In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. Following each batch of games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all the teams that played and ultimately select that week's top unit, headlined by a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The rankings that you see below reflect O'Hara's pecking order for Championship Sunday and Championship Sunday alone. This is NOT a running O-line Power Rankings for the season. This is NOT a projection into the future. The goal of this weekly column is to answer one simple question: Which five offensive lines stood out above the rest in last week's action?
Without further ado, the Championship Sunday winner is ...
1) Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are heading to Minnesota after beating Minnesota. Yes, you read that right. After securing the top seed in the NFC, these birds continued to fly under the radar, having been underdogs for both games at home in the playoffs. It's a role they embraced and even seemed to relish. Maybe it's because they've been riding their sled dogs all season long: their offensive line.
The Eagles' O-line had an enormous task on Sunday, as they faced the best defense in the NFL in the regular season (statistically speaking). The Vikings were ranked No. 1 in four major categories: total defense, scoring, third down, big plays (plays of at least 20 yards). Minnesota was in the top three in eight others. Like stoic German Shepherds, the Eagles were unfazed.
The Eagles racked up 456 yards of offense thanks to a huge day from Nick Foles (26 of 33 for 352 yards and three TDs) and some clutch throws to break the game wide open, including throws of 53, 42, 41 and 36 yards. On each of those throws, he had great protection and sometimes even 4-5 seconds to launch one of his high-trajectory missiles. The Eagles wore down Minnesota's defense by converting 71 percent of their third downs (10 of 14) -- it was Minnesota's worst performance of the season. In addition, the Eagles were two-for-two in the red zone.
The offensive line did a great job opening up holes in the ground game, as the Eagles rushed for 110 total yards, with Jay Ajayi averaging 4.1 yards per carry. But they were exceptional in pass protection and led by left guard Stefen Wisniewski, who had one of his best games of the year by not allowing a single QB pressure. He was great in the run game, too, especially when getting up to the second level on combo blocks with center Jason Kelce. Kelce had another strong performance and was very stout against tough defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Kelce allowed just one QB hit all game.
Right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Lane Johnson were very physical in the run game, and both gave up a couple of pressures, but their positive play this season has really given their quarterbacks great time and throwing lanes for the run-pass option, which many times includes slants to the right side. While there was concern all week about left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai going against Everson Griffen in this game, he was very solid and only allowed a pair of pressures, proving to many that he is a starter in this league.
The lone sack allowed occurred because of a running back chip on Johnson's man; knocked off the block, Johnson ended up tripping. It's a comical play, to say the least, as the chip is supposed to help the tackle in need. In this case, he really didn't need the help, but I don't think any offensive linemen will be complaining about getting chips in the future.