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 five units, 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 Week 12 and Week 12 alone. This is NOT a running O-line Power Rankings for 2017. 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 Week 12 winner is ...
1) Atlanta Falcons
This offense is starting to look like the unit that took the NFL by storm last season. The Falcons (7-4) absolutely needed a big game against Tampa Bay to stay afloat in the NFC South race -- and that's exactly what they got. Atlanta scored 34 points for the second consecutive week and piled up 516 yards of total offense, the team's highest output this season. Steve Sarkisian's group was phenomenal on third down, converting 11 of 14 attempts. This continues a very encouraging trend for the Falcons: During the current three-game win streak, they've converted 65.9 of third-down attempts.
Despite Devonta Freeman's absence (concussion protocol), Atlanta still put up 148 rushing yards at a robust 5.3 yards per carry. This is a testament to the offensive line, as Falcons RBs gained 53 yards before contact, according to Pro Football Focus. Tevin Coleman obviously deserves his share of credit, too. The team's RB2 filled in admirably for Freeman, with 97 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Of course, Atlanta's aerial acrobatics got most of the headlines, as Julio Jones (12 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns) and Matt Ryan (26 of 35 for 317 yards and a score) torched the Buccaneers' secondary. (As did receiver Mohamed Sanu on his 51-yard strike to Jones. What an athlete!) The Falcons' pass pro was superb, as Ryan went untouched all game long (0 sacks, 0 QB hits).
The rest of the top five O-lines from Week 12
2) Pittsburgh Steelers: Like the Falcons, the Steelers (9-2) were supposed to field one of the NFL's most explosive offenses this season. And also like Atlanta, Pittsburgh is starting to put it together, with 71 points over the past two games. (Stunningly, Pittsburgh hadn't even hit 30 points prior to this stretch.) The Steelers had 462 yards of offense in their three-point win over Green Bay. They did a fine job on third down (8 for 13) and controlled time of possession (33:36 to 26:24). The Big Three led the way on the stat sheet: Le'Veon Bell had 183 total yards, Antonio Brown had 162 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and Ben Roethlisberger went for 351 yards and four scoring strikes (against two picks). But the stat sheet only tells you so much ...
The Steelers' O-line completely flummoxed Green Bay. Big Ben wasn't hit a single time, and Pittsburgh ranked as Pro Football Focus' No. 1 pass-blocking unit of the week. Chris Hubbard did a nice job filling in at right tackle for the suspended Marcus Gilbert, but David DeCastro was the best of this group -- and the right guard still hasn't allowed a sack or QB hit this season.
3) Philadelphia Eagles: Philadelphia continues to shred defenses. The 10-1 Eagles looked like they were on cruise control in their 31-3 throttling of Chicago, absolutely dominating possession (37:08 to 22:52). They've now scored 30-plus points in five straight. This game was basically over by halftime, when Philly already had piled up 272 yards of offense, including 124 on the ground. Carson Wentz tossed three more touchdown passes, adding to a league-high number that now stands at 28.
The offensive line did a great job in both run blocking (176 yards) and pass blocking (zero sacks). The only thing that kept this unit from being No. 1 again? Four penalties: two holding calls on LT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, as well as one false start on RT Lane Johnson and another on RG Isaac Seumalo.
4) Arizona Cardinals: Remarkable performance by this offensive line when you consider Sacksonville was on the opposite side. Holding the Jags to zero sacks, one QB hit and four hurries is quite an accomplishment in 2017. Left tackle Jared Veldheer had his best game of the season, as he didn't allow a single pressure against this ferocious front. With plenty of time to throw, Blaine Gabbert threw two touchdown passes in the 27-24 win over his former team, improving Arizona to 5-6 on the season.
Adrian Peterson didn't have his best day on the ground (79 yards on 20 rushes), but he did pass Marcus Allen and Edgerrin James on the all-time rushing list. Sitting at 12th now, AD needs just 4 yards to top Marshall Faulk. Pretty cool for those linemen to be a part of that and be able to block for a future Hall of Famer. We take a lot of pride in being part of those milestones.
5) New England Patriots: Unlike any other team, New England can completely morph its game plan from week to week. In Sunday's 35-17 win over Miami, the Pats turned into a run-first team. How does 196 yards on 38 carries sound? That's the highest rushing total for the Patriots since the 2014 campaign. Not surprisingly, New England was PFF's top-ranked run-blocking unit in Week 12. Dion Lewis led the way with 15 carries for 112 yards (7.5 yards per carry) -- not a bad way to log your first career 100-yard game.
Meanwhile, the line kept Tom Brady pretty clean, yielding one sack and four QB hits -- OK, some of them were hard hits, to be honest. Still, the ageless QB had enough time to rack up four more touchdown passes. Left tackle Nate Solder had one of his best games of the season. And the Pats' line held up despite playing with two backups: Ted Karras started at center in place of David Andrews (illness), while Cameron Fleming manned right tackle with Marcus Cannon (ankle) on the shelf.