Midseason NFL QB Power Rankings
The midway point of the NFL season is upon us, which means we should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from each team and the quarterback who leads it. With that said, several signal-callers have continued to improve upon their situation this season, while others must painfully serve as fodder for the rest of the league.
There are some new faces entering the fray this week, and we must sadly say goodbye to several QBs who have either been knocked out with injury or benched for stinking up the place. One thing’s becoming clear as the year rolls along: If a quarterback hangs around the bottom of this list for too long, he eventually ends up being either replaced or released from his respective team.
For these rankings, every current starting quarterback in the NFL will be considered and valued through numerous categories, each weighted differently as the season progresses.
Each week, I factor in several key attributes for the quarterback position, such as intelligence, arm strength, accuracy, athleticism and leadership.
Wins will also give quarterbacks a slight boost in addition to his individual performances. The statistics used come exclusively from ESPN.com, NFL.com and Pro Football Focus (subscription required) unless stated otherwise. Personal observation and opinion will play a key role as well.
In the end, the essence of a power ranking with regard to quarterbacks really come down to this question: If I needed to win one game, who would I want as my quarterback?
Note: Total QBR is a scoring system that assesses everything a quarterback does on the field. It can be explained further via ESPN by clicking the link above.
Starters from Previous Weeks Who Didn't Start in Week 8
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Why he didn't start: Benched
Last ranked: 31st
Replacement: Jason Campbell
Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
Why he didn't start: Concussion/Michael Vick returned
Last ranked: 23rd
Replacement: Michael Vick
Josh Freeman, Minnesota Vikings
Why he didn't start: Concussion
Last ranked: 32nd
Replacement: Christian Ponder
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Why he didn't start: Injured knee
Last ranked: 20th
Replacement: Kellen Clemens
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
Why he didn't start: Resumed his role as a backup
Last ranked: 29th
Replacement: Jake Locker
Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Why he didn't start: Injured ankle
Last ranked: 24th
Replacement: Case Keenum
Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings
Why he didn't start: Benched
Last ranked: 23rd
Replacement: Josh Freeman/ Christian Ponder
EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
Why he didn't play: Injured knee
Last rank: 28th
Replacement: Thaddeus Lewis
Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns
Why he didn't play: ACL injury (out for the season)
Last rank: 23rd
Replacement: Brandon Weeden/Jason Campbell
Matt Flynn, Oakland Raiders
Why he didn't play: Demoted, then released by the team
Last rank: 30th
Replacement: Terrelle Pryor
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
Why he didn't play: Hamstring injury
Last rank: 32nd
Replacement: Chad Henne
32. Kellen Clemens, St. Louis Rams
Last Week: N/A
Well, it surely wasn't the performance Kellen Clemens envisioned leading up to this Monday night matchup. He knew the challenge would be great going up against the most dangerous secondary in the NFL, but having an entire week to prepare surely must have made him feel confident his offense could exploit the Seattle Seahawks' talented defense somehow.
In all fairness, the St. Louis Rams did find someone they could rely on, as rookie running back Zac Stacy was nearly their entire offense.
Clemens has completed less than 50 percent of his passes and has yet to throw a touchdown pass in 35 pass attempts. Still, he and the Rams were merely one play away from one of the biggest upsets of the 2013 season. But Clemens gave his receivers no chance to make a play, as he threw an uncatchable ball on 4th-and-goal in the final seconds.
It could be a long year for St. Louis on offense heading into the second half of the season.
31. Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 30th
Due to Blaine Gabbert's inability to stay healthy, he and Chad Henne have gone back and forth as the starting quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Henne has since taken over those duties, at least for the foreseeable future, and has been a marginal upgrade at best.
Henne may not be the worst starting quarterback in the NFL at the moment, and the Jaguars are certainly going to have to upgrade this position in the offseason. Judging by the way this team is currently playing, it should have the pick of the litter in next year's draft.
30. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 29th
To his credit, Mike Glennon has managed to throw more touchdowns (six) than he has interceptions (three) so far, which is impressive for any rookie quarterback, especially one forced to play in a disastrous offense that lacks creativity and efficiency like that of the Tamp Bay Buccaneers. To put that into context, Geno Smith has thrown eight touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions and has been considered a pleasant surprise by many.
It's amazing how much wins and losses can affect one's perspective.
Glennon’s Thursday night performance wasn’t bad, as he threw 51 times without a single interception and completed 30 of his passes.
29. Geno Smith, New York Jets
Last Week: 26th
Last week, Geno Smith was at his highest ranking on the list so far this season at 26. Naturally, he was going to drop some after the public mauling the Cincinnati Bengals gave his New York Jets.
Inconsistency has been the theme of Smith’s rookie season so far. One week he looks like a guy Mark Sanchez would laugh at, and another, he has everyone believing the Jets can be a playoff team this year.
Perhaps we’re all just spoiled by the fantastic rookie performances from a year ago.
Smith has been responsible for 16 turnovers in eight games—clearly, that number needs to improve. But we must remember who the Jets have in terms of weaponry on offense. Few quarterbacks would be able to find much more success with this group of guys.
28. Thaddeus Lewis, Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 24th
Last week, Thad Lewis was ranked a respectable 24th in the power rankings—not a bad position for a guy who was just promoted from the team’s practice squad.
Lewis has made good with his opportunity with the Buffalo Bills, completing 60 percent of his passes on the year with an 80.2 passer rating. His Week 7 upset over the Miami Dolphins was the highlight of the season so far and showed he does have the ability to win games in this league.
27. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: N/A
In 31 career games, Christian Ponder has exceeded 300 yards passing only twice. Clearly, his style of play is designed to manage the game and eliminate costly mistakes. Unfortunately, he has not even done that well this season. Ponder has thrown five interceptions and only two touchdown passes.
He currently has a passer rating below 70 and a Total QBR of 44, which ranks 24th out of 37 qualified quarterbacks.
But hey, he looks a lot better than Josh Freeman at least, right?
26. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Last Week: 28th
Hey, guess what, Eli Manning didn’t throw an interception for just the second time all year. Bravo, Eli, bravo. Unfortunately, he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the second time this season as well.
Manning’s stretch of games from Week 2 to Week 6 was undoubtedly the worst of his storied NFL career. During that time, he managed to throw 12 picks and never exceeded a passer rating of 65.
Manning has eight games left this season to climb his way back into relevance. Could he possibly return to the top 15 in the power rankings by then?
25. Jason Campbell, Cleveland Browns
Last Week: N/A
Apparently, Cleveland Browns coaches have seen enough of Brandon Weeden and have given up on him, at least for now.
Enter Jason Campbell.
Despite the losing effort to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, Campbell played well in his first start of the season, throwing for two touchdowns and nearly 300 yards without an interception. Browns fans have to appreciate how quickly Campbell's getting the ball out of his hands after suffering through weeks of Weeden's indecision in the pocket.
Considering the Chiefs have one of the best defenses in the NFL, this should only strengthen his case for more opportunities moving forward.
Mike Lombardi and Co. have no ties to Weeden and seem eager to cut their losses with little delay—as demonstrated with Trent Richardson earlier in the season.
Don't be surprised if Campbell takes over at quarterback for the rest of the year. Weeden has not ranked higher than 29th all season, despite numerous opportunities under the helm.
24. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 25th
The Arizona Cardinals thought they were getting a quarterback who could take advantage of a talented receiving corps when they acquired Carson Palmer this offseason. They must not have watched this guy play the last few years.
Palmer stinks at decision-making. Only Eli Manning has thrown more interceptions so far this season.
His passer rating is 72.4 and he has a troubling grade of minus-3.4, per Pro Football Focus.
The win last week may have saved Palmer’s job as the starting quarterback this season. But the leash on this disappointing veteran could be getting shorter by the week.
Sadly, it's worth pointing out that Palmer has yet to transcend the 20s in this power ranking.
23. Case Keenum, Houston Texans
Last Week: 27th
Matt Schaub is currently healthy and cleared to play, but don’t expect to see him in the huddle on Sunday unless Case Keenum is injured. Head coach Gary Kubiak elected to go with the impressive young arm of Keenum after he nearly pulled off the upset over the undefeated Chiefs two weeks ago.
Coming off a bye should also help Keenum with his preparation in what will be only his second NFL start. He’s faced with the challenge of matching up against Andrew Luck.
In his first game, Keenum had a passer rating of 110, completed 60 percent of his passes and averaged 10.8 yards per pass attempt. It will be no surprise if we see more of him moving forward. This could end up being his team for the rest of the year.
22. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 22nd
Joe Flacco continues to struggle during the regular season. The Baltimore Ravens are 3-4, and Flacco is at his lowest ranking on the list for the second week in a row. Last week was his bye week, so he had little control over improving his situation.
This Sunday, the Ravens face the Browns in a very winnable division matchup.
Flacco is rated 50th out of 60 quarterbacks who have thrown a pass this year, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s time for him to start earning that big contract he signed in the offseason.
21. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: N/A
Michael Vick had a short day on Sunday against the Giants after looking compromised with a lingering hamstring pull that kept him out a few weeks prior. He attempted only nine passes before giving way to rookie Matt Barkley.
The good: Vick is averaging 8.6 yards per pass on the season.
The bad: He has only thrown five touchdown passes in six games while failing to remain healthy for yet another season.
The ugly: Mr. Vick is only completing 54 percent of his passes. That just won’t cut it in this league.
Regular backup Nick Foles is expected to start in Week 9, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
20. Robert Griffin III, Washington
Last Week: 15th
At one point in the season Robert Griffin III was ranked as high as ninth among all quarterbacks. Clearly that was based off of his impressive rookie season. Yet for RG3, the sophomore slump appears to be a reality as he struggles to get comfortable with a reconstructed knee.
Griffin slid five spots after completed just 15-of-30 for 132 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
The scariest part of the game came when Griffin went down with an apparently knee injury. He has sense been quoted as saying that his knee “feels fine” per The Washington Post.
When will Griffin captivate us as he once did?
19. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 19th
One of the things you hope to see with any young quarterback is a steady progression. This has not been the case for Ryan Tannehill over the course of his sophomore season. Last Sunday, Tannehill attempted 42 passes, yet he failed to surpass 200 yards through the air against a depleted Patriots defense.
On the season, he has completed 59 percent of his passes and has a QBR of 37.2, ranking him 30th out of 37 possible QBs.
With the early success of Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and RG3, it’s time we hold Tannehill to a higher standard of play.
18. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 21st
With regard to what we've seen so far from Terrelle Pryor through his brief NFL career, I'll turn it over to two former NFL scouts, John Middlekauff and Matt Williamson, who had some impressive comments:
@Ryan_Riddle Pryor is one of the most effortless football players I've ever seen. Incredible growth in a short period of time on the field— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) October 28, 2013
Pryor is undoubtedly a talented individual and has shown enormous promise for an organization that's been in search of a franchise quarterback for decades. The youngster is leading all quarterbacks in rushing yards per game (65) and is completing 63 percent of his passes.
Pryor is currently 3-3 as a starter, with the losses all coming on the road against teams with a combined 20-3 record. He may have a long way to go before he achieves true NFL stardom, but he seems to be headed in the right direction.
17. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 18th
Currently, the best stat Alex Smith has added to his resume as the Chiefs quarterback is the amount of "W's" he's helped the team accumulate. Aside from that, he's looked extremely limited in his ability to move the offense and create explosive plays to his guys on the outside. His most dangerous wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, has fewer receiving yards on the season (302) than Calvin Johnson had in one game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Smith is ranked 29th out of 33 qualified quarterbacks in average yards per pass attempt.
Interestingly enough, his lack of big numbers aren't the product of a run-first offense. He has thrown 30 passes or more in each game so far this season, yet he's failed to reach 300 yards in a single game through the air.
You would think with such a conservative style of play that Smith would at least be able to complete 60 percent of his passes—a number widely considered the standard for an NFL starting quarterback—yet he has even failed to hit this modest benchmark.
In any case, as long as the wins keep coming, there shouldn't be too much noise regarding all the things Smith can't do.
16. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Last Week: 13th
Over the last four games, Tom Brady has thrown only two touchdown passes and four interceptions. He currently has a passer rating of 74.9 and has shockingly completed just 55 percent of his passes.
This is obviously not a very good year for Brady from a statistical standpoint, but his ability to pull out victories continues to impress.
This is currently the lowest he's has ranked all season, as he continues to slide further away from the man we’ve all come to expect.
Has Brady lost something?
15. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 14th
Jake Locker’s season passer rating is 97.1. He's done a masterful job of avoiding turnovers and has looked more accurate this year than at any other time in his career.
Locker has thrown eight touchdown passes this year to only one interception. That’s an extremely impressive ratio by any measure.
Perhaps this guy is a keeper after all. He had been under heavy scrutiny going into this season after two years of substandard quarterbacking.
Locker's biggest asset remains his mobility, although he seems to be improving as a pocket passer as well. It would probably help if the Tennessee Titans could get some help from the running game to take some pressure off.
14. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Last Week: 12th
The Bears can now prepare for life without their starting quarterback and hope to win some ugly games with solid play from their defense. If they can just hold on long enough to stay in the playoff hunt, when Cutler returns, the team has a good chance of tasting postseason success.
Backup Josh McCown will take over for the time being.
13. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 11th
The Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled through the first half of the season, winning only two games and dropping five—their latest coming Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Still, we can’t fault Ben Roethlisberger for the dysfunction in the Steel City. Big Ben is completing an impressive 66 percent of his passes while under constant duress.
Once this team is able to give its quarterback some assistance, Roethlisberger should be able to climb back into the top 10 once again.
12. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 17th
Expectations have been sky high for Colin Kaepernick this season—and for good reason after what he showed us last year, unseating Alex Smith at the midway point and leading the San Francisco 49ers all the way to the Super Bowl.
With such an unlikely scenario setting the stage for 2013, Kap has been judged through the lens of greatness even though he has yet to complete a full season as the team’s starter.
One thing we’ve learned about Kaepernick so far is that he still has a lot of developing to do from the pocket, specifically regarding his reads and progressions. He’s still completing less than 60 percent of his passes and has missed a lot of opportunities for big plays during the 49ers' early-season struggles.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has since returned to the team's bread and butter by handing the ball off to Frank Gore and emphasizing a physical, run-heavy offense. This seems like the sensible thing to do, at least while the receiving corps is compromised.
11. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 16th
Andy Dalton and his Cincinnati Bengals are now 6-2 after demolishing the New York Jets on Sunday, 49-9.
It’s hard to believe there was once a time this season when Dalton was ranked 25th in the power rankings. He is now at his pinnacle—and for good reason. The “Red Rocket” has played incredible over the last three weeks, as he’s thrown 11 touchdowns to only two interceptions.
On the year, Dalton has a passer rating of 99 and the eighth-best QBR rating of 67.8.
10. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 10th
Cam Newton had another solid outing as the Carolina Panthers continue to take advantage of a light schedule since returning from their bye week. He has put together an impressive string of performances, landing him in 10th spot of the power rankings for the second straight week.
Newton is completing an impressive 64 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 97 on the year.
This is his highest rating so far this season, and his turnover-free win over the Buccaneers certainly helped him hold firm to a very prestigious position.
Only the best of the best this season can land so high on the list.
9. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Last Week: 9th
Matthew Stafford rallied his troops to an exciting fourth-quarter win against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, finding his main target, Calvin Johnson, for an unbelievable 329 of his 488 total yards through the air.
Clearly, having a walking mismatch such as Johnson on your team can make any quarterback’s job easier. But Stafford does deserve his fair share of credit for what he’s managed to accomplish through eight weeks.
Only Peyton Manning has thrown for more yards than Stafford, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is fifth-best in the NFL.
8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 8th
Despite constant criticism, albeit somewhat deserved, and a reputation for being anti-clutch, Tony Romo has had a very nice season thus far. Sunday's devastating loss to Detroit in the final seconds of the game was not directly the fault of anyone on the Cowboys offense, including Romo (for once), as the team actually did enough to win. In fact, the Cowboys had zero turnovers on offense in their 31-30 tragedy.
Perhaps surprisingly, few quarterbacks have played better football than Romo through the first half of the season. His completion percentage and low rate of turnovers have been the most surprising aspect of his game.
If Romo and his star receiver, Dez Bryant, can remain simpatico between the lines without all the sidebar antics, he has a great shot of finishing the season as a top-five quarterback in this league.
That should be enough to justify his $40 million signing bonus, right?
7. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 4th
What happens when you take away Matt Ryan's top two receivers against a solid defense? Well, you get a very mortal-looking man under center, as Ryan has gone from his best ranking to his worst in just one week.
Interestingly enough, "Matty Ice" has not been so cool when facing the Arizona Cardinals. His two worst games in his NFL career in terms of interceptions have come against the Cardinals defense. Last Sunday, Ryan threw four picks in the Atlanta Falcons' loss as he did his best Carson Palmer impression.
6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 7th
Monday night’s game was an ugly one for the Seattle Seahawks offense, as Russell Wilson was under constant pressure. Wilson is tied with Ryan Tannehill for the most lost fumbles of any quarterback with five.
Per usual, “Danger Russ” made plays when it mattered despite only completing 10 passes for 139 yards.
To his credit, he managed two touchdown passes and avoided throwing any interceptions. His passer rating on the year is 99, and he improved his Pro Football Focus grade to 10.2 on the season.
5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 6th
Andrew Luck is clearly establishing himself as one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the NFL. His growth and maturation in less than two years is obvious, and his well-rounded talents have the Indianapolis Colts flying high.
Losing Reggie Wayne for the season two weeks ago will be a huge test for this consistently poised young star. Can he continue to play at a high level and keep the chains moving, or will Wayne’s absence set this team back significantly?
Luck is one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the league, averaging 26 yards per game on the ground. He’s also tied for first among quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns with three. His 71 Total QBR rating is fifth in the NFL.
In case you’re unsure, Total QBR measures everything a QB does on the field while also taking into account when he does it.
4. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 5th
From 26th all the way to fourth is quite the jump over the course of seven solid weeks of quarterbacking.
Despite the bye week, Philip Rivers still moves up a spot. He’s currently second in the league in passer rating (111.1) and first in completion percentage (73.9).
If this intense, gun-slinging competitor continues to rip up defenses like he has been, league MVP could be the newest addition to his trophy case. But there are still a few megastars standing in his way with nine games left to go on his schedule. Catching and surpassing them would make Rivers one of the greatest sports stories of 2013.
Either way, it’s been a great year for No. 17.
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 3rd
Aaron Rodgers is averaging a league-best 8.80 yards per pass attempt while completing 67 percent of his passes. His 108 passer rating is also among the best in the league, and his 15-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio is fourth among all quarterbacks.
Rodgers and Drew Brees are neck and neck in the race for second in this week's power rankings. Had it not been for such an impressive performance by Brees last week, Rodgers likely would have taken over second place.
Both quarterbacks are playing great as of late and are closing the gap for the top spot.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 4th
With Aaron Rodgers nipping at his heels, Drew Brees had to show up huge on Sunday to fend him off at least one more week.
A five-touchdown, 332-yard performance with no turnovers was a great way to answer the call.
Brees has a passer rating of 109 on the season, and he's completed 67 percent of his passes. And he ranks second (behind only Peyton Manning) in his touchdown-to-interception ratio with a plus-14 margin.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Sunday's game was the 22nd regular-season game in which Brees has thrown at least four touchdown passes since the start of the 2001 season. Only Peyton Manning has thrown more (23).
The Saints are 6-1 and look like one the best teams in the NFL at the midway point of the season.
Can Brees step his game up even more and take over the top spot in the power ranking? Only time will tell us the answer to that question.
1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Last Week: 1st
According to stat guru Scott Kacsmar, the Denver Broncos are highest-scoring fourth-quarter team (115 points) through eight games since 1940.
But the fourth quarter is not the only time when this offense scores points. It's scored more points through eight games (343) than any other team in history.
There's little question as to who is primarily responsible for these amazing feats of football efficiency.
Peyton Manning has taken the quarterback position to new heights this season. It has truly been a thrill to watch. It should be interesting to how he performs outdoors in cold weather this winter. Will his arm and aging body hold up as the bumps and bruises begin to mount?
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and current Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report
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