QB Index, Divisional Round: Trustworthiness rankings

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Nick Foles might be too confident. After rewatching his superlative performance against the Bears, the closest trait Foles has to a weakness may be his cocksure belief that he can make any throw. It's hard to blame him.

Foles was protected well against Chicago partly because he and coach Doug Pederson make the Eagles' protection look better. The ball gets out of Foles' hand quickly. When a free rusher breaks through on a blitz, Foles knows he's coming and waits until the last second to release his pass. He trusts his receivers to make plays against man coverage, but he also throws the high-risk anticipatory throws of a man with nothing to lose.

The Saints will get a few chances to pick off Foles' passes on Sunday. He's thrown five interceptions over the last four weeks, the only blemish in a terrific run of top-10-quarterback-caliber play since returning to the starting lineup. This stretch makes last year's Super Bowl somehow feel less surprising, the larger sample size showing what Foles is capable of in the Eagles' system. In a playoff field full of future Hall of Famers, MVPs and young stars, Nick Foles fits right in.

For this week's QB Index, I've ranked each remaining playoff quarterback based on who is the most trustworthy. Maurice Jones-Drew performed the same exercise with running backs -- click here for that piece.

1
Patrick Mahomes
QB
Chiefs

There's no reason to believe Mahomes' magical ride ends on Saturday. He usually gives his opponents one or two chances to make an interception each game, but otherwise, he is the ringleader for the NFL's Harlem Globetrotters, making opponents look like props in his highlight reel. Playoff experience is overrated for someone about to win an MVP in a season where he still doesn't know what he doesn't know.

2
Andrew Luck
QB
Colts

I was tempted to rank him first. Luck makes so few negative plays -- he's completely in control and at ease in Frank Reich's offense. The Colts love to max protect with extra linemen, but even on a play where J.J. Watt beat Anthony Castonzo to the inside last week, Luck shuffled right and delivered a 38-yard strike downfield to T.Y. Hilton. On another play, right tackle Braden Smith and right guard Mark Glowinski were both beat, but Luck made something out of it.

Luck is so quick to move through his reads if he doesn't see what he wants, so natural buying time without giving up on plays. Luck's accuracy is the untold story of his renaissance. He hits receivers in stride and simply misses far fewer throws than he did earlier in his career. Now 29 years old, all that early-career promise is forging with years of mental growth and a coach who fits him like a glove.

3
Drew Brees
QB
Saints

Brees' excellent performance against the Steelers in Week 16 assuaged any fears created by the Saints' three-game offensive slump, which took place on the road. Still, his slow end to the season puts him slightly behind Mahomes and Luck for this exercise.

Since there isn't much new to say about Brees after two weeks off, it's a good time to note the Saints have gone 7-5 in playoff games started by Brees. In the 39 seasons before he arrived, the franchise was 1-5 in playoff games.

4
Tom Brady
QB
Patriots

Not since early in Brady's career has he felt so game-plan dependent. If Josh McDaniels and Brady are able to win the mental battle against Gus Bradley's defense before the snap, Brady still has the arm and the accuracy to pick apart the Chargers on Sunday. The larger question is what happens if the Chargers' pass rush consistently wins, like it did during their 2017 matchup. In that game, Brady handled the pressure beautifully during a typically surgical performance on his way to an MVP. While those games have come far less often in 2018, it would be on brand for Brady to make some playoff magic just when the football cognoscenti begins to doubt him again. Like old times.

5
Nick Foles
QB
Eagles

Foles was ranked eighth, behind Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota, when I was asked to conduct this exercise a year ago. I should be ranked last in trustworthiness after that performance.

6
Philip Rivers
QB
Chargers

It's hard to fully trust a passing attack that has endured its three worst performances of the season in a row. In terms of opposing defenses, New England is a far more forgiving matchup than Baltimore or Denver, but some of the issues plaguing the Chargers recently are cause for concern.

Rivers did an excellent job all season balancing aggression with prudence before throwing six picks in the final three regular-season games. He might have swung too far the other way in the Wild Card Round, throwing a number of third-down passes short of the sticks before pressure arrived, while failing to take a few deep shots where he saw one-on-one coverage. That conservative approach made sense against the Ravens, but not any longer. For Rivers to make the Super Bowl run his believers always dreamed of, he will need to let it fly.

7
Jared Goff
QB
Rams

After a rocky start to December, Goff settled down in the final two weeks of the season, along with the Rams' running game. Los Angeles' offense is based on timing, rhythm and tempo. When the Rams make negative plays or something doesn't go as planned, Goff will need to do a better job of creating on his own, like he did during his scorching-hot start to the season. He made more unforced errors on open throws down the stretch than usual.

While Goff played better in the Rams' playoff loss to the Falcons last year than perceived, no one wants to start a career with two home playoff defeats. For a quarterback whose career progress has been as steady under Sean McVay as Goff's laconic California accent, now is the time for this Rams team to take the next step.

8
Dak Prescott
QB
Cowboys

Prescott's incredible strength has shown up over the last two weeks with called runs and scrambles where defenders bounced off him like kids trying to tackle their daddy. Prescott has also made a number of key completions on the run, including his fourth-down TD pass to Cole Beasley in Week 17, which is the type of throw that made Prescott catch the league's attention in the first place.

It's all the other throws from the pocket that make him the least-trustworthy playoff quarterback, albeit in a loaded field. When Prescott misses throws lately, he often misses by a lot. He sailed a third-and-2 against the Seahawks and some throws to Michael Gallup that weren't even close. He ranks high in interceptable passes and avoidable sacks, a rough combination. Perhaps I am too critical of Prescott and the entire Cowboys offense because his rookie year spoiled us all and they aren't operating anywhere near that level. It is a credit for any third-year starting quarterback to play at a league-average level, much less one taken in the fourth round of the draft.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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