Power Ranking Every NFL QB at the Season's Quarter Mark
Somehow we’re already a quarter of the way into the NFL season. Time definitely flies when you’re having fun—as is always the case with an opportunity to watch the great game of football.
With that said, there’s a lot to talk about this week, with several new names entering the fray, while a ton of quarterbacks are moving up and down the power rankings after the fourth week of action.
Playing well one week does not guarantee a move up the rankings. This list bases quarterback performances directly off 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.
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. These statistics 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.
In the end, the essence of a power ranking with regard to quarterbacks really should consider this question: If I had one game to win and needed a quarterback to start for me, who would I want as my guy?
In order to best find this ever-changing answer, the consideration of previous years will diminish with each passing week. As it currently stands, there isn't much weight given to the past anyway. It factors about 10-15 percent given the four-game sample size in the 2013 season and will only get smaller as the year evolves.
Note: Total QBR is a scoring system which can be explained further via ESPN.
Starters from Previous Weeks Who Didn't Play in Week 4
Why he didn't play: Injured thumb.
Last rank: 32nd
Replacement: Brian Hoyer
Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Why he didn't play: Returned to backup role
Last rank: 32nd
Replacement: Blaine Gabbert
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Why he didn't play: Broken ribs
Last rank: 30th
Replacement: Matt Cassel
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Why he didn't play: Benched
Last rank: 29th
Replacement: Mike Glennon
Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
Why he didn't play: Concussion
Last rank: 27th
Replacement: Matt Flynn
32. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: N/A
Blaine Gabbert was 6-of-13 for 39 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the first half. Keep in mind this was at home. As a whole, the Jaguars converted on just 18 percent of their third-down attempts against the Colts defense.
It appears things have gone from bad to worse for Gabbert’s career, as he returned to action in disappointing form after missing the last two weeks with a lacerated hand. As it stands, he's the lowest-rated starting QB in the league for a reason. He is completing only 49 percent of his passes with a 4.5 yards-per-pass average. His Total QBR rating is a mere 1.4, which I’m not sure can get any worse.
If things don’t turn around quickly for Gabbert, the Jaguars will be forced to explore other options at the quarterback position on a more permanent basis or I'll be forced to keep him ranked 32nd.
31. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: N/A
Starting the rookie quarterback in place of Josh Freeman could spell the beginning of a new era in Tampa. Mike Glennon tried to rally the winless Bucs to their first victory but came up short against the Arizona Cardinals at home.
Glennon failed to exceed 200 yards passing and threw a pair of picks in the fourth quarter. After his first start in the NFL, the 6'6" Glennon has the second-lowest Total QBR (18.3) in the NFL ahead of only Blaine Gabbert.
He became the third rookie to start an NFL game this season. It should be interesting to see which of the three finishes with the highest ranking.
30. Matt Flynn, Oakland Raiders
Last Week: N/A
In many ways, it was nice to see Matt Flynn finally get another opportunity to start an NFL game after nearly two years of holding a clipboard. Though he failed to win the game at home, Flynn did show he belongs in the NFL in some capacity.
This performance was likely not enough to unseat Terrelle Pryor, who should return to the starting role for the next game.
Flynn threw a pair of matching touchdown passes to both the Raiders and the Redskins defense on Sunday and failed to exceed 250 yards passing despite throwing 32 passes.
Update: Per ESPN, Matt Flynn has been demoted to third-string quarterback this week and will be replaced by undrafted rookie Matt McGloin.
29. Geno Smith, New York Jets
Last Week: 28th
Geno Smith is having a roller-coaster season at the quarter mark. After an impressive win against the Bills, he turned around the following week and gave the ball away four times on the day.
The performance last week was obviously not his best game, but he did make some promising throws.
These days are bound to happen when you have a rookie quarterback trying to make plays with the weapons the Jets have. Things should get better with time, as Smith does deserve some credit for winning two games so far.
28. Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: N/A
Matt Cassel could be atoning for a horrific 2012 season in his new opportunity as the Vikings' backup quarterback. Sunday marked Cassel’s first start of the year, which came overseas in London.
With Cassel stepping in as Christian Ponder’s replacement, the Vikings were able to find their first victory of the season over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The quarterback change also seemed to ignite their big new free-agent acquisition Greg Jennings, who finished with 92 yards and two touchdowns.
This is likely the beginning of a brewing quarterback controversy in Minnesota, as Cassel avoided turnovers all game long en route to a big team victory.
27. EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 24th
It was quite the accomplishment for the Bills to beat the Ravens with rookie EJ Manuel struggling for most of the day.
The rookie completed just 10 passes for 167 yards with two interceptions. That is why he is currently ranked the lowest he’s been all year long.
Manuel is showing some promise in his first year but will need to be a much better quarterback in nearly every aspect.
On a positive note, he has demonstrated tremendous poise through his growing pains and has helped his team to a respectable 2-2 record so far. Both Manuel and the Bills as a whole should improve as the season goes on and they accumulate some much-needed experience.
26. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 22nd
This former No. 1 overall draft pick has been a divisive figure among critics during his four years in the league.
The trouble with Sam Bradford is that he has fallen egregiously short of performing like a franchise quarterback so far in his career.
Last Thursday’s game was no exception against a weakened 49ers defense. Bradford answered the call in a big divisional matchup with a horrendous display of poise and pocket awareness. Things proceeded to get worse for the quarterback as the game became increasingly one-sided.
There was a time, not long ago, when I myself was a believer in the perceived potential of this golden-armed youngster. Now, after numerous excuses, it has become increasingly difficult to vouch for a quarterback who seems unable to show signs of significant progress.
25. Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 31st
If anyone has come out of nowhere this season, that person has to be Brian Hoyer. Hoyer took over the starting job for Brandon Weeden after Weeden injured his thumb two weeks ago. Under Weeden, the Browns were 0-2. Hoyer has miraculously won two straight games.
It seems fair to assume Weeden won’t be returning next week vs. the Bills at home. Hoyer has already shown tremendous improvement in just his second start for the Browns.
This could develop into a Kurt Warner-like story if he continues to play this well and win games.
24. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 23rd
This was a very disappointing loss and performance for Andy Dalton, who turned the ball over twice while failing to throw a single touchdown.
Dalton definitely doesn’t have the excuse of a lack of weapons. It’s starting to look as if this kid has maxed out his limited potential as an NFL quarterback.
In Sunday’s loss against the Browns, Dalton was limited to 206 yards on 42 pass attempts. This is the third straight week Dalton has dropped in the power rankings. A quarterback dilemma could be brewing in Cincinnati.
23. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 26th
Any team thinking it can get better with Carson Palmer as its starting quarterback is making an egregious mistake. Teams who move on from Palmer as their quarterback routinely seem to improve their situations at that position.
Palmer has historically thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes throughout his career. Despite having talented receivers and a capable offensive coordinator in Arizona, Palmer is ranked 23rd in the league with a Total QBR score of 41.6.
Don't expect this veteran quarterback to be moving up the power rankings too far for the rest of the season—although anything is possible when you have Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver.
Maybe the best thing for everyone would be for Palmer to just hang up his cleats and call it quits after this season.
22. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 19th
For those wondering whether the Ravens should have paid Joe Flacco all that money this offseason, I ask you this—what choice did they really have?
Besides, Flacco has never been very good in the regular season. The only concern here now is can Baltimore even make it to the postseason at this point?
The Ravens’ receiving corps is absolutely decimated, as several offseason moves and injuries have given the quarterback little to work with. This could be in part due to the mega deal Flacco signed following his Super Bowl victory, but there are many who dispute this claim because of the way the contract is structured.
In any case, Flacco is having his worst season as a pro, completing under 60 percent of his passes and throwing seven interceptions to only five touchdown passes.
Losing to the Bills on Sunday marked an ominous sign for Baltimore. Flacco threw five interceptions in that game while only completing half of his pass attempts.
21. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Last Week: 20th
For a while, Texans fans were very clear about what they had with Matt Schaub as their quarterback. They understood he was never going to be the flashy gunslinger who puts up 450 yards through the air while throwing five touchdown passes—nor did they need him to be. But what they liked about Schaub was his proven ability to manage a game effectively and play within the confines of his physical limitations. They could trust that Schaub would not make a habit of losing many games for them.
Apparently those days are over. Schaub has turned a nasty corner in his career development through the first four games with costly turnovers and the worst QBR rating of his entire career (43.04).
Texans fans understand the talent on this roster and are beginning to believe Schaub is more of a liability than an asset at this point. This could explain why some have turned to burning his jersey in protest.
20. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 25th
Locker entered this season with a lot of pressure from the organization to show why he'd been drafted in the first round. In the early parts of the year, he seemed to be the same defective product the Titans feared they had in him. His accuracy after 10 yards has always been one of his biggest concerns.
In Locker’s first two seasons, he completed well under 60 percent of his passes. This season, he has worked his way up to a 62 percent completion rate while guiding the Titans to an impressive 3-1 start.
To the surprise of many, Locker has yet to throw an interception while managing six touchdown passes and one score on the ground.
Some credit should go to Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains for finally figuring out the proper way to utilize Locker’s strengths as an athletic quarterback. He’s best rolling out and making simplified reads rather than being a statue in the pocket reading the entire field. Even if he makes the proper read, there’s still a good chance he’ll miss his target with the throw if the pass is beyond 10 yards.
Unfortunately, Locker suffered a hip injury against the Jets and will likely miss a month of action.
Hopefully he can return playing just as well as he had been before the injury. He was definitely a quarterback on the upward swing.
19. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Last Week: 15th
Sitting at 19th on the power rankings, this is by far the lowest Eli Manning has been all season. He currently leads the NFL with nine interceptions, which has been an area in which he has notoriously struggled. In his nine previous seasons, Manning has thrown at least 15 interceptions in six of those.
Manning currently has the lowest QBR (29.96) of his career as the Giants are off to an agonizing 0-4 start to the season. This raises several questions about what the malfunction is in New York.
One obvious culprit has to be the abysmal play of the offensive line. Manning has been under more pressure this year than ever before, with an 8.5 percent sack ratio on all pass attempts.
Eli may be struggling, but he has proven himself to be a guy who can play his best football when his back is against the wall. That description should apply to his current situation, as we wait to see how he’ll respond in the face of unprecedented adversity.
18. Mike Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 21st
In a big showdown against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, Michael Vick started the day off pretty well. As the game continued, Denver’s defense proved too formidable for Vick and his uptempo offense.
The Vick experience on Sunday was held to no touchdowns through the air or on the ground and completed just over 50 percent of his passes on the day.
Even though the Eagles are 1-3, Vick has not been entirely at fault for the slow start. He has looked quite impressive at times and, at the very least, avoided any turnovers in the loss to the Broncos.
Vick currently sits at 18th, which his best position of the year. This is primarily due to poor performances by Eli Manning, Schaub, Flacco and Palmer.
17. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 16th
Ryan Tannehill had his worst day of the season Monday night against the surprising New Orleans Saints. This was a highly anticipated matchup between undefeated teams, and the game turned out to be completely one-sided.
Tannehill turned the ball over four times, with three picks and a fumble.
Aside from Monday’s game, Tannehill has been having a solid season so far, but he may have some more work to do before he can be mentioned in the same group as the Big Three rookies. In 20 starts, he has 17 touchdowns and 18 interceptions and is currently leading the league in fumbles.
16. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Last Week: 13th
Jay Cutler took a few steps back last week by resorting to some of his old habits. The same habits which have made him a hard guy to trust on a weekly basis. The often erratic quarterback threw three interceptions and fumbled once in the loss to the Detroit Lions in a battle for first place in the division.
With that said, Cutler is still having a decent season, as his Bears are 3-1.
If he wants to crack the top 10, he’ll need to reduce the turnovers and play smarter football down the stretch.
15. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 10th
Though he was able to silence his critics somewhat against the Rams Thursday night, Colin Kaepernick has yet to display the promise and polish he once teased us with throughout the postseason and following Week 1. It appears those questions about his development as a “pocket passer” are indeed valid after all.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman of the 49ers has been one of those who have overestimated Kaepernick’s ability to beat teams purely as a pass-first quarterback. This strategy has proven detrimental in the last couple of weeks with a depleted receiving corps. Kaep has been leaving a lot big-play opportunities on the field as of late.
At least for moment, this talented young quarterback can enjoy his week and build upon some much-needed confidence after coming away with a convincing win.
At the end of the day, the criticism he faces should only reflect his unlimited potential—similar to what LeBron James has had to deal with in the fourth quarter of the playoffs.
14. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 12th
In a week of rest for Cam Newton, he was dropped two spots due to some impressive play from his colleagues.
Newton will have his opportunity to climb the ladder in Week 5 as he and the Panthers head to the desert to face the Cardinals.
His big-time victory over the Giants in Week 3 could be the turning point of the season. The Panthers now look to even their record and gain their second consecutive win.
Newton’s touch on his deep balls of late has been remarkable. If he can continue putting the ball on a rope like he did against the Bills and Giants, NFL defenses are bound to have their hands full.
One thing he needs to continue to implement in his game for long-term success is running when nothing is open downfield. This has been a great equalizer for any concerns about his ability to execute proper read progressions.
13. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Last Week: 18th
Matthew Stafford made a big leap in the power rankings from 18th to 13th after an impressive victory over the Chicago Bears. This was not a stats-heavy win for the gun-slinging quarterback, but one that demonstrated sound decision-making and poise.
It was especially nice to see Stafford win without big passing numbers and a relatively quiet game from Calvin Johnson. Those two elements would have almost guaranteed defeat in years past.
For the first time in Stafford’s career, he appears to have a reliable running game. This should help him reduce penalties but will also limit his yards. Bottom line: The Lions are tied for first in the division at 3-1 with the team they just beat on Sunday.
We can imagine how dangerous this offense will be when Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson are firing on all cylinders at the same time.
As Bleacher Report’s Ian Kenyon points out, Stafford has only been sacked a league-low three times in four games.
Stafford is definitely trending upward and could end up in the top 10 before long.
12. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 14th
Alex Smith threw his first two interceptions of the season on Sunday against the Giants defense, yet still managed to win handily 31-7. Smith threw for a season-high 288 yards with three touchdowns on the day.
The Chiefs are now 4-0 led by Smith and are in great position heading into the second quarter of the season.
Smith has yet to eclipse 300 yards in a game this year, but he also hasn’t had to. We will see what this conservative quarterback is really made of when he’s forced into a shootout. Don’t forget the Chiefs have to play the Broncos twice this year. Those games should be fun to watch.
Can Alex Smith keep up with Peyton Manning and the Broncos' high-powered offense when the time comes?
Mark November 17 on your calendars now, folks.
11. Robert Griffin III, Washington
Last Week: 11th
It appears that with each passing week, Robert Griffin III is looking more and more comfortable out there on his reconstructed knee. The Redskins have had to revise their offensive philosophy from the previous year in fear of RG3 reinjuring himself. As a result, Griffin has been asked to play the game purely from the pocket without any reps in the preseason to find his timing with his receivers.
Under these circumstances, he’s struggled more than many would have expected after he lit up the league his rookie year and guided Washington to a divisional title.
Griffin is currently ranked 30th in Total QBR and 17th in passer rating. As a result, this is the lowest Griffin has been ranked all year.
If he wants to climb up the rankings at this point, he'll need to make defenses fear his ability to run on them. This will open up the passing lanes and make his job from the pocket much easier.
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 8th
Who would have believed the Pittsburgh Steelers would start the season off 0-4? It’s no secret this is a team making a transition from aging players to youth, which would cause some struggles for the franchise. But this level of ineptitude was hard to predict when you consider the prideful history of the Steelers organization.
So how much of the blame should fall on Ben Roethlisberger?
Clearly, Big Ben has not played up to his usual standards, but he has had little help from a besieged offensive line and no running game to serve a buffer. Perhaps the return of Le’Veon Bell will aid in this regard and open up some passing windows downfield.
9. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 9th
Tony Romo kept the game close against a surprising Chargers team. Although he did manage to avoid throwing any picks, Romo struggled to generate many big plays in the passing game—the longest going to WR Dez Bryant for a 34-yard touchdown pass.
One of the most impressive aspects of his game so far this season has been his unusually high completion percentage (72). This, combined with a relatively low yards-per-attempt average, is evidence of a clear change in his approach to the position.
It seems Romo is wisely transitioning into a much more proficient, yet cautious, quarterback this year. As a result, he has only thrown one interception all season, which is a stark contrast compared to his career-high 19 from a season ago.
For now, Romo will stay at ninth overall, which was a season high for him last week.
8. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 6th
Russell Wilson did nothing flashy yet again as he helped manage his team to another close win. There’s no question Wilson is helped by a dynamic defense and a sound running game, but he also seems to understand how to play the game to win in critical situations.
The Seahawks were down 20-6 at the start of the fourth quarter before Wilson willed his team to an impressive overtime victory with his heart, legs and mind.
He may have only passed for 123 yards on the day, but most of those yards came when the team needed them the most. He also racked up 77 yards on the ground.
The Seahawks are now 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Wilson’s pedestrian numbers did cause him to slide a couple of spots, but he remains in the top 10 for obvious reasons.
7. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 17th
Philip Rivers has had a meteoric rise up the rankings all the way from the 26th spot. Last week, he was slated at No. 17 in the power rankings, which was apparently a vast underestimation of the high level at which he’s playing. Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see if he can justify being ranked in the top 10 in the NFL.
Rivers is in a similar situation to Tom Brady, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick with regard to making good with depleted options due to injuries at the receiver position. One could make a sound argument that no one has handled this adversity better than Rivers thus far, especially when you consider he’s managed to have a passer rating of 128 while ranking second behind only Peyton Manning in Total QBR.
The contrast in surrounding talent between the Broncos and the Chargers is apparent.
In Sunday’s win over the Cowboys, the Chargers’ long-time quarterback threw the 200th touchdown pass of his career, highlighting perhaps his most impressive day of the year. If he can continue this astounding pace, this could end up the best season Philip Rivers has ever orchestrated in his entire professional career.
6. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 7th
One of the things that makes Andrew Luck so dangerous is his underrated ability to make plays with his athleticism. Of course, we all know Luck is one of the smartest young QBs in the league, but it’s his improvisational skills and ability to extend plays which have allowed the Colts to thrive over the last two seasons despite spotty play on the offensive line.
Luck made short work of the Jaguars after starting slowly in the first quarter.
The Colts are surprisingly 3-1 at the quarter mark, which is largely in part because of the solid play of Luck. If you watch him play, you will quickly understand how he significantly outperforms his statistical output by truly understanding what it takes to get a win.
5. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 4th
Despite throwing for 421 yards against the Patriots, Matt Ryan drops a slot in favor of the man who beat him on Sunday night.
The Falcons asked their quarterback to throw the ball 54 times at home, yet Roddy White only caught three passes for 28 yards. Ryan didn’t play poorly, but he was in fact outplayed by Tom Brady in this highly anticipated heavyweight matchup.
One quarter of the way into the season, Ryan is second in the NFL in passing yards and has firmly cemented himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
4. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Last Week: 5th
Most of the 2013 season has consisted of Tom Brady trying to get perhaps the youngest group of receivers in the league up to speed on the way things are done in New England. This process has not always been pretty, but at the very least it’s been accumulating wins until the returns of Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola.
Brady has moved back up to fourth on the rankings after an impressive head-to-head showdown against the very man he surpassed to reclaim his spot, Matt Ryan.
Brady threw for over 300 yards on the day with two beautiful touchdown passes and no interceptions.
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 2nd
Aaron Rodgers was unable to improve his status as the second-ranked quarterback this week, as he and the Packers enjoyed the first bye week of the NFL season. In fact, he was passed up by one of his colleagues who finished the week’s action with a stellar performance on Monday night.
Realistically, though, it would take a combination of mind-blowing play from A-Rod along with a significant drop in performance from Peyton Manning for him to ever see the top slot again.
Rodgers has played relatively well this season despite a few hitches here and there. However, Peyton Manning is making Rodgers’ numbers look rather pedestrian. At this point, Rodgers may need to be more worried about Drew Brees and the ascension of Philip Rivers.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 3rd
Drew Brees is having yet another fantastic season as he makes the art of quarterbacking look incredibly simplistic. His value to the Saints organization may technically be established in his $100 million contract, but in reality, you simply cannot quantify it in a dollar amount.
Not even the trash-talking Richard Sherman can say anything negative about this man (see video above).
In Monday’s battle of unbeaten teams, Brees completed 30 of 39 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns without a single interception. To put it lightly, the man is on fire.
If Brees can put together a few games like this one, he may soon be nipping on the heels of the great Peyton Manning.
1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Last Week: 1st
What Peyton Manning has been able to do in the first four games of the season is simply remarkable. He's already set the NFL record for most touchdown passes through four games with 16. At the frantic pace he’s on, we could theoretically see a season with 64 touchdown passes—a number which would obliterate the current record of 50 held by Tom Brady.
Did I mention Manning has yet to throw a single interception?
Denver is currently averaging 44.8 points per game and has yet to be truly challenged this season. Manning might be getting older, but he's also getting smarter.
With Peyton and the Broncos firing on all cylinders, it’s going to be difficult for any defense to slow this future Hall of Fame quarterback down.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and current Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report
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