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The Quarterback Index: Andrew Luck a top-five QB?

Well before the NFL season started, I was convinced that the young crop of quarterbacks 25 and under would be the story to track in 2013. Five weeks in, Andrew Luck stands apart from the pack.

It's not like the rest of the guys are struggling. Robert Griffin III is taking the expected amount of time to recover from ACL surgery. Russell Wilson hasn't been as sharp throwing the ball, but he's still been very effective. (He just plays for a coach that is fundamentally conservative.) Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton have shown flashes, mixed with erratic play. Ryan Tannehill continues to develop, but he's not yet at Luck's level. Tannehill takes too many sacks.

Luck has reduced his mistakes without taking away the big plays. He's a crazy mixture of calculated risk-taking and athleticism. His persona is not flashy. His play is flashy. The kid is an entertainer. Witness the play below: 

By the end of the season, some of Luck's young colleagues might have caught back up. But this weekly Quarterback Index ranking is based on how everyone is playing right now. And Andrew Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in football right now. It's scary to think how much better he can get.

On to the quarterback rankings. As a reminder, these rankings are based on how quarterbacks are playing in 2013 only:

Alone at the top


1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

It's crazy that Manning is having a historical season with such diminished arm strength. We heard all offseason that Manning's arm was stronger than the year before, but it's hard to see that when watching him on Game Rewind. The ball flutters when it goes more than 15 yards, but it doesn't matter, because it gets there. Manning has thrown just 13 passes of 20 yards or more all season, but he hasn't needed to throw it deep. (And he's been effective when he does go long.)

Manning's season ultimately is proof that the quarterback position is played between the ears. You could make the argument that he has the weakest arm of any starter in the league.

Next Level


2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
4. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
5. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys 

Notes: Luck still is dealing with some miscommunication problems with Trent Richardson and Darrius Heyward-Bey. The Colts' offense will be tough to stop once they get up to speed. Luck isn't as consistent as the rest of the top-five, but he regularly rivals Rodgers' ability to pull off the spectacular play. The throw across his body on the Colts' two-point conversion against Seattle was ridiculous.

Ryan is playing as well or better than he was during Atlanta's 13-3 season in 2012. He's adapting to the shortcomings around him. Wins and losses remain an overrated measure for quarterbacks. ... The Saints did a better job protecting Brees last week. Eventually, the team's lack of a vertical threat -- other than Jimmy Graham -- could catch up to them.

Even in a down week, Rivers threw for more than 400 yards; that's more than 8 yards-per-attempt. ... I've said my peace about the Romo narrative, so there's no need to repeat it here. He's raised his level of play from a year ago. Despite his interception, Romo's been one of the steadiest quarterbacks in the league this season. Really. Romo has done a great job by limiting unnecessary risks through the first five games.

Whatever is after next level


8. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
9. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
10. Tom Brady, New England Patriots


Thousands shared stories telling us why they love football in a contest to win a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. We chose 10 finalists. Now you choose the winners.

Notes: The Seahawks no longer are waiting until late in the game to break out the read option. Russell Wilson also is not waiting quite as long to break out of the pocket and run. Wilson knows he has a terrible left tackle in Paul McQuistan. A light seemed to switch on for Wilson in the fourth quarter against Houston; he knows he has to run in order to move the ball. That's different than a year ago. Wilson played a strong game overall against the Colts, but he missed a handful of throws that took points off the board. He hasn't been quite as sharp or decisive as a passer this year.

Coach Pete Carroll fundamentally wants his offense to revolve around the running game. I wonder, however, if the team is concerned that Wilson could be running too much. ... Brady hasn't had his normal accuracy this year. It's not all because of his young receivers. Against the Bengals, Brady didn't connect on a number of throws that were there to be made.

Moving up


Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders: It's time to start believing that Pryor's development is for real. His improvisational skills are rare, and his accuracy has improved when throwing from the pocket. The biggest negative is that Pryor sometimes holds on to the ball too long. I'm looking forward to Raiders fans revolting when general manager Reggie McKenzie selects a quarterback high in the 2014 NFL Draft despite Pryor's play.

Moving down


Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: I expected his performance against Arizona to be worse. In truth, it was similar to a lot of Newton's games. That's the problem: Streakiness and lack of pocket awareness have been a trend.

He was red hot in the first half until an underthrown deep ball to Steve Smith was intercepted. Newton is wildly streaky. Even in the 38-0 win over the New York Giants, he ran hot and cold. (In fairness, drops by his teammates were a killer in the first half against the Cardinals.) It's a strength that Newton can take a hit while delivering the ball, but sometimes it seems as if he doesn't even see the pressure. And then he'll get sacked or turn the ball over.

Eli Manning, New York Giants: During the 2011 Super Bowl run, Manning routinely completed low-percentage throws. Now they are getting picked off. He's taking intentional grounding penalties, and he's been forcing the ball like a rookie. The loss to Philadelphia was not on the offensive line.

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