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NFL Week 17 Quarterback Power Rankings: Don't Panic on Patrick Mahomes

Quarterback Rankings Josh Allen Patrick Mahomes Lamar Jackson

Christmas weekend, the NFL served up a feast of extreme highs and lows for quarterback play. 

MVP hopefuls like Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Dak Prescott brought their best. Jackson eviscerated a strong 49ers defense on Christmas night. Allen, though only one passing touchdown to his name, torched the husk of the Los Angeles Chargers defense. Prescott brought the Cowboys back from a deficit in the fourth quarter to give his team the lead, only for his defense to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

On the other end, a handful of high-profile quarterbacks blew up. Patrick Mahomes might have had his ugliest game as a pro, an effort that ultimately ended in an upset loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Brock Purdy instantly killed his MVP candidacy with a four-interception night against a dominant Baltimore Ravens defense. 

We received gifts of all kinds over the weekend, but the NFL delivered us the best gift of all: content.

Week 17 Quarterback Rankings

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Previous Ranking: 1

Patrick Mahomes was terrible on Christmas. Plain and simple. 

Mahomes' creativity and aggression boiled over into full-blown recklessness against the Raiders. He couldn't stop throwing the ball at defenders, whether on throws in rhythm or outside the pocket. 

It felt like Mahomes was losing his mind a little bit. Considering all the mishaps plaguing the offense this season, it's hard to blame him. Receivers miscommunicated before the snap, offensive linemen let free runners go by on occasion, and Mahomes was even caught once by the broadcast camera yelling, "Just call the f-ing play." 

If I'm starting a team, Mahomes is still the obvious QB1 choice, but he was not at his best for the holidays.

2. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Previous Ranking: 2

Lamar Jackson was given a chance to seize the MVP conversation this Christmas. An MVP winner once before, Jackson capitalized on the moment and thrashed a 49ers defense that had no answer for his unique play style. 

For more on Jackson's case as the MVP front-runner, read Sunday's piece: Lamar Jackson Has Deservedly Become 2023 NFL MVP Favorite.

3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Previous Ranking: 3

Josh Allen beat the hell out of what's left of this Chargers team. 

His arm-punt interception aside, Allen was a weapon all game long. It was a harmonious blend of all the surgical underneath stuff Allen has come to thrive at this year and the typical heroics we're used to seeing from him. The cherry on top was Allen's rushing ability in the red zone, giving the Buffalo Bills that extra bit of muscle and oomph to get over the goal line. 

Allen continues to be the engine that moves the Bills along.

4. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Previous Ranking: 4

Matthew Stafford went nuclear on the New Orleans Saints in Week 16.

Every throw you can imagine, Stafford made it. Inside the pocket, outside the pocket, in the red zone, down the field — Stafford was a complete, dominant quarterback against a legit Saints defense. 

To dive deeper into Stafford's performance, read Thursday night's piece: Matthew Stafford Is NFL's Best QB Nobody Is Talking About.

5. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Previous Ranking: 5

Last week against the Bills, Dak Prescott absolutely deserved criticism for his play. Prescott was all over the place as a decision-maker, and his ball placement wasn't up to par. 

The same can not be said of Prescott in the Cowboys' loss to the Miami Dolphins. Prescott was fantastic. 

He was good for most of the game but turned it on at the end with a go-ahead touchdown drive. Prescott grinded out a 17-play, 69-yard scoring drive that chewed eight minutes off the clock. He finished the drive with a delightful throw to Brandin Cooks in the left corner of the end zone. The perfectly placed pass beat Dolphins cornerback Jalen Ramsey, whom Prescott had largely avoided all game. 

Alas, the Dallas defense let Tua Tagovailoa and Miami’s offense do the same thing on the ensuing possession to let the Dolphins take the 22-20 win.

6. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Previous Ranking: 6

I'm worried about all the injuries Trevor Lawrence is piling up. It's been something different for each of the past three weeks, from a busted ankle to a concussion to a shoulder issue. Lawrence battled knee problems earlier in the season as well. Nobody is playing fully healthy at this point, but Lawrence is battling through more than most.

To make matters worse, Lawrence is in "I have to make a play mode." Being in that mode is a delicate place for a quarterback, especially when injured. 

That was evident on Sunday against the Buccaneers. Lawrence attacked and attacked and attacked. He made plenty of incredible throws and moved the ball. Still, it came at the cost of some risky decisions resulting in turnovers, like the interception he threw to Evan Engram on a minor miscommunication over the middle. 

Still, it's hard to move Lawrence down. Nobody is behind him who I would rather have if I needed a quarterback.

7. C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

Previous Ranking: 7

C.J. Stroud did not play again this week. His concussion, for whatever reason, is taking longer to get over than your typical concussion. Hopefully, Stroud will return to full health soon and won't rush onto the field before he's ready. Protecting Stroud for the future should be priority No.1.

8. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Previous Ranking: 8

Bless Kyler Murray's heart. The little guy is doing everything possible to make this desolate roster work. 

Just look at the Arizona Cardinals' box score from Week 16. Murray's three leading receivers were RB James Conner, 5-foot-7 WR Greg Dortch and backup UDFA RB Emari Demarcado. That's just no way to run a serious passing offense. 

And yet, Murray found ways to move the ball at times. He remains a quick, creative thrower with an absolute rocket for an arm. Murray is still imperfect when throwing over the middle and managing cluttered pockets, but he has more than enough to make up for it. 

When the Cardinals get some real NFL pass catchers next season, it will be clear that Murray remains one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league.

9. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

Previous Ranking: 9

From a process standpoint, the Philadelphia Eagles’ passing offense wasn't all that different than in weeks past. Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson spammed curls, slants, flats and various RPO concepts with those same routes to make up most of the passing offense. Jalen Hurts was mainly a distributor in the 1-10-yard area outside the hashes, which has been his comfort zone all year. 

The difference between this week and some of the Eagles' other recent performances is the Giants can not cover or tackle as well. That's it. Hurts wasn't any better or worse than he's been. Receivers just got open and made a few more plays with their legs. 

Credit to the Eagles for grabbing a win, but overall, there's still reason to worry about how the offense operates.

10. Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

Previous Ranking: 10

The Tennessee Titans had Geno Smith in a chokehold for most of this game. The defensive line was battering the Seahawks up front, and the coverage unit was doing just enough not to give Smith many free completions. Smith struggled to get this offense rolling for a long, long time. 

But when the Seahawks needed him most, in a game with the season on the line, Smith delivered. 

Smith was lights out on the go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Smith completed 7-of-10 passes on the final drive, including a dart over the middle to Jaxon Smith-Njigba to convert a third-and-14. Even with the weight of a season on his shoulders, Smith remained calm and made all the throws he needed to. 

You'd like it if Smith and the passing offense came alive sooner, but credit him for waking up at the right time.

11. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

Previous Ranking: 11

As is the case against most defenses, Tua Tagovailoa and Miami’s offense got to play the game they wanted against the Cowboys. 

In addition to all the cheap yards coach Mike McDaniel manufactures in the short area, Tagovailoa was killing the Cowboys over the middle. Tagovailoa found Tyreek Hill time and time again streaking over the middle, evidently trying his best to make up for the targets Hill missed out on last week due to injury. 

Tagovailoa barely had to throw outside the numbers, which is where you want to make him throw. The Cowboys are so weak up the spine of their defense that the Dolphins had no problem getting the middle-of-the-field throws they wanted.

12. Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers

Previous Ranking: 13

Jordan Love was efficient against a Carolina Panthers defense that is no pushover. 

Love only completed 60.7 percent of his throws, but he regularly found chunk gains to keep the offense moving. He also hardly put the ball in harm's way and only took one sack, albeit a pretty funny and disastrous 12-yard sack. 

Love was darn good considering TE Luke Musgrave and WR Jayden Reed, arguably his best pass-catcher, both missed the contest. Love still found ways to get other players involved, often trusting Romeo Doubs and rookie TE Tucker Kraft down the field. 

Love continues to make his case as an ascending young quarterback worth building around.

13. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

Previous Ranking: 14

Within 20 yards, Jared Goff made every throw possible — crossers, slants, flat routes, out-breakers. Goff threw the whole non-vertical route tree against the Minnesota Vikings and did so with great success. 

Against Brian Flores' defense, that's one of the ways to beat them. You throw over their head repeatedly and bank on explosive plays, or you beat the blitz and play a clean, methodical game. Goff and the Detroit Lions’ offense is better calibrated for the latter, so they did just that. Goff handled the assignment well. 

Though unexciting, Goff did plenty as a passer to support the Lions' rushing offense and grind the Vikings down.

14. Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers

Previous Ranking: 12

Brock Purdy's game against the Baltimore Ravens posed two questions: How does Purdy handle an elite defense, and, accordingly, how does he respond if the offense ends up behind the flow of the game for once? 

The answer to both questions was concerning. 

Purdy threw four interceptions, but to be fair, only one or two were his fault. The first was a throw straight to safety Kyle Hamilton in the end zone. There is nobody to blame but Purdy for that one. Purdy's third interception, though technically a result of a tipped-up ball, was a nightmarish throw across his body to the middle of the field after he danced out of pressure. 

The other two picks resulted from a tip at the line of scrimmage and being hit while he was throwing. Bad breaks, to be sure. 

It's not just the picks that made this game concerning for Purdy. He was rattled at a certain point. Obviously, he was not used to defenses having this kind of success with the blitz or playing from behind on the scoreboard. Coach Kyle Shanahan even seemed to take the game out of his hands for stretches.

15. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Previous Ranking: 15

Justin Fields continues to be an enigma. 

On one hand, Fields made some sweet plays against Arizona. Fields was near impossible to bring down as a scrambler and runner, constantly allowing the Bears to move the chains bit by bit. Fields also uncorked a massive deep throw to Cole Kmet in the first half.

The rest of Fields' performance wasn't all that exciting, though. Fields did well to run the offense and avoid too many mistakes, especially sacks, but it never felt like the passing offense opened up. That's mildly concerning against a Cardinals defense that doesn't have much to it.

16. Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Previous Ranking: 17

Baker Mayfield has taken this new lease on his football life and ran with it. Mayfield has fully embraced his role as a gunslinger and explosive play merchant in Tampa Bay. 

Offensive coordinator Dave Canales gave Mayfield plenty of easy throws in the underneath area to keep the offense chugging along, but Mayfield delivered down the field when asked to. Mayfield went 5-of-6 on throws beyond 15 yards, including a touchdown to Mike Evans. 

That's been the Buccaneers' formula all year long. The run game doesn't work, so they've just let Mayfield sling it down the field to two Pro Bowl receivers and hoped for the best. With just two weeks to go, Mayfield has done well enough to have the Buccaneers in the lead for the NFC South.

17. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos

Previous Ranking: 16

Russell Wilson was a frustrating watch on Sunday night. With Bailey Zappe on the other side, Wilson looked like the quarterback who needed to be restricted to not ruin the game. 

Even with the Broncos run game not working, coach Sean Payton insisted on a spree of quick throws and concepts designed to get the ball out of Wilson's hands rather than have him try to combat Bill Belichick's defense. 

That's not necessarily the wrong approach when you have anything less than a top-10 quarterback, but it was frustrating to watch, nonetheless.

18. Derek Carr, New Orleans Saints

Previous Ranking: 18

Do not be fooled by Derek Carr's box score or the 30-22 final score against the Rams. Carr and the Saints' offense were lifeless until garbage time. 

For most of this game, Carr played as though he wasn't interested in winning. The one deep bomb to Rashid Shaheed in the second quarter makes it not feel that way, but Carr was primarily operating behind the sticks and hoping for something that never did happen. 

The most instructive play of this game was Carr's fourth-and-7 throw to Juwan Johnson about five yards short of the sticks. Carr made that throw late in the third quarter while down three scores. 

Carr can still be an efficient quarterback, but he's so frustrating from a playstyle perspective.

19. Joe Flacco, Cleveland Browns

Previous Ranking: 20

Joe Flacco is the funniest quarterback in the league. He has no filter. Flacco is just out there slinging the pill, and whatever happens, happens. Interceptions mean nothing to Flacco because he believes the next drive can end in a touchdown. 

That attitude, mixed with Flacco's zip as a thrower and Amari Cooper's dominant stretch of play, has been enough of a formula for this Cleveland Browns offense. Maybe the turnovers will kill them in the postseason, but for now, Flacco is playing well enough to make this Browns team kind of scary.

20. Tyrod Taylor, New York Giants

Previous Ranking: N/A

Tyrod Taylor was always miles better than Tommy Devito. The Devito story was awesome, quirky, and unique, but he isn't as talented or weathered as Taylor. 

That was clear when Taylor stepped back into the lineup on Monday. Though rusty at first, Taylor eventually engineered a near-comeback against the Eagles. 

The New York Giants still lost, but they should have at least gotten clarity on who to start at quarterback to finish the season.

21. Will Levis, Tennessee Titans

Previous Ranking: 22

Will Levis did not play on Sunday because he was nursing an ankle issue. The injury does not appear too serious, so Levis hopefully springs back into action next week to finish what's been an intriguing rookie season.

22. Sam Howell, Washington Commanders

Previous Ranking: 19

I think Sam Howell's confidence is shot. Howell was a confident, creative, and fundamentally aggressive quarterback for the first three months of the season, but that has worn away over the past three weeks.

 It came to a head against the New York Jets this week. 

Howell went 6-of-22 for 56 yards and two interceptions. It was the worst performance by EPA per dropback of any quarterback this season. Howell did not look as quick on the trigger or ready to answer problems the way he did for the first three months. 

Howell was always a roller coaster and probably never a good bet to become the team's franchise quarterback, but he's better than he's been these past three weeks. The most likely explanation is that a season's worth of throwing too many predictable passes without any run support finally wore on Howel. As a young player, he's likely struggled to deal with it. 

Howell won't survive to be the Commanders' starter next season, but I hope this isn't the last we've seen of him.

23. Jake Browning, Cincinnati Bengals

Previous Ranking: 21

On a good 75 percent of plays, Jake Browning was doing the right thing. He was playing a confident, aggressive game and placing the ball with the accuracy you expect from someone who needs ball placement to mask their shaky arm strength. 

Browning made three putrid decisions that turned into interceptions, though. The first was a lob to nobody in the end zone. The second and third were both intermediate throws in which a lurking underneath defender undercut the ball, equal parts because they were risky decisions and because the throws had no velocity on them. 

That's a bad sign for Browning, given the Chiefs and Browns are the two defenses left on the Bengals' schedule.

24. Gardner Minshew, Indianapolis Colts

Previous Ranking: 24

In Week 16, Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen claimed Gardner Minshew as his latest victim. 

Minshew was as indecisive as he's ever been in this offense. In a Colts offense often typified by quick throws, RPOs and simple answers, Minshew wasn't confident in anything he saw. He was constantly pitter-pattering his feet and scanning coast to coast with no open receivers in sight. 

By the end, Minshew barely completed half his passes, took six sacks, and threw an interception. It was not his best day.

25. Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers

Previous Ranking: 25

Every quarterback performance against Joe Barry's Packers defense should be taken with a grain of salt. Tommy Devito torched this defense two weeks ago and is now on his way to being benched for Tyrod Taylor. 

That said, Bryce Young looked like a real quarterback against the Packers. We haven't been able to say that about Young for most of this season. 

A Panthers receiving corps that is never open was, for once, open all the time, and Young capitalized on it. Young made good decisions with the ball while being as aggressive as he could, seizing the rare opportunity where that was possible for him. 

Young was making plays on the run, too. Arguably his best play of the day was a touchdown throw in the back of the end zone to DJ Chark after Young skipped out of the pocket to his right. 

Again, there's only so much you can take from a quarterback facing Barry's defense, but Young looked competent. That's an encouraging, if faint, sign of life from Young as his rookie year comes to a close.

26. Aidan O'Connell, Las Vegas Raiders

Previous Ranking: 23

Aidan O'Connell was poking and prodding at the Kansas City Chiefs defense for the first quarter. He completed 9 of 11 passes for 62 yards to start the game. Most of it was quick work underneath, but O'Connell did well to execute and get the ball where it needed to go. 

O'Connell attempted 10 more passes for the rest of the game but did not complete one. The combination of pressure and Davante Adams being wholly erased from the game via the Chiefs' game plan had O'Connell spinning. 

That's going to happen to rookies, though. O'Connell is still a useful spot starter, but he got the full wrath of Steve Spaganuolo for most of that game.

27. Taylor Heinicke, Atlanta Falcons

Previous Ranking: 26

Taylor Heinicke did the only thing required of a Falcons quarterback this season: play a clean game. 

Henicke didn't make many spectacular throws. His lone highlight throw was a nice little corner route to Kyle Pitts for a touchdown on the opening drive, which was still underthrown by a hair and nearly knocked away. 

Heinicke kept the offense on pace, though. He didn't throw any picks, and his only sack was a zero-yard loss. Heinicke mostly did what he had to do to let Pitts and Bijan Robinson take over the game, and that they did.

28. Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots

Previous Ranking: 28

Bailey Zappe played the most Bailey Zappe game possible on Sunday night. 

Most of Zappe's throws were within 5 yards on flat routes, shallow crossers and screens. The throws that did go farther than 5 yards were almost all clumped between the numbers. Zappe didn't attack down the field outside the numbers, and it turns out he didn't have to play an efficient game against the Broncos anyway. 

Zappe is what he is, but he's got the pre-snap cognition and quick trigger to give you some efficient games like this.

29. Nick Mullens, Minnestoa Vikings

Previous Ranking: 27

Nick Mullens played the worst and weirdest 400-yard game I have ever seen on Sunday. 

Every time Mullens dropped back, something ridiculous happened. Sometimes it was the worst floater interception you've ever seen. Other times it was a well-placed crossing route into coverage. Mullens was just as liable to take a baffling sack as he was to give Justin Jefferson or someone else a good chance on a 50-50 ball down the field. 

In the aggregate, it kept the Vikings in the game, but I didn't feel good watching any of it.

30. Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers

Previous Ranking: 31

By some degree of divine intervention, Mason Rudolph averaged nearly 11 yards per pass against the Bengals. The performance was so impressive to the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff that Rudolph earned another start despite Kenny Pickett being cleared to play. 

Most of Rudolph's success can be credited to George Pickens, though. Two Pickens completions alone earned Rudolph 152 yards and two touchdowns. Rudolph did place both passes well — one a slant, the other a go ball — but 90 percent of the formula was Pickens simply being a better athlete than the guys trying to cover and tackle him. 

We'll see if Rudolph and Pickens can rekindle the magic next week against the Seahawks.

31. Trevor Siemian, New York Jets

Previous Ranking: 30

Trevor Siemian threw 49 passes against the Commanders. All but two of them were shorter than 10 yards, which he did not complete. Furthermore, 38 of Siemian's passes were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. It was the most lifeless quarterback performance imaginable for a player who threw nearly 50 passes. 

That's all I have to say about the New York Jets’ quarterback situation at this point.

32. Easton Stick, Los Angeles Chargers

Previous Ranking: 32

Easton Stick didn't completely wither away against the Bills like he did against the Raiders. That's a win. 

Stick didn't do enough to boost his status, though. Stick made a couple of throws to the intermediate range but mainly operated in the underneath area with middling results and still took five sacks that killed a handful of drives.