NFL Analysis


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NFL Wild Card Week Quarterback Power Rankings: Will Josh Allen Ever Topple Lamar, Mahomes?

Quarterback Rankings Josh Allen Patrick Mahomes Lamar Jackson

After 18 long weeks, the playoffs are here. All but 14 teams have been sent home or on vacation, whichever they prefer. 

We are going to do the same with the quarterback rankings moving forward. 

For each round of the playoffs, we'll rank the remaining postseason quarterbacks in the same format as always. Sadly, good quarterbacks who typically adorn the list — Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence, Geno Smith, etc. — will be absent. Only the best of the best remain, such as Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and … Mason Rudolph?

Wild Card Week Quarterback Rankings

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Final Regular Season Ranking: 1

This year's Kansas City Chiefs aren't the juggernaut they have been in years past. The defense is better than ever, but years of attrition at the pass-catcher spots and shaky investments at offensive tackle have made it tough to set your watch to the offense anymore. 

But Patrick Mahomes is still the quarterback nobody wants to see in the playoffs. The AFC goes through him. It has for as long as he's been in the league, and that doesn't change just because the Chiefs aren't the top seed like usual. 

Mahomes, Andy Reid and Steve Spagnuolo's defense is still enough firepower to take down anyone in the postseason.

2. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Final Regular Season Ranking: 2

Lamar Jackson will be your 2023 MVP. I don't care about the defense or touchdown totals or EPA or team rushing success rate (he is the run game, by the way) — just watch Jackson play football. Nobody in the sport commands the same gravity and respect he does. 

Scary as that is on its own, Jackson gets to host a playoff game after two weeks of rest. The most electric athlete at the quarterback position is going to get fresh legs. 

Good luck, AFC.

3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Final Regular Season Ranking: 3

Josh Allen covered every single inch of the Josh Allen Chaos Spectrum to take down the Miami Dolphins for the division in Week 18. 

Allen threw two interceptions in the first quarter. The first pick was a clear red zone miscommunication with Gabe Davis; the other was a fourth-and-2 heave into triple coverage after scrambling outside the pocket. Truthfully, seeing the two picks in the box score feels a lot worse than what those plays were in reality — a faultless accident and an arm punt. 

Everything Allen did outside of those two plays more than made up for it, anyway. Allen went nuclear for the rest of the game. Be it sideline throws to Dalton Kincaid, off-script darts to Stefon Diggs, wheel routes to Khalil Shakir or third-and-13 scrambles to get the job done by himself, Allen did it all. 

You just have to accept the chaos that comes with Allen. More often than not, it all comes out in the wash, and he gives you a winning performance. That kind of volatility is coveted in the playoffs, anyway.

4. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Final Regular Season Ranking: 4

The Los Angeles Rams are the scariest wild-card team in either conference. Matthew Stafford, though not alone in his efforts, is the driving force for that. 

Stafford and the Rams' offense have been awesome down the stretch. The run game has come alive, giving the passing offense more favorable down-and-distances and easing the load off their shoulders. Stafford and the receivers have taken full advantage of that. They churn out some of the most explosive passing performances every week, a style of play led by Stafford's aggression and arm talent. 

Turn on the film, and you will see Stafford make three or four throws per game that are only accessible to the elite of the elite. In playoff football, those are the plays that can be the difference.

5. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Final Regular Season Ranking: 5

Few quarterbacks play with the command and maturity Dak Prescott does. Other passers are more talented or athletic or a little more creative outside the pocket, but in terms of playing quarterback the right way and winning down-in and down-out, Prescott is the pinnacle of quarterback play right now. 

Just watch Prescott's process before the snap. He's constantly fiddling with protections and fishing for every bit of helpful information. He also has one of the trickiest cadences to get a handle for in the entire NFL. 

Once the ball is in his hands, there are few quarterbacks with Prescott's resolve and unwavering confidence. He believes full-heartedly in his offensive line, the system and his skill players. Sometimes, that is to his detriment. No player or play call is perfect. But that faith, more often than not, allows Prescott to operate with machine-like efficiency.

6. C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

Final Regular Season Ranking: 7

I don't know the last time I was this excited to see a young quarterback in their first playoff game. Maybe it was Lamar Jackson back in 2019. Maybe Joe Burrow in 2020, though that excitement was somewhat shared with seeing the Bengals' awesome skill players go to work. 

Seeing Stroud in the playoffs as a rookie after the year he has had is unbelievably cool. 

Almost everything I said about Dak Prescott in the previous blurb applies to C.J. Stroud. Given his youth, Stroud isn't quite as skilled pre-snap and doesn't have the same breadth of knowledge to pull from, but he plays like a pro. Stroud plays on time, from the pocket and with a level of conviction that simply does not make sense for a 22-year-old. 

Stroud will be tested big time in his debut, too. Jim Schwartz's Browns defense has arguably been the best in the league all season. Schematically, they aren't that hard to figure out, but the sheer dominance of Myles Garrett and Co. up front, as well as sticky coverage in the back end, is tough to beat. We'll see if Stroud is up for the task. 

7. Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers

Final Regular Season Ranking: 11

Let's take a moment to appreciate Jordan Love and the growth of this young Packers offense at large. 

The baby Packers couldn't stop shooting themselves in the foot for the first two months of the season. Every young skill player, Love included, had three or four baffling mistakes per game. An offense can survive one or two guys like that, but when it's the entire skill player group — quarterback included — consistent offense just isn't attainable. 

But by the last couple of months of the year, something clicked. Receivers hit the right landmarks and ran the right routes. Drops stopped happening. Love cut out some of the bone-headed decisions and cleaned up his accuracy. The entire unit came together and matured right in front of our eyes. 

After a turbulent start, Love has blossomed into a serious franchise quarterback, and the young skill group around him looks to be a formidable core for the future. Whatever happens in the playoffs is almost immaterial. That Love and the rest of the team even got to this point in a "rebuilding" year is a huge win.

8. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

Final Regular Season Ranking: 13

Jared Goff is really good at being a particular kind of quarterback. When the offense can stay under center, lean on the run game, and spam play-action throws over the middle, few can sling it better than Goff. He throws with a fearlessness and velocity to that range that is tough to beat when he's hot. 

It's all of the other plays and settings that can worry you with Goff. To be fair, he is much better outside of that under-center, play-action bubble now than he was with the Rams. Goff handles the pocket slightly better now and has learned how to get to his checkdowns effectively. Still, he can lack touch outside the numbers and isn't the type of quarterback to create outside the pocket often. 

Goff is good enough. He's not special, and he can rarely will a victory into existence, but there are clear pathways to generate good offense with him. Thankfully, the Lions have the right players and coaching staff to unlock that.

9. Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers

Final Regular Season Ranking: 12

More than anything, I just want to see Brock Purdy make it through the playoffs with his elbow intact this time. Last year's 49ers had a serious chance to make a run for a Lombardi trophy if Purdy hadn't been injured early in the NFC Championship. 

To that point, this season's 49ers offense might be even better strictly because Purdy is better. Compared to this time last year, Purdy's overall execution of the offense is better, and he's been more effective down the field. 

Kyle Shanahan and the smattering of All-Pros around Purdy do more of the heavy lifting, but it's hard to dispute that Purdy gives this offense more of a spark than any other Shanahan-era 49ers quarterback before him. And if that was true a season ago as a rookie, it's even more accurate now. 

On individual merit, Purdy isn't one of the top quarterbacks, but he's doing his part to keep this finely tuned and augmented machine rolling. Expect to see the 49ers in another NFC Championship game.

10. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

Final Regular Season Ranking: 9

Jalen Hurts remains the toughest quarterback to rank. 

At his best, we know Hurts can be a good facilitator in the passing game, especially down the field, and a weapon in the run game. But he's not a weapon in the run game right now, and his process as a passer is all over the place. Part of that falls on the offensive coordinator switch from Shane Steichen to Brian Johnson. The latter hasn't been able to play the right notes for Hurts, but still. 

That all feels odd, given the Eagles' generally productive offense, but it never feels cohesive when you watch them play. That's especially true against good defenses.

The cherry on top: Hurts faces Todd Bowles' Buccaneers in the first round. Remember the last time Hurts faced Bowles in the playoffs?

11. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

Final Regular Season Ranking: 14

The Week 18 game against the Buffalo Bills is precisely the type of game that worries me with Tua Tagovailoa

Namely, the Miami Dolphins again could not throw outside the numbers. Again. The only exceptions were throws into the flat, which hardly count because defenses treat that as a "rally and tackle" area rather than a "coverage" area. 

According to TruMedia, Taogvailoa went 2 of 5 with a game-sealing interception on throws outside the numbers and beyond 5 yards in this game. The one corner route to Cedric Wilson before the half was a well-placed touch pass, but Tagovailoa barely attacked outside the numbers all game and struggled when he did. 

That's largely a non-issue during the regular season. Tagovailoa's excellence over the middle is enough of a formula to beat many teams. Against the best of the best, though, you have to be able to attack outside the numbers. We have yet to see the Dolphins' offense do that consistently, and I'm not confident they will figure it out well enough to go on a run.

12. Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Final Regular Season Ranking: 16

Baker Mayfield largely played well this season relative to expectations. This Tampa Bay Buccaneers team was supposed to be dead in the water in the post-Tom Brady era, but Mayfield re-energized his gunslinger gene and led Tampa Bay to the playoffs with an explosive passing offense. 

At the same time, we know Mayfield isn't the most reliable quarterback game-to-game. Mayfield had some stinkers early in the season and in the final two games leading into the playoffs. Mayfield was particularly shaky last week against the Panthers in a game where the division title and playoff hopes were on the line. 

Still, Mayfield's body of work this year is encouraging enough. There is plenty of evidence that he can sling it down the field with the confidence and ball placement to let Mike Evans and Chris Godwin take over games. It's unlikely that will be enough to make a serious run, but it might be enough to knock off the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round.

13. Joe Flacco, Cleveland Browns

Final Regular Season Ranking: 18

Joe Flacco bringing the Cleveland Browns this far is a serious achievement. Off the couch, Flacco was this team's fourth quarterback of the season, yet he came out firing with the unshakable confidence of peak Brett Favre. And it's worked.

At some point, Flacco's magic will wear off. It doesn't make sense for someone his age and lack of production for, I don't know, the last decade to suddenly catch fire. 

Flacco at least plays with the attitude and arm talent that can win games, though. That just might be enough with how well Cleveland's defense is playing on the other end.

14. Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers

Final Regular Season Ranking: 30

Mason Rudolph was the Steelers' best quarterback this season by a lot. I don't feel right saying it, and there isn't a single person alive who could have predicted it, but it's the truth. 

If nothing else, Rudolph has given this offense some stability. He isn't creative or athletic and doesn't boast impressive arm talent, but Rudolph at least understands how to play within the system and within himself. Through three games, Rudolph has primarily done well to handle quick game passing and give his guys, namely George Pickens, chances down the field. 

Now, there's a high likelihood Rudolph turns into a corncob against serious competition. We've seen Rudolph start games in the past, and it didn't go nearly this well. Rudolph at least gives the Steelers a better chance than Kenny Pickett or Mitchell Trubisky did, and that's worth something.