NFL Analysis


25 min read

NFL Week 16 Quarterback Power Rankings: How Far Will Hurts Fall?

Quarterback Rankings Josh Allen Patrick Mahomes Lamar Jackson

It was a banner week in the NFL for backup quarterbacks putting together heroic fourth quarters to save their team's playoff chances. 

Jake Browning kicked things off on Saturday, stringing together a 21-point fourth quarter to send the game to overtime against the Minnesota Vikings. Browning laced a huge throw in overtime to Tyler Boyd to set up a game-ending field goal and secure the win. 

Fellow AFC Norther Joe Flacco effectively did the same thing against the Bears. After a nasty three quarters defined by three interceptions, Flacco went berserk in the fourth quarter, throwing for more than 200 yards in that quarter alone to bring home the win late in the game. 

Though not as instrumental in the team's win, Houston Texans backup QB Case Keenum also stepped in for C.J. Stroud to eke out a win over the Tennessee Titans. 

To top it all off, Seattle Seahawks backup Drew Lock delivered a masterful 92-yard drive at the end of the game against the Philadelphia Eagles to take the win. Lock was dealing the entire drive, threading throw after throw right into his receiver's gloves. A teardrop down the right side into Jaxon Smith-Njigba's breadbasket sealed the deal. 

Not all of those guys will be ranked this week, but they sure deserve their due for the week they had.

Week 16 Quarterback Rankings

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Previous Ranking: 1

Week 15 Patrick Mahomes was the best version of Mahomes we've gotten all season. 

Two interceptions in the box score makes that seem like a silly statement, but neither was that bad. The tight end could have done a better job fighting for the ball on the first one and Kadarius Toney outright dropped a wide-open pass that bounced to a defender. One close call and one stupid drop — whatever. 

Mahomes was almost perfect otherwise. Whether it was man coverage, zone coverage, blitz, under pressure, inside or outside the pocket, it did not matter. Mahomes was surgical all over the field, adding RPMs or providing delicate touch as necessary. The deep corner route to Justin Watson was the highlight, but Mahomes also had a monster throw to Travis Kelce in the end zone that he dropped, as well as a few magical throws under pressure. 

I still have my concerns with the Kansas City wide receiver group, but man — when Mahomes is on like that — it just doesn't matter at all.

2. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Previous Ranking: 2

Lamar Jackson is such a joy to watch. Nobody else moves or toys with defenses in the exact ways he does. 

Besides an uncharacteristically stupid interception thrown across his body, Jackson was lights out vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday night. And in many ways, it was a throwback performance. 

We've gotten so used to Jackson as a methodical passer this season. He's taken on more responsibility as a passer, and he's been exceptional in that role. On Sunday, though, we got the playmaking version of Jackson turned up to a million. 

The loop-de-loop escape from a sack that turned into a miraculous jump ball to Isaiah Likely stands out above all else, but Jackson was all over the palace with his legs. He was scrambling with unbridled success to throw outside the pocket and take off as a runner. Jackson was also killing it as a designed runner, which the Baltimore Ravens generally haven't leaned on as much this season. 

From start to finish, Jackson had the kind of performance that makes you tune into primetime.

3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Previous Ranking: 3

A quick peek at the box score would tell you the Dallas Cowboys’ defense contained Josh Allen as a passer. Allen went just 7-of-15 for 94 yards. 

That wasn't really what happened, though. 

For one, the Buffalo Bills dropped three or four passes. Dalton Kincaid had two before switching his gloves, which appeared to solve the problem. A handful of drops doesn't sound that crazy, but on so few attempts, it's a killer. 

The reality is Buffalo didn't need Allen to throw. The Bills ran for 266 yards because the Cowboys couldn't stop them. Rather than get cute and feel the need to give their superstar quarterback opportunities, the Bills kept spamming the thing that was so obviously working and credit them for that. 

This game hurts Allen's (outside) chance at seizing the MVP trophy, but it's certainly not a concerning finish, despite the numbers.

>> READ: How Joe Brady Fixed Bills' Offense

4. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Previous Ranking: 5

Matthew Stafford continues to throw fireballs week after week. 

Balling out against the Commanders' defense isn't a statement on its own, but it's awesome to see Stafford maintaining the level of aggression and accuracy he is playing with right now. Stafford is an absolute demon from the pocket, showing off arm angles and fitting the ball into inconceivable windows down the field that almost no other quarterback in the league can get away with. 

Add that to how Sean McVay has reinvigorated himself as a playcaller, and you have a pretty special offense. The Rams are not sneaky Super Bowl contenders right now, but they are a team I would be terrified to draw in the postseason.

5. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Previous Ranking: 4

Well, the Dak Prescott MVP case is probably dead. 

Prescott never got going against the Bills. With on-and-off rain muting the performance of both quarterbacks, Prescott struggled to attack down the field and pin the ball into tight windows the way he typically does. Of course, some of that is the weather, but some of that is how well the Bills’ defense played, constantly putting a roof on the Cowboys' passing concepts and letting the pass rush get home. That was especially true once Cowboys guard Zach Martin left the game because of an injury. 

Prescott certainly didn't play well, but I won’t crush him too hard for his first bad game in two months, considering the weather and the Cowboys’ defense giving up over 250 yards rushing. We'll see if Prescott can bounce back to finish the season strong, vying for the NFC East division title.

6. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Previous Ranking: 6

Trevor Lawrence played a lot better than a 7-point outing suggests. Lawrence was making throws all over the field to keep the offense chugging along in a contest where the run game gave him absolutely nothing. That Lawrence dropped back almost 50 times and only took one sack is quite a testament to his decisiveness and pocket presence, too. 

The fumbles killed him in this game, though. Lawrence lost two fumbles against the Ravens. The first was his own doing as the ball slipped out of his hand while scrambling in the red zone, an error that erased a field goal chance. Lawrence then fumbled again by trying to be a superhero later in the game. The play resulted in a strip sack, the one time Baltimore's pass rush got to him. 

Lawrence needs to stop fumbling. It's been a problem all year. But what he gave the offense down-to-down was solid. The pass-catchers just had no juice to help him out in any meaningful way, and that's a challenging way to live against a stingy Ravens defense.

7. C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

Previous Ranking: 8

C.J. Stroud did not play in Week 15 due to a concussion. Per coach DeMeco Ryans, Stroud is still in concussion protocol, and Houston will monitor his progress throughout the week. 

I assume Stroud will play on Sunday, though. Two weeks is a typical window for players to return from a concussion.

8. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Previous Ranking: 9

As has been the case for most of the season, Kyler Murray's boxscore numbers look shaky in a game the Arizona Cardinals never had a real shot of winning. 

When you watch the Cardinals play, it's painfully obvious which player is giving the offense life. It's the quarterback. 

Murray's ability to create and throw the ball down the field is not only a boon for the offense since his return, it's necessary. The offense has no skill talent outside of TE Trey McBride, who is quickly establishing himself as one of the better tight ends in the league. The receiver room, however, is made up of a bunch of guys even smaller than Murray, who can not separate consistently. 

The offense is designed reasonably well, but without the talent, it often turns into the "Kyler, go do something" show. Murray can do things, but the burden is too much at a certain point. The silver lining should be that Murray continues to play football at a level that invites optimism for next season.

9. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

Previous Ranking: 7

Jalen Hurts is not playing his best ball right now. There's no way around it. 

In fairness to Hurts, many of the issues come back to play calling. The passing offense does not have the schematic easy answers it did a year ago. All they're comfortable with right now is RPOs and basic quick game concepts. Monday night's game was an extreme example of that issue, but the offense has been that way for a large chunk of the season, especially in recent games. 

Hurts is not seeing the field well right now. He's quicker to leave the pocket and less willing to press the ball into tough windows, aside from when he decides to launch a go ball. 

The combination of shaky play calling and Hurts' discomfort reading out pure dropback concepts is a serious issue for the Eagles. This late into the season, it's hard to make the case that they will turn it around.

10. Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

Previous Ranking: 10

For the second week in a row, Geno Smith did not play. His status was up in the air all week, even when he was warming up before Monday night's game against the Eagles. 

However, Coach Pete Carroll said they expect their starting quarterback to play next week. We'll see if Smith can rally the troops for a late postseason push.

11. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

Previous Ranking: 11

On Sunday, Tua Tagovailoa threw one pass beyond 15 yards against the New York Jets. A 60-yard hot air balloon landed ever so softly in Jaylen Waddle's hands for an easy touchdown. 

The rest of Tagovailoa's day looked like a practice film. Coach Mike McDaniel oscillated between calling quick perimeter throws and attacking the middle of the field with the rhythmic in-breakers Tagovailoa loves so dearly. Tagovailoa was near perfect on those throws, finishing the day with 21 completions on 24 attempts. It was the second time this season Tagovailoa has completed at least 85 percent of his passes, alongside the near-historic Denver Broncos game. 

Impressive as all of that is, Tagovailoa did it without Tyreek Hill. The star receiver missed the game with an ankle injury. Waddle and the rest of the crew had to step up, and they sure did. 

Credit to Tagovailoa for going nuclear against a staunch Jets defense without his best receiver in the lineup.

12. Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers

Previous Ranking: 12

Week 15 was the perfect marriage of what Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco Monstars give the offense, along with what Brock Purdy gives compared to previous 49ers quarterbacks. 

On the one hand, you had some freebie yards and scores, as Shanahan often provides. The touchdown throw to Deebo Samuel was a literal walk-in with Samuel wide open, thanks to some smoke and mirrors. 

Purdy gave this offense some life by himself in this game, though. He threw a wide-open touchdown to Christian McCaffrey down the field after spinning out of a sack to his left and throwing on the move. Later in the game, Purdy dropped a beauty on the front left pylon to Deebo Samuel down the field for a touchdown. 

Both plays didn't exist when Jimmy Garropolo was the quarterback, and certainly not with any of the other journeymen who have played under center for Shanahan in San Francisco. 

That's what makes this offense so terrifying. Shanahan can cook it up with the best of them, and the skill players are unbelievable, but Purdy gives the offense a little flair and spontaneity it didn't have before.

13. Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers

Previous Ranking: 13

Ride the Jordan Love roller coaster, baby. 

A week ago, Love played his worst game in two months against a funky New York Giants defense. This week, however, Love looked confident and creative again. Love was slinging darts all over the field, even without his leading tight end, Luke Musgrave. Love made several exceptional throws in this game, most notably a screamer from outside the pocket to find Jayden Reed in tight coverage in the end zone. 

The Green Bay Packers still fell short because the defense let Baker Mayfield post a perfect passer rating, but at least they can take solace in Love getting back on track.

14. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

Previous Ranking: 14

In Week 15, Jared Goff played the most “Jared Goff” game of all time.

Against a league-worst Broncos run defense, the Detroit Lions got to orchestrate the exact offensive game script they wanted. They ran the hell out of the football, which allowed them to keep their passing game under center and tie it to play-action. Goff got to spam bootlegs, play-action shots, and deep in-breakers over the middle, all of which play right into his strengths as a passer and keep things relatively simple for him. 

To no surprise, Goff absolutely crushed it while operating within that structure. 

It's worth noting that the Lions won't be able to get this kind of game script all the time, and that's where the Goff concerns start to creep in. However, when the Lions can run the ball and get Goff in his comfort zone, they are a juggernaut of an offense.

15. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Previous Ranking: 15

The longer Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns went, the worse Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears’ offense got. 

Fields was kind of balling in the first quarter. He made many right throws and constantly escaped Myles Garrett and his crazed bunch of pass-rushing fiends. Fields even made a delightful throw outside the pocket to Robert Tonyan down the field, which Tonyan failed to bring in despite the ball hitting him dead in the hands. 

Almost everything after that was a struggle. Cleveland's pass rush turned things up a notch, and CB Denzel Ward went Super Saiyan in the game’s final three quarters, completely erasing any throw in his vicinity. 

It is worth pointing out that the two interceptions Fields threw in this game were nonsense. Both interceptions were heaves to the end zone as time expired in each half. Fields didn't play his best, but you shouldn't really get on him for the picks.

16. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos

Previous Ranking: 16

The Lions played the game Russell Wilson and the Broncos wanted to play. 

The Lions ran the ball all day and got the luxury of spamming play-action passes from under center. That's what this Broncos offense has been all season. 

Unfortunately, the Lions started running away with the game after the first quarter, forcing the Broncos to break that structure. Wilson had to take on more of a burden as a dropback passer and fared OK. But he didn't have enough in the tank to keep the offense on the field for long drives and work them back into the game.

It was a frustrating game, but nothing unusual for Wilson and these Broncos. They got thrown off their desired structure, and the game got away from them. It happens.

17. Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Previous Ranking: 17

Baker Mayfield tried his best to force a defensive coordinator change in Green Bay. 

On Sunday, Mayfield became the first opposing quarterback to post a perfect passing rating at Lambeau Field. The only other quarterback to post a perfect passer rating in Lambeau was Aaron Rodgers back in 2019. Mayfield made history with his performance on Sunday. 

While a good chunk of that has to do with the Packers' defense constantly allowing open receivers and not generating enough pressure, Mayfield threw some absolute strikes down the field. He was a perfect six-of-six on throws beyond 15 yards. Mayfield's work in the underneath area was pretty inconsistent, but hey, when the shot plays are hitting, it doesn't matter. 

It's fantastic that Mayfield is playing with the confidence that enables these kinds of performances. It felt like he had lost that edge the past couple of years. Hopefully, Mayfield will finish the year strong in that regard.

18. Derek Carr, New Orleans Saints

Previous Ranking: 20

Derek Carr is an eminently frustrating quarterback, partly because he has these games and stretches that remind you of what he can be. 

Week 15's game against the New York Giants fit the bill. The Giants' defense was all over the place this year, but Carr picked them apart like a sharp, veteran quarterback should. Carr completed all but five of his 28 throws, surgically disassembling the Giants' defense in the 1-15-yard range time and time again. 

But we know the deal with Carr. These weeks come and go, and more often than not, we get the uber-conservative version of Carr. We'll see if he can put his foot on the gas with a potential AFC South division title in reach.

19. Sam Howell, Washington Commanders

Previous Ranking: 18

Sam Howell played one of his worst games of the season against the Rams on Sunday. 

Whereas Howell is typically an explosive play machine for both teams, he was a complete nothingburger on Sunday. Howell struggled to complete passes consistently and never looked comfortable deciphering the unique fronts and coverage the Rams are willing to throw at quarterbacks. 

By the fourth quarter, Washington benched Howell for Jacoby Brissett, who gave the Rams a scare with a sweet comeback effort. 

They won’t bench Howell long-term, though. There's no point in doing so in a lost season when the whole point was to find out what Howell is.

20. Joe Flacco, Cleveland Browns

Previous Ranking: 21

Joe Flacco played a supremely weird game in Week 15. That can happen when you're only three weeks removed from being on your couch. 

For about three quarters, Flacco's ball placement was killing him. Flacco was primarily making sound decisions, but he threw three interceptions almost purely because the ball didn't get where it needed to be. He threw one interception because he led a receiver straight into a linebacker over the middle, jarring the ball out for a pick. Later in the game, he threw another because he left a seam ball about five yards short in the red zone. 

But Flacco went ballistic in the fourth quarter to make up for it. Flacco started unloading down the field, threading massive throws to Marquise Goodwin, Amari Cooper and David Njoku. 

Waiting on a 200-plus-yard fourth quarter isn't going to be a winning formula every week, but it's remarkable that Flacco still has that kind of play in him.

21. Jake Browning, Cincinnati Bengals

Previous Ranking: 22

There was a stretch in the Bengals-Vikings game where it felt like the Jake Browning experience was returning to earth. He opened the game with an outrageous throw to Ja'Marr Chase down the right sideline but promptly went on a cold streak for the better part of it. 

Then the fourth quarter rolled around, and Browning went nuclear again. Tee Higgins dunking on a Vikings defensive back with one of the most outstanding catches we've seen all year helped make that possible, but Browning played well in his own right in crunch time.

Browning was aggressive, accurate and occasionally creative when the team needed him most. It was a moment of impressive mental toughness and confidence, given how most of the game had gone to that point. 

Browning isn't the next random superstar quarterback or anything, but he's more than feisty enough to keep this Bengals team alive.

22. Will Levis, Tennessee Titans

Previous Ranking: 23

Will Levis throws the hell out of the ball. Every time he drops back, Levis looks for something to open up downfield so he can spin the laces right off the football. 

It looks fantastic when Levis makes the right decision and does it promptly. Levis' arm is as good as anyone's in the league, and he has the arrogance to try throws most quarterbacks outside of the Josh Allen and Matthew Stafford category would never even consider. 

The problem is that's all Levis has in the bag right now, and the consistency is not there yet to make it work at a high level. Levis' best throws are awesome, but as we saw against the Texans, he often makes late and questionable decisions. 

Not only was Levis sacked a whopping seven times, but he threw an interception by forcing a ball to DeAndre Hopkins while Treylon Burks streaked wide-open down the field. 

Of course, all of that was largely expected with Levis. He's a wild horse of a prospect who will need time and coaching to make him a more consistent, reliable player. 

23. Aidan O'Connell, Las Vegas Raiders

Previous Ranking: 24

All of the Los Angeles Chargers turnovers and excellent field position boosted Aidan O'Connell's numbers, but the young man played a fantastic first half on Thursday. 

Whether O'Connell needed to sift through zone coverages or just pick his matchups vs. man, he consistently got the ball to the right guy and made quality throws. O'Connell's first touchdown was a strike to Tre Tucker to beat the Chargers' zone coverage. Not long after, O'Connell gifted Jakobi Myers a touchdown on a go ball vs. man coverage with a delightful, feathery throw. 

Some of O'Connell's numbers tanked in the second half, but it's not like it mattered. The Raiders were winning 42-0 at halftime. 

O'Connell did his part to get the Raiders out ahead, and that's what matters.

24. Gardner Minshew, Indianapolis Colts

Previous Ranking: 26

Alright, credit where it's due. Gardner Minshew had one of his good games. 

Saturday's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers was a departure from what Minshew has been for much of the year. For the most part, he's been a screen and quick game and RPO merchant who has tried his best to turn the ball over even though he can't afford to. 

Against the Steelers, however, Minshew was creating. Minshew was scooting around and made a handful of key plays late in the down and outside the pocket. I'm not convinced he can do that every week, but he can do it now and then, and Week 15 was one of those rare cases.

25. Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers

Previous Ranking: 25

The Carolina Panthers won, and Bryce Young technically led a winning drive at the end, but I don't feel any better about Young than I did before. 

The first two throws of Young's winning drives were terrifying floaters that required severe adjustments back to the ball from the receivers. The second, a sail route to Jonathan Mingo, was especially ugly, but Mingo made a great adjustment. 

To his credit, Young did well to get the ball out of his hands and let his guys make plays in those moments. There's something to be said about that for a quarterback who has often struggled with timing this season. None of the throws he made convinced me that there's anything more there with him than before, though.

26. Taylor Heinicke, Atlanta Falcons

Previous Ranking: N/A

Desmond Ridder is out. Taylor Heinicke is in.


On the one hand, I understand making the change. The division has slipped away from the Falcons, largely because the offense isn't working, and bizarre turnovers continue to plague Ridder despite quality down-to-down play. 

Conversely, Heinicke doesn't solve anything. Heinicke offers a little more creation and extended play ability, but that comes at the cost of down-to-down consistency. Heinicke is just as liable to throw a scatterbrained interception, too. 

The season is probably lost anyway, so it doesn't matter, but this quarterback change does nothing for me.

27. Nick Mullens, Minnestoa Vikings

Previous Ranking: 28

Nick Mullens was spiking up and down like a heart monitor on Saturday. 

At his best, Mullens was pushing the ball into some serious NFL windows. He wasn't afraid to let it rip over the middle and showed flashes of excellent ball placement outside the numbers. You could see some of why the Vikings wanted him to play over Josh Dobbs. 

At his worst, Mullens made some unthinkably bad plays. He was a disaster when pressured, constantly fiddling around in the pocket, unsure of where to go with the ball before ultimately getting smacked or throwing the ball late into traffic.

Mullens even threw a pick while going to the ground on a would-be sack. On that play, he threw the ball at defensive tackle BJ Hill's facemask, allowing the ball to fall right in Hill's lap.

28. Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots

Previous Ranking: 29

Bailey Zappe was mainly fine against the Chiefs, at least to the extent any New England Patriots quarterback can be, given the offensive line and skill players. 

We saw Zappe's limitations as a creator in this game. He took four sacks, a couple of which he could have sprung himself out of with any degree of athleticism and creativity. 

Zappe also threw a nasty pick outside the pocket in this game. After bailing to his right, Zappe tried to find TE Pharaoh Brown leaking toward the sideline, only for Chiefs LB Willie Gay to easily undercut the throw and steal an interception. 

That game didn't show us anything we didn't know about Zappe, though. He's a fine distributor with underwhelming tools and acceptable accuracy. Expecting anything beyond that is unfair to him, honestly.

29. Tommy Devito, New York Giants

Previous Ranking: 30

Tommy DeVito played the game of his life a week ago against the Packers. This week, Tommy Touchdowns came back down to earth. 

Devito had the type of performance we've been used to from him. The results weren't that bad when the ball got out of his hands. He didn't make many stellar throws down the field, but he did a decent job giving his guys chances and avoiding turnovers. 

The sacks, though. My god, the sacks. DeVito took seven sacks in this game. It's the fifth time he's been sacked at least five times in a game this year. The only exceptions are his first appearance against the Jets, a game in which he did not start, and last week's game against the Packers.

30. Trevor Siemian, New York Jets

Previous Ranking: N/A

I do not envy the position the Jets threw Trevor Siemian into on Sunday. Siemian was put into the game after the half already down 24-0, while Zach Wilson battled some ambiguous combination of dehydration and concussion protocol. 

Siemian never had a chance. To his credit, he did the right thing by taking some risks down the field, but none of them paid off. Siemian missed all five throws beyond 15 yards. Two of them were picked off. 

The sliver of hope for next week, assuming Wilson misses time with a concussion, is that Siemian getting some starter reps and starting with a 0-0 game script could make for better results. Don't get your hopes up, though.

31. Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers

Previous Ranking: N/A

There's almost nothing worth getting excited about with Mason Rudolph. His arm isn't up to NFL standards, he isn't a creator, and he isn't exactly a pocket genius. Familiarity with the org and scheme is the only real reason he was there as the team's QB3 and now QB1

At least Rudolph isn't Mitchell Trubisky. That's exciting in its own sad, morbid way.

32. Easton Stick, Los Angeles Chargers

Previous Ranking: 32

If you ignored the final score and didn't watch the game, Eason Stick's box score vs. the Raiders would look OK. He completed more than 70 percent of his passes, averaged a hair more than eight yards per attempt and scored three touchdowns. Not bad for a backup. 

We all know what happened in that game, though. Most of Stick's production was in a pointless second half after the Chargers were already down 42-0. He also fumbled twice in the first half, which is part of why the Raiders kept scoring, and threw a pick-six to open the fourth quarter.