QB Index, Week 10: Joe Flacco lost, Blake Bortles found

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Joe Flacco has the highest salary-cap hit of any quarterback this season and the lowest yards-per-attempt average, just below the Browns' DeShone Kizer and the 49ers' C.J. Beathard. This is a problem. While Kizer and Beathard are rookie quarterbacks with uncertain futures throwing to mostly young players, Flacco is a 10th-year veteran throwing to other veterans. Flacco has one of the stronger arms in football and some theoretical deep threats in Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin, yet the Ravens are running a dink-and-dunk offense.

"You can't play too much worse than we've been playing," Flacco told the assembled media following 52 pass attempts for only 261 yards against a suspect Titans secondary last week.

He's not wrong and he's not alone among veteran quarterbacks this season. Giants stalwart Eli Manning, another top-10 quarterback in compensation, is at No. 27 in YPA -- just ahead of Brian Hoyer and Mike Glennon. Flacco and Manning have combined to win 30 percent of the league's Super Bowl titles over the last decade, but their lackluster efforts this season make it worth considering what a "franchise quarterback" even means and whether either player would qualify.

There are explanations aplenty for both players' struggles -- from Flacco's missed training camp to Manning's injured teammates -- but the bottom-feeder production is a reminder that few quarterbacks can transcend their surroundings. Handing out a massive contract doesn't change that.

Even most franchise signal callers are largely a function of the team around them. That helps explain Andy Dalton's dreary season, Matt Ryan's statistical decline and even Alex Smith's career year. The rare players like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson -- who can consistently elevate the guys around them, year after year -- are unicorns who must wonder occasionally why they make less money than Flacco.

This is the Quarterback Index. The QBs are ranked based on 2017 play only. The next ranking of all 32 starters comes after Week 12.

TOP SHELF

1
Tom Brady
QB
Patriots

2017 stats: 8 games | 66.7 pct | 2,541 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 16 pass TD | 2 INT

2
Carson Wentz
QB
Eagles

2017 stats: 9 games | 60.5 pct | 2,262 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 23 pass TD | 5 INT | 211 rush yds | 0 rush TD

3
Alex Smith
QB
Chiefs

2017 stats: 9 games | 69.6 pct | 2,444 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 18 pass TD | 1 INT | 173 rush yds | 1 rush TD

4
Russell Wilson
QB
Seahawks

2017 stats: 8 games | 62.0 pct | 2,305 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 17 pass TD | 6 INT | 271 rush yds | 1 TD

5
Drew Brees
QB
Saints

2017 stats: 8 games | 71.6 pct | 2,214 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 13 pass TD | 4 INT

Folks in New England concerned about the Patriots' red-zone struggles against the Chargers in Week 8 are showing how spoiled they truly are. Perhaps Brady's best trait is taking what the defense gives him, and he did an incredible job against Los Angeles controlling the game with long drives and finding short completions even when Joey Bosa or Melvin Ingram won up front. Brady, who is more than doubling any quarterback in Pro Football Focus' grading, could be in his own tier this season.

Wilson has been fantastic overall, but not as steady on a week-to-week basis as the rest of this tier. After one of the best games by any quarterback all season against Houston in Week 8, Wilson had a clunker versus the Redskins. He threw a few too many "hope balls" up for grabs and was lucky to escape with just two interceptions. This is what happens when you are a pass-first team without much pass protection. (Although the addition of left tackle Duane Brown did help.)

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR

6
Dak Prescott
QB
Cowboys

2017 stats: 8 games | 62.9 pct | 1,818 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 16 pass TD | 4 INT | 195 rush yds | 4 rush TD

7
Matthew Stafford
QB
Lions

2017 stats: 8 games | 62.4 pct | 2,212 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 14 pass TD | 4 INT

The Lions' offense came out of a Week 7 bye looking like a different team. Stafford is getting protected well enough and moved the ball at will against the Steelers and Packers with an array of dazzling throws. If playing quarterback were only a contest of which guy could complete the greatest variety of gems showcasing arm strength, touch and a little too much confidence, Stafford might rank ahead of everyone except Aaron Rodgers. When Stafford is on, as he has been the last two weeks, there just aren't many players better. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are now both on pace for 1,000-yard seasons and this offense could quietly be one of the most entertaining to watch down the stretch.

NEXT LEVEL

8
Matt Ryan
QB
Falcons

2017 stats: 8 games | 65.6 pct | 2,157 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 11 pass TD | 7 INT

9
Marcus Mariota
QB
Titans

2017 stats: 7 games | 63.2 pct | 1,519 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 6 pass TD | 5 INT | 130 rush yds | 3 rush TD

10
Ben Roethlisberger
QB
Steelers

2017 stats: 8 games | 61.1 pct | 2,062 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 10 pass TD | 9 INT

11
Tyrod Taylor
QB
Bills

2017 stats: 8 games | 65.3 pct | 1,628 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 10 pass TD | 2 INT | 210 rush yds | 2 rush TD

12
Derek Carr
QB
Raiders

2017 stats: 8 games | 65.2 pct | 1,954 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 13 pass TD | 7 INT

13
Jared Goff
QB
Rams

2017 stats: 8 games | 60.2 pct | 2,030 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 13 pass TD | 4 INT

14
Cam Newton
QB
Panthers

2017 stats: 9 games | 62.4 pct | 1,978 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 10 pass TD | 11 INT | 341 rush yds | 4 rush TD

15
Kirk Cousins
QB
Redskins

2017 stats: 8 games | 67.9 pct | 2,147 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 13 pass TD | 4 INT | 125 rush yds | 1 rush TD

16
Philip Rivers
QB
Chargers

2017 stats: 8 games | 60.5 pct | 2,028 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 13 pass TD | 6 INT

Sunday's loss in Carolina encapsulated Ryan's hard-luck season well. Yes, he missed his chance for a big opening statement when he failed to hit an open Julio Jones for what would've been a long touchdown on the first drive. But most of the Falcons' struggles weren't on him. It was the running game that couldn't convert short-yardage carries. It was tight end Austin Hooper making numerous mental mistakes, from drops to blocking woes to allowing a defender to step in front of him on a crossing route for an interception. It was the offensive line giving up interior pressure all day. And it was Jones, who dropped a wide-open pass to the end zone in the fourth quarter. This doesn't absolve Ryan from Atlanta's weak offensive season, but he's not that different of a player this year.

If the idea behind trading away Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin was to space out the field and possibly take more deep shots, that plan didn't play out in Carolina on Sunday. But the Panthers got more creative in the ground attack, with wide receiver Curtis Samuel a bigger part of all the misdirection fun. Cam Newton can throw well from the pocket when he needs to, but that's becoming a smaller part of the offense.

MOVING UP

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: It's happening. After four straight seasons of offseason hype, the Jaguars are in position to make the playoffs. Bortles is not the main reason why it's happening, but offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has done a great job building the passing game around Bortles' limitations. The much-maligned QB threw the ball 27 times in the first half against Cincinnati, and has shown better consistency with his short tosses, pocket movement and repeating his mechanics. Bortles arguing with his coach because he wanted to score more points in garbage time with the team ahead is very 2017.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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