NFL

NFL Players of the Week: Rodgers, Forte, Hurd, Bannan

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With games still left to be played this week, this might be a little premature. But there's enough attention on the prime-time games that great performances won't go unnoticed.

Aaron Rodgers kept his team's playoff hopes alive with his +0.61 WPA/+26.0 EPA performance against the Giants, topping all QBs for the week. 404 yards passing, no interceptions, with only 8 sack yards go a long way, especially when the opponent is keeping pace for much of the game. Runners-up are Tim Tebow (+0.54/+15.0) with an impressive comeback win and Carson Palmer (+0.43/+21.6) in a game that ended San Diego's shot at the post-season.

Matt Forte's 113 rushing yards at 5.9 YPC and 56  receiving yards on 4 catches against the playoff-bound Jets were good enough to top the RB list with +0.37 WPA and +5.9 EPA. Jamaal Charles (+0.21/+7.3) is runner-up with yet another impressive performance, including a 55% success rate. Correll Buckhalter is the EPA champ with +7.4.

Dallas' Sam Hurd (+41.0/+7.3) picks up the honors for WRs this week thanks soly to drawing a pass interference penalty on a critical 4th and 5 play on a drive that took the lead late in the 4th quarter in an ultimately losing effort against the Cardinals on Christmas night. The EPA champ was Jerome Simpson of the Bengals. In only his second game as a full-time player, his 124 yards on 6 receptions with 2 TDs topped all WRs with +12.8 EPA.

Sometimes WPA makes heroes of some obscure players. Houston back-up Joel Dreessen was the top TE of the week with only 33 yards receiving and no TDs. What did he do that earned +0.40 WPA? Nearly all of his yards came on the Texans' final drive of the game. Trailing by a point with under 2 minutes left in the game, Dreesssen helped take the Texans to the doorstep of FG range. Unfortunately for Dreessen, the drive ended abruptly with a Matt Schaub interception. You might say WPA is a dumb stat for so heavily rewarding a role player in a losing effort, but that's exactly why I like it. Kellen Winslow (+0.19/+9.0) is the EPA king of TEs this week with 98 receiving yards and 2 TDs on 7 receptions and just 7 targets.

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The top defenders of the week are mostly guys who forced game-winning interceptions. Justin Bannan (+0.41/+3.0) tipped Schaub's pass that was ultimately picked off by fellow Bronco Syd'Quan Thompson (+0.40/+2.9) to stop the Texans potential comeback drive at the 25 yd-line.

It was a similar story in the Redskins-Jaguars game. In overtime, Kevin Barnes picked off a soft, back-footed David Garrard throw deep in Jaguars' territory, setting up the game-winning FG. Why did Garrard throw up such a weak duck? Linebacker Chris Wilson forced it, putting a hit on Garrard just as he released the ball. Wilson gets most of the glory, but WPA rewards them both him and Wilson with +0.36 WPA. (Why isn't an interception like that in OT worth more? It was 3rd down anyway, so the Redskins were likely to get the ball back in decent field position interception or not.)

The EPA monsters of the week on defense include Jerod Mayo (+0.29/+12.2) and Gary Guyton (0.19/+11.2) of the Patriots. Mayo's 5 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 2 passes defended and Guyton's 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 2 passes defended helped hold the Bills' offense to 3 points. Patrick Wills (+0.25/+10.1), Greg Toler (+0.27/+10.0), and rookie Eric Berry (+0.07/+10.0) also top the list of defenders.

Here's a list of links for all the top players by position, including past weeks.

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Defensive Ends
Defensive Tackles
Linebackers
Safeties
Cornerbacks
All Defensive Positions