Updated Quarterback Power Rankings After NFL Week 2
With the second week of the NFL season officially behind us, the quarterback situations across the entire league are beginning to shape up. Some QB's have taken a significant fall from last year, while others are on the rise heading into these updated QB power rankings after Week 2.
This week brought us a new starting quarterback in Jacksonville, while we may have seen the last of one in Cleveland, at least for a while.
Playing well one week does not guarantee a move up the rankings. This list bases quarterback performances directly off of one another, so even though QB "X" may have had a better game than last week, he still is not a lock to maintain his current status among his peers.
Every current starting quarterback in the NFL will be considered and valued through numerous categories, each weighted differently as the season progresses. Considering we're in the early stages of 2013, I am currently putting more weight on last year's performances along with this year’s preseason.
In addition, I have given consideration to a quarterback's long history of stellar play by factoring in his total career "Approximate Value," courtesy of Pro Football Reference. I've also given points for Super Bowl victories.
After that, I factor in several key attributes for the quarterback position such as intelligence, arm strength, accuracy, athleticism and leadership.
Wins throughout this season will also give quarterbacks a slight boost in addition to their individual performances based on several metrics ranging from basic to advanced. The sources for these statistics will come exclusively via ESPN.com, NFL.com and ProFootballFocus (subscription required), unless stated otherwise. Personal observation and opinion will also play a key role each and every week.
Starters from Previous Weeks Who Didn't Play in Week 2
Why he didn't play: Lacerated hand.
Replacement: Chad Henne
This might end up being an upgrade for the Jaguars at quarterback for whatever that's worth. But Gabbert still has to prove to the organization that he needs a long-term replacement. For this reason, he'll be the likely starter when healthy.
32. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 31st
If Blaine Gabbert had started last week's game, he would likely have been in this spot at the basement of the NFL's QB power rankings.
Brandon Weeden failed to fend off Gabbert's replacement, who has already taken his spot at No. 31.
There's literally no category in Weeden's output worthy of bragging about at this point. I can't even say he's a young guy who has time to learn the game. He is already 29 years old despite only being in his second year in the NFL.
Unfortunately, his status for next week after an apparent thumb injury is still uncertain. Sitting him out for a game or two would put his ranking position on hold until he returns, if he ever does.
31. Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: N/A
Entering the power rankings for the first time is this sixth-year veteran now in his second year with the Jaguars.
Anyone who was under the impression that Chad Henne could come in for the injured Blaine Gabbert and revolutionize this offense is either admirably loyal or simply just unfamiliar with his body of work.
Henne is a decent NFL backup doing the solid replacement job one should expect. There should be no delusions of him being a savior of any kind to this team or the season in general. What he has been able to do thus far in his career is just about the extent of his capabilities, especially here in Jacksonville, given the surrounding talent.
With that said, the Jaguars have much bigger problems than Chad Henne, who at least has a passer rating of 88.9 with no interceptions. Getting Justin Blackmon back from suspension in a couple weeks will be a good step toward turning things around.
30. Geno Smith, New York Jets
Last Week: 28th
Geno Smith’s opening-day performance wasn’t without its mistakes, but at least he managed to secure the ball fairly well while pulling out a nice come-from-behind victory. Last Thursday against the Patriots, the story was much different.
Smith looked like a rookie in front of a national audience, scoring only 10 points in a wet and sloppy game full of drops and mishaps. As is usually the case for young quarterbacks, learning how to avoid turnovers is key; yet this year, head coach Rex Ryan's job could hinge upon Smith's performance.
If the team can’t generate yards on the ground, expect it to continue with the turnovers and offensive woes in general. Smith is not ready to shoulder the load of this entire offense. He’ll need the same type of coddling Mark Sanchez received throughout his rookie year, which ended in the AFC Championship Game.
29. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 30th
Josh Freeman is the only starting quarterback this season to play in two games while still completing less than 50 percent of his passes.
Against the Saints, Freeman and his Bucs were held to just 14 points, seven of those coming on the defensive side of the ball.
The tension between head coach Greg Schiano and Freeman has to be mounting after the quarterback failed to exceed 125 yards passing in a losing effort. Strangely enough, the Bucs were still very close to pulling the game out in the end thanks to Freeman's improved play in the second half.
28. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 29th
When you’re just two notches above Geno Smith in a QB power ranking, you may need to start panicking. Christian Ponder finds himself at No. 28 this week after completing just over 50 percent of his passes in a close loss to the Bears.
This was a game the Vikings could have, and should have, won had Ponder taken his game up a notch.
Ponder is below average in both his passer rating and ESPN’s Total QBR. He's also thrown two more interceptions than touchdowns after two sub-standard outings.
A good game next week could bump him up a few spots if the quarterbacks around him also falter.
At this point, Ponder is in severe danger of being benched in favor of Matt Cassel.
27. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 27th
Jake Locker came up short in his game against the Houston Texans, but did show some signs of improvement as a passer.
His major weakness remains his accuracy when throwing beyond 10 yards. This is why he has only completed 56 percent of his passes while also having one of the lowest yards-per-attempt averages in the league.
There’s a chance the talent around Locker could help lift his game to a new level—if not, he could be sent packing after the season’s over. His chance to prove himself as a quarterback in this league is now, and he must take advantage or suffer the consequences.
26. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 26th
Terrelle Pryor remains in the same position on the list after carving out his first victory of the season over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
This performance showed off a bit more of his quarterbacking and less running ability than the previous week.
Pryor is a fantastic athlete who is just learning the basics of playing quarterback in the NFL. His reads and accuracy have been impressive so far considering his limited experience and history at Ohio State.
However, the primary reason he’s ranked this high is his spectacular ability to run for big yards and keep drives alive.
25. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 19th
It’s not every day that you can beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night only to discover that you’ve dropped from 19th on the power rankings to 25th.
Andy Dalton didn’t necessarily play poorly or impressively against the Steelers, though he did enough to win the game by avoiding interceptions despite attempting 45 passes.
The bigger reason for the drop is that his surrounding peers all played well too.
If Dalton can keep his Total QBR around the high 60s, he should be able to climb closer to the top 15 in the league. That is where he needs to be if the Bengals have any chance at advancing in the playoffs this year.
24. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 24th
Carson Palmer’s early success this season could speak to the dysfunction of the Raiders organization. Last year, he seemed to be rotting away behind a poor offensive line and a team searching for an identity.
To put things into perspective, Palmer has only thrown one more touchdown than he has interceptions and is near the league average in passer rating.
On Sunday, Palmer connected on just eight of 20 passes to his top wideouts Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts.
Getting the win last week against the Lions was a huge momentum boosts for Palmer and his teammates. These are the wins attained through ball security and restraint—two things Palmer lacked during his time in Oakland.
23. EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 23rd
With the intensity and passion of a rising young star combined with the poise and leadership of a savvy veteran, EJ Manuel has shown he may have all the proper intangibles needed to thrive in the NFL.
You have to give Manuel credit for helping to make the Bills a competitive team after years of disappointment. Their early success could be a fluke, but I highly doubt it. Expect big things from the kid as the season progresses.
Next week, he gets to follow up his head-to-head victory over Cam Newton with an exciting matchup against fellow rookie Geno Smith. This could become a fun rivalry considering these two will now face each other two times a year.
22. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 22nd
What do you do when you significantly deplete your team’s pass-catching targets through trades and injuries? Well, if you’re the Baltimore Ravens, you drop back to pass more than any team in the NFL after two weeks (subscription required).
Joe Flacco continues to demonstrate his mediocrity in the regular season despite the organization's tremendous investment in him this offseason with a huge contract extension.
With Ray Rice injured, the Ravens will need Flacco at his best for the next few weeks if they hope to stay alive in the AFC North.
21. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 26th
It’s been hard to get a clear read on Philip Rivers' play this year. At times, he’s looked like the guy who was once considered one of the better quarterbacks in the league. But other times, like in the final quarter against Houston, he's reverted back to his turnover-happy ways.
However, on the whole, Rivers has played surprisingly well under new head coach Mike McCoy, which explains his tremendous jump in the ratings. Let’s not forget Rivers is doing all this with a severely diminished receiving corps due to injuries.
If this trend continues, the Chargers could be vying for a wild-card spot come playoff time, and Rivers may be able to restore his “good standing” with the San Diego faithful.
The season will show which direction this early surprise team is headed in.
20. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 17th
We can't read too much into Bradford's drop in the rankings after he played decently against the Falcons in a losing effort. The reason for the drop is because other guys had great performances as well, which pushed them ahead of this young, talented quarterback. Bradford failed to gain ground on Michael Vick, Ryan Tannehill and Matt Stafford, who were his closest competition for advancement in the rankings.
No. 8 for the Rams has a passer rating over 93 after two games. He's also doing a great job of finding the end zone much more than opposite color jerseys.
Bradford is growing more confident and comfortable with his weapons each and every week. He will be on the rise soon. At this current pace, Bradford could end up with 40 touchdown passes on the season.
19. Mike Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 20th
Oddly enough, Michael Vick actually played better in his team's loss to the Chargers than he did in the win over the Redskins.
For the season, he has one of the best passer ratings in the NFL at 119. His most impressive stat so far has to be his 10.3 yards per completion.
Some question whether or not this style of offense, mixed with Vick's fragility, is capable of lasting through a 16-game season. It would be smart to have your doubts.
Even if Vick stays healthy enough to start the entire season, he still has to contend with the body fatigue and overall pains bound to come from running nearly 20 more plays a game each week. Nick Foles better stay ready each and every week because his opportunities will come before the end of the year.
18. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 18th
As predicted before the season, Tannehill has been under constant duress over the course of the first two games. His ability to keep his eyes downfield and not falter under the onslaught of relentless pressure has been promising.
Tannehill is trying to prove his name belongs in there with both RG3 and Andrew Luck. He'll need to keep winning games and increasing the touchdown passes for real consideration as being in the upper echelon of young quarterbacks. So far, he looks to be on the right track, as the Dolphins have advanced to 2-0.
17. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Last Week: 21st
Admittedly I’ve been a tough sell as far as approval of Matthew Stafford over the years. I do understand the impressive arm strength and ability to put up yards. But quarterbacking in the NFL is often much more complex than statistics in a bubble.
Situational football and winning close games have been the biggest issues for this young gunslinger.
On the bright side, Stafford has only thrown one interception compared to four touchdown passes. This is the type of ratio he can build on as he matures into one of the better QB's in the league.
This is currently the highest Stafford has been rated all year after he threw two touchdowns with no interceptions and finished with a passer rating of 108 in last week's loss against the Cardinals.
16. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Last Week: 13th
Matt Schaub has always been viewed as a smart, reliable quarterback who understands his limitations and knows how to play assignment football. This year, he appears to be transcending that role as the Texans open up the playbook by winning games through the air. They may not be throwing bombs all game, but they seem to be abandoning the running game much more than usual.
Perhaps this late-career metamorphosis of "Schaub the gunslinger" is the product of outstanding rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. This addition appears to be making Schaub's job so much easier.
Schaub did almost cost his team the game with an ill-advised turnover, but he made up for it with a clutch performance in overtime.
He and the Texans are now 2-0 on the season, though he'll clearly need to play better in order to keep up with the talented quarterbacks logjammed between 11-24 on the power ranking. Expect a lot of movement in this range over the next few weeks.
15. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 15th
Cam Newton hasn’t moved from his spot at No. 15 after two games.
Though he’s struggling to push the ball downfield with any regularity, he is giving his team a chance to win games while playing better than his stats at times. Newton and the Panthers do need a win soon or this team could unravel fast with head coach Ron Rivera already on the hot seat.
According to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders and Pro Football Reference, Cam Newton is only 2-17 on game-winning drive opportunities. Losing in close games has been his biggest liability so far in his career.
14. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Last Week: 16th
Jay Cutler seems to be thriving under new head coach Marc Trestman's offensive system. Could this upward trend of passing efficiency continue as the season wears on? So far, Cutler has completed just over 68 percent of his passes.
If the offensive line can maintain the same level of protection all season long, this could be Cutler’s best year as a pro.
Though he threw two interceptions against the Vikings on Sunday, Cutler did squeak out a victory thanks in large part to his 97.2 passer rating.
13. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 14th
Alex Smith is slowly moving his way up the rankings from the No. 17 spot. He has played extremely well so far in leading the Chiefs to a 2-0 start. Smith has yet to throw a single interception this season, which is a difficult task for any quarterback to accomplish.
With his style of play and ability to win games, Smith could be considered the best game manager in the NFL. But I’m sure he’s looking to prove he is far more than just a manager.
For whatever it's worth, Alex Smith outplayed his former backup and eventual replacement, at least for this week.
Smith will have to start pushing the ball downfield more if he wants to climb higher up the QB food chain.
12. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Last Week: 10th
Not to put all the ownership on Eli Manning, but he currently leads the NFL with seven interceptions. He's also started the season with back-to-back losses, something Giants fans are not used to dealing with. Actually, Tom Coughlin’s “G-Men” have a long history of regular-season struggles.
Manning seems to be playing with the urgency of the leader of a team overcompensating for a lack of talent, which, at this point, is probably more true than not.
Last Sunday, Eli lost again to his brother in the third-ever Manning Bowl. Though he at least has more Super Bowl rings than Peyton, he will likely never surpass his older brother’s well-established legacy.
As for this season alone, the turnovers for Eli have to stop; otherwise, he will end up falling even further down the list.
11. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 12th
After two weeks of NFL action, Tony Romo has managed only one interception while completing 72 percent of his passes. This is impressive and very un-Romo-like.
His leadership skills and decision-making seem much improved this year, which is exactly what he needs to get the talented Cowboys back atop the NFC East.
Can he sustain this degree of poise for the long haul, or will the risk-taking gunslinger in him emerge yet again?
10. Robert Griffin III, Washington
Last Week: 11th
The early part of 2013 has been an interesting exploration into the pocket-passing potential of one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the league. So far, the experiment has yielded mixed results.
To be fair, Robert Griffin III has not yet learned how to trust his reconstructed knee, which is evident in the way he’s refused to plant on his back foot when passing this year. Griffin is also clearly lacking the same burst and escapability for which he’s become famous.
Washington has been falling out of games early, which has allowed RG3 to pad his stats a bit in the fourth quarter while defenses have played conservative bend-but-don’t-break coverage.
RG3 is clearly struggling at this point in the season, but don’t expect him to completely disintegrate.
One thing RG3 fans won't have to worry about is any real consideration of the young quarterback being benched. Mike Shanahan made that clear in his postgame presser.
9. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 9th
Andrew Luck will stay put for another week at No. 9 following a loss and a passer rating of 79.7 against the Miami Dolphins.
On the more positive side of that, Luck threw for over 300 yards and only had one interception.
Luck has a great opportunity to establish himself as the best of the young quarterbacks if he continues to carry the overachieving Colts.
This kid is the complete package and everything you want from an NFL quarterback.
The Colts have to be the "luckiest" organization in the NFL for getting the chance to replace Peyton Manning with Luck. Even with all of the success Manning’s having in Denver, I doubt many Colts fans are screaming for the return of their beloved Peyton. They seem quite content with Mr. Luck.
8. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 8th
Ben Roethlisberger has not played very well over the last two weeks. But his performance and effort are far more important than his statistics.
Big Ben is still a great quarterback despite the struggles in Pittsburgh. He needs an offensive line and a running game in order for his style of quarterbacking to succeed. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley may not last through the season at this rate.
This is the first time in memory when I’ve actually been worried about the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Without protection for their franchise quarterback, we could be looking at a long, painful season for Big Ben and Co.
7. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 6th
Colin Kaepernick seemed eager to take his fame to the next level with a convincing win over the rival Seahawks. It also appeared the plan was to attack via the arm of Kaepernick. Those plans failed, thanks in part to Kaepernick having his worst statistical day as a pro.
His three interceptions against the Seahawks Sunday night matched his total from the 2012 regular season. In addition, his 14.0 Total QBR was also a career low as a starter, per ESPN Stats & Info.
No. 7 was completely shut down, as he struggled to find open receivers all night. In addition, he was under constant pressure from a potent Seattle pass rush.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of his performance was the way he handled the fourth quarter. This was a time when he needed to show more control over the team and lead with some urgency and passion.
Though his immense talent is apparent, Kaep still has a long way to go before he can call himself an elite quarterback or even a great leader.
6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 7th
Moving up one spot to replace Colin Kaepernick after personally dismantling his 49ers is a fitting outcome for Russell Wilson.
Wilson continues to impress with his amazing decision-making and poise under pressure. He was surprisingly able to withstand a fierce 49ers defense Sunday night by not forcing things that weren't there. He's the master of taking what the defense gives him, even if that means starting the game off with six straight incompletions.
Wilson may not have put up big numbers in the Seahawks' critical divisional win over the 49ers, but he certainly was a huge part of that victory and deserves to be positioned this high.
5. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 5th
Matt Ryan has put his team in position to win each of the two games it has played this year. Only one of those games ended favorably for the Falcons.
Defenses are going to struggle all year trying to stop this talented quarterback and his fully loaded arsenal of receivers. Ryan has completed an astounding 71.6 percent of his passes on the season so far, and it seems he'll only improve as the season wears on. This level of proficient passing is extremely rare and difficult to maintain.
Ryan will indeed have to take his game to the next level if he hopes to break into the top four passers. This is unlikely to happen this year because of the gap needed to catch up, but I suppose anything can happen.
But for now, he's at least secured his place at No. 5 on the list for the third week in a row.
4. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Last Week: 4th
Perhaps having a ton of new and inexperienced weapons at the receiver position, compounded by the absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski, has finally taken its toll on Tom Brady's patience. This could be the explanation for his over-the-top antics on Thursday.
In any case, Brady was still able to sniff out another win for himself and Belichick as the Patriots stumbled into a 2-0 start.
Brady's struggles early on have cost him his position as the third-best quarterback in the NFL, for now. He can quite possibly jump up into the top two once he gets his most dangerous target back. It's some tight end—maybe you've heard of him?
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 2nd
When your team is in need of a last-minute game-winning drive, few people (if any) can rise to the occasion like Drew Brees. In his illustrious 172-game career, Brees has orchestrated an impressive 32 game-winning drives, according Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Surprisingly, the Saints are off to a fast start after winning their first two games of the year in nail-biting fashion.
Brees has a ways to go to catch up to either of the two quarterbacks ahead of him on this list, but there's a lot of football left to be played this season.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 3rd
Aaron Rodgers bounced back from a tough loss in San Francisco with a dominating performance against Washington. In Week 2 alone, Mr. Rodgers racked up a whopping 480 yards through the air to go along with four touchdown passes.
After a performance like that, he definitely closes the gap a bit between himself and the top QB on this list. However, it will likely take a string of games like this before he can return to being the king of the mountain.
1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Last Week: 1st
If Peyton Manning continues to dominate at this rigorous pace, he's in for a record-breaking season. He has already piled up 769 yards and nine touchdown passes in two games. That puts him on pace for 6,152 yards and 72 touchdowns through the air in 2013.
The Broncos have outscored their opponents 66-24 in the second half. That's the most points ever after halftime for a team through the second week of the season, according to Scott Kacsmar.
Clearly, Manning is the best QB in the league at this point, and he will be tough to unseat for the rest of the year. If anyone can do it, Aaron Rodgers is the guy most likely to be nipping at his heels all season.
Peyton may be old and far from the most physically gifted of quarterbacks, but this legend in the making is the smartest strategist in the NFL today.