Week 8 Report Card Grades for Every Starting NFL Quarterback
Tony Romo won’t want to show this report card to his parents.
Romo highlighted a cavalcade of subpar performers at the quarterback position this week despite throwing for 437 yards and nearly leading the Cowboys back from the brink of defeat. Romo’s poor decision-making and four interceptions ultimately sank Dallas and could prove to be its undoing this season.
Across the pond, Tom Brady was playing ambassador to Europe in grand fashion. Europe’s brand of football doesn’t often yield much scoring, so let’s hope the fans at Wembley Stadium enjoyed the change of pace. Brady lit up London to the tune of 304 yards and four touchdowns—and Bob’s your uncle.
Two rookie quarterbacks also got solid wins in Week 8. Brandon Weeden did it by doing next to nothing, while Andrew Luck led the Colts to a game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Titans. This may be one of the best quarterback classes we’ll ever see, though time will tell. No rookies earned better than a “B” grade this week, however.
Elsewhere around the league, Michael Vick could be on the brink of losing his starting job, Josh Freeman continues to impress and Matt Stafford finally put together a performance Lions fans can be proud of. It was another crazy week in the NFL to be sure.
For a complete roundup of Week 8 quarterback play, read on.
Josh Freeman: B+
Josh Freeman got off to a slow start this season but has silenced his critics each of the last three weeks. In Week 8 against the Vikings, Freeman tacked on three more passing touchdowns, leading Tampa Bay to a decisive 36-17 win on Thursday night.
Freeman only completed 52.8 percent of his passes against Minnesota but showed great touch on many of his passes. He lofted a beautiful touchdown pass to Mike Williams in the right corner of the end zone in the second quarter to give the Bucs a 20-7 lead.
The real story of this game was Doug Martin’s 214-total-yard, two-touchdown performance. Martin paced the offense and allowed Freeman to play mistake-free football.
Freeman made a lot of safe throws and didn’t try to do too much against a tough Minnesota passing defense that is only allowing 6.5 yards per pass attempt this season.
Christian Ponder: C-
Tampa Bay has arguably the league’s most porous passing defense, especially with cornerback Aqib Talib suspended. Christian Ponder was unable to exploit Tampa’s secondary, passing for just 251 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the Vikings’ 36-17 loss.
Minnesota was unable to capitalize on Adrian Peterson’s big game in which he rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. The Vikings could have used Peterson more but were playing from behind most of the contest. Ponder was forced to air it out and only completed 54.3 percent of his passes—11 percent lower than his season average.
Ponder hasn’t put up huge numbers this season but should have played much better against a poor Buccaneers defense in a critical game. With Chicago and Green Bay playing very good football right now, Ponder and the Vikings may look back on their Week 8 loss as the game that sank their playoff chances.
Brandon Weeden: C-
Brandon Weeden’s Week 8 stat line was uninspiring on every level, but he took care of the football and did enough to give the Browns their second win of the season.
With cold, rainy weather conditions in Cleveland, the Browns relied heavily on Trent Richardson to set the tone on offense. Richardson had his first 20-plus-carry game of the season, which limited Weeden’s pass attempts in the second half.
Statistics aside, Weeden looked confident and poised against the Chargers. He lacked touch on a few of his passes but made some exceptional throws, especially when rolling out to his right. His fantasy owners can’t be happy with the end result, but Weeden played well enough to secure the win.
Philip Rivers: D
Philip Rivers made some horrible decisions against the Browns, though none were as horrible as his decision to rock such a tacky mustache.
Rivers routinely threw into double coverage in Cleveland, but he was saved by poor weather conditions that prohibited Browns defensive backs from holding on to the football. He escaped without throwing an interception but also failed to get anything going in the vertical passing game.
Rivers played check-down football, and Cleveland bent without breaking. His best throw came in the third quarter when Robert Meachem broke free up the middle behind the Browns safeties, but Meachem dropped the pass, and the Chargers’ drive stalled.
San Diego does not look like a good football team, and Rivers looks like a shadow of the quarterback he once was.
Matthew Stafford: A
Matthew Stafford had his best game of the season in Week 8 against the Seahawks, leading the Lions to a victory in the final seconds of the contest.
Stafford connected with Titus Young for a one-yard touchdown with 20 seconds on the clock in the fourth quarter, and the Lions came away with a much-needed win. It was Stafford’s first game with more than one touchdown pass this season (three) and his third game with a rushing touchdown.
The Lions’ running game was mostly stagnant against the Seahawks, and Stafford was forced to shoulder the offensive workload. He completed 69.4 percent of his passes and posted a quarterback rating of 101.7.
Stafford’s only blemish was a third-quarter interception, but the turnover resulted in no points for Seattle.
Russell Wilson: C+
Russell Wilson was denied his fifth victory of the season against the Lions in Week 8 despite playing a pretty good game. He completed a season-high 25 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns but threw a crucial interception in the third quarter that resulted in a Lions touchdown drive.
Wilson continues to prove he is a capable starter in the NFL. Fantasy football owners would have liked to see a better yards-per-attempt average, but Wilson was very efficient. He completed 71.4 percent of his passes against Detroit and posted a 96.8 passer rating.
After his appalling performance against the 49ers in Week 7, Wilson bounced back with a good showing in Detroit. Wilson is proving he can be a difference-maker for the Seahawks and will have an opportunity to pick up his fifth win of the year in Week 9 against Minnesota.
Jay Cutler: C-
There was speculation at halftime of the Carolina game that Jay Cutler was vocal in his displeasure of Chicago fans when walking into the tunnel. Cutler should be thankful the fans couldn’t respond to him in person.
Cutler has not played well this season, and he’s been bailed out by his defense on several occasions. In Week 8, Cutler completed 19 of 28 passes for just 186 yards, a touchdown and an interception. If not for a Tim Jennings pick-six in the fourth quarter, Cutler would likely be to blame for a bad home loss.
The Bears have a lot of talented weapons on offense, but their offensive line is making it difficult for Cutler to get them the ball. He was sacked six times in the contest, though Cutler admitted he didn’t play well for most of the game. With the Packers and Lions playing better football as of late, Cutler needs to elevate his level of play moving forward to keep Chicago in contention.
Cam Newton: D
The Panthers have been a mess this season, and one has to wonder what kinds of changes Carolina could undergo before the end of the year. General manager Marty Hurney was fired last week in the wake of a 1-5 start, but the Panthers continue to struggle.
Cam Newton has failed to elevate the play of his teammates this season and has been vocal about everything but his own poor performances. He threw two critical interceptions against the Bears and posted a passer rating of just 57.
Newton did throw for a season-high 314 yards in the contest, adding 37 yards on the ground. He failed to find the end zone, though, and should consider his own performance the main reason Carolina gave the victory to Chicago in Week 8.
Blaine Gabbert: B+
Blaine Gabbert played surprisingly well in the Jaguars’ Week 8 loss to the Packers. He completed 27 passes for 303 yards and a touchdown, and he didn't throw an interception for his second straight game.
The Jaguars were without their top rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew, though Rashad Jennings was a serviceable replacement. Jennings contributed 115 total yards, including 56 receiving yards courtesy of Gabbert.
The Packers offense ultimately proved too much for Jacksonville, but Gabbert’s play was the silver lining. Jacksonville is better than its 1-6 record indicates, especially with Gabbert taking care of the football.
Aaron Rodgers: B
Aaron Rodgers was hurting without Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings on the field, but he put together an efficient performance in the Packers’ 24-15 win over the Jaguars.
Rodgers lacked some chemistry with his makeshift receiving corps. He completed 62.9 percent of his passes, totaling 186 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.
Had the Packers needed more offensive firepower in Week 8, they may have been in trouble. Rodgers played well but came up short of the marks he set each of the last two weeks. If Nelson is on the shelf next week against the Cardinals, Green Bay could be in a difficult spot.
Tom Brady: A+
Tom Brady accounted for more points in Week 8 than most Europeans are used to seeing in an entire football season. He threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 45-7 blowout of the Rams in London.
Brady’s favorite target was Rob Gronkowski, who caught eight passes for 146 yards, two touchdowns and an awesome touchdown celebration. Brandon Lloyd was the recipient of Brady’s other two touchdown strikes, though they were Lloyd’s only two catches of the game.
Brady has flown beneath the radar this season with the emergence of Robert Griffin III, the dominance of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers and the impressive comeback season Peyton Manning has orchestrated. Brady’s Patriots are 5-3, though, and Brady is the biggest reason for their success.
Sam Bradford: C
I doubt Sam Bradford will want to return to London any time soon.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots dismantled the Rams in Week 8. St. Louis couldn’t play with any balance on offense because of the deficit, attempting 32 passes and just 23 rushes.
Bradford wasn’t awful, but he was no match for the Patriots defense. He finished with 205 yards, a touchdown and an interception, posting a passer rating of 88.9.
The Rams cannot be effective passing the football at such a high rate, especially with their top receiver (Danny Amendola) still on the shelf. They'll face an even tougher test after their bye week, as the Rams will travel to San Francisco to face one of the league’s best defenses.
Matt Ryan: A
I’m ready to put Matt Ryan in the “elite quarterback” conversation.
Ryan was extraordinarily efficient against the Eagles in Week 8, completing 22 of 29 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. All three of his scoring strikes came in the first half, essentially putting the game out of reach of the Eagles.
Ryan has an incredible bevy of receiving threats, and he uses all of them. Seven different Falcons caught at least one pass on Sunday, including Julio Jones, who hauled in five passes (on five targets) for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Atlanta is 7-0, and Ryan is the biggest reason for its success. If he can continue playing like an elite quarterback, the Falcons will continue to plow through their schedule.
Michael Vick: C-
Michael Vick didn’t turn the ball over and completed 60 percent of his passes against Atlanta in Week 8. He also rushed for 42 yards and posted an 84.3 passer rating. So why is the talk of benching Vick heating up again?
The Falcons thrashed the Eagles on Sunday, and Vick was not the difference-maker he’s expected to be in Philly. The Eagles couldn’t stop the Falcons on defense and could not make any big plays on offense.
Philadelphia’s struggles are an indictment of Andy Reid at this point. Vick could have played much better against the Falcons, but LeSean McCoy could have done a lot more as well. His number was called 16 times on the ground—far too few for an impact player with his capabilities.
Philadelphia is in disarray, and Vick is the only player who can turn it around. Unfortunately, it may be too late for Vick and the Eagles.
Robert Griffin III: C-
The Steelers stifled Robert Griffin III and the Redskins in Week 8, holding Griffin to a 47.1 completion percentage and eight rushing yards. Griffin threw for 177 yards and a touchdown and did not turn the ball over, but his performance wasn’t enough to get Washington back in the win column.
The Redskins fell behind early, and Mike Shanahan seemed content with relying on Griffin to carry the offense. Alfred Morris tallied only 13 carries in the contest—almost seven fewer carries than he averaged through the first seven games of the season.
Washington’s receivers dropped several passes throughout the contest, and it was an overall unimpressive performance from the Redskins. Though expectations are lofty for RG3 this season, he’s still a rookie and will experience his share of adversity. There’s no need to jump ship.
Ben Roethlisberger: A-
Big Ben is having a terrific season, and the Steelers are back in contention in the AFC North. The Steelers are a game back of the Ravens and a game ahead of the Bengals, both of whom are idle this week with byes.
Ben Roethlisberger was very efficient against the Redskins in Week 8, completing 24 of 33 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns. Pittsburgh’s offensive line played a big part in Roethlisberger’s success. It allowed just one sack and also paved the way for Jonathan Dwyer’s third career game with more than 100 rushing yards.
Roethlisberger didn’t make any glaring mistakes against Washington, which proved to be the difference between a comfortable win and a close game. If Big Ben can continue to take care of the football, the Steelers have a good chance of making the playoffs this season.
Eli Manning: D-
Fantasy football owners who started Eli Manning on Sunday probably want to give him a massive “F” followed by another choice letter for his performance against the Cowboys.
Manning posted season lows in completion percentage (51.7), yards (192) and touchdowns (zero). However, the Giants jumped out to an early 23-0 lead, thanks in large part to Tony Romo and his three first-half interceptions. New York was on a roll, and it seemed like Manning would be able to set the cruise control for the rest of the game.
Perhaps Manning became complacent when the Giants jumped all over the Cowboys, and he had to kick it back in gear when their lead dwindled. Whatever the case, Manning didn’t look elite in Week 8.
If the Giants are to compete against a hot Steelers team in Week 9, Manning will have to regroup and play much better than he did against Dallas in Week 8.
Tony Romo: F
It was a tale of two Romos Sunday against the Giants. Tony Romo was intercepted on three of the Cowboys’ first four drives of the game, but he ended the game with 437 passing yards, a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown and four interceptions.
His fourth and final interception came on a 4th-and-1 play late in the fourth quarter on which he was being chased deep into the backfield by several Giants defenders.
Romo completed 36 passes on the day, half of which went to tight end Jason Witten. It could have been a much uglier affair for Dallas had its defense not stepped up in the second half of the contest.
He looked like two different quarterbacks against the Giants, but such is the issue with Romo. Inconsistency is Romo’s biggest deficiency, and the Cowboys now have their work cut out for them in attempting to climb back into the playoff picture.
Andrew Luck: B
From a statistical standpoint, Andrew Luck was efficient—if somewhat pedestrian—on Sunday against the Titans. He completed 26 of 38 passes for 297 yards, a touchdown and an interception to lead the Colts to an overtime victory in Week 8.
But from a more analytical standpoint, Luck was better than average. He won the game for the Colts in overtime with a few very nice passes and sound decision-making. Luck looked poised and collected all game long, especially when the game was on the line.
Don’t look now, but the Colts are 4-3 and in second place in the AFC South. With such a porous defense and a bland rushing attack, one has to wonder where Indianapolis would be without Luck this season. As they say, sometimes it’s better to have luck than skill.
Matt Hasselbeck: B-
Matt Hasselbeck has gotten better and better as the season has progressed, and his performance against the Colts on Sunday was his best of the season.
Hasselbeck was 22-of-29 for 236 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 8.14 yards per attempt—better than than two yards more than he averaged coming into the contest. His 75.9 completion percentage and 110.7 passer rating were both season highs as well.
Hasselbeck’s success may be short-lived, though. He faces a much tougher defense in the Chicago Bears next week, and the pressure is on. Jake Locker is getting healthier and could be gunning for the starting job soon, especially if the Titans drop two straight.
Mark Sanchez: C-
The Jets' season is in peril, and if New York fans had their way, Mark Sanchez’s job would be too.
Sanchez finished the day with a respectable stat line. He passed for 283 yards but did so by completing just 51.9 percent of his passes. He threw a touchdown but also threw an interception in the Jets’ 30-9 drubbing at the hands of the Dolphins.
Jets fans are calling for Tim Tebow, and that outcry is understandable at this point. Sanchez has been a non-factor in so many games this season, and the Jets need a spark to right the ship. If Sanchez doesn’t show he can have more impact moving forward, he is likely to see a diminished role in the offense, even if Tebow isn’t ultimately the answer in New York.
Ryan Tannehill: Incomplete
Ryan Tannehill got knocked out of the game early in the first quarter and was replaced by Matt Moore to finish the game. The two combined for just 13 completions, 149 yards and a touchdown, yet Miami stoned New York 30-9.
Moore was effective in relief of Tannehill, but probably won’t play next week against the Colts. Tannehill hyperextended his left leg—an injury he feels he will be able to work through during the week in preparation for Week 9.
Carson Palmer: C+
Darren McFadden was finally able to get something going against the Chiefs in Week 8, rushing for 114 yards on 29 carries. The Raiders played with a lead almost the entire game, and Carson Palmer did just enough to keep the game in Oakland’s favor.
Palmer completed just 50 percent of his passes, but he threw two touchdowns and only one interception. He took care of the football when it mattered most, and Oakland walked away with its third win of the season.
Palmer may not be the reason for a playoff run in Oakland, but he’s done a good job breathing life into the Raiders offense. As long as he can avoid turning the football over, Oakland can field a respectable offense.
Matt Cassel: C-
Brady Quinn’s tenure as starting quarterback in Kansas City was short-lived. He left with an apparent head injury after just four pass attempts and one interception.
Matt Cassel entered the game for Quinn and was relatively efficient, but Kansas City fell behind early and couldn’t find any balance on offense. The Chiefs ran the ball just 22 times, and Jamaal Charles saw just five of those rushing attempts.
Cassel finished the game with 218 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Kansas City has expressed displeasure with the play of its quarterbacks this season, and it’s probably safe to assume the Chiefs front office will explore new options for the position this offseason.
Drew Brees: C-
Drew Brees did not look like Drew Brees on Sunday night. In fact, he looked pretty awful.
Brees posted a passer rating of 72.8 on 22-of-42 passing, but his stats were aided by the soft coverage Denver played on the Saints’ final drive. Brees finished the game with 213 yards, two touchdowns and an interception—71 of those yards and a touchdown coming on that garbage-time drive.
Brees threw his 300th career touchdown in Week 8 and is still an elite quarterback in the NFL. The Saints were simply outmatched. They host the Eagles in Week 9, and Brees should bounce back in a big way.
Peyton Manning: A+
Many expected the Sunday night showdown between Peyton Manning and Drew Brees to be a shootout between two of the league’s best quarterbacks. Only Manning came ready to play, though, and it wasn’t even a contest.
Manning’s performance was impressive, even considering the points the New Orleans defense has surrendered to opposing offenses this season. He was a calculated killer of the Saints Sunday, passing for 305 yards and three touchdowns on 30 pass attempts.
Manning is back at full strength, and the AFC should be very, very worried.
With the win, Denver improves to 4-3 and holds a one-game lead over both San Diego and Oakland in the AFC West. The Broncos’ schedule should be a cakewalk from here on out, so expect more big things from Manning.