NFL Analysis


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NFL Week 15 Quarterback Power Rankings: Matthew Stafford Enters Top 5

Quarterback Rankings Josh Allen Patrick Mahomes Lamar Jackson

Last week, we had a scare with Trevor Lawrence's ankle injury. It seemed like he would miss significant time, but it turns out he's made of some indestructible material and did not miss any time. Good for him and good for us as viewers. 

Sadly, this week's major quarterback injury is very real. Justin Herbert broke a finger against the Broncos on Sunday, an injury that requires surgery and will shut him down for the season. 

Herbert's injury probably doesn't change the playoff picture or anything. Even with a weak AFC, the Chargers were likely out of the hunt. It's a shame to lose one of the best quarterbacks in the league, though. 

Herbert is a joy to watch despite how joyless everything around him is. The league is worse off without him for the final month of the season. 

Week 15 Quarterback Rankings

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Previous Ranking: 1

All anyone will talk about from Sunday's loss to the Bills is the offensive offsides on Kadarius Toney. If that doesn't happen, the Kansas City Chiefs win the game, and we probably aren't panicking much about another frustrating offensive performance. 

Patrick Mahomes was balling, though. There were definitely plays where his frustration and hesitation with throwing to these receivers resulted in sacks, but he was largely the engine keeping the offense moving. Mahomes' connection with Travis Kelce was a vintage performance, and rookie WR Rashee Rice gave Mahomes another option in certain spots. 

Still, the offense doesn't have enough juice outside of those two guys. Mahomes doesn't trust anybody else. That was especially a problem since his favorite checkdown recipient, Isiah Pacheco, was out of the lineup. 

2. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Previous Ranking: 2

Lamar Jackson is still in the MVP race, and he made sure to let everyone know about it on Sunday in a shootout for the ages against Matthew Stafford's Rams. 

Jackson's poise and athleticism dominated this game. No matter how many times the Rams pressured Jackson, it was so rare they actually brought him down. Jackson navigated in and out of the pocket exceptionally well, always playing with his eyes down the field and only taking off to run when absolutely necessary. 

If anything, Jackson was a little shaky down the field, but that's long been the worst part of his game. Nothing new there. Everything else was firing on all cylinders. 

Jackson remains one of the best and most electric players in the league. 

3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Previous Ranking: 3

Every so often, the Buffalo Bills’ offense devolves into nothing but a short passing affair. They don't trust the offensive line to hold up for downfield shots or dominate on the ground, so the burden gets passed onto Josh Allen to dominate the short area. Three years ago, that would have been a scary proposition, but Allen is good at it now. 

Not that Allen was perfect in this game, but he was carving the Chiefs up underneath. While the Chiefs were tackling well to limit YAC opportunities, Allen was giving his guys chances with quick, accurate throws to keep the chains moving. 

Allen did throw one supremely boneheaded interception across his body. Still, c'mon, that will happen if you ask most quarterbacks to throw 42 times, let alone someone as unpredictable as Allen. 

It wouldn't be good for the Bills to be this kind of offense every game, but the fact Allen can do it is a nice tool to have. 

4. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Previous Ranking: 4

Dak Prescott is the quintessential quarterback right now. If you wrote a textbook on how to play the position — in a way that is teachable and repeatable to others — Prescott would be the leading example. 

Sunday's game against the Eagles was a perfect example. It's tempting just to go bombs away vs. these safeties, but Prescott never felt the need to press like that. Instead, Prescott dominated the pre-snap battle with adjustments and protection checks, rendering the Eagles' pass-rush useless. 

Prescott then leveraged the time he bought himself into surgically picking the Eagles apart in the 1-10-yard range, only attacking down the field with well-calculated risks in the right moments. 

It's just really, really fun watching Prescott play the quarterback position at such a high level mentally. That kind of quarterbacking sort of went away when all the early 2000s legends retired, but Prescott is an homage to that meticulous style of play. 

5. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Previous Ranking: 6

Holy smokes, man. Matthew Stafford was unbelievable on Sunday. 

If you want to nitpick, you can get on Stafford for missing a few layups. Fair play. That's always been a problem for him, even at his best. 

For the most part, Stafford was a fire-breathing dragon against an exceptional Ravens defense. Stafford made at least five throws in this game that most quarterbacks could only dream of. 

The floater touchdown throw to Cooper Kupp stands out as the obvious one, but the deep crosser to Puka Nacua to give the Rams life at the end of the game was a frozen rope into a nonexistent window. 

The Los Angeles Rams might have lost, but their offense is awesome in large part because of how Stafford is playing. 

6. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Previous Ranking: N/A

I did not expect Trevor Lawrence to play in Week 14. Not only did Lawrence's ankle injury look gruesome last weekend, but he hardly practiced. That's a tough spot to be in against any defense, much less a Browns defense with Myles Garrett playing completely out of his mind. 

Lawrence wasn’t really the Jacksonville Jaguars’ main problem, though. He wasn't up to his usual standard, sure, but many of the offense's mistakes weren't Lawrence's fault. 

For example, Lawrence's first interception was a deep play-action post route that Zay Jones flattened out for some reason. That resulted in the ball soaring over his head right to a defender. Jones is at fault for that. 

Later in the half, Lawrence threw another interception targeting Calvin Ridley on an in-breaking route. Lawrence threw the ball like it was a curl route on the numbers; Ridley continued to run inside, and the ball sailed behind him. Maybe Lawrence is at fault there, but I'm a lot more inclined to believe that's on Ridley. 

Even beyond the picks, Parker Washington had a fumble inside the Jaguars' 20-yard line to set up an easy Browns touchdown. 

So while Lawrence wasn't great, the game spun out of control for reasons that weren't his fault. When you end up in that kind of a hole against this Browns defense, it's hard to dig yourself out in any condition, let alone with a sore ankle. 

7. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

Previous Ranking: 7

The boring and simple truth about the Philadelphia Eagles' disappointing performance against the Cowboys is that the big plays didn't connect. That's it. 

Jalen Hurts' process and general execution of the passing offense, especially underneath, was no different than it's ever been. He did work on RPOs and quick game and generally got the ball to the right guys. 

It's just that instead of five or six explosive plays to overcome an overall clunky offensive operation, the Eagles only connected on a couple. That is not enough to outgun the Cowboys. 

I'm mildly worried about the Eagles’ offense, but they're too talented not to figure themselves out come January. 

8. C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

Previous Ranking: 8

The bad C.J. Stroud game finally happened. All it took was poor weather, missing two key receivers and an offensive line collapse at the hands of a nasty New York Jets front four. 

Already down WR Tank Dell, WR Nico Collins suffered an injury early in the game that left him out of the rest of the contest. The Houston Texans were down to Noah Brown and Xavier Hutchinson as their top receivers vs. the cornerback duo of Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed. Not ideal!

That being said, Stroud did look worse than his usual self even beyond the wide receiver issues. Sure, those guys failed to capitalize on some of Stroud's best moments, but Stroud had plenty of bad. He was not as comfortable and creative under pressure as usual, and you got a handful of uncharacteristic misfires. 

One game isn't enough to shake my confidence in Stroud, though. The dude is a baller. A bad game, as a rookie, against this Jets defense in the rain feels more like a throwaway game than anything. 

9. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Previous Ranking: 9

Kyler Murray got to stay at home in Week 14 with the Arizona Cardinals on their bye. He will need that rest seeing as the Cardinals face the 49ers this week.

10. Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

Previous Ranking: 10

A groin injury suffered in practice late in the week kept Geno Smith out of action in Week 14. Without Smith, the Seattle Seahawks stood little chance against a 49ers team that has had their number in the past few years. 

Drew Lock played alright in Smith's place through the first quarter but promptly fell apart and let the 49ers' Monstars offense run away with the game. 

11. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

Previous Ranking: 11

The Miami Dolphins offense has a pressure problem. Any time a quality defense walks into the game with a respectable pass rush and any modicum of a plan to attack windows in the middle of the field, the integrity of the Dolphins’ passing offense withers away. 

That was as true on Monday night as it's been against some of the other good defenses on Miami's schedule, including the Eagles, Bills and Chiefs. 

For more on Monday night's game and Tua Tagovailoa's inconsistency on offense, read Monday's column: The Miami Dolphins’ Offense Isn’t The Elite Unit It’s Made Out To Be.

12. Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers

Previous Ranking: 12

Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers’ offense abused the Seahawks' defense over the middle. The entire game plan was isolating Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams with tough assignments and letting Purdy torch them with throws to open receivers. 

Purdy barely had to throw outside the numbers. When he did, it was because Kyle Shanahan cooked up something delicious to get someone streaking down the field, like George Kittle's touchdown down the left side. 

Credit to the 49ers for putting together an insane offense, and credit to Purdy for having the requisite aggression and arm talent to have it humming at this level. 

13. Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers

Previous Ranking: 14

The past month had been so promising for Jordan Love. All the improvements you wanted to see with regard to timing, decision-making, pocket presence and accuracy were all there. 

He was clearly coming into his own as a pro. 

Monday night's game against the Giants was a reversion to his old ways. For about three-quarters, Love was all over the place mentally. He was finicky under pressure and not making the same confident decisions he had in the past five games or so. 

Love got himself together in the final quarter, but it proved too little, too late. 

All that being said, Love’s progress far outweighs one shaky game. I expect Love to play well the rest of the way. 

14. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

Previous Ranking: 13

We've reached the point in the season where Jared Goff does not like being outside. 

In the chilly conditions of Soldier Field, Goff capitulated against a Bears defense that has quietly figured itself out. Goff did not even try throwing outside the numbers, which let the Bears defense tee off on throws over the middle. As a result, Goff ended the day with two picks, both inside the numbers. 

So long as the Detroit Lions are at home, Goff will be normal. Road games outside, however, will continue to be a problem for Goff this time of year, just as they always have been. 

15. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Previous Ranking: 17

Things are kinda, sorta coming together for Justin Fields

Sunday's game against the Lions was a neat snapshot of where Fields is at right now. On one hand, the offense is still somewhat limited, and Fields misfired a handful of times for no reason. 

However, Fields also flashed some awesome creativity in and out of the pocket. Fields also made a few sweet throws into windows the size of a grain of sand, showing off his arm talent to the maximum. 

Fields is still an inconsistent, incomplete quarterback. However, the Chicago Bears are finding a formula to get the best out of him. 

16. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos

Previous Ranking: 15

It's rare that a passing chart is so funny that I feel the need to share it, but Russell Wilson put together a comedy masterpiece this weekend. 

Look at this. What a ridiculous chart. Wilson spent the entire game flipping screens and dumping the ball to checkdowns, with absolute bombs serving as the only changeup between the constant barrage of throws at the line of scrimmage. 

This is an extreme version of what Wilson has done all season. At this stage, he's a caretaker who is occasionally allowed to let it rip and show off the old magic. 

17. Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Previous Ranking: 18

Baker Mayfield has been serviceable to semi-good this season. Not "good" good, but good in the way Mayfield can be with a few creative plays and lasers outside the numbers. 

That was not true on Sunday. Mayfield was spraying all over the field. Lucky for him, none of those errant throws landed in the hands of Falcons defenders, but he was certainly testing fate. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Falcons anyway, but Mayfield will need to be better than that to get the Buccaneers to the playoffs. 

18. Sam Howell, Washington Commanders

Previous Ranking: 19

No Sam Howell this week as the Washington Commanders took their Week 14 bye. Howell gets back on the horse this week against the Rams, a game sure to become a shootout with Stafford. 

19. Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons

Previous Ranking: 21

Desmond Ridder did it again. He put together another game that makes me think, "Wow, this guy is almost a good quarterback."

Ridder does all the stuff the good quarterbacks do from a process standpoint, and this game was a good example of that. Ridder got through his progressions, hung in the pocket comfortably and made tough throws to the intermediate section of the field. 

That's what you want out of a franchise quarterback. 

It's just that Ridder's arm doesn't always let him make the truly top-shelf throws, and he is still a streaky player, often battling random drives of baffling inaccuracy. The hope is that continued play will iron that inconsistency out, but who knows? 

Also, it's worth noting the interception Ridder threw was not his fault. The Atlanta Falcons called a wide receiver screen, but neither of the blocking receivers took on the defensive back, letting him run right through for an uncontested interception. 

20. Derek Carr, New Orleans Saints

Previous Ranking: 16

I'm over it with Derek Carr. Ability-wise, Carr is a top half of the league quarterback. The accuracy, arm talent and functional athleticism are a nice bundle of traits. In practice, Carr does not function at a level that feels like a winning quarterback. 

Carr is hyper-conservative as it is and that only becomes truer when he's under pressure, be that pass-rush pressure or situational pressure. This week's game was a perfect example. 

The Panthers regularly heated him up in the pocket, and his only real answer was to get the ball out of his hands to less-than-ideal options for minimal yardage. 

Also, not that we know what every player feels, but it seems like the New Orleans Saints are kind of done with Carr, too. Michael Thomas can't stop tweeting criticisms of the quarterback and Erik McCoy got into a shouting match with Carr this week over a botched play. 

Vibes aren't everything, but the vibes are bad. 

21. Joe Flacco, Cleveland Browns

Previous Ranking: 24

Joe Flacco fell apart in the fourth quarter of last weekend's game against the Jaguars, but he was lowkey dealing through the first three quarters. 

Of course, "dealing" is relative to Flacco being a 38-year-old who just got off his couch to play quarterback in the NFL. But he does make some impressive throws. 

Flacco is brave, if completely stationary, in the pocket and still has the juice in his arm to attack the intermediate area and outside the numbers. 

Flacco also knows where his bread is buttered. The dude throws at Amari Cooper at every opportunity and targets Elijah Moore to keep things fresh. Sometimes, it's that simple when you're a free agent quarterback off the street trying to make an offense work. 

22. Jake Browning, Cincinnati Bengals

Previous Ranking: 26

Jake Browning was not as good as the numbers indicate; 18 of 24 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and a pick sounds like a hell of a day at the office. 

Per TruMedia, 204 of those yards came after the catch, including a huge touchdown from RB Chase Brown on a screen. 

That said, the Cincinnati Bengals have a nice formula with Browning. Since Browning is comfortable under center, whereas Joe Burrow was not, the Bengals can get into the boot-action and screen world in a way they couldn't before. 

It hasn’t made them a better offense or anything, but it is an annoying change of pace for defenses trying to prep for them, and Browning executes it well. 

23. Will Levis, Tennessee Titans

Previous Ranking: 23

Say it with me, everyone: Will Levis Legacy Drive on Monday Night Football. 

Well, two drives really. Levis rallied the Tennessee Titans back from a 14-point deficit in the final three minutes, the first time a team has done that since 2016. 

The first scoring drive was much more methodical. After a night of misfires and questionable decisions, Levis settled in to make a handful of nice and easy throws to jog the offense down the field on a nine-play touchdown drive. 

Then, it was bombs away on the next drive. Levis unleashed a deep strike to DeAndre Hopkins to open the winning touchdown drive. On the next play, he delivered another dart to TE Chig Okonkwo to get the Titans in the red zone. Running backs Tyjae Spears and Derrick Henry took it from there. 

You still want to see more consistency from Levis in terms of pocket management, timing and accuracy, but having a moment like that is a huge step for him. 

24. Aidan O'Connell, Las Vegas Raiders

Previous Ranking: 22

Aidan O'Connell got Brian Flores'd. 

On 36 dropbacks, O'Connell faced only three rushers on a whopping 12 plays. He also faced five or more rushers on another 12 plays. Flores constantly mixed up what kind of looks O'Connell was seeing. 

The stimuli overload sent O'Connell into a fritz. His only answer for anything was getting the ball out of his hands immediately and praying one of his skill players did something. 

Rather than proving O'Connell is a worthless quarterback, I think this game showed his limitations. 

O'Connell is a smart, accurate quarterback, but he doesn't have the arm to huck it downfield consistently, and he does not have one athletic muscle in his body. O'Connell just doesn't have the tools to deal with a funky defensive test like this. 

For a Day 3 pick hoping just to be a strong backup with spot-starter capabilities, there's no shame in that.

25. Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers

Previous Ranking: 25

Credit to Bryce Young for trying. Despite a lost season and a team that gives him no help to speak of, Young is still out there trying to make real NFL throws. He's not just shriveling into his shell and accepting defeat. 

It just isn't enough. Not even close. The offensive line continues to be one of the worst in the league, and nobody on this roster can separate other than Adam Thielen, who is no elite separator himself. 

When coupled with some of Young's size limitations, you get the same terrible offense you've seen for the past three months from this team. 

The sooner 2023 ends, the better for Young. 

26. Gardner Minshew, Indianapolis Colts

Previous Ranking: 27

Same old same old with Gardner Minshew

Minshew gave the Indianapolis Colts a little more in the 11-15-yard range in this game than usual, but not enough to move the needle. 

Minshew was mostly relegated to quick game, RPOs and screens, as he often is. He only threw the ball beyond 20 yards three times despite having 39 total attempts. 

It was the type of offensive game plan that put an umbrella on itself, which is kind of the Minshew experience in a nutshell. 

27. Zach Wilson, New York Jets

Previous Ranking: N/A

Props to Zach Wilson. Seriously. There's an argument to be made that Wilson's performance against the Houston Texans was the best of his career. 

The key difference between Wilson on Sunday and past versions of Wilson is he was confident. You did not see nearly as much of the hesitation and dilly-dallying masked as "creation ability" that plagued him in the past. Instead, Wilson was getting the ball out on time and trusting his receivers to make plays. 

Of course, Wilson wasn't perfect from a decision-making or accuracy standpoint, but at least he was trying. He was trying to play quarterback the right way, and it largely worked out for him. Hopefully, we can see more of that. 

28. Nick Mullens, Minnestoa Vikings

Previous Ranking: N/A

Nick Mullens was thrust into a 0-0 game against the Raiders on Sunday with a little more than nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. The moment did not phase Mullens at all. Mullens immediately ripped a deep crossing route to TE TJ Hockenson to get the Minnesota Vikings to midfield. 

The Vikings botched the rest of that drive, but Mullens returned on the next series with a few nice throws to get the team into field goal range. His lofted throw to KJ Osborn on the right sideline was the highlight of the drive. 

Mullens is not going to dramatically shift the Vikings' fortunes, but we've seen him have success in this under-center, boot-action world before with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. Maybe Vikings HC Kevin O'Connell can rediscover some of that ability. 

29. Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots

Previous Ranking: 31

It was a tale of two halves for Bailey Zappe against the Steelers. 

In the first half, Zappe was balling. His pea-shooter arm was lacing throws all over the field. He was willing to take risks, too. One of his touchdown throws to Hunter Henry was a scary slot fade throw into a split-field safety, but Zappe got the ball just over the defender's hands for a score. 

Then, Zappe fell flat in the second half. None of the downfield aggression was clicking anymore, and he threw an interception off a ball that bounced up to a Steelers defender after a collision at the catch point. 

30. Tommy Devito, New York Giants

Previous Ranking: 32

All Tommy DeVito needs to be is a game manager with one or two spark plays to give the offense life. On Monday night, he was exactly that. 

DeVito went 17 of 21 against the Packers on Monday night. Most of those were short throws, but he made a few legit tosses down the field. 

DeVito can really move around, too. He's no Murray or anything, but he's got a budding sense for when to leave the pocket, and he can scoot enough. DeVito even made an awesome touchdown throw to Isaiah Hodgins from outside the pocket. 

We don't need to make the DeVito thing out to be anything more than it is, but credit to him for stepping in and slowly starting to look like a guy who can stick around in this league. 

31. Mitchell Trubisky, Pittsburgh Steelers

Previous Ranking: 28

The Mitchell Trubisky offense is purely screens, flat routes, checkdowns and scrambles. That's all he's got in the arsenal. Sometimes, those scrambles prove useful, but that's about the only time he gives the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense anything but the bare minimum. 

The Steelers need to find ways to get Trubisky throwing down the field more. If that means two-man route combinations with play-action, so be it. It's got to happen, or else defenses will tee off on this constipated offense. 

32. Easton Stick, Los Angeles Chargers

Previous Ranking: N/A

Easton Stick has been around long enough not to embarrass himself when thrust into action. He's got a decent enough arm, and he's a sweet athlete as well. Stick ran a 4.62 40-yard dash coming out of college in 2019. He also hit at least the 84th percentile in the broad jump, three-cone drill and short shuttle. The dude can move. 

Stick's efficacy will largely come down to his ability to make tight window throws over the middle. His arm isn't bad, but he doesn't have nearly the same trigger or velocity as Herbert, who was struggling himself in this desolate offense.