QB Index: Russell Wilson's back; Dak Prescott shines

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Russell Wilson's season has been so underrated because he didn't deliver early on two of football's biggest "Footballs:" "Sunday Night" and "Fantasy."

The touchdown drought that took up almost all of October -- highlighted by a thorny prime-time performance on NBC in Seattle's epic Arizona desert tie -- helped spread a faulty impression that Wilson was not playing at a high level. He's played terrific this season, just in a different style. (I had Wilson ranked as high as second overall at the position on the Week 5 QB Index after two electric performances.)

The mobility is coming back, as we saw Sunday night in Foxborough when Wilson spun around for another back-breaking touchdown to close out the first half against the Patriots. But Wilson has compensated for his lack of rushing yards with better play from the pocket, incredible deep accuracy, fewer interceptions and far fewer sacks-per-throw than he's shown the rest of his career.

Running quarterbacks often take more sacks because they never give up on a play. The clock in Wilson's head has sped up in 2016, allowing him to dissect defenses and get rid of the ball faster than ever. No one throws a prettier touch pass over defenders, and now Wilson is more likely to throw the ball on time rather than wait for what's behind Improvisational Door No. 2.

Like Tom Brady, Wilson is always evolving. That's what the greats do. Expect a second-half surge no matter which night you watch him, in fantasy and reality.

Race for MVP

1) Tom Brady, New England Patriots (Last week: 1)

2) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (LW: 2)

Even in Brady's worst game of the season, the Patriots were one LeGarrette Blount-vertical-jump-inch away from scoring 31 points against the Legion of Boom. Two successful QB sneaks early in the game might have prepared Seattle to shut Brady and Co. down in that late goal-line stand.

The Eagles were the latest team to learn there is no defense for a perfect throw to Julio Jones. It was incredible to see how many completions Ryan threw to Jones into tight coverage. (If you don't believe me, check the adjacent embedded tape!) Despite all the great completions, the Falcons have to be concerned that the team has allowed the fourth-most QB hits in the league.

Top shelf

3) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (LW: 3)

4) Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (LW: 4)

5) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (LW: 8)

6) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (LW: 5)

7) Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (LW: 6)

Around the NFL Podcast host/lanyard enthusiast Chris Wesseling has pushed for Brees to join the top tier, and it will probably happen soon, because it's Drew Brees and I'm easily influenced. Regardless of rank, it's remarkable to see Brees put together one of his best seasons at age 37. His effort against Denver was the story of his career. Mistake-prone early and inspiring late, his two throws to Brandin Cooks on the Saints' final drive rank among the greatest plays of this season to be immediately set on fire by the inexplicable nature of this sport.

It's Week 11, and Matthew Stafford has easily been the best quarterback in the NFC North. Hug your children tightly tonight. ... The Colts ask Andrew Luck to keep his lousy defense off the field, so the team ranks among the league leaders in drives of 10-plus plays. The Colts also ask Luck to make big plays to bail them out, so he's third in completions of 20-plus yards. That he can fulfill both requests while cutting his interception rate in half after last season shows that Luck is all the way back, despite his team's record (4-5).

Legends of the fall

8) Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (LW: 7)

9) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 12)

10) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (LW: 10)

11) Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (LW: 9)

12) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (LW: 11)

Dak Prescott's season looks more like Ben Roethlisberger's rookie year every week. Prescott gets a ton of support from his teammates, including a top-ranked running game, just like Big Ben did in 2004. Prescott also shares rookie Roethlisberger's allergy to sacks and uncanny ability to make a handful of necessary big plays each week. Both players ranked low in pass attempts as rookies but high in yards-per-attempt.

Prescott's final two throws to Jason Witten on Sunday show why the Cowboys had to keep him as the starter. On the first, Prescott subtly steps up to avoid pressure and finds Witten. On the next, Prescott stands in against a free blitzer and shows the strength to deliver a completion while getting hit. Without those two plays, Ezekiel Elliott's magical march to victory never happens.

Rivers and Newton have played better than their team's records (4-6 and 3-6, respectively) show, but their late turnovers in Week 10 sure felt like the end of the road for their realistic playoff hopes.

The "Ignore Their First Quarter" Tier (Or "Tier Improvement"?)

13) Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (LW: 22)

14) Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 21)

15) Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills (LW: 14)

16) Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (LW: 17)

17) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 13)

Other than Dalton, this entire tier has dramatically improved since a disappointing first four games of the season. My favorite Mariota game might have been his Week 9 loss to the Chargers. Practically every throw he made -- aside, of course, from the turnovers -- was a gem that required incredible accuracy. He reminded me a little of his opponent that day, Philip Rivers, with his ability to connect on explosive plays into small windows.

Turnovers weren't the only problem bedeviling Mariota's start. He also was lacking the "wow" plays of his rookie season, and he was not making quick decisions. Those plays are back, along with the ball placement that enables his receivers to make plays after the catch. (Some great play-calling hasn't hurt.) Even considering a poor Week 7 game against the Colts, Mariota has been one of the five best quarterbacks in football since Week 5. The first quarter of his season weighs him down in these rankings -- which is also true of Cousins, Taylor and Winston, to varying degrees.

Footballs are oblong

18) Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings (LW: 16)

19) Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 18)

20) Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 15)

21) Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals (LW: 19)

22) Eli Manning, New York Giants (LW: 20)

23) Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (LW: 26)

24) Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos (LW: 25)

25) Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (LW: 24)

Bradford could be having a career year, but how would we really know? Minnesota's inept running game and offensive line make Bradford hard to evaluate. That said, this is certainly the first season in which he's making his teammates better. ... Keep an eye on Alex Smith this week. He missed a lot of throws in Carolina coming out of his week off. The Chiefs' offense missed Jeremy Maclin badly, and the unit has not looked good for eight quarters, albeit with Nick Foles at quarterback for four of those quarters.

I wrote about Ryan Tannehill's toughness and big-play ability earlier this week, but he's worth mentioning again. Before you make your next Tannejoke, just watch this highlight reel. You will never see a player deliver a better 40-yard dime while getting hit in the neck before rolling over to watch the play on the opposite scoreboard. Seriously, watch it, you jerks! These tools, especially the ability to throw on the move, are why he's suckered in so many as this generation's Jay Cutler. History says it won't last.

Known unknowns

26) Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (LW: 23)

27) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (LW: 30)

28) Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets (LW: 27)

29) Cody Kessler, Cleveland Browns (LW: 28)

30) Case Keenum, Los Angeles Rams (LW: 31)

31) Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 32)

32) Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans (LW: 29)

Kessler has not played with the same confidence since returning from injury, perhaps because he's taken so many hits this season. That's why it made some sense for Hue Jackson to bench him in Baltimore. Kessler needs to be willing to throw the ball. ... Kaepernick is a player I want to tout, but his box scores (and fantasy points) keep looking better than the game tape.

Keenum and Fitzpatrick are listed here for posterity, perhaps for the last time this season. They are both free agents in 2017 and likely to be backups for different teams, assuming Fitzpatrick wants to keep playing. Keenum led the Rams to one touchdown on his last 34 drives of the season. The change was overdue.

It is still jarring to rank Bortles this low, and Osweiler is eventually going to risk losing his job to Tom Savage. I haven't gotten to the Texans-Jaguars tape on Game Pass yet, but I will go back and add thoughts here later this week for QB Index loyalists. Thus ends the worst tease in NFL.com history.

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