Week 15 Report Card Grades for Every Starting NFL QB
This week's performance by Kirk Cousins shows just how unpredictable the NFL can be from week to week. The Washington Redskins put a lot of faith in their backup quarterback, as a loss to the Cleveland Browns could've cost them a playoff spot.
However, Cousins' poise and a great game plan by Kyle Shanahan helped the Redskins pull off a victory.
Succeeding as a quarterback is about more than just talent. This performance by Cousins shows that it also takes confidence and the ability to adapt.
Some other teams weren't as fortunate as Washington. Check out the rest of the article to see the Week 15 grade for each team's starting quarterback.
Tony Romo: A
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Stats: 30-of-42, 341 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions
The Dallas Cowboys needed a top-notch performance from Tony Romo to pull off a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers and remain in the playoff hunt. And they got one in which Romo put up big numbers and avoided costly mistakes that have plagued him in the past.
This closely contested game was decided by an interception thrown by Ben Roethlisberger, while Romo made good decisions.
It's also important to note that Romo did a great job using his legs to extend plays. The Steelers generated pressure, but were unable to secure the sack. This was another area where Romo outperformed Roethlisberger.
Eli Manning: D
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Stats: 13-of-25, 161 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions
Eli Manning and the New York Giants laid an egg against the Atlanta Falcons. This loss created a three-way tie atop the NFC East. Manning's two interceptions were part of the reason the Giants couldn't keep the game close.
Atlanta's offense was firing on all cylinders, so any turnover was going to only cause problems. It's never a good idea to give a hot offense extra possessions.
The end of the season is usually when Manning plays his best football. However, this performance was anything but good football. New York needs to rebound next week against a Baltimore Ravens team that also suffered an embarrassing loss.
Nick Foles: C
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Stats: 16-of-33, 182 yards, one touchdown and one interception
Nick Foles was put in a tough situation by his teammates. The Philadelphia Eagles' five turnovers were too much to ask a rookie quarterback to overcome. Foles started the game off strong but couldn't rebound after the string of turnovers, two of which were committed by him.
It's obvious that he started to feel more pressure as the turnovers started to mount and the game got out control.
However, this was an overall solid performance by Foles. He did a good job spreading the ball around and handling the Cincinnati Bengals' pass rush. He looked like a veteran the way he stepped up in the pocket and kept his eyes down the field.
This has been an extremely disappointing season for the Eagles, but Foles is providing some hope for the future.
Kirk Cousins: A
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Stats: 26-of-37, 329 yards, two touchdowns and one interception
It's tough for even a seasoned veteran to come off the bench this late in the season and perform well. So it's all the more impressive that Kirk Cousins, a rookie, was able to step in for Robert Griffin III and lead the Washington Redskins to an important victory.
Cousins did a little bit of everything, as he stretched the field and helped Washington put up a good third-down conversion percentage. He's not the same type of player as Griffin, but he possesses the same type of leadership and poise.
A lot of credit needs to be given to Kyle Shanahan, who had to change his approach to fit Cousins. It shows that this guy really knows how to develop a successful game plan.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: D+
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Stats: 21-of-38, 217 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions
Everything Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix is saying points toward the Bills making a change at the quarterback position next season. Ryan Fitzpatrick's performance against the Seattle Seahawks will only strengthen the possibility of this happening.
Fitzpatrick's turnovers really hurt the Bills, but Buffalo's defense didn't do anything to help the team. The defense allowed the Seahawks to rack up a total of 466 yards of offense.
It's tough for any quarterback to find success when he's forced to play catch up. This entire season has been a disappointment for the Bills. The struggles of the defense and Fitzpatrick are the main reasons for the poor season.
Ryan Tannehill: B-
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Stats: 22-of-28, 220 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions
Ryan Tannehill took another step forward in his development against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He completed a season-high 78 percent of his passes. That, combined with his ability to avoid turning the ball over, were the keys to the Miami Dolphins victory.
Miami needs to use this offseason to add playmakers to the wide receiving corps. Tannehill won't be able to take the next step forward unless the talent level around him gets better.
It's important to note that this performance came against a Jaguars defense that has struggled defending the pass. Its inability to generate pressure on the quarterback has allowed opponents to average more than 240 passing yards per game.
Tom Brady: C+
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Stats: 36-of-65, 443 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions
The New England Patriots put themselves in an early hole that was too tough to overcome. Tom Brady didn't start the game on a strong note. He missed a few open targets that would've resulted in big plays. However, he also didn't get much help from his teammates.
Some of those misses resulted because the pass-catcher wasn't able to make a play on the ball. Brady might not have thrown a perfectly placed pass, but some of the throws were close enough that his receiver needed to make a play.
This game can serve as an eye-opener for the Patriots, as it shows there are teams in the NFL capable of keeping pace with their high-powered offense.
Mark Sanchez: F
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Stats: 13-of-28, 131 yards, one touchdown, four interceptions and one fumble
The New York Jets made a terrible decision this past offseason when they guaranteed Mark Sanchez's contract for next season. They are now stuck with a starting quarterback who's mistake prone and struggles with accuracy.
Sanchez is also dealing with a confidence problem, as his struggles and negative media attention have taken its toll. Monday night's performance against the Tennessee Titans is just another example of the downward spiral Sanchez's career has taken.
New York needs to find a way to cut ties with Sanchez, even if that means eating his salary and taking a big salary cap hit.
Jay Cutler: D+
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Stats: 12-of-21, 135 yards, one touchdown and one interception
Jay Cutler again failed to come up big in an important game for the Chicago Bears. His interception proved to be a turning point in the game against the Green Bay Packers. Of course, not all the blame falls on Cutler's shoulders.
The offensive line continued its poor play, allowing four sacks and a lot of pressure. Clay Matthews had another excellent performance against the Bears, registering two sacks.
This loss brings the Bears closer to falling out of the playoff race. Just as importantly, it packs another punch to their already fading confidence.
Lovie Smith's seat is also warming after this loss, as he has now lost six straight games against the Packers.
Matthew Stafford: F
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Stats: 24-of-50, 246 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions
This loss might be the most embarrassing one of a very disappointing season. The Detroit Lions continue to lose games because of mistakes and lack of discipline. The loss to the Arizona Cardinals falls on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford.
His three interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, were the difference in the game. Arizona was only able to put up 196 total yards of offense, but somehow still won the game.
The Lions need Stafford to take better care of the football, as it seems week after week, he costs his team a chance at a victory. Stafford has a ton of talent and a very bright future. However, that future becomes less bright when he keeps on making the same mistakes.
Aaron Rodgers: A
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Stats: 23-of-36, 291 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions
Aaron Rodgers was able to overcome some heavy pressure by the Chicago Bears to lead the Green Bay Packers to a win. His ability to get off to a fast start helped take the Bears out of their comfort zone. This win sealed the NFC North crown for the Packers.
Rodgers did a great job spreading the ball around and finding James Jones in the red zone. It's tough to defend all the Packers' pass-catching threats because of the way Rodgers mixes it up.
Green Bay needs a little help, but it still has a chance to earn a first-round bye.
Christian Ponder: C+
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Stats: 17-of-24, 131 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions
At this point, Christian Ponder basically serves as someone to turn around and feed the ball to Adrian Peterson. The Minnesota Vikings continue to lean on Peterson, and he's more than getting the job done. He's averaging more than 160 yards per game in the last eight contests.
Peterson's success has helped Ponder avoid a whole lot more criticism. The team is able to still pull out wins despite Ponder's inability to produce explosive plays. This only increases how impressive Peterson's numbers have been over the past weeks.
Ponder will get at least another season to show improvement, but the Vikings can't feel great about his development. A quarterback needs to be able make plays and vertically attack the defense.
Joe Flacco: D+
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Stats: 20-of-40, 254 yards, two touchdowns and one interception
Joe Flacco's inaccurate performance made it difficult for the Baltimore Ravens to get the offense in rhythm. He completed only 50 percent of his passes, which resulted in the Ravens going a terrible 1-12 in third-down situations.
Baltimore's inability to sustain drives allowed the Denver Broncos to dominate the time of possession. Denver's offense had the ball for 38-and-a-half minutes, compared to the 21-and-a-half minutes the Ravens held the ball.
There's not a defense in the NFL that can keep a Peyton Manning-led offense out of the end zone when it possesses the ball for that long.
Flacco continues to show that he's nothing more than an average quarterback. The Ravens need to realize that he's never going to consistently win games on his own. Flacco must have a strong supporting cast to win games.
Andy Dalton: B-
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Stats: 13-of-27, 127 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions and one rushing touchdown
Andy Dalton didn't need a very strong performance for the Cincinnati Bengals to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles' five turnovers were more than enough for the Bengals to get a win and remain in the playoff hunt.
However, Dalton deserves credit for staying within himself and avoiding turnovers of his own. He played it safe and let the Eagles beat themselves.
This win set up back-to-back division showdowns to determine Cincinnati's season. It has matchups against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers to finish out the season. It'll likely take a win in both games for the Bengals to secure a playoff spot.
Brandon Weeden: C-
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Stats: 21-of-35, 244 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions
It's hard to give Brandon Weeden a good grade when he was outperformed by Kirk Cousins. Weeden gained a lot more experience this season and possesses a solid surrounding cast. The difference between a win and loss in this game was the play of the quarterbacks.
Weeden has shown some signs of promise this season, but he has really struggled with turnovers. Too often, he'll throw the ball into tight spaces. The NFL isn't like college, as the defensive backs almost always take advantage of poor decisions.
In Weeden's defense, he didn't have much help from the rest of the players on the roster. Trent Richardson struggled to find any type of consistency and averaged only 2.5 yards per carry. That forced Weeden into plenty of 3rd-and-long situations.
Ben Roethlisberger: B-
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Stats: 24-of-40, 339 yards, two touchdowns and one interception
Ben Roethlisberger made several key mistakes that led to the disappointing loss to the Dallas Cowboys. This loss puts the Pittsburgh Steelers in a tough spot as far as the playoffs are concerned. They now need to win out to make a playoff appearance.
The interception thrown by Roethlisberger in overtime is the play that will get the most attention, but the several sacks he took also played a role in the loss. Pittsburgh had a chance to kick a field goal in the closing minutes of the game, but Roethlisberger took a sack that dropped it out of field-goal position.
Roethlisberger had a lot of pressure on his shoulders. as the Steelers weren't able to establish a running game and the defense gave up a total of 27 points. That's a lot to ask of a quarterback who's still dealing with some rust and lingering injury problems.
Ryan Lindley: D+
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Stats: 14-of-21, 104 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception
Ryan Lindley and the Arizona Cardinals were spared another embarrassing loss because of the strong play of the defense. Arizona's defense generated a total of four turnovers, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
Lindley had another inefficient performance, including an interception on the Cardinals' second possession of the game.
This game could spell the end for Ken Whisenhunt, as he's already feeling pressure from defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The defense's ability to take over and single handedly win this game only increases Horton's stock.
Colin Kaepernick: A-
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Stats: 14-of-25, 216 yards, four touchdowns and one interception
It's been a few weeks, but Colin Kaepernick made a handful of explosive plays through the air against the New England Patriots. Each of his four touchdown passes came from 24 yards or more. The San Francisco 49ers made the decision to start Kaepernick because of this ability to open up the offense.
This is a very important win for the 49ers, as it allows them to keep a slim lead over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West and provides Kaepernick with a ton of confidence. Defeating Tom Brady in Foxboro is the type of win that can help fuel a long winning streak.
Kaepernick's performance wasn't without problems, as he had some issues with the exchange from center. It's these type of mistakes that can come back to haunt a team in the playoffs.
Russell Wilson: A
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Stats: 14-of-23, 205 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions, 92 rushing yards and three touchdowns
Russell Wilson provided the Seattle Seahawks with a great all-around performance. He made just as many explosive plays with his feet as he did with his arm. His dual-threat ability is part of the reason why he's so tough to defend.
Opponents don't only need to worry about Wilson's legs, as he continues to make explosive plays through the air each week. His ability to attack the deep part of the field really complements the Seahawks' offensive game plan.
Sam Bradford: C+
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Stats: 35-of-55, 377 yards, three touchdowns and one interception
The combination of Sam Bradford's ineffectiveness early in the game and Adrian Peterson's dominance is why the St. Louis Rams were defeated by the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota's ability to open up an early lead really allowed it to dictate the flow of the game.
Bradford and company just weren't able to sustain drives and avoid mistakes. His interception that was returned for a touchdown helped the Vikings to create even more distance.
The Rams aren't built to play from behind, as they mostly rely on a strong running game and solid defense to get the job done. This game was pretty much lost in the first half.
Peyton Manning: B-
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Stats: 17-of-28, 204 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions
The Denver Broncos used a solid running game and a strong defensive performance to knock off the Baltimore Ravens. Peyton Manning didn't have that impressive of a game, but the way he orchestrated the offense was essential to the win.
Manning took advantage of the Ravens focusing on shutting him down. More than few times, he changed the play to a run to take advantage of Baltimore's alignment. Manning's football IQ sometimes impacts the game more than his arm.
With games remaining against the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos have a great chance to head into the playoffs with an 11-game winning streak.
Brady Quinn: D-
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Stats: 18-of-32, 136 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception
The Kansas City Chiefs were shut out by an Oakland Raiders defense that allows a league-worst 30 points per game. It's a unit-wide problem, but the struggles of Brady Quinn make it difficult for the offense to get on track.
Quinn not only completes a low percentage of his passes, he also lacks the ability to attack the deep part of the field. This allows the opposing defense to put more men in the box to help shut down Jamaal Charles.
Kansas City is in line to claim the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. However, there doesn't appear to be a sure-fire quarterback prospect available. It could be a few more years before the Chiefs find a long-term answer at the quarterback position.
Carson Palmer: C-
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Stats: 18-of-28, 182 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions
The Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs game featured a lot of poor offensive production. However, Carson Palmer's ability to avoid turnovers and lean on Darren McFadden helped the Raiders notch the win.
There's not much else to really say about this performance, as the game lacked offensive excitement and explosive plays.
Because the Raiders are in a rebuilding process, Palmer's future with the team is uncertain. It's unclear if the Raiders are willing to pay Palmer's salary if they have little chance to win. This will be something to keep an eye on during the offseason.
Philip Rivers: D-
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Stats: 16-of-23, 121 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions
The good news is that Philip Rivers didn't throw an interception against the Carolina Panthers. However, he did fumble the ball four times, of which two were recovered by the Panthers. The turnovers and lack of explosive plays allowed Carolina to take an early lead.
Outside of a 30-yard completion to Malcolm Floyd, Rivers failed to complete a pass for more than nine yards. The San Diego Chargers tried to dink and dunk their way down the field, but that just led to failed drives and six punts.
It seems that each week, Rivers finds a different way to disappoint. He has struggled with interceptions, fumbles and inaccuracy this season. His inconsistent play is the main reason this team has been such a disappointment.
Matt Ryan: A
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Stats: 23-of-28, 270 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons used this game to make a statement to the entire NFL. They dominated a New York Giants team that's in position to make a playoff appearance. This type of victory is something that can spark a long winning streak.
Ryan stuffed the stat sheet by completing over 80 percent of his passes and throwing three touchdowns. He continues to do a great job attacking the deep part of the field. Ryan and Julio Jones connected on a beautiful 40-yard touchdown pass.
This success in the regular season is only good to earn a strong playoff seed. However, the Falcons know they need to make some noise in the playoffs to gain respect.
Cam Newton: B-
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Stats: 19-of-33, 231 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions
Cam Newton didn't put up great numbers, but he played a solid and smart game. Because of the mistakes made by the San Diego Chargers, Newton only needed to protect the ball and take advantage of the mistakes.
Carolina's ability to jump out to an early lead allowed it to take the air out of the football. It ended up running the ball a total of 39 times, with DeAngelo Williams tallying 93 yards.
Winning a football game is more than putting up big numbers. Newton played smart and did what was needed to help his team win. This is the type of performance that helps a younger quarterback take a step forward in his development.
Drew Brees: A
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Stats: 26-of-39, 307 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions
The New Orleans Saints played with a little more freedom against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This might have something to do with the recent ruling regarding the bounty scandal. Drew Brees especially played well, as he rebounded from back-to-back poor performances.
Brees spread the ball around to nine different targets. That, and the ability to actually lean on a running game, helped the offense find an early rhythm. It was nice to see Mark Ingram show some signs of life by averaging over six yards per carry.
New Orleans is out of the playoff hunt, but it has a chance to build some momentum for next season. There's still a ton of talent on this team, and it could be dangerous next year.
Josh Freeman: F
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Stats: 26-of-47, 279 yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions
Josh Freeman wants to quickly put this recent game against the New Orleans Saints in the past. His four interceptions allowed the Saints to notch a 41-point victory and pitch a shutout. Getting shut out against a defense that allows nearly 30 points a game is embarrassing.
Drew Brees and company took advantage of Freeman's mistakes, as New Orleans scored directly after each of his interceptions. The Saints offense is dangerous enough on its own; it doesn't need the extra help from turnovers.
Freeman has two games remaining to finish the season on a strong note. Unfortunately, those games are against the St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons. Both teams have a very opportunistic secondary.
Matt Schaub: B
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Stats: 23-of-31, 261 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions
The Houston Texans were able to overcome the disappointing loss to the New England Patriots to take care of business against the Indianapolis Colts. Houston went back to basics by playing solid defense, running the ball and completing a high percentage of passes. Matt Schaub's ability to avoid turnovers was one of the differences between this week and last.
Schaub took advantage of a strong performance by Arian Foster. His ability to average six yards per carry forced the Colts to crowd the line of scrimmage. This opened things in the back end of the defense and helped Andre Johnson find some space.
The Texans' best chance to make a run in the playoffs is if they lean on the defense and running game. Schaub will need to make plays here and there, but more importantly, he needs to avoid turnovers.
Andrew Luck: B-
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Stats: 13-of-27, 186 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions
The Indianapolis Colts offensive line made it tough for Andrew Luck to find a rhythm. He was sacked a total of five times and rushed more than that. Despite the pressure, Luck still found a way to keep the game close.
He and T.Y. Hilton continue to find ways to take the top off the defense. The explosive plays they make help all aspects of the Colts offense. It forces the opponents to respect the deep ball, which, in this game, created running room for Vick Ballard.
Luck will get at least one more crack at the Texans this season. The last game of the season will be yet another test for Luck and this young Colts team.
Chad Henne: C
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Stats: 18-of-34, 221 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions
The entire Jacksonville Jaguars offense was unable to top the 300-yard mark. Chad Henne was able to connect with Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon on some nice gainers, but overall, this was an average performance.
Henne's biggest issue was his inaccuracy and inability to score in the red zone. Jacksonville went 0-4 in red-zone situations. This explains why the Miami Dolphins were able to notch a 21-point win.
Mike Mularkey has stated several times that Henne has a chance to win the starting quarterback job for next season. However, Henne hasn't shown he's ready to be a consistent winner. The Jaguars need to spend time this offseason looking to improve the quarterback position.
Jake Locker: C+
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Stats: 13-22, 149 yards, zero touchdowns, zero interceptions, 47 rushing yards and one touchdown
The Tennessee Titans' coaching staff didn't give Jake Locker many opportunities to make plays, but it also limited his chances to make mistakes. Instead, they allowed Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets to beat themselves.
Locker continues to show that he needs a lot more time to develop into a consistent player. His accuracy remains and issue, as does his decision making skills. However, he possesses the arm talent and athleticism needed to help his team win.
Tennessee will take a performance like this from Locker every week. He made some plays with his feet and was able to avoid throwing an interception.