NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Rating the AFC QB Performances
Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts take the field again Monday night against the Houston Texans, after a tumultuous bye week that allowed injured receiver Anthony Gonzalez to get ready for a return but cost Manning two of his top targets, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark.
Manning will get by just fine, however, and resumes his place atop the AFC signal-caller hierarchy simply by retaking the field.
Who else moves up the rankings this week? Whose breakout performance in Week 7 may have revived a career? Who will be back in action this week after missing time? Here are the Week 8 power rankings for the AFC quarterbacks. Enjoy.
16. Colt McCoy
Kudos to McCoy for earning his first win as a starting quarterback this week against the defending champion Saints, but he did not exactly carry the squad: He completed nine of only 16 attempts for 74 yards and no touchdown. Cleveland stuck mostly to the running game, and scored twice on interception returns against Drew Brees and the improbably inept Saints offense.
McCoy has been fine so far, especially for a rookie third-round pick playing out of necessity. Still, he does not yet measure up with the rest of the conference under center.
15. Jason Campbell
Campbell and running back Darren McFadden teamed up to torch the Broncos defense Sunday, as starting Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski continued to work through a shoulder injury. Campbell posted 204 yards on only 20 attempts, completing 12 and adding two touchdowns. He looked great, and the Raiders rolled to a 59-14 win.
Still, Campbell has been highly inconsistent this season: Witness his two touchdowns against four interceptions before Sunday. Raiders coach Tom Cable has been unwavering in his assertion that Gradkowski will be back at the helm when healthy, meaning Campbell has little time left to show his best stuff.
14. David Garrard
Garrard was not even a consideration this week, after a vicious hit left him concussed and symptomatic against Tennessee on Oct. 18. Todd Bouman played in his place, tossing two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Jaguars lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Bouman is no threat to Garrard's job, and Garrard said he feels good enough to play this week. Still, a man who has so struggled through the past season-plus is hardly a reliable asset behind center, especially after having his brain sloshed around a bit.
13. Vince Young
Young also missed Sunday's game, though he dressed on the sidelines for the Titans. Kerry Collins, filling in for Young after taking over Oct. 18 when Young initially went down, passed for 276 yards and three scores en route to a 37-19 Titans win. He also gave the ball away on two interceptions and a fumble, however, so whenever Young returns (and head coach Jeff Fisher says that should be this week) he will have his job waiting.
Unfortunately, Young has had his share of turnover troubles and injury issues over the past couple season, and no termination of that pattern appears imminent. He plays hard, often recklessly, and can occasionally be too aggressive. Until he learns to play under control, the Titans will lack a consistent and durable franchise passer.
12. Matt Cassel
Against an admittedly weak Jacksonville defense, Cassel showed off his very best on Sunday. He threw just 18 times, but completed 13 of those passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. He dominated, and Kansas City rolled to a 42-20 win.
That sort of ruthless efficiency is what the Chiefs bargained for when they traded for Cassel. Unfortunately, that is not always what they get: Cassel's completion percentage of 59.5 ranks 21st in the NFL, not the sort of workmanlike number a team looks for when it relies on the passing game so rarely. That Cassel has been sacked just five times illustrates his pocket poise, but also emphasizes the excellent protection he gets.
Cassel has nine touchdowns and only three picks this year, stellar figures. In the larger analysis, though, he will need to make more plays if the Chiefs, who by now are the presumptive AFC West champions, hope to play past the first round of the playoffs.
11. Chad Henne
The Dolphins came tantalizingly close to beating the formidable Steelers, and Henne had a great day. He passed for over 250 yards, completed roughly two-thirds of his passes and did not turn the ball over.
All told, though, Miami's weapons are beginning to lose a step, especially running back Ronnie Brown. As long as Henne has Brandon Marshall on the outside, he should perform well, but the kind of superstar quarterback for which the fans of South Florida have searched since the end of the Dan Marino era continues to elude them.
10. Kyle Orton
If the name of the quarterbacking game was volume, Orton would rank much higher. Instead, though, efficiency is the key, and Orton does not have it.
His deficiencies were on display Sunday, when he completed narrowly 40 percent of his passes and turned the ball over twice. He also took four sacks, two of them at least partially avoidable. He did make his completions count—totaling 198 yards on 12 successful throws for two touchdowns—but overall, Orton's warts were apparent in the Broncos blowout loss.
9. Mark Sanchez
The smooth sophomore had a bye in Week 7, but returns to action this week against Green Bay.
8. Matt Schaub
Schaub's Texans also got a rest this week and will take on division foe Indianapolis on the road Monday night.
7. Joe Flacco
Flacco was great during the Ravens close brush with Buffalo, throwing for 250 yards on 16 completions in 31 attempts. He had three touchdowns, including a huge deep pass to Anquan Boldin that swung the momentum of the game, and looked as poised and in control as ever.
Flacco has been a bit spotty this year, completing fewer than 60 percent of his throws and posting six interceptions against his 10 touchdowns. Still, he continues to mature into a surprisingly strong-armed field general, as he showed on Sunday.
6. Carson Palmer
The Bengals could not quite up-end the Falcons after a bye week, but Palmer did his part and then some: He threw the balls 50 times, completed 72 percent of those attempts, notched three touchdowns and 412 yards through the air. It was a throwback performance for a passer whose past few seasons have seen a lot of frustration.
With a rejuvenated wide receiver tandem and a decent running game to keep people honest, Palmer may have a few more performances like this one up his sleeve.
5. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Yes, that Ryan Fitzpatrick. He may be far from a household name, especially given his uneven early-season performances, but the Bills quarterback cut loose this Sunday. The Bills could not complete their upset bid against the Ravens, but Fitzpatrick completed 29 passes on 43 tries and totaled an impressive 374 yards. His two interceptions hurt, but his four touchdowns sure looked nice.
Fitzpatrick has the tools to sustain the kind of success he has had so far, with 11 touchdowns and only four picks for the year. The Bills can clearly trust his arm against even tough pass defenses like Baltimore's.
4. Tom Brady
Under pressure all day, Brady used his usual cool to avoid turning the ball over in the Pats narrow win over San Diego. He only totaled 159 yards and was sacked four times, but he did manage a touchdown pass and 19 completions on the day.
There can be no question Brady and the New England offense misses Randy Moss, whose presence and dazzling skills on deep passes opened up Wes Welker on underneath routes. Nonetheless, Brady is a star passer who will find ways to win games for the Patriots.
3. Philip Rivers
Rivers threw an interception and fumbled on Sunday, but the Chargers fifth loss can hardly be laid at his feet.
Rivers had 34 completions in 50 attempts, totaling 336 yards, which makes him the new NFL leader in that category. He also threw a late touchdown pass and put the Bolts in position to tie the game on a 50-yard field goal with less than half a minute to play—but the Chargers missed.
Rivers had an up-and-down week but looks like one of the league's truly elite passers going forward, as he has been for most of the last three years.
2. Ben Roethlisberger
He completed 70 percent of his passes, surpassed 300 aerial yards and did not turn the ball over. He very nearly did, of course, on a fumble near the goal line with second to play, but nearly counts only in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Roethlisberger has been back from his suspension for only two games, but already has five touchdowns against one interception. He guided the Steelers to victory Sunday, and in football, there is one thing that always counts: a win.
1. Peyton Manning
Horsehead the Mighty and his Colts teammates had Sunday to themselves and will be back in action Monday night at home against Houston.