The Quarterback Index: Midseason rankings

This is the Quarterback Index. I rank the top quarterbacks each week based on this season's play alone. Every four weeks, I list every starter from No. 1-32. This is one of those weeks.

The dominance of the Denver Broncos' offense already is taken for granted. We are offended when they trail entering the fourth quarter. We say ridiculous things about a "blueprint" being established to stop them when they score 33 points, despite three turnovers.

This is Peyton Manning's season. It only took Chris Wesseling one week to write that the Broncos were chasing history. I thought he was premature at the time. After eight weeks, it would be a surprise if Denver didn't break the all-time scoring record.

In the highest-scoring NFL season of all time to date, the Broncos are averaging 42.9 points. That's 12.5 points more than the next closest team -- the Bears. We will remember the '13 Broncos like the '07 Patriots, '99 Rams or '98 Vikings. It's fun to have such a Goliath in the NFL because we can watch teams try to knock Goliath off.

Alone at the top

1. Peyton Manning

Barring a collapse, the rest of the league is fighting for second place in the MVP race.

Next level

2. Aaron Rodgers
3. Philip Rivers
4. Drew Brees

Rodgers at his best is better than anyone else at their best. And Rodgers has played at an exceptionally high level over the last month, with the first half in the Baltimore game a small exception. An easy schedule gives Rodgers a chance to pile up huge numbers. ... It was hard to knock Rivers or Brees down a spot because they have been surgical.

The next level after that

5. Andrew Luck
6. Matthew Stafford
7. Russell Wilson
8. Matt Ryan
9. Tony Romo
10. Cam Newton
11. Colin Kaepernick
12. Ben Roethlisberger
13. Tom Brady
14. Jay Cutler

I'm not just intoxicated with Stafford's finish against Dallas, although that doesn't hurt. Stafford played two of the best games of his career before the Cowboys' game, and he's been more consistent overall. Folks get caught up on the mechanics thing, like we know anything, but Stafford makes so many plays others can't make. ... Ryan has been sensational, but his performance against Arizona was the first sign that the weight of carrying an awful team is getting to him. ... Wilson, Newton and Kaepernick steadily have improved after slow starts. (At least until Wilson's game on Monday night, in which Seattle's offensive tackle problem was on full display.)

Cam rose the most of anyone in this group over the last month. He could not have played much better the last three weeks, but I don't want to give him a total pass on uneven performances in September. ... The 49ers dialed back some elements of their offense and smartly focused on what Kaepernick does well. ... Romo had an incredible first five weeks before a dip in play. He's falling. ... I've written about Brady's struggles enough. Things should improve with Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski together in the lineup for a few games.

Middle of the pack

15. Andy Dalton
16. Jake Locker
17. Joe Flacco
18. Eagles quarterbacks
19. Ryan Tannehill
20. Eli Manning
21. Alex Smith
22. Robert Griffin III
23. Sam Bradford
24. Terrelle Pryor

Dalton has enjoyed strong stretches of play before, but never quite this strong. So why am I expecting the other shoe to drop Thursday night in Miami? ... Locker has been surprisingly fun to watch on Game Rewind. He made a number of excellent throws in his first game back from injury against San Francisco. I never expected to rank him ahead of Tannehill (or Flacco) at any point this season. ... Flacco is in a difficult situation, but he's not overcoming it. He has missed key throws that have stalled drives.

Michael Vick and Nick Foles are combined here. Both have enjoyed some high moments in Chip Kelly's offense, but have struggled to maintain them. ... Griffin's speed is back, but his accuracy is not there. He's fallen behind the other young quarterbacks, which is to be expected after a torn ACL. ... Eli has made a ton of great throws this season and a ton of terrible decisions. He received some protection against Philadelphia last week, and he looked like himself. Look for him to close stronger. ... Pryor has more interceptions than touchdown throws, but he makes five plays every week that no other quarterback can make. ... Smith makes just enough plays, but his numbers and overall accuracy are worse than they have been since 2009.

The rest

25. Geno Smith
26. Carson Palmer
27. Matt Schaub
28. Mike Glennon
29. Christian Ponder
30. EJ Manuel/ Thad Lewis
31. Chad Henne
32. Josh Freeman
33. Brandon Weeden
34. Blaine Gabbert

Guys like Jason Campbell and Case Keenum get incompletes. It's easy to pair Manuel and Lewis together because the Bills have received similar production from both of them. ... The Genocoaster is not for the faint of heart, but the Jets have to be pleased with what they see from him overall. ... Schaub, ranked for his play before his benching, might be an interesting option for Bruce Arians once Arians gives up on Carson Palmer after this season. ... Glennon has been better than expected, although I wasn't expecting much. ... Freeman could help get two coaches fired in the same season.

Around the League wrote up midseason takeaways for every team in the NFC and AFC. I also reviewed the season so far and picked my teams to emerge in the second half.