QB Index, Week 7: Carson Wentz = Genuine playmaker

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Quarterback play this season mirrors the NFL as a whole. There is a deep, muddled group of talent in the middle that has yet to stand apart from the pack.

The depressing injury to Aaron Rodgers only exacerbates the trend. 2017 was shaping up to be the rare year where Rodgers and Tom Brady peaked at the same time in their never-ending battle for All-Decade QB honors. Instead, the top-shelf of quarterbacks this season is now even thinner.

Rodgers, Brady and this year's biggest surprise -- Alex Smith -- are lapping the field in my grading system, with a steep fall to Drew Brees at No. 4 and relatively little separating the rest of the top 20. Six weeks have past, yet it feels like the 2017 campaign has barely started.

This is the Quarterback Index. The QBs are ranked based on 2017 play only. The next ranking of all 32 starters comes after Week 8.

1
Tom Brady
QB
Patriots

Brady is on pace to shatter the current records for passing yards, yards per attempt and touchdowns for a player over 40. He's racking up those numbers facing defenses that have largely co-opted Atlanta's game plan from last year's Super Bowl, forcing Brady to win deep and outside the numbers as much as possible. (Atlanta might want to try a new plan this week.)

2017 stats: 6 games | 65.7 pct | 1,959 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 13 pass TD | 2 INT

2
Aaron Rodgers
QB
Packers

Rodgers' season peaked in Dallas for a second straight year, with breathtaking sideline throws on the run and a crowd-silencing last-minute drive. Now Packers Nation has to learn what life is like without a Hall of Fame quarterback.

2017 stats: 6 games | 66.3 pct | 1,385 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 13 pass TD | 3 INT | 83 rush yds | 0 rush TD

3
Alex Smith
QB
Chiefs

Smith is playing like a poor man's Rodgers, creating more plays on his own to beat a perfectly called defense than ever before. Kansas City's offensive line injuries finally showed up against Pittsburgh, but Smith played better than his numbers showed.

2017 stats: 6 games | 72.9 pct | 1,637 pass yds | 8.5 ypa | 12 pass TD | 0 INT | 121 rush yds | 1 rush TD

4
Drew Brees
QB
Saints

It's a weird season when the Saints and Lions score 90 points without Drew Brees or Matthew Stafford playing a particularly strong game. The return of left tackle Terron Armstead made a huge difference for Brees, who is well-suited to this new ball-control Saints attack.

2017 stats: 5 games | 68.9 pct | 1,321 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 10 pass TD | 2 INT

5
Russell Wilson
QB
Seahawks

This is where the quarterback grades start to bunch closely together. It feels strange to see Wilson ranked so high in an uneven year, but he's mixed in streaks of brilliance despite the degree of difficulty around him.

2017 stats: 5 games | 62.4 pct | 1,222 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 8 pass TD | 3 INT | 154 rush yds | 1 rush TD

6
Carson Wentz
QB
Eagles

Wentz converted a third-and-16 against Carolina to key a touchdown drive that typified his season. He stepped up in the pocket to evade the rush, kept his eyes downfield, waited until the last second before getting hit and used his entire frame to launch a throw over a Panthers defender for a strike down the seam. Wentz pulls off a handful of plays like this every week.

2017 stats: 6 games | 60.9 pct | 1,584 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 13 pass TD | 3 INT | 133 rush yds | 0 rush TD

7
Cam Newton
QB
Panthers

Wentz and Newton remind me a lot of each other, but Newton is being asked to do more to carry the Panthers' offense. The results have been all over the place. The combination of a non-existent running game and shaky pass protection is a long-term concern.

2017 stats: 6 games | 64.5 pct | 1,476 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 9 pass TD | 8 INT | 161 rush yds | 3 rush TD

8
Matt Ryan
QB
Falcons

Ryan has played much better this season than the stats indicate, but there are certain aspects to the Falcons' offense which are undeniably diminished from 2016. The loss of former coordinator Kyle Shanahan is most clearly seen in the team's struggles on throws outside the pocket. Ryan averaged 8.7 yards per attempt on those throws in Shanahan's bootleg-heavy offense last year -- and only 4.6 YPA this season.

2017 stats: 5 games | 65.9 pct | 1,357 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 6 pass TD | 6 INT

9
Dak Prescott
QB
Cowboys

Dallas' two-game losing streak and bye week probably made everyone forget that the 2016 Cowboys offense showed up around Week 4. Despite the defeats, the 'Boys topped 30 points and 400 yards in consecutive weeks against the Rams and Packers.

2017 stats: 5 games | 62.6 pct | 1,192 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 11 pass TD | 4 INT | 126 rush yds | 2 rush TD

10
Marcus Mariota
QB
Titans

Mariota's ability to win with his mobility tied behind his back against the Colts was impressive. So was his presence of mind, just after throwing a go-ahead touchdown, to get in the face of guard Quinton Spain to prevent his teammate from getting a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Moments like these are why teammates swear by Mariota's leadership.

2017 stats: 5 games | 62.7 pct | 1,098 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 4 pass TD | 4 INT | 116 rush yds | 3 rush TD

11
Jared Goff
QB
Rams

The numbers have come back to Earth the last two weeks, with Goff facing tougher defenses. That's to be expected, but he still makes at least five plays each week that make me think, He would have never done that a year ago.

2017 stats: 6 games | 60.0 pct | 1,484 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 8 pass TD | 3 INT

12
Matthew Stafford
QB
Lions

The bye week couldn't come fast enough. Stafford, clearly hampered by his injured ankle, only took snaps out of the shotgun or pistol formation in New Orleans. The 29-year-old signal caller showed some incredible toughness in the game -- including one particular run to convert a first down -- but the lack of communication between Detroit's pass protectors has become a weekly problem.

2017 stats: 6 games | 60.4 pct | 1,428 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 12 pass TD | 4 INT

13
Tyrod Taylor
QB
Bills

Taylor got a bye week to regroup from his worst game of the season in Cincinnati, where he only rushed one time and held the ball too long on a handful of sacks.

2017 stats: 5 games | 62.5 pct | 910 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 6 pass TD | 2 INT | 121 rush yds | 0 rush TD

14
Philip Rivers
QB
Chargers

Toward the end of the win at Oakland, Rivers was throwing with timing and rhythm to his assorted cast of characters, from insanely talented young tight end Hunter Henry to No. 1 wideout Keenan Allen to running back Melvin Gordon (on pace for 75 catches!) to first-round pick Mike Williams, in his first game action. It was the Chargers offense I expected to see all season, perhaps showing up just in time.

2017 stats: 6 games | 61.3 pct | 1,633 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 10 pass TD | 5 INT

15
Deshaun Watson
QB
Texans

Those pre-draft comparisons to Alex Smith as an athletic game manager vastly undersold Watson's ridiculous arm. At this stage, I wouldn't be surprised to see him coming out of the Astros bullpen during this Texans' bye week.

2017 stats: 6 games | 61.5 pct | 1,297 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 15 pass TD | 5 INT | 202 rush yds | 2 rush TD

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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