QB Index, Week 13: Philip Rivers over Aaron Rodgers

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The NFL season began with the quarterback position looking deeper than ever and for once everything is going as planned. The top half of my quarterback rankings below is as strong as it's been since I started this exercise in 2014.

Aaron Rodgers has 20 touchdowns with one interception and it's considered a down year. Cam Newton is on pace for nearly 4,000 passing yards and 32 touchdowns to go with his usual rushing stats, which would normally be good for a top-five showing. He's 10th. Baker Mayfield is having one of the best statistical seasons for a rookie quarterback ever and he's No. 15. Before he got hurt, Andy Dalton was on pace to top 30 touchdowns, which would've been good for the second-highest total of his career, yet he's right in the middle of the rankings, just like he always is.

Stats are increasingly tricky to compare across eras, and eras can change fast. Nearly half the league's QBs are throwing for as many yards per attempt as Peyton Manning's career average. The best way to evaluate players is the same as it ever was -- compare them against their competition.

Below is my best attempt at taking a snapshot of the position through nearly three quarters of the season, using weekly grades from GamePass watching. The next complete 1-32 rankings will take place after the regular season ends.

NOTE: This is the Quarterback Index. The QBs are ranked based on 2018 play alone. The arrows reflect the changes since the midseason 32-man rankings.

1
Drew Brees
QB
Saints
1

I believe it's still Brees' MVP award to lose, but Thursday night's beatdown at the hands of the Cowboys opens the door for Patrick Mahomes to pass him.

2018 stats: 11 games | 76.4 pct | 3,135 pass yds | 8.8 ypa | 29 pass TD | 2 INT | 24 rush yds | 3 rush TD

2
Patrick Mahomes
QB
Chiefs
1

There's a weird thing going on lately where every NFL analyst is bending over backward to find players to include in the "MVP conversation" while generally ignoring that Mahomes is a quarterback sent from the future to destroy all lifeforms. He's the only player close to Brees in the race.

2018 stats: 11 games | 67.5 pct | 3,628 pass yds | 9.3 ypa | 37 pass TD | 10 INT | 186 rush yds | 2 rush TD

3
Jared Goff
QB
Rams
2

Goff hasn't bulked up like most quarterbacks of this era, giving him a lanky, old-school vibe to pair with his retro habit of hitting his receivers perfectly in stride, allowing them to make big plays after the catch.

2018 stats: 11 games | 67.7 pct | 3,547 pass yds | 9.3 ypa | 26 pass TD | 6 INT | 88 rush yds | 1 rush TD

4
Philip Rivers
QB
Chargers

Rivers is playing so well that Tom Brady is firing up his tablet to see how it's done.

2018 stats: 11 games | 69.5 pct | 3,119 pass yds | 9.1 ypa | 26 pass TD | 6 INT | -1 rush yds | 0 rush TD

5
Aaron Rodgers
QB
Packers
2

I was beginning to wonder if my appreciation for watching Rodgers was inflating his grades with bias. He's third in Pro Football Focus' rankings, but 20th in QBR and 20th in DVOA. So he's apparently passing the eye test better than he's faring with the cold analytics.

2018 stats: 11 games | 61.7 pct | 3,271 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 20 pass TD | 1 INT | 148 rush yds | 0 rush TD

6
Andrew Luck
QB
Colts
3

The Colts' improved pass blocking has helped, but so much of Luck's success this year has come from diagnosing defenses fast enough to eliminate a pass rush. When his teammates struggle, like right tackle Braden Smith last game against Miami, Luck makes them look better by avoiding the rush and delivering just before getting hit.

2018 stats: 11 games | 68.4 pct | 3,112 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 32 pass TD | 11 INT | 66 rush yds | 0 rush TD

7
Matt Ryan
QB
Falcons
1

Ryan's season has been about quality and quantity. He leads the league in yards, ranks sixth in yards per attempt, fifth in completions of 20 yards or more and third in fewest interceptions per throw.

2018 stats: 11 games | 71.4 pct | 3,683 pass yds | 8.5 ypa | 24 pass TD | 5 INT | 97 rush yds | 2 rush TD

8
Russell Wilson
QB
Seahawks
3

The Seahawks have had to abandon their run-run-pass philosophy the last two weeks in the second half of games in order to win, which makes me hope they allow Wilson to be more aggressive before falling behind. No quarterback who has started every game this season has attempted fewer passes.

2018 stats: 11 games | 66.7 pct | 2,531 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 25 pass TD | 5 INT | 231 rush yds | 0 rush TD

9
Tom Brady
QB
Patriots
1

Brady's performance against the Jets was a step in the right direction in a Brady season that has atypically been full of stops and starts.

2018 stats: 11 games | 65.2 pct | 3,031 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 19 pass TD | 7 INT | 27 rush yds | 2 rush TD

10
Cam Newton
QB
Panthers
2

Cam is mostly getting protected and finding open receivers, but the Panthers have found offensive cohesion just in time for Ron Rivera's defense to fall apart.

2018 stats: 11 games | 69.6 pct | 2,699 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 22 pass TD | 7 INT | 417 rush yds | 4 rush TD

11
Kirk Cousins
QB
Vikings
4

Ranked ninth by PFF, 12th in DVOA and 12th in QBR, Cousins is apparently the quarterback everyone can agree on. (Except irrational Vikings fans and talking heads who strangely believe this level of production isn't worth every dollar Cousins is getting paid.)

2018 stats: 11 games | 71.1 pct | 3,289 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 22 pass TD | 7 INT | 103 rush yds | 1 rush TD

12
Ben Roethlisberger
QB
Steelers
3

The loss in Denver was a microcosm of Roethlisberger's season, with a number of impressive tosses, a few bad decisions and some eyebrow-raising comments to the media afterward.

2018 stats: 11 games | 66.1 pct | 3,664 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 24 pass TD | 12 INT | 94 rush yds | 3 rush TD

13
Carson Wentz
QB
Eagles
5

Outside of the Week 11 debacle in New Orleans, Wentz has been remarkably consistent all season. That's something to be admired with so many aspects of the team in flux around him.

2018 stats: 9 games | 69.7 pct | 2,540 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 16 pass TD | 6 INT | 100 rush yds | 0 rush TD

14
Deshaun Watson
QB
Texans
2

Watson doesn't get enough credit for being a second-year starter who missed most of his rookie season with a torn ACL. It's incredible what he's already accomplishing. Watson showed against Tennessee that his ability to get outside the pocket is back to his rookie form.

2018 stats: 11 games | 66.1 pct | 2,807 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 20 pass TD | 9 INT | 345 rush yds | 2 rush TD

15
Baker Mayfield
QB
Browns
7

Mayfield makes 3-4 high level throws each week, much like Andrew Luck did as a rookie. Mayfield has a veteran's knowledge of when to get rid of the ball, extending plays when necessary while doing a better job avoiding sacks in recent games.

2018 stats: 9 games | 62.7 pct | 2,242 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 17 pass TD | 7 INT | 107 rush yds | 0 rush TD

16
Andy Dalton
QB
Bengals
3

Back at No. 16, the prime meridian of NFL starting quarterbacks, same as it ever was. The Bengals would be crazy not to bring him back next season for a fair price of $16.2 million, but it's time to draft some competition for the future.

2018 stats: 11 games | 61.9 pct | 2,566 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 21 pass TD | 11 INT | 99 rush yds | 0 rush TD

17
Matthew Stafford
QB
Lions
3

There is something unsatisfying about watching Stafford's prodigious arm in such a condensed, conservative offense, even if it makes logical sense with the team so short-handed. It will be interesting to see if Matt Patricia retains coordinator Jim Bob Cooter in the offseason.

2018 stats: 11 games | 67.0 pct | 2,841 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 17 pass TD | 10 INT | 64 rush yds | 0 rush TD

18
Marcus Mariota
QB
Titans
5

Mariota's performance against the Texans highlighted why he's so hard to evaluate. Despite throwing only one incompletion, Mariota struggled to recognize where pressure was coming from and took too many sacks. He has no running game and the Titans are short on playmakers, forcing a lot of short, safe throws. At least the arrow this season is generally pointed up.

2018 stats: 10 games | 70.3 pct | 1,886 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 9 pass TD | 6 INT | 283 rush yds | 2 rush TD

19
Dak Prescott
QB
Cowboys
1

No quarterback is responsible for taking more sacks that had nothing to do with pass protection, according to PFF. While Prescott has avoided mistakes and made some impressive plays in recent weeks, the throws he doesn't attempt stand out, too.

2018 stats: 11 games | 65.2 pct | 2,427 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 13 pass TD | 5 INT | 279 rush yds | 5 rush TD

20
Case Keenum
QB
Broncos
1

Keenum has thrown five touchdowns with only one interception over the last four weeks, including games against Houston and Pittsburgh where he made a number of plays under heavy duress. His overall play is what the Broncos should have reasonably hoped for.

2018 stats: 11 games | 62.6 pct | 2,802 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 13 pass TD | 10 INT | 32 rush yds | 1 rush TD

21
Mitchell Trubisky
QB
Bears
5

It's disappointing that Trubisky's shoulder injury arrived just as he was adding elements to his game, with a receiver group healthier and deeper than it's been all season.

2018 stats: 10 games | 65.4 pct | 2,469 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 20 pass TD | 9 INT | 363 rush yds | 3 rush TD

22
Derek Carr
QB
Raiders
3

The Raiders' struggles are certainly not all on Carr, but it's disappointing to see one of the most physically talented quarterbacks in football blend into the background so often on a dink-and-dunk offense.

2018 stats: 11 games | 68.5 pct | 2,827 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 13 pass TD | 8 INT | 43 rush yds | 1 rush TD

23
Jameis Winston
QB
Buccaneers
1

Winston's first start of the season and first start after ascending to the starting job again were both strong. He has a chance to rehabilitate his value in Tampa and around the league with a big finish to the season.

2018 stats: 6 games | 67.8 pct | 1,692 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 10 pass TD | 11 INT | 149 rush yds | 1 rush TD

24
Eli Manning
QB
Giants
3

The uptick by Eli for a few weeks came against defenses that couldn't apply pass-rush pressure, allowing Manning to get the ball more easily to his phalanx of playmakers. It's hard to imagine the Giants bringing back Eli again in 2019, but that's what I thought at this point last year.

2018 stats: 11 games | 69.1 pct | 3,093 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 14 pass TD | 7 INT | 18 rush yds | 0 rush TD

25
Ryan Tannehill
QB
Dolphins
NR

After nearly three years together, it remains unclear if Adam Gase and Ryan Tannehill is a partnership worth pursuing further. Gase's decision to run twice on third-and-10 against the Colts is proof of the coach's own ambivalence.

2018 stats: 6 games | 66.2 pct | 1,176 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 10 pass TD | 5 INT | 105 rush yds | 0 rush TD

26
Lamar Jackson
QB
Ravens
NR

Third-and-4 is a running down with Jackson behind center and defenses haven't yet figured out how to stop it. If Jackson cleans up his ball security, the Ravens' offense could be tough to stop.

2018 stats: 11 games | 60.7 pct | 415 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 2 pass TD | 3 INT | 329 rush yds | 2 rush TD

27
Blake Bortles
QB
Jaguars
2

This may be the final time I rank Bortles for a while because he's unlikely to find a starting job this offseason and his ranking fits in with career norms. His year-end rankings in QB Index: 30, 13(!), 27, 24.

2018 stats: 11 games | 60.4 pct | 2,572 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 13 pass TD | 10 INT | 325 rush yds | 1 rush TD

28
Josh McCown
QB
Jets
NR

Even McCown seems to know that his return to the starting lineup is a way to kill time for a franchise that would desperately love to see development from Sam Darnold late in the season.

2018 stats: 2 games | 54.4 pct | 411 pass yds | 5.2 ypa | 1 pass TD | 3 INT | 29 rush yds | 0 rush TD

29
Colt McCoy
QB
Redskins
NR

McCoy forces a few too many plays, but he's excellent at avoiding the pass rush and making second-reaction plays. He could still wind up being the fifth Redskins quarterback to start a playoff game this century, joining Todd Collins, Mark Brunell, Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins.

2018 stats: 2 games | 60.0 pct | 322 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 3 pass TD | 3 INT | 63 rush yds | 0 rush TD

30
Josh Rosen
QB
Cardinals
1

When Rosen gets time, he spins the ball beautifully. He rarely gets time behind a pass-blocking group ranked No. 31 by PFF, with new injuries piling up seemingly every week.

2018 stats: 9 games | 55.5 pct | 1,521 pass yds | 6.2 ypa | 10 pass TD | 11 INT | 46 rush yds | 0 rush TD

31
Josh Allen
QB
Bills
NR

Sunday's start against the Jaguars was intriguing. He had four throws and even more runs that made him look like a rich man's Blake Bortles at worst.

2018 stats: 7 games | 52.5 pct | 992 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 3 pass TD | 5 INT | 254 rush yds | 4 rush TD

32
Nick Mullens
QB
49ers
NR

I will defend Kyle Shanahan as a top-five offensive coach to the death, but he's really testing the limits of his powers with this current group of 49ers starters.

2018 stats: 3 games | 65.6 pct | 733 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 5 pass TD | 4 INT | -3 rush yds | 0 rush TD

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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