Nick Foles enjoyed a historic day against the Raiders
Per usual, the QB power rankings have undergone some significant changes from top to bottom. It seems only fitting that the natural volatility of the NFL mirrors the way starting quarterbacks come and go on a weekly basis.
There’s no denying this has been an intriguing season in terms of surprising performances like those of Case Keenum, Jason Campbell and Nick Foles, but there have also been some noteworthy comebacks like what we’re seeing from Philip Rivers down in San Diego.
Tom Brady also seemed to find his way in Week 9 with a huge performance, while some undrafted rookies apparently just weren’t ready for the big stage.
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 comes 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.
Thaddeus Lewis, Buffalo Bills
Why he didn't start: Benched
Last ranked: 28th
Replacement: Jeff Tuel
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Why he didn't start: Hamstring
Last ranked: 21st
Replacement: Nick Foles
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Why he didn't start: Injured groin
Last ranked: 14th
Replacement: Josh McCown
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Why he didn't start: Benched
Last ranked: 31st
Replacement: Jason Campbell
Josh Freeman, Minnesota Vikings
Why he didn't start: Concussion and then benched
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: Jeff Tuel
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
Last Week: N/A
Why is Jeff Tuel ranked the worst starting quarterback in the NFL?
His Total QBR is 9.6. To put that into perspective, the best possible score is 100. To put that into more perspective, Matt Barkley has thrown four interceptions without a single touchdown pass and looked more like an injured Mark Sanchez than a one-time top prospect—despite this, his QBR is more than double that of Tuel’s at 19.5.
Tuel is also completing only 44 percent of his passes thus far.
I suppose this is what happens when you start an undrafted rookie quarterback against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Last Week: 30th
Due to complete incompetence and injuries to Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, Gabbert and backup Chad Henne have traded off as the starter throughout the season. Henne has temporarily 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 thanks to an undrafted rookie entering the fray.
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 No. 1 pick in next year's draft.
Last Week: 32nd
Kellen Clemens assumed the duties of the Rams' starting quarterback the moment Sam Bradford tried to look like an athlete and was lost for the season with a knee injury.
The Rams now fall to 3-6 this season after their most recent loss to the Titans on Sunday.
Clemens actually looked like an NFL quarterback last week after stinking up the place in his first start of the season.
So far, he has managed a 62 passer rating to go along with a Total QBR of 34. His 52 percent pass completion rate this year will have to improve for the Rams to have any chance of making this season competitive.
Last Week: 29th
Did you know that on passes 20 yards or farther, Geno Smith has a higher completion percentage than both Drew Brees and Peyton Manning? Well according to Pro Football Focus (subscription site), he does.
In fact, Smith has been one of the more daring quarterbacks in the league so far, throwing beyond 20 yards on 40 occasions while completing an impressive 47.5 percent. He’s also ranked third among all quarterbacks in total yards on passes where the ball travels at least 20 yards through the air.
This is an odd stat for a rookie quarterback who happens to be playing on an offense with marginal talent at the skill positions and a head coach who has been stressing conservative play and ball security. In the long run, this tendency of Smith will likely contribute to expediting his maturation and ability to read defenses from the pocket.
Last Week: 27th
Christian Ponder has played pretty much in line with expectations so far this season, and the Vikings are losing their patience with him. New arrival Josh Freeman is currently being groomed in the background to compete for the starting QB spot. It will be interesting to see if Ponder can stave off the competition and retain his role as the team’s starting quarterback.
Ponder needs to cut back on interceptions and fumbles if he hopes to remain in the league with any longevity.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, this former first-round pick doesn’t look like the long-term answer at quarterback unless something miraculous happens between now and the end of the season.
With that said, he is playing a little better now that two other quarterbacks are itching to replace him.
Last Week: 30th
Despite the winless record in Tampa Bay, Mike Glennon has actually surpassed Geno Smith on the power rankings, making him the highest-ranked rookie quarterback of the season thus far.
Glennon is completing 60 percent of his passes and has an impressive eight touchdown passes compared to three interceptions. That’s a tough ratio for a rookie QB to nail—especially one who happens to be on a winless team like the Buccaneers.
The third-round pick seems to be finding his comfort level in the NFL to some degree and has shown staggering growth in only a short amount of time so far.
Last Week: 26th
Eli Manning didn’t throw an interception this week! What an accomplishment for Peyton's younger brother, who has been struggling mightily all season. Unfortunately, Eli wasn't given a chance to throw a pick considering this was the Giants' much-needed bye week.
As I said last week:
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?
Last Week: 24th
If I had to say anything about Carson Palmer and the way he has been playing, I'd want to emphasis his consistency. Through nine weeks of football, Palmer has amazingly managed to stay within the same three spots in the rankings since they began.
At least you know what you're going to get out him each and every week: an interception or two paired with some impressive displays of arm strength.
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 (subscription site).
Perhaps last week's bye will help him get refocused and playing at a new level.
Last Week: 18th
Although Terrelle Pryor has shown a lot of promise this season as a playmaker, it’s his underdeveloped ability as a pocket passer that has set him back.
Pryor has only managed five touchdown passes all season with nine picks. To put this into proper context, consider the fact that the quarterback on the other sideline (Nick Foles) managed to throw seven touchdowns in a single game.
One day soon, Pryor will indeed establish himself as a well-rounded quarterback. His progression is coming along at a good pace, and most people never expected this type of impact so quickly.
In the meantime, it doesn’t seem like Pryor will be shredding defenses through the air with any regularity this season.
With that said, there’s no question Pryor currently gives the Raiders their best chance at winning each week.
Last Week: 22nd
There are several things you can point to regarding the struggles of Joe Flacco this season—things like a poor offensive line and injuries to the receiving corps. However, Flacco has always struggled to some degree during regular-season football.
This was my concern about Joe following his contract extension. Will he ever be able to establish himself as an elite quarterback, or is he just an above-average starter?
Flacco’s latest struggles came in his surprising loss to the Cleveland Browns. He didn’t play particularly poorly, but the Ravens did lose a contest which the “playoff Flacco” would have surely won.
According to Pro football Focus (subscription site), he currently has a grade of minus-9.4. That ranks him 33rd out of 35 eligible quarterbacks. Underperforming is an understatement at this point.
Last Week: N/A
Veteran quarterback Josh McCown has been a worthy replacement so far in Chicago after Jay Cutler went down. His experience and ability to move around in the pocket have really been impressive.
I definitely had my doubts regarding McCown taking over for Cutler, but the decision to make him the backup quarterback really seems to be paying off.
McCown has completed 59 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 100.2. In addition, his three touchdown passes with no picks has been inspiring.
Perhaps the Bears can win games without Cutler after all.
Last Week: 25th
Does anyone recognize the guy wearing No. 17 for the Cleveland Browns? That couldn’t possibly be the same Jason Campbell who looked like a bust in Washington or was run out of Oakland, then exiled in Chicago—could it?
Campbell played fantastically in the Browns' win over the defending Super Bowl champs, completing 23 of 35 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. He also resisted costly mistakes by finishing his second start without an interception.
The solid play from both Campbell and Brian Hoyer has made it difficult to envision a return of Brandon Weeden in Cleveland any time soon.
Last Week: 23rd
If everything is bigger in Texas, then what the heck is Case Keenum doing as the Texans’ starting quarterback?
If the Houston faithful are willing to accept good things in smaller packages, this could be the beginning of a very promising career for the guy who’s listed at just over six feet tall.
Although the team is 0-2 in his first couple of starts, Keenum has given the Texans a much-needed spark on offense—although it could end up being too little too late after this talent-laden team dropped to 2-6 on the season.
On the bright side (if there is one), Keenum leads the NFL in yards per pass attempt (10.5) with a minimum of 20 pass attempts. He also has a passer rating of 118 in two games. His stock has gone up each week he’s been the starter.
Keenum has eight passes of 25 or more yards in five quarters as a starter. Matt Schaub had six over his previous 20 quarters as starter. It would appear Keenum has certainly earned more opportunities to be the starter moving forward. This looks to be the end of the Matt Schaub era in Houston.
Last Week: 20th
Oh where have the glory days of Robert Griffin III gone? Were they that long ago?
It seems like a distant memory when last Griffin was special. With that said, he does seem to be showing signs of improving, such as learning how to better read his progressions and exploit the holes in a defense.
Griffin’s season numbers have been average for a starter so far, which has only amplified his frustration and desperation. His desires to return to the days of earlier glory are beginning to eat at him.
This is probably the reason RG3 was seen launching his body high in the air and pinballing off a few defenders in order to ensure a late-game first down.
Washington and RG3 put together a big win on Sunday as they look to keep their playoff hopes within reach. At 3-5, they still have a chance.
Last Week: 15th
Jake Locker was having a career year before injuring his hip earlier in the season. He has since seen a drop-off in his performance and ultimately his ranking, falling from 14th down to 18th after performances like last week.
Against the Rams, Locker completed 13 passes for 185 yards with two picks. It appears accuracy issues will continue to be a major criticism of his game, as his ability to hit receivers downfield remains inconsistent at best.
With all of that said, with a passer rating of 91, Locker is still having his best year as a pro.
Last Week: 19th
Ryan Tannehill played extremely well down the stretch on Thursday night against the Bengals to force overtime. It was a big team win for the Dolphins and a huge morale booster for Tannehill, as the team snapped a four-game losing streak.
Miami’s second-year quarterback has been pretty consistent this season, fluctuating only a few spots in either direction since Week 1. This is both bad and good from the Dolphins’ perspective, but I’m sure they’d like to see Tannehill crack through the top 15.
One area he needs to improve upon immediately is fumbling. Tannehill is currently tied for last among QBs in fumbles lost with five.
Last Week: 17th
Alex Smith has only turned the ball over four times all season. This is a big reason why the Chiefs are the only remaining undefeated team at 9-0 despite a lackluster offense. To the latter point, Smith is also responsible. He has the lowest yards-per-pass average out of all quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts.
Last week, Smith completed 19 passes for a measly 124 yards and no touchdowns on the day.
This has become a typical box score for him over the last three years. His style of quarterbacking appears to be established from here on out.
The big question moving forward is this: Will he be able to compete against a team capable of putting up 30 points? Only time will tell.
Last Week: 11th
Andy Dalton has had one of the more up-and-down seasons of any quarterback this year. He has constantly jumped around on the list on a weekly basis. In the last three weeks alone, he has gone from 16th to 11th and back down to 15th after Thursday’s subpar performance.
His three interceptions with no touchdown passes in the loss to Miami were a stark contrast to the way he played during the previous three weeks when he threw 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
The Red Rifle certainly has the supporting cast to make a push deep into the playoffs this year.
Last Week: 13th
Ben Roethlisberger gave his best shot in Pittsburgh's blowout loss to the Patriots. He did manage to throw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns, but the Steelers defense was absolutely inept on the day.
With a poor offensive coordinator and a makeshift offensive line, it’s somewhat unfair to expect Big Ben to have the same level of success we’ve grown accustomed to.
At the very least, Roethlisberger should be able to return to the top 10 once again by the end of the regular season. He has been a relative bright spot on a tarnished organization.
Last Week: N/A
Any time you can throw more touchdown passes than incompletions, you’ve had a pretty good day.
Well, Nick Foles had more than a pretty good day, finishing with just six incompletions vs. seven touchdown passes. That ties the NFL record for most touchdown passes in a game. Just like we predicted heading into the season, right?
If a more prominent quarterback had put up the game Foles did on Sunday, people would be asking if this was the single greatest performance by a quarterback in NFL history.
Foles also had over 400 yards through the air and zero turnovers—did I mention this was only his ninth career start in the NFL? Yeah, that’s kind of impressive.
If you think Foles is rated too high on this list, just consider he has the second-highest Total QBR in the NFL behind only Peyton Manning. He also has 13 touchdown passes and zero turnovers of any kind on the season.
It's also worth noting that this is the second week this season in which Foles has made it up to 13th in the rankings. The last time he was this high was after Week 6, just before he plummeted all the way down to 23rd the following week.
Last Week: 12th
A week of rest should help Colin Kaepernick before he faces Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Both teams are red-hot and looking to prove to each other who has the more dynamic third-year quarterback.
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 missed a lot of opportunities for big plays during the 49ers' early season struggles.
A hefty dose of Frank Gore and the power running game should keep defenses off-balance and the chains moving.
Receiver Mario Manningham is also set to return in Week 10. His presence should be a huge addition to a struggling passing game.
Last Week: 16th
No quarterback in the NFL this year has had to contend with more flux and inexperience at the receiver position than Tom Brady. This is evidenced in the league-leading 32 dropped passes his targets have had. Perhaps this is what contributed to his emotional outbursts earlier in the season.
These days, things seem much more pleasant around New England with the return of one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, Rob Gronkowski.
On Sunday, Brady returned to his Hall of Fame form in the Patriots' 55-31 shellacking of the Pittsburgh Steelers— which happened to be the most points ever given up by a Steelers defense.
Brady threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns on the day. His stock is now rising.
Last Week: 7th
Over the last two games with a depleted receiving corps, Matt Ryan has thrown two touchdown passes compared to seven interceptions, while only scoring a combined 23 points on offense. As a result, Ryan’s stock has been on the decline, dropping him from fourth all the way to 10th.
Ryan is still having a solid individual season on the whole but will need to bounce back in a big way and climb out of the slump he has been in.
Only winning two games this season has to be the biggest disappointment for this talented quarterback.
Last Week: 9th
Matt Stafford and the Lions got to enjoy a much-needed break in NFL action as they took full advantage of their bye week.
Halfway through the season, Stafford is enjoying one of his better years as a pro. In fact, this could end up being his best year yet. His 66.19 QBR is the best of his career and so is his 1.8 interception rate.
Last Week: 10th
In 2013, Cam Newton has looked to run the ball much less than in his previous two years. As a result, his completion percentage and touchdown percentage have gone up from his previous seasons.
Newton's passer rating of 93.1 on the season is the best of his career so far.
There’s no question that Newton’s high level of play has been one the biggest reasons the Panthers have won four in a row, as well as five of their last six contests.
They’ve scored at least 30 points in each of their five wins this season—not bad for having a passing game gravely lacking in targets.
You've seen how much Matt Ryan and Tom Brady have struggled without their primary targets, right? Well, Newton has never had much in the way of targets throughout his entire career.
Last Week: 8th
Tony Romo looked good once again last week as he came up clutch late in the game against the struggling Vikings.
He threw the ball 51 times on the day while managing only one interception and 337 yards in the air.
Romo and the Cowboys are excited after pulling out the late victory. It’ll be interesting to see if he can lead his men to a string of wins and separate them from the pack in the NFC East. Consistency has been something the Cowboys have notoriously struggled with over the last few years.
Last Week: 5th
Andrew Luck had some head-scratching throws Sunday night against the Houston Texans, as he completed less than 50 percent of his passes on the night.
The good news is that Luck played his best football when it mattered most while avoiding turnovers yet again. Through nine weeks, Luck has only been responsible for four total turnovers, a stat which is extremely impressive when you compare it to the 10 turnovers Peyton Manning has had over that same stretch.
Luck will need to improve his completion percentage if he hopes to regain the fifth spot on this list. He’s currently completing 58 percent of his throws on the year, which could end up going lower as Luck struggles to function with life after Reggie Wayne, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Wayne’s absence certainly seemed to affect Luck’s efficiency throughout the game.
Last Week: 6th
There were at least a few surprising “firsts” in Sunday’s roller-coaster game at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For the bad, Russell Wilson threw the first red-zone interception of his NFL career—which goes to show you how clutch this youngster is in his situational football.
This next one is both bad and good. The Seahawks miraculously orchestrated the biggest comeback in franchise history after falling behind 21-0 to the winless Bucs.
Another “first” of the season which may surprise you—Wilson had his first rushing touchdown of the season. Is it just me or didn’t it seem like Wilson had personally crossed the end zone at least a few times before Week 9?
Wilson is currently sitting at his highest rating of the season.
Last Week: 4th
Although last Sunday was not his proudest hour, Philip Rivers has been playing football like a man reborn. He‘s currently ranked third in the NFL in Total QBR with a score of 75.6.
When the season started, Rivers was ranked 26th out of all 32 starting quarterbacks. He’s now one of the best in the league, sitting at fourth overall.
Rivers is completing an insane number of his passes at 72 percent. His value to the Chargers’ organization and their surprising success this year has been immeasurable.
Last Week: 3rd
Monday night’s loss was disappointing on several levels, but none more so than the health concerns of Aaron Rodgers, who left the game on the opening drive with an apparent shoulder injury. He would only attempt two passes on the night before leaving the game, never to return.
Rodgers was on his way to taking over the second spot in the rankings, but it looks like he may end up missing a few weeks of action at this point. If that’s the case, the Packers may have to pin their hopes on career backup Seneca Wallace.
Last Week: 2nd
Drew Brees was unlucky last week in the Meadowlands, facing a New York Jets team that plays much better at home (4-1) than on the road (1-3).
Even in defeat, he still managed to throw for 382 passing yards.
For the time being he'll remain as the second best quarterback as Aaron Rodgers was not given much opportunity to pass him. Rodgers left the game on Monday night after suffering a broken collarbone in the game's opening drive.
Last Week: 1st
Peyton Manning is ranked No. 1 in so many passing categories that they might as well just give him the MVP trophy right now.
He is currently on pace to have 58 touchdown passes this season, which would smash the NFL record of 50 set by Tom Brady. He's also expected to throw for almost 6,000 yards by the end of 16 games. Those are more ridiculous than video game stats.
Peyton Manning is playing football on a whole other level right now. His mind is nearly unstoppable for any defense.
Perhaps bad weather during an outdoor game in winter will be his undoing.