This was the first week of the entire season in which every starting quarterback from the previous week returned to his starting role. But given some significant injuries and some poor performances that led to benchings, there is little chance next week will feature such a unique occurrence.
This week in the QB power rankings, we saw some serious shakeups in the top 10 and some big jumps forward by guys who have underachieved this year.
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 their 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.
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.
Seneca Wallace, Green Bay Packers
Why he didn't start: Groin injury
Last ranked: 28th
Replacement: Scott Tolzien
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Why he didn't start: High ankle sprain
Last ranked: 17th
Replacement: Josh McCown
Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
Why he didn't start: Knee injury
Last ranked: 26th
Replacement: Matt McGloin
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Why he didn't start: Foot injury
Last ranked: 21st
Replacement: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Jeff Tuel, Buffalo Bills
Why he didn't start: Returned to backup role
Last ranked: 32nd
Replacement: EJ Manuel
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Why he didn't start: Fractured collarbone
Last ranked: Third
Replacement: Seneca Wallace
Thaddeus Lewis, Buffalo Bills
Why he didn't start: Returned to backup role
Last ranked: 28th
Replacement: EJ Manuel
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Why he didn't start: Hamstring
Last ranked: 21st
Replacement: Nick Foles
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 (out for the season)
Last ranked: 20th
Replacement: Kellen Clemens
Matt Flynn, Oakland Raiders
Why he didn't start: Demoted, then released by the team
Last rank: 30th
Replacement: Terrelle Pryor
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
Why he didn't start: Benched
Last rank: 32nd
Replacement: Chad Henne
Last Week: 32nd
Although Geno Smith has shown flashes of potential as a rookie, it’s alarming that he appears to be regressing more than progressing in the second half of the season.
According to AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz:
Smith has not completed more than nine passes in the past three games. The last time he did so was in a 49-9 blowout. He has earned a passer rating of over 70 just twice over the past six games (including a low of 10.1 in Week 11 versus Buffalo), and in that span, he has thrown just one touchdown and 10 interceptions while completing 50.3 percent of his passes.
Smith’s lack of execution even has some wondering if he’s the guy of the future moving forward—which is unfortunate considering the way he was gaining momentum, confidence and supporters at a high rate earlier in the year. My, how the tide turns quickly in the NFL.
He now sits at the bottom of the NFL totem pole for starting quarterbacks.
Last Week: 31st
Somehow, some way, Chad Henne and the Jacksonville Jaguars have won two of their last three games. In Sunday’s win over the Texans, he completed nearly 72 percent of his passes, although the Jaguars only scored 13 points on the day.
Apparently that was enough for the win. Despite the team's success as of late, Henne has only thrown two touchdown passes in the last six games. That’s a big reason why he's second-to-last in the QB rankings.
In only a matter of two weeks, the red-hot Jason Campbell managed to descend from 19th overall on the rankings to 30th.
During that span of time, Campbell threw only one touchdown pass to go with three interceptions—a stark contrast from his first two games this season in which he threw five touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
On Sunday, Campbell ended up leaving the game with a head injury after a controversial hit by William Gay.
Campbell was replaced by Brandon Weeden, who went on to complete less than 50 percent of his passes.
Last Week: 27th
Although Scott Tolzien started the game, it didn’t take long before head coach Mike McCarthy had seen enough. Tolzien would eventually be replaced by Matt Flynn early in the second half after he completed just seven of 17 passes for 98 yards on the day.
In limited opportunities this season, Tolzien generated a Total QBR of just 24, which ranks among the lowest in the NFL.
It appears this backup’s opportunities in Green Bay have run their course, as he’ll be replaced from here on out by guys more capable and with more experience in the Packers’ system.
Kellen Clemens completed 10 passes for 167 yards through the air, yet the Rams scored 42 points on Sunday.
Of all the starters from last week, Clemens’ accumulative accuracy percentage ranks dead last according to PFF’s metric.
Believe it or not, the Rams have scored a combined 80 points in their last two games, which happened to be wins under the backup quarterback.
Last week, I questioned how far the Rams could go with Clemens under center, but after the last two weeks, it seems like they may not be any worse off having Sam Bradford on the bench.
Last Week: 29th
Although the game against the Packers finished without a winner, Christian Ponder orchestrated perhaps his best outing of the season. Against the rival Packers, he managed to complete a season-high 70 percent of his passes for 233 yards and one touchdown.
Ponder aided his team in an inspiring performance, and he even found a way to avoid any costly turnovers.
Ponder has never been ranked higher than 25th all season, but if he can string together a few more games like the one he had last week, the Vikings and their quarterback should be moving up.
This is an important year for Ponder to prove to the Vikings that he is worth holding onto. So far, he has proven to be more of a liability than asset.
Last Week: 28th
Matt McGloin has stepped into the starting role and has done surprisingly well for an undrafted rookie quarterback. One area that he needs to improve upon is his accuracy. He’s currently completing just 55 percent of his passes.
Furthermore, his 88.8 passer rating has been solid, along with his four touchdown passes compared to only one interception.
Just before the bye week, EJ Manuel had his best game as a pro in upsetting the Jets defense.
On the season, Manuel has thrown twice as many touchdowns (eight) as he has interceptions (four). He’s also completing 58 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 82. These are solid numbers for a rookie quarterback, and he seems to be turning a corner in his maturation from the pocket.
Manuel possesses all the tools to be a very good quarterback in this league, as well as a leader in Buffalo. Expect to see him move up the rankings and land somewhere in the middle of the pack by season’s end.
Last Week: 20th
The last time the Texans offense looked this bad might have been when David Carr was leading it.
Keenum looked great in his first two games of the season, showing enormous potential as a quarterback. Then you look at the past two weeks and you have to wonder which version of this kid is the most accurate representation of his skill set.
Consider the fact that Keenum has yet to win an NFL game and, frankly, couldn't even beat Jacksonville. The Texans scored six points in their latest loss and have struggled to generate anything offensively.
As for the season, the youngster has decent numbers to stand on, with a passer rating of 89 to go with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Last Week: 21st
In the Giants’ divisional loss to the Cowboys, Eli Manning did his best at avoiding turnovers and was successful. Perhaps one consequence to his conservative play was that the Giants only generated 174 yards through the air on 30 pass attempts.
The Giants have struggled to protect Eli all season, and the play-calling has been shameful, but there are only so many excuses we can point to before a large chunk of the dysfunctional play falls squarely on the arm of the quarterback.
Last Week: 23rd
Joe Flacco only threw for 147 yards against the Jets in their much-needed victory. The Super Bowl-winning quarterback from a year ago continues to struggle in 2013, as the Ravens failed to score touchdowns on any of their four trips into the red zone.
What’s more concerning is that Flacco has thrown a career-high 14 interceptions this season while hardly making up for it with his 14 touchdown passes.
If the Ravens are to make a push for the playoffs, they must have the version of Joe Flacco who led his team to a world championship.
One thing you have to give rookie quarterback Mike Glennon credit for is his continued improvement as the season has progressed. The Buccaneers started off the season losing their first eight games of the season. Since then, Tampa Bay has been receiving a lot of attention after winning its last three games.
For a rookie, Glennon has done remarkably well at avoiding turnovers, as he currently has thrown only four picks to go with 13 touchdown passes.
To the surprise of many, this third-round steal could end up becoming the best QB of his class.
Last Week: 19th
When it comes to interceptions, only Eli Manning and Geno Smith have thrown more interceptions this year than Andy Dalton. In fact, Dalton has been one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the league from week to week.
The Bengals had a chance to rest during Week 12, which should help this team do some self-scouting and see if it can figure out what’s leading to Dalton’s roller-coaster performances.
As of right now, Dalton is a below-average starter in this league, and this will have to change if the Bengals hope to be contenders in the postseason.
Last Week: 24th
Replacement quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick turned out to be one of the better insurance policies of the season. In his new role as a backup, this intelligent veteran has continued to make strides to improve.
Fitzpatrick had one of the biggest jumps up in the rankings this week after passing for over 320 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
On the season, he currently has a very respectable passer rating of 89.
Last Week: 16th
Robert Griffin III completed over 65 percent of his passes as a rookie and had a 102.4 passer rating. This season, Griffin is completing 60 percent of his passes with a rating of 81.9. He’s thrown 14 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
It’s hard not to notice that Griffin is just a shadow of what he flashed as a rookie a year ago. Perhaps his struggles are related to his knee not being healed yet.
Regardless, things are not looking good for RG3 and Washington this season.
In Monday night’s loss to the 49ers, Griffin passed for only 127 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Even on the ground, he fared no better, running for only 22 yards on six carries.
One has to wonder whether or not this dynamic playmaker will ever return to the dominating form we saw from him only a year ago.
Last Week: 18th
Perhaps Carson Palmer has been reading my criticisms of him as a quarterback who suffers from incurable chronic turnover syndrome.
Maybe head coach Bruce Arians has figured something out in Palmer’s game that will allow him to thrive.
Either way, Palmer is playing his best football right now.
In the last four games, he has thrown eight touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Meanwhile, his passer rating during that span has been well over 100.
This is the highest ranking he has had all year, which has certainly been earned over these last few weeks.
Last Week: 17th
Colin Kaepernick needs better pocket awareness and the ability to evade pressure while keeping his eyes downfield. With that said, he completed 15 of 24 passes for 235 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions against Washington.
Kaepernick had six completions longer than 17 yards on Monday night—in the previous two games, he failed to have even one.
At this point, Kaepernicks brief career and/or season can be summed up in this paragraph from NFC West Lead Writer, Tyson Langland:
Consistency is what separates average quarterbacks from great quarterbacks. And right now, Kaepernick is nothing more than an average quarterback who shows up versus a favorable matchup. He’s lucky he has one of the best defenses in the NFL in his corner.
Though I happen to agree with Tyson here, PFF has him down as the 31st-best quarterback in the league.
Last Week: 14th
Ryan Tannehill's toughness and resilience are vastly underrated. This kid has taken more punishment from the pocket than any other quarterback in the league, yet he continues to bounce up each time like nothing happened.
However, Miami's lack of offensive production blew the game against Carolina—the Dolphins failed to get a single point in the second half.
Tannehill threw for 310 yards last weekend, yet they could only muster 16 points on the scoreboard.
For the season, the second-year quarterback is ranked eighth in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Last Week: 15th
Maybe watching Peyton Manning play in person last week inspired Alex Smith to step his game up and actually sling the ball downfield to receivers. Against the Chargers, he was throwing the ball on the outside much more and much deeper than he has all season.
But with the deeper throws comes a price. Smith seems to be exposed every time he attempts a pass beyond 15 yards.
At the end of the day, Smith has consistently proven to be nothing more than an average quarterback, which is evidenced in his ranking all season, which has ranged between 12th and 18th.
It has been his ability to win games that has kept Smith ranked as high as he has been.
Last Week: 13th
Who would have thought that after 12 weeks of NFL action, Josh McCown would be leading the league in Total QBR (81.0). I’m sure we all saw that one coming.
McCown threw for 352 yards, and his 36 completions stunningly set a single-game Bears record.
Believe it or not, McCown, who has a career completion percentage of only 58, is actually second among all current starting quarterbacks in PFF’s accuracy metric.
This is the highest the backup QB has been ranked all season and is even higher than Jay Cutler's best ranking.
Last Week: 10th
Matt Ryan was only able to generate 13 points in his loss to the Saints despite not having a single turnover and completing 76 percent of his 39 passes.
It’s kind of astonishing that the Falcons could go from 13-3 and 10 yards from the Super Bowl to 2-9 in one season with the same franchise QB. But for those who haven’t been watching, the QB position is the last thing that needs fixing for this disappointing team.
Matty Ice is still in the top 10 in Total QBR.
Last Week: 11th
Ben Roethlisberger continues to improve in a season in which very little has gone right in Pittsburgh.
Against the Browns, he completed 22 of 34 passes for 217 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Big Ben remains the 11th-best quarterback so far, but he seems to be ascending upward into the top 10 and is reminding football fans why he is one of the best to play the game.
Last Week: 9th
Foles enjoyed some time off this week as the Eagles took their much-needed bye.
Nick Foles has attempted 162 passes this season and still has yet to throw a single interception.
This impressive feat is made even more unbelievable when you consider he leads all quarterbacks who have started a game this year with 9.6 yards per pass attempt. This type of high-risk, high-reward quarterbacking rarely, if ever, comes without the turnovers—at least one.
Will this surprise mid-round sensation eventually level off, or will his star only continue to ascend?
Last Week: 7th
Interestingly, the Panthers' last three games have all been wins by four points or fewer. They were 0-6 in games decided by four or fewer with Cam Newton prior to that.
Newton’s drop from seventh to ninth place was due in large part to his struggles on Sunday. He attempted 38 passes for only 174 yards through the air.
For the season, this rising star has thrown 17 touchdown passes to nine interceptions while leading the league in rushing touchdowns with five. His accuracy has also been impressive, as he's completing 61 percent of his passes thus far.
After watching elites like Tom Brady and Matt Ryan struggle without reliable weapons, we have to respect what Cam Newton has done in Carolina. He continues to elevate the play of those around him.
Last Week: 5th
It’s tough to entertain Andrew Luck slander. He has had no protection from his offensive line and lost his No. 1 target and one of the leaders on this team in Reggie Wayne.
Regardless of the excuses, the fact remains that Luck’s numbers are declining significantly without his trustworthy veteran to throw the ball to. Over the last three games, Luck has thrown only two touchdown passes compared to four interceptions while also struggling with his completion rate.
In the team's last two losses, the offense managed only 19 points combined.
Tom Brady dazzled the football world Sunday night with his best performance of the season in the Patriots' biggest game of the season, squaring off against Peyton Manning and the first-place Broncos.
Brady completed 34 of 50 passes in the exciting overtime win. He amassed 344 yards passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about this win was the poise the Patriots showed coming back from a 24-0 deficit at the half.
Brady is finally returning to the guy we have known over the years, which has earned him his rightful place in the top 10 of the QB power ranking.
Last Week: 6th
Coming into Week 12, Matthew Stafford had completed just 59.2 percent of his passes; that was 23rd-best in the NFL, per Pro Football Reference. Stafford went 26-of-46 against Tampa Bay, so his full-season completion rate dropped to 58.9 percent.
Stafford’s love for the deep ball has him throwing it beyond 20 yards more than any other QB in the NFL; yet according to Pro Football Focus (paid site), he is only ranked 39th in completion percentage on such throws.
After all of his hard work and solid play this season, Stafford’s seat in the top 10 is now coming under fire. His performance against the Buccaneers was certainly one he’d like to forget. He had a league high of four interceptions for that week and only completed 56 percent of his 46 attempts on the day.
The theme here is that this talented gunslinger is going to need to be more consistent with his mechanics if he hopes to increase his accuracy.
Last Week: 8th
After last week’s action, Tony Romo became the only player in Cowboys history with 200 touchdown passes.
As long as people continue to rip Romo for untimely interceptions and mistakes in the clutch, we should also give the man credit for his impressive game-winning drive against the Giants.
On the season, Romo is fourth in the league in touchdown passes and has a passer rating of 97. He has clearly established himself as an elite quarterback this season.
Last Week: 4th
Of all the starters from last week, Rivers ranks tops in PFF’s accuracy metric—which “accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes where the quarterback was hit while they threw the ball.”
Surprisingly, Rivers has tied an NFL record for most games with 390 passing yards in a season with four. He shares that impressive feat with Joe Montana and Dan Marino.
He is currently completing 70 percent of his passes on the season, totaling 3,381 yards through the air. His 22 touchdown passes and eight interceptions are highly impressive as well and should make him a lock for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.
Last Week: 3rd
The best QB from one of the best QB classes in generations is a third-round pick under six feet tall. Let that sink in for a second.
To help illustrate how special this undersized phenomenon is, consider this— Russell Wilson is second among all quarterbacks in the percentage of dropbacks in which he is under pressure. That means his success this season has come with him under duress on nearly half of his dropbacks. Despite such adversity, Wilson has remained cool, calm and collected.
Last Week: 2nd
Drew Brees completed 69 percent of his passes in Thursday night’s win over Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. To the surprise of many, the Saints are quickly establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the NFL.
The savvy vet is even beginning to make a case for himself as the No. 1-ranked QB in the league, as the gap between him and the long-time front-runner, Peyton Manning, continues to shrink.
Brees is clearly one of the most consistent and reliable quarterbacks in the world. His impact on a game and value to the Saints organization are unmistakable.
Last Week: 1st
Uh oh, the great Peyton Manning was held to just 150 yards passing. Apparently Bill Belichick and Co. have his number. Per ESPN Stats, Manning has 13 losses vs. the Patriots, which is five more than he has against any other NFL team.
As the season wears on and the injuries mount, Peyton’s outlandish production seems to be coming back down to earth. In his first four games of the season, Manning amassed 16 touchdown passes without a single interception. In the last four games, he's tallied 11 TDs with four interceptions.
Those numbers are still impressive despite being a drop-off in production.
Manning leads the league in nearly every major category for a quarterback, including his 36 touchdown passes on the season.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and currently covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.
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