QB Index, Week 14: Ben Roethlisberger, Phil Rivers up

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Five weeks into this NFL season, I wondered if Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers were finally starting to show their age. With four weeks left until the playoffs, only a handful of quarterbacks look better.

The quiet turnaround for this Class of 2004 tandem is yet another reminder that writing about NFL storylines early in the season can wind up looking as foolish as a "told you so" tweet sent before halftime.

Roethlisberger's timing with Martavis Bryant is back. Rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster's emergence, Monday night's raw effort excluded, has helped Big Ben settle into this season. The conventional wisdom about Roethlisberger was that he might not age well once he couldn't perform his daring escapes, but he's winning from the pocket plenty now. Those "What's wrong with Ben?" segments have vanished from sports television.

Rivers is similarly rejuvenated, playing three of his best games of the season in successive weeks for the Chargers. He's making his trademark touch throws under pressure again, and currently owns the lowest interception rate of his career.

With one quarter of the regular season to go, Rivers and Roethlisberger are two of the familiar names back near the top of the QB Index. They grew to be familiar names for a reason.

This is the Quarterback Index. The QBs are ranked based on 2017 play only. This updated list reflects changes from the midseason rankings.

THE BIG THREE

1
Tom Brady
QB
Patriots

Brady, my runaway choice for MVP, has taken a lot of hits the last few weeks. No one is better at buying time in the pocket; Brady greedily waits as long as possible before finding his open receivers.

2017 stats: 12 games | 68.5 pct | 3,632 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 26 pass TD | 4 INT

2
Carson Wentz
QB
Eagles
2

The weekly feats of athletic arrogance are obvious. Wentz's ability to move safeties with his eyes and get to the third receiver in his progression are more surprising developments to witness in a second-year pro.

2017 stats: 12 games | 60.7 pct | 3,005 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 29 pass TD | 6 INT | 283 rush yds | 0 rush TD

3
Russell Wilson
QB
Seahawks
1

Wilson was ranked seventh through the first five weeks of the season, which helps explain why he hasn't been able to climb higher than No. 3 despite his scorching November play. Seattle's quietly improved offensive line has allowed Wilson to make more "on schedule" throws the last few weeks, reducing the number of rabbits he's required to pull out of his hat each game.

2017 stats: 12 games | 62.4 pct | 3,256 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 26 pass TD | 8 INT | 432 rush yds | 3 rush TD

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR

4
Ben Roethlisberger
QB
Steelers
7

The Steelers have shifted back to a pass-heavy offense, with 130 throws from Roethlisberger over the last three weeks. He's responded, hitting a ton of passes into tight windows with the accuracy that eluded him early in the season.

2017 stats: 12 games | 62.8 pct | 3,238 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 22 pass TD | 13 INT

5
Matt Ryan
QB
Falcons
4

The deep crossers were back in the Falcons' offense, at least until the Vikings came to town. Despite so-so touchdown numbers, Ryan comes out consistently high in my weekly grades and virtually every advanced metric. He's ranked No. 2 by Pro Football Focus and is in the top six of ESPN's QBR and Football Outsiders' DVOA.

2017 stats: 12 games | 66.7 pct | 3,057 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 16 pass TD | 8 INT

6
Drew Brees
QB
Saints
1

After Brees' delirious comeback against Washington, he's played two of his most understated games of the season. I can't help but wonder if Brees misses throwing so much, if he's just the slightest bit sick of hearing how the Saints' running game is carrying the team when he's still leading the league in completion percentage and net yards per attempt.

2017 stats: 12 games | 71.5 pct | 3,298 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 17 pass TD | 5 INT | 2 rush TD

7
Philip Rivers
QB
Chargers
8

Tony Romo never got his last, sentimental run at a title. So, can we get Tony Romo announcing Philip Rivers' last, sentimental run at a title?

2017 stats: 12 games | 63.1 pct | 3,292 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 21 pass TD | 7 INT

NEXT LEVEL

8
Alex Smith
QB
Chiefs
5

September Alex Smith showed up at Metlife Stadium last Sunday in large part because he saw September separation by his receivers. He might not be the eighth-best quarterback in football, but he's had the eighth-best season among quarterbacks despite his recent regression to the mean.

2017 stats: 12 games | 67.9 pct | 3,239 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 23 pass TD | 4 INT | 305 rush yds | 1 rush TD

9
Matthew Stafford
QB
Lions
4

Stafford is more or less the same quarterback every week, which is what Lions fans have been asking for throughout his career. He's a top-10 starter, but it's asking too much for him to overcome Detroit's weak running game, mediocre pass protection and a defense that makes 2017 Joe Flacco look like 2012 Joe Flacco.

2017 stats: 12 games | 63.9 pct | 3,302 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 22 pass TD | 7 INT

10
Kirk Cousins
QB
Redskins
6

Unreasonable minds can disagree, but Cousins' performance against Dallas on "Thursday Night Football" encapsulated his season. He overcame many failures around him, especially on the offensive line. He outplayed the quarterback on the other team by a wide margin. The Redskins still lost big.

2017 stats: 12 games | 66.6 pct | 3,289 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 21 pass TD | 8 INT | 151 rush yds | 3 rush TD

11
Case Keenum
QB
Vikings
9

When is it safe to stop waiting for Case's wild ride to end? His best three-game stretch of the season came directly after Teddy Bridgewater returned to the active roster, with Keenum making fewer negative plays and risky throws. The Vikings' offensive line deserves a huge assist, but Keenum has earned credit for staying so calm in the pocket.

2017 stats: 11 games | 67.5 pct | 2,703 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 16 pass TD | 5 INT | 102 rush yds | 1 rush TD

12
Jared Goff
QB
Rams
5

Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said he wasn't sure if Goff was going to get up after a few monster hits on him during their Week 12 matchup. Instead, Goff acted like they never happened, showing great anticipation on throws to his rookie receivers. Goff has been able to pull back on a few "bad idea" throws over the last month, avoiding the kind of mistakes that doomed his rookie season.

2017 stats: 12 games | 62.2 pct | 3,184 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 20 pass TD | 6 INT | 1 rush TD

13
Cam Newton
QB
Panthers
1

Teams continue to blitz Newton with impunity. He and the Panthers coaching staff haven't figured out how to respond, a problem dating back to the start of the 2016 season. The Saints blitzed Newton on nearly half of his dropbacks in New Orleans, with the QB completing just 5 of his 14 passes for 54 yards on those plays. With tight end Greg Olsen injured, Newton doesn't have a hot receiver that he trusts in these situations. The Vikings figure to continue the trend this weekend.

2017 stats: 12 games | 60.5 pct | 2,583 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 16 pass TD | 11 INT | 515 rush yds | 5 rush TD

14
Derek Carr
QB
Raiders

Oakland adjusted its game plan against the Giants, limiting Carr's throws with his two starting receivers out. While this was a sensible strategy against an offensively-challenged New York team, it highlights this relatively underwhelming season from Carr. He has been fortunate to have a lot of potential interceptions dropped and hasn't often elevated the play of those around him.

2017 stats: 11 games | 64.4 pct | 2,731 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 17 pass TD | 8 INT

MIDDLE OF THE PACK

15
Marcus Mariota
QB
Titans
5

Surprisingly ranked No. 8 by PFF, Mariota played his cleanest game in over a month against Houston in Week 13. He ran well, made a handful of pretty throws and led the team to yet another comeback win. As erratic as Mariota has looked at times this season, he deserves credit for leading the NFL with four game-winning drives.

2017 stats: 11 games | 63.2 pct | 2,423 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 10 pass TD | 12 INT | 213 rush yds | 5 rush TD

16
Dak Prescott
QB
Cowboys
10

The last month has raised a legitimate question in Dallas: Are Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan the right men to lead Prescott into the next phase of his quarterback development? Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley is a name to keep in mind should things continue to decay over the next month. Throwing for 102 yards against the Redskins doesn't exactly end the team's passing-game slump, even in a win.

2017 stats: 12 games | 62.9 pct | 2,420 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 18 pass TD | 9 INT | 275 rush yds | 5 rush TD

17
Tyrod Taylor
QB
Bills
10

The Outrage Industrial Complex moved East in New York over the last two weeks, with Taylor's patella tendon injury against New England getting little attention. Bills coach Sean McDermott confirmed Taylor is still the Bills starter "when healthy," so his career in Buffalo doesn't appear to be done quite yet.

2017 stats: 12 games | 63.2 pct | 2,090 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 12 pass TD | 4 INT | 334 rush yds | 3 rush TD

18
Josh McCown
QB
Jets
5

The defining play of McCown's season was his 69-yard touchdown to Robby Anderson, complete with his backyard point for Anderson to go deep, seconds before welcoming a hit from an oncoming defender like a man seeking out pain. McCown has been making these types of plays since he was playing for Dave McGinnis in Arizona a decade and a half ago, but he's never strung an entire season like this one together. For it to happen at 38 years old on this Jets team is a testament to perseverance and pretty cool to witness. Chris Wesseling's Making the Leap piece was finally right!

2017 stats: 12 games | 67.8 pct | 2,880 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 18 pass TD | 8 INT | 117 rush yds | 5 rush TD

19
Jameis Winston
QB
Buccaneers
1

As bad as this season has gone for Winston, Tampa's passing game has remained the only average part of the team. The Bucs should be much better throwing the ball considering their talent, but Winston shouldn't take all the heat for a broken defense and running game. Playing behind a makeshift offensive line, it would mean a lot for the 23-year-old to close out such a disappointing year with an improved stretch run.

2017 stats:9 games | 61.9 pct | 2,190 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 12 pass TD | 6 INT

20
Andy Dalton
QB
Bengals
1

Dalton is largely a function of what's happening around him, as always. Give him decent protection and a running game and he can play very well, like he did for most of Monday night's game. Just not quite well enough.

2017 stats: 12 games | 61.7 pct | 2,606 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 20 pass TD | 8 INT | 102 rush yds | 0 rush TD

21
Eli Manning
QB
Giants
1

Once a big risk-taker, Eli has settled into a game manager mode because his arm strength just isn't the same. He's played better than a season ago, but is that good enough to get quality-starting-quarterback money in the offseason?

2017 stats: 11 games | 62.5 pct | 2,411 pass yds | 6.1 ypa | 14 pass TD | 7 INT | 1 rush TD

22
Jacoby Brissett
QB
Colts
2

Remove Brissett's two games against the Jaguars and his season would look a lot different. Consistently better than his stats show, Brissett displays a lot of traits to be a gainfully employed NFL quarterback for a very long time, possibly as a mid-level starter.

2017 stats: 12 games | 60.4 pct | 2,542 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 10 pass TD | 7 INT | 206 rush yds | 3 rush TD

BOTTOM OF THE BOARD

23
Blake Bortles
QB
Jaguars
3

He's John Elway against the Colts and John David Booty against most everyone else. Coached up far better than he was a season ago, Bortles is still capable of having a three-game stretch where he averages just over 5 yards per attempt, like he did against the Chargers, Browns and Cardinals. That group of games included a contest the Jaguars won despite Bortles throwing two picks in the final two minutes while trailing and a game where Jaguars coach Doug Marrone essentially wouldn't allow Bortles to try to win.

2017 stats: 12 games | 59.8 pct | 2,553 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 14 pass TD | 8 INT | 284 rush yds | 2 rush TD

24
Joe Flacco
QB
Ravens
3

Flacco's performance against Detroit makes the 11 games that came before it even more inexplicable. He seemingly leads the league in 2-yard throws on third-and-10.

2017 stats: 12 games | 65.1 pct | 2,144 pass yds | 5.5 ypa | 11 pass TD | 11 INT

25
Jay Cutler
QB
Dolphins
3

Here's to Cutler's microphone battle with Tony Romo next season being more entertaining than Cutler's quarterback battle with Matt Moore this season.

2017 stats: 10 games | 63.9 pct | 1,837 pass yds | 6.1 ypa | 15 pass TD | 11 INT

26
Blaine Gabbert
QB
Cardinals
NR

His best game came against Jacksonville, which somehow makes sense for Gabbert's confounding career. If Bruce Arians can't straighten out Gabbert, there's not much hope for the rest of the league.

2017 stats: 3 games | 59.6 pct | 719 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 6 pass TD | 5 INT

27
Trevor Siemian
QB
Broncos
2

After one quarter of the season, Siemian was ranked No. 14 in this exercise and the Broncos were 3-1. The #TeamTrev Express has headed steep downhill since, fully coming off the rails in Miami last week.

2017 stats: 9 games | 58.9 pct | 2,018 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 11 pass TD | 13 INT | 114 rush yds | 1 rush TD

28
Mitch Trubisky
QB
Bears
1

Trubisky will be working under a new coaching staff next season, hopefully with better weapons around him. While he flashes his talent a few times each start, the No. 2 overall pick has also missed open throws pretty often from the pocket. That's a concern for a player whose accuracy is supposed to be his greatest strength.

2017 stats: 8 games | 54.9 pct | 1,237 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 5 pass TD | 4 INT | 194 rush yds | 0 rush TD

29
DeShone Kizer
QB
Browns
2

Watch enough Browns games and become convinced that his last name is Kizer Hit While He Throws. The rookie shows off intriguing talent, but feels to me a little like an upper middle class Blake Bortles, full of tools that might never all come together.

2017 stats: 11 games | 52.5 pct | 2,038 pass yds | 5.9 ypa | 6 pass TD | 15 INT | 308 rush yds | 5 rush TD

30
Tom Savage
QB
Texans
NR

There are definitely throws, moments, even entire halves where Savage asserts his existence as a corporeal entity. Then a play follows that makes Texans coach Bill O'Brien lose his mind and I question the life decisions that led me to watching Game Pass of Texans- Titans after midnight in the dark, scribbling about Tom Savage, wondering where I'll be on the day I die.

2017 stats: 7 games | 56.4 pct | 1,349 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 5 pass TD | 6 INT

31
Brett Hundley
QB
Packers
1

What did Packers coach Mike McCarthy see in practice over the last three seasons? Hundley's combination of rough accuracy, a slow trigger and poor decision making about when to run has been difficult to watch.

2017 stats: 8 games | 61.2 pct | 1,269 pass yds | 6.2 ypa | 5 pass TD | 8 INT | 176 rush yds | 2 rush TD

TOO EARLY TO RANK

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers: In advance of Jimmy G's first start, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport noted that staffers in San Francisco believed Garoppolo had some Tony Romo-like qualities. That comparison felt apt during Garoppolo's debut start in Chicago, one that was full of touch throws and plays on the move. In a season that has been full of too much quarterback disappointment, I'm choosing to let the Jimmy G hype wash over me like a warm rain.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

Check the Air Index each week to see which quarterbacks are delivering at the top of their game, just like FedEx Ground delivers with fast and affordable shipping.

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