that have been themes all year. But Bevell did a good job to limit those reps and put Ifedi in a position to succeed. When the first-round pick is allowed to attack, and successfully gets his hands in on you in the run game, he makes good things happen.

        

    Grading Scale

    Pass: Pass Protection (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Blocking (Graded out of 25)

    Power: Power (Graded out of 20)

    Agl: Agility (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Offensive Guard Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamPassRunPowerAglPosOvr
    1T.J. LangGB18171815775
    2Germain IfediSEA15191915775
    3David DeCastroPIT16181717775
    4Mark GlowinskiSEA17171616773
    5Kelechi OsemeleOAK16171814772
    6Lane TaylorGB18151516771
    7John JerryNYG18151714771
    8Ramon FosterPIT15171715771
    9Larry WarfordDET15161715770
    10Gabe JacksonOAK17161713770
    11Laremy TunsilMIA15171516770
    12Justin PughNYG17151515769
    13Jeff AllenHOU16151813769
    14Jermon BushrodMIA16161614769
    15Xavier Su'a-FiloHOU16151614768
    16Laken TomlinsonDET17141515768
    17Oday AboushiHOU16141514766

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

Centers

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Center play was a little more split than other positions in the Wild Card Round, and even the guys who graded in the average range overall had inconsistent performances. Rodney Hudson comes to mind. Even prior to him getting got banged up and missing a couple of series against Houston, he was having an odd game for a player as well-rounded and technically sound as he is.

    At times, Hudson looked good. He flashed in space in the first quarter, on one play he came off a pull and leveled a second-level defender on a Latavius Murray touchdown run. Hudson isn't used in space that often, so it stood out. Hudson looked out of place later on, completely whiffing on punches in pass protection. It was a weird game for Oakland, and that was true up front as well. It certainly wasn't a bad performance by Hudson, but it was somewhat off compared to his normal style of play. 

        

    Grading Scale:

    Pass: Pass Protection (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Blocking (Graded out of 25)

    Power: Power (Graded out of 20)

    Agl: Agility (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Center Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamPassRunPowerAglPosOvr
    1Justin BrittSEA16201716675
    2Maurkice PounceyPIT17191714673
    3Rodney HudsonOAK15181814671
    4Corey LinsleyGB18161714671
    5Weston RichburgNYG18141715670
    6Greg ManczHOU18141515668
    7Kraig UrbikMIA16141514665
    8Graham GlasgowDET14151614665

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

3-4 Defensive Ends

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    The AFC Wild Card Round featured three teams that primarily play a 3-4 defense. Of those teams, Pittsburgh's Stephon Tuitt is the best player, and he had a typically strong outing without being spectacular. Tuitt's best qualities might be his strength against the run and his tackling radius. His long arms and short-area explosion make him a hard defender to run past.

    Only one 3-4 defense is left in the NFL, as the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons, who earned first-round byes, are 4-3 teams. Mike Daniels absolutely took over the interior game against the New York Giants, ruining lanes for running backs and forcing the ball out of Eli Manning's hand just a fraction of a second faster than his mechanics would ideally call for. 

        

    Grading Scale

    Snap: Snap Explosion (Graded out of 15)

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 30)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    3-4 Defensive End Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamSnapRushRunTklPosOvr
    1Mike DanielsGB13192213774
    2Stephon TuittPIT13142118773
    3Dean LowryGB10182014769
    4Denico AutryOAK12131914765
    5L.T. WaltonPIT11122014764
    6Mario Edwards Jr.OAK12131912763
    7Antonio SmithHOU11141714763
    8Joel HeathHOU10131814762
    9Christian CovingtonHOU9131814761

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

4-3 Defensive Ends

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Both of the AFC stars at this position lost in their wild-card matchups, but Khalil Mack put on a performance good enough to win. He was dominant as a run defender and was all over the field making tackles for the Raiders. In the other game, Cam Wake was held in check for most of the game, as the Steelers kept the Dolphins defense guessing.

    Converted DT Nick Williams was the most interesting addition to the Miami defense. He replaced Jason Jones as their run-down DE and the Pittsburgh offensive line targeted and abused him. In the NFC, Seattle's defensive ends, like for the majority of the season, dominated the Detroit Lions up front. The Lions' star defensive end Ezekiel Ansah finally put together a great performance, but it came too late in the season to matter, as the rest of the team around him had already crumbled.

    Without Jason Pierre-Paul, the New York Giants didn't have a great game, as their two young players in Romeo Okwara and Kerry Wynn are still not starting-caliber talents. Against Green Bay's bookends, Olivier Vernon wasn't able to do much, and the fact Aaron Rodgers was able to get a ball off on a Hail Mary attempt comes down to the Giants' pass rush first and foremost. 

        

    Grading Scale

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 25)

    Snap: Snap Explosion (Graded out of 20)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    4-3 Defensive End Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamRushRunSnapTklPosOvr
    1Khalil MackOAK20171618879
    2Ezekiel AnsahDET21131615873
    3Frank ClarkSEA22141514873
    4Cliff AvrilSEA22141414872
    5Kerry HyderDET20131414869
    6Michael BennettSEA19131514869
    7Cassius MarshSEA20131414869
    8Olivier VernonNYG20141314869
    9Cameron WakeMIA19131513868
    10Devin TaylorDET19131413867
    11Romeo OkwaraNYG19121414867
    12Kerry WynnNYG19121414867
    13Anthony ZettelDET18121414866
    14Terrence FedeMIA16131114862
    15Andre BranchMIA19111310861
    16Nick WilliamsMIA1691013856

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Mario Williams—insufficient snaps
    • Jason Pierre-Paul—injury

Defensive Tackles

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Damon Harrison had a stellar performance in New York's loss against the Packers on Sunday night. He dominated the Packers' interior offensive line against the run and was impressive laterally taking on outside zone runs. Rookies Javon Hargrave, Kenny Clark and D.J. Reader had impressive performances that helped lead their teams to victory. Reader had a strong end to the season and looks ready to take control of the starting nose guard position from Vince Wilfork next season.

    The Dolphins' defensive tackles had a rough go on Sunday versus the Steelers. They didn't generate much pass rush, were steamrolled by the Steelers' offensive line and didn't meet Le'Veon Bell with much resistance. Darius Latham had a solid game for the Raiders in a loss, and he appears to be much better than their 2016 second-round pick, Jihad Ward. 

        

    Grading Scale

    Snap: Snap Explosion (Graded out of 25)

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 25)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 15)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Defensive Tackle Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamSnapRushRunTklPosOvr
    1Damon HarrisonNYG17152112772
    2Javon HargravePIT17161912771
    3Kenny ClarkGB17161911770
    4D.J. ReaderHOU16161712768
    5Haloti NgataDET16171612768
    6Jarran ReedSEA15151912768
    7Ndamukong SuhMIA18171510767
    8Johnathan HankinsNYG16151811767
    9Jordan PhillipsMIA17151710766
    10Tyrunn WalkerDET15161611765
    11Ahtyba RubinSEA16141711765
    12Vince WilforkHOU14131911764
    13Darius LathamOAK15121811763
    14Justin EllisOAK14131712763
    15Daniel McCullersPIT15141611763
    16Letroy GuionGB15141510761
    17Jay BromleyNYG15131410759
    18Khyri ThorntonDET14131311758
    19John JenkinsSEA14121510758
    20Earl MitchellMIA14151210758
    21A'Shawn RobinsonDET13141210756
    22Dan WilliamsOAK12111410754

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Jihad Ward—inactive
    • Tony McDaniel—injury

3-4 Outside Linebackers

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Wild Card Weekend delivered a few of the 2016 season's most impressive performances from 3-4 linebackers. James Harrison played his best game of the year as the Steelers rolled the Dolphins, while Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus almost single-handedly destroyed the Raiders offense during a convincing win for the Texans.

    Even at 38 years old, Harrison was all over the field for the Steelers. His highlight was a strip-sack of Matt Moore right before the half, but Harrison did a little bit of everything. He beat several blocks to create pressure and tackles for losses. He snuffed out a receiver screen and made the tackle. He even made a big third-down stop on Jay Ajayi short of the sticks in coverage. He finished with 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks and three tackles for losses. It was as complete a game as you'll see from the position, especially in the playoff game. 

    The Texans' Clowney and Mercilus were just as good. As he's been for much of the season, Clowney was unblockable for long stretches—both against the run and as a pass-rusher. He also batted down a pass and intercepted an attempted screen, which led to a Texans touchdown. Eventually, the Raiders had to make the decision to consistently double-team him—and that's when Mercilus took the game over. He produced two sacks, 3.5 tackles for losses and two quarterback hits. The Texans need these two to be just as dominant when Houston travels to New England to play the Patriots in the divisional round.

    Other standouts from the weekend included Julius Peppers, who ended three different Giants drives on third down (sack, hit on Eli Manning forcing an incompletion and a batted pass) and Bud Dupree, who lived in the Dolphins' backfield (just ask Matt Moore).

        

    Grading Scale

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 25)

    Cvg: Coverage (Graded out of 15)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 25)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    3-4 Outside Linebacker Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamRushRunCvgTklPosOvr
    1James HarrisonPIT26181123886
    2Jadeveon ClowneyHOU27161320884
    3Whitney MercilusHOU26171022883
    4Julius PeppersGB24131020875
    5Bud DupreePIT2514819874
    6Clay MatthewsGB2211917867
    7Jarvis JonesPIT19111018866
    8Nick PerryGB2012916865
    9Datone JonesGB1712917863
    10Brennan ScarlettHOU1712916862
    11Kyler FackrellGB1612917862

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • John Simon—injury
    • Jayrone Elliott—injury

4-3 Outside Linebackers

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Wild Card Weekend was filled with blowouts; some were expected, and others were surprises. Whether it is a coincidence or not, the Seattle Seahawks, who were the only team on this list to come away with a victory, were also the only team with an outstanding linebacker performance.

    As he has done in the past, K.J. Wright came in clutch for the Seahawks. Wright was sticky in coverage and forced Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to look elsewhere all game long. In the run game, Wright, along with teammate Bobby Wagner, was a menace. He constantly beat offensive linemen to their spot, and he clogged the line of scrimmage.

    Through all of Wright's dominance against the Lions, the most quietly impressive play he made was a diving shoestring tackle on Stafford to stop the scrambling quarterback just short of the sticks on 3rd-and-3. That kind of determination is part of what makes Wright special. 

    A few other linebackers had quality performances, but none could compare to Wright. Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin was largely negated as a pass-rusher, while he was steered clear of in the run game. It was far from Irvin's worst day, but it was not his best. Similarly, Giants linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson were good for a large part of the game, but, like the rest of the Giants defense, they looked drained by the fourth quarter and let the game slip away.

    As for the Lions and Dolphins linebacker corps, there is little to say. Both groups struggled to keep their feet under them and were weak links for their teams' respective defenses.

        

    Grading Scale

    Cvg: Coverage (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 25)

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 15)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 25)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    4-3 Outside Linebacker Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamCvgRunRushTklPosOvr
    1K.J. WrightSEA2021921677
    2Jonathan CasillasNYG1819719669
    3Keenan RobinsonNYG1818719668
    4Bruce IrvinOAK15181018667
    5DeAndre LevyDET1716717663
    6Josh BynesDET1715717662
    7Neville HewittMIA1515718661
    8Mike MorganSEA1616716661
    9Devon KennardNYG1517716661
    10Jelani JenkinsMIA1516716660
    11Brandon CopelandDET1715715660
    12Malcolm SmithOAK1315717658
    13Donald ButlerMIA1515715658

        

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Spencer Paysinger—insufficient snaps

Inside Linebackers

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Elite defenders rarely exist as inside linebackers. Teams have committed to pass-rushers who terrorize quarterbacks or defensive backs who eliminate the opposing team's best receiver. In each Wild Card Weekend game, however, the winning team sported the superior group of inside linebackers.

    Houston duo Benardrick McKinney and Brian Cushing led the Texans in easily beating up on Connor Cook and his overall inexperience. McKinney cracked the top three with an impressive overall game against a good Oakland offensive line. His task next week against the New England Patriots—a team that has routinely exposed poor linebackers this season—will be much more difficult. 

    Seattle's Bobby Wagner earned the top coverage grade this week, despite not recording an interception like Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Shazier, whose pick was an impressive display of athleticism, but was also a clear misread from quarterback Matt Moore. Wagner, however, shows tremendous athleticism every play, effectively erasing running backs as receivers. If Wagner can continue his impressive streak next week against Atlanta's versatile duo, he'll be the linchpin in Seattle leaving Atlanta with a win.

    Kiko Alonso ended his season just as expected: with a handful of impressive plays that highlight his overall athleticism but show a distinct lack of technical ability to stop the interior run. Alonso does enough to appeal in a league valuing speed, but he struggles to meet offensive linemen at the point of attack. Good teams have exploited that all year long, and Sunday against Pittsburgh was no different.

    Wild Card Weekend exposed the players on teams that made the playoffs in spite of their play. As teams move forward, stars like Wagner will be relied upon even more heavily.

           

    Grading Scale

    Pass: Pass Defense (Graded out of 25)

    Run: Run Defense (Graded out of 35)

    Rush: Pass Rush (Graded out of 15)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 15)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

                

    Inside Linebacker Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamPassRunRushTklPosOvr
    1Bobby WagnerSEA20281211677
    2Ryan ShazierPIT19271110673
    3Benardrick McKinneyHOU18271011672
    4Lawrence TimmonsPIT16251311671
    5Jake RyanGB1925911670
    6Brian CushingHOU1727911670
    7Joe ThomasGB1724910666
    8Kiko AlonsoMIA1723910665
    9Blake MartinezGB1524910664
    10Perry Riley Jr.OAK15221010663
    11Kelvin SheppardNYG1622910663
    12Tahir WhiteheadDET172199662
    13Cory JamesOAK142098657

            

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

Cornerbacks

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    A handful of the NFL's elite cornerbacks were in action this past weekend. For the most part, the star cornerbacks from the regular season shined bright, though the New York Giants didn't quite get the performance they expected after a terrific season from Janoris Jenkins. He scored a below-average grade despite finishing as our second-highest graded corner in the regular season.

    The entire Giants secondary was out of sorts against Green Bay, despite a strong start to the game. Once Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie departed with an injury, the Packers took advantage of Trevin Wade and Coty Sensabaugh, specifically. The two combined for 36 slot snaps, allowing six of seven targets to be completed for two touchdowns and four first downs. 

    Elsewhere, the Seattle Seahawks received great games from Richard Sherman and DeShawn Shead. Shead's been up and down this year but gave up just one completion on 10 targets in man coverage, and he was credited with zero blown snaps. If he plays that well again this week, the Atlanta Falcons offense will have a much more difficult time moving the ball downfield.

    The AFC CBs were let off the hook as three of the teams featured backup quarterbacks. That likely led to more aggressive play from the defensive backs, and that showed in Houston. A.J. Bouye had an outstanding day in coverage. In 52 cover snaps, Bouye wasn't beaten once by a pair of good Raiders receivers. That's an amazing feat. It's one thing to not get beaten in coverage, it's another to make plays on the ball. Bouye was targeted seven times and did not allow a reception.

    He also had an interception, broke up a pass and was aggressive in the run game. It was one of the better all-around performances we've charted for a cornerback this year. The Texans will need this type of play heading into next week.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Raiders' David Amerson continued to struggle in coverage. He gave up three receptions on five targets for a total of 89 yards, one being a big play down the sideline to DeAndre Hopkins where he lost track of the ball. He surrendered four first downs, was beaten four times in coverage, had two penalties and missed a tackle.

    Oakland needed a strong performance from its defense to have a chance, since it was using a backup quarterback, and unfortunately, Amerson did not provide one on Saturday.

    The Steelers have a talented group of receivers, and it doesn't get any better than Antonio Brown. With the Dolphins missing their top corner, Byron Maxwell, it was assumed the secondary would struggle. That wasn't the case with the second-round pick out of Baylor, though.

    Xavien Howard was refreshingly good on Sunday. He gave up three catches on four targets but limited them to 15 yards. He was only beaten once in coverage all day and had a nice breakup on a slant against Brown. Howard was rewarded for his coverage with a late Christmas gift as Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball right to him.

    I'd guess the Chiefs will target Ross Cockrell early and often if his performance Sunday was any indication of how he'll play in the divisional round. Cockrell gave up five catches on six targets for 74 yards, including a big play where he just didn't have the speed to recover. He also was guilty of allowing three first downs in coverage. He'll be tested next week by more speed on the perimeter and will need to improve.

              

    Grading Scale

    Cvg: Coverage (Graded out of 30)

    React: Reaction/Recovery (Graded out of 30)

    Slot: Slot (Graded out of 20)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 10)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Cornerback Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamCvgReactSlotTklPosOvr
    1A.J. BouyeHOU2627177986
    2DeShawn SheadSEA2121196976
    3Richard ShermanSEA2122167975
    4Xavien HowardMIA2122166974
    5William GayPIT2120166972
    6Sean SmithOAK2119166971
    7Darius SlayDET2019166970
    8Kareem JacksonHOU1918166968
    9Artie BurnsPIT1919165968
    10Janoris JenkinsNYG1818166967
    11Johnathan JosephHOU1719156966
    12Robert Nelson Jr.HOU1716166964
    13LaDarius GunterGB1617166964
    14Eli AppleNYG1716166964
    15Bobby McCainMIA1717164963
    16Nevin LawsonDET1617155962
    17T.J. CarrieOAK1615156961
    18Ross CockrellPIT1615155960
    19Jeremy LaneSEA1514165959
    20Tony LippettMIA1413145955
    21Micah HydeGB1314145955
    22Trevin WadeNYG1413135954
    23Coty SensabaughNYG1214145954
    24Damarious RandallGB1214135953
    25Crezdon ButlerDET1312135952
    26David AmersonOAK1211134949

           

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie—injury
    • Don Carey—insufficient snaps
    • Byron Maxwell—injury

Free Safeties

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    It was a poor Wild Card Weekend for free safeties. The Giants converted cornerback Leon Hall to safety this season, and he came out as the highest-graded free safety this week. Hall played mostly in the deep middle of the field as the single-high safety, allowing Landon Collins to roam more freely in the box where he is far more natural.

    Hall had some strong plays in coverage. In the first quarter, the Packers tried to bait him inside with a deep over route designed to take Hall inside and create space for Jordy Nelson to work up the seam. Hall initially took the bait inside, but he kept his eyes in the backfield and quickly worked back outside to stay on top of Nelson.

    Later, Hall read a stick route by tight end Jared Cook perfectly, breaking on it quickly and landing a hit to make the tackle instantly, saving the first down. He made a similar play in the second quarter, diagnosing a tight end crossing route early and breaking down on it to take it away, forcing Rodgers to look elsewhere.

    He was, however, at least partially at fault for the Hail Mary touchdown to Randall Cobb at the end of the half. As the deep safety, Hall had to stay back further than the deepest receiver. But he failed to do so, biting down on Davante Adams' route and leaving Cobb to sneak in behind. Hall noticed his error, but he couldn't quite get back in time to prevent the catch. He was slightly unfortunate that Cobb got away with a pushoff, but Hall should have had better positioning to begin with.

    Texans safety Corey Moore gave a solid performance against the Raiders. He saw more reps than he normally would after Quintin Demps left the game early with an injury. Moore didn't have much of an impact around the line of scrimmage, but he fulfilled his primary role as the deep safety well.

    On one play in the fourth quarter, Moore was assigned with a half of the field in a two-deep safety coverage. The Raiders looked to split the gap between the safeties in the middle of the field with a seam route. Moore read the route perfectly, driving down on it and getting to the catch point as the ball arrived to break up the pass. Moore also managed to pull in a late interception. He was on top of an Amari Cooper dig route when the ball was overthrown and landed in his lap for a simple interception.

              

    Grading Scale

    Cvg: Coverage (Graded out of 30)

    Rec: Recovery (Graded out of 30)

    Slot: Slot/LB (Graded out of 10)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

               

    Free Safety Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamCvgRecSlotTklPosOvr
    1Leon HallNYG2323615875
    2Corey MooreHOU2322416873
    3Andre HalHOU2222515872
    4Mike MitchellPIT2320615872
    5Ha Ha Clinton-DixGB2221615872
    6Brynden TrawickOAK2220516871
    7Glover QuinDET2221515871
    8Kentrell BriceGB2121416870
    9Reggie NelsonOAK2121415869
    10Michael ThomasMIA2220415869
    11Steven TerrellSEA2120416869

              

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Nat Berhe—inactive
    • Andrew Adams—insufficient snaps

Strong Safeties

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Giant Landon Collins was by far the standout strong safety of the Wild Card Weekend. He was all over the field, making plays in both the pass and run game. It was nearly a rough start for him though, as he was beaten by a double move down the sideline by Packers tight end Jared Cook. Collins managed to recover though, getting back and breaking up a somewhat underthrown ball from Aaron Rodgers.

    Collins did a particularly good job taking away checkdown routes and forcing Rodgers to buy extra time to look elsewhere. He took away a checkdown in the flat in the first quarter, which Rodgers looked to dump off to before spotting Collins and being forced to scramble.

    In the second quarter, Collins had two similar plays back to back. He worked from inside to the running back in the flat as the Packers looked to run a corner-flat route combination. The corner route wasn't there and Rodgers looked to hit the flat, but was forced to throw it away with Collins in good position. The next play was third down and Rodgers again looked to check down after pressure began to arrive. Collins was once again in position and Rodgers was forced to take the sack. 

    It was, however, a terrible week for Dolphins safety Bacarri Rambo, who is talented but has trouble with eye discipline and tackling, which has made him a journeyman early in his NFL career. His troubles were exposed against the Steelers. He took a bad angle down to an Antonio Brown bubble screen, allowing Brown to run by for a touchdown.

    On the next series, Rambo was the single deep safety as the Dolphins risked man coverage. Pittsburgh ran a simple slant route to Brown, who beat his corner and ran into the open field. Rambo, as the last line of defense, hesitated and stopped his feet while working down to Brown, who simply ran past him on his way to another long touchdown. Rambo went on to miss a number of tackles as the Steelers strolled to an easy win over the Dolphins.

              

    Grading Scale

    Cvg: Coverage (Graded out of 25)

    Rec: Recovery (Graded out of 25)

    Slot: Slot/LB (Graded out of 20)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 20)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

        

    Strong Safety Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamCvgRecSlotTklPosOvr
    1Landon CollinsNYG20201715678
    2Morgan BurnettGB19181615674
    3Sean DavisPIT18171515671
    4Karl JosephOAK17161515669
    5Quintin DempsHOU17171415669
    6Kam ChancellorSEA15171516669
    7Tavon WilsonDET15161415666
    8Rafael BushDET16151415666
    9Miles KillebrewDET16141415665
    10Eddie PleasantHOU15151315664
    11Bacarri RamboMIA14141313660

              

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • Nate Allen—inactive
    • Robert Golden—inactive

Kickers

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Kickers were 12-of-12 on field goals in the opening round of the playoffs, but Steven Hauschka and Chris Boswell did contribute one miss each on extra points, preventing the group from having a perfect week overall.

    Matt Prater's performance stands out as he was 2-of-2 from 50-plus yards, wrapping up an excellent season as the Lions were eliminated. This was Prater's best year as a pro, and while the introduction of another domed stadium in the NFC North likely helped, there is no doubt he played at an incredibly high level this year.

    Nick Novak showed some surprising leg strength in the Texans' win, knocking through a 50-yard field goal that is just three yards off a career long. Novak had been trending upward in the second half of the season, and points from the kicker will be at a premium next week when Houston travels to New England.

    While Andrew Franks' longest make this week was from 47 yards, it was a perfect draw that he aimed at the right upright, keeping it low and relatively out of the wind but still allowing the swirling gusts in Heinz Field to take the ball back toward the center of the uprights. Franks was somewhat under the radar this year, but this kick showed an advanced feel for weather conditions and could give him a boost heading into next year.

    Ironically, the two kickers missing extra points last week both advanced to the divisional round, with Hauschka and Boswell moving on to play another next week. Hauschka is likely to square himself away in short order, though he has intermittently struggled with extra points. Boswell is a rising star but has had some inconsistency at times this year. His performance next week will be watched closely. 

             

    Grading Scale

    Pwr: Kick Power (Graded out of 40)

    Acc: Kick Accuracy (Graded out of 40)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 10)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

              

    Kicker Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamPwrAccTklPosOvr
    1Matt PraterDET35345377
    2Nick NovakHOU32355375
    3Andrew FranksMIA30335371
    4Mason CrosbyGB31315370
    5Robbie GouldNYG30325370
    6Sebastian JanikowskiOAK31285367
    7Steven HauschkaSEA31245363
    8Chris BoswellPIT29225359

              

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

Punters

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    Corey Perrine/Getty Images

    Coming into the weekend, eyes were on Sam Martin and Marquette King, who had the best 2016 campaigns out of all active punters.

    King, though accurate and able to place the ball for much of the day, struggled punting out of his own end, giving the Texans better-than-expected field position multiple times. Martin showed his typical strong leg, but he lacked any outstanding ball placement in his game, giving him the third-best grade of the week but an overall average performance.

    The strongest days were turned in by Jacob Schum of the Packers and veteran Shane Lechler of the Texans. Schum consistently pinned the Giants inside their own 10-yard line when called upon, and he also hit a booming 58-yard punt from his own territory. Lechler, on the other hand, moved the ball well side to side. A touchback was his only accuracy issue all day, and he showed flashbacks to his earlier years with the power he created. 

             

    Grading Scale

    Dist: Kick Distance (Graded out of 20)

    Hang: Kick Hang Time (Graded out of 20)

    Acc: Kick Accuracy (Graded out of 45)

    Tkl: Tackling (Graded out of 5)

    Pos: Positional Value (Graded out of 10)

    Ovr: Highest Possible Score of 100

              

    Punter Rankings from Wild Card Weekend
    RankPlayerTeamDistHangAccTklPosOvr
    1Jacob SchumGB1614353371
    2Shane LechlerHOU1715314370
    3Sam MartinDET1515313367
    4Brad WingNYG1115343366
    5Jordan BerryPIT1412333365
    6Matt DarrMIA1612293363
    7Jon RyanSEA1212333363
    8Marquette KingOAK1211323361

               

    Notable Omissions/Not Graded This Week

    • None

    All advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

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