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 week's games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all the teams that played and ultimately select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week. And the winner is ...
What a year it's been for Dan Quinn's Falcons. The NFL's No. 1 scoring offense capped off the regular season in noteworthy fashion, piling on 38 points against the Saints and finishing the season with the second-best point differential in the league (plus-134). The Falcons, who are the only team to average at least 30 points and 400 yards per game this season, jumped on New Orleans early and scored five first-half touchdowns, finishing with 465 yards of total offense (142 yards on the ground and 323 through the air).
Thanks to a 75-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the game, Devonta Freeman averaged 8 yards per carry in the win. He finished with 12 carries for 96 yards -- 86 in the first half -- and became the only current NFL player to record 1,000 rushing yards in each of the last two seasons. Ryan added to his record-setting season by throwing four more TDs on Sunday, breaking his own franchise record for touchdowns in a season (38). The offensive line gave Ryan plenty of time to light up the Saints' secondary. Other than the lone sack the O-line allowed on a third-down play, Ryan was only hit twice and hurried four times.
Left tackle Jake Matthews had an uncommon three-penalty game but was solid in pass protection despite giving up a QB hit and hurry. Center Alex Mack continues to prove his value, as Pro Football Focus has him listed as the second highest-rated center in the league. Left guard Andy Levitre bounced back from giving up two sacks in the Week 3 game vs. the Saints with a solid performance, while right tackle Ryan Schraeder continued his rock-solid play by only allowing a pair of hurries. Atlanta's O-line was graded by PFF as the fourth-best run-blocking unit and fourth-best pass-blocking unit in Week 17. Not a bad way to end the regular season.
Other notable O-line units in Week 17
Green Bay Packers: The Packers have run the table to win the NFC North, just as Aaron Rodgers predicted, and scored 30 points in four consecutive games. Against Detroit, they had 448 yards of total offense, with 153 yards coming on the ground. Raise your hand if you have heard of running back Aaron Ripkowski. Anyone? He averaged 6.8 yards per carry behind the Packers' offensive line, and Ty Montgomery added 44 yards in the win. Rodgers -- the NFL's leader in touchdown passes -- had all day in the pocket (no surprise here) and threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns. Timing between Rodgers and his receivers couldn't be much better right now, as Jordy Nelson (14) and Davante Adams (12) lead the league in TD receptions.
The O-line didn't give up a sack or QB hit against the Lions, although Rodgers was hurried eight times. Left tackle David Bakhtiari continues to play at a Pro Bowl level -- although he was not named to the 2017 roster -- and only allowed two hurries. Lane Taylor was the highest-graded left guard this week by PFF, while T.J. Lang and Corey Linsley continue to power the inside of this group.
New England Patriots: The Patriots continued their AFC East dominance and locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC with their seventh straight victory. The Patriots, undefeated on the road this season, were clearly on a mission to prove to Miami that they were the more physical team. With the offensive line leading the way, the Patriots racked up 120 rushing yards and were PFF's top-graded run-blocking unit of the week. The NFL's rushing TDs leader, LeGarrette Blount, had 14 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins, while Dion Lewis chipped in 48 yards. Tom Brady continued to build an MVP case after setting two records in this game. He finished with the best touchdown-to-interception ratio (28:2) in a season, and he set the record for most TD passes on the road without throwing an interception (18 TDs to zero INTs).
The offensive line had not fared well in its last two games in Miami, giving up six sacks and a number of hits, but it was a different story Sunday as the unit didn't allow a sack or a QB hit. Nate Solder had his best game of the season and was graded as the best left tackle in Week 17 by PFF. Marcus Cannon continued his outstanding season at right tackle, as he hasn't given up a QB hit or hurry in the last two games. Plus, he's only allowed two sacks all season. Right guard Shaq Mason allowed two hurries to Miami but rendered Ndamukong Suh a non-factor as he didn't have a hit or hurry in this contest.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles finished the season on a high note, even if it was against a Dallas team that had nothing to play for and was resting as many starters as possible. The Eagles racked up 346 total yards with 114 yards coming on the ground, although the running backs did leave quite a few yards out there. Rookie Carson Wentz completed 27 of 43 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Although Wentz was sacked twice, neither was credited to the O-line, which only allowed one QB hit on Wentz's 43 pass attempts. The O-line was PFF's second-best run-blocking unit and third-best pass-blocking unit in Week 17. Left tackle Jason Peters had his third-highest grade this season, while Jason Kelce had his second-best grade and was named PFF's highest-graded center in Week 17.