This is the Quarterback Index. I rank the top quarterbacks each week based on this season's play alone.
Joe Flacco forever changed how he'll be viewed last February in New Orleans. But he still hasn't climbed the final mountain for NFL quarterback greatness: He can't play at a high level for 16 games.
Last Sunday in Cleveland, Flacco played one of the worst halves of football of his career. He was late on some throws and missed other routine tosses. This had nothing to do with his protection or dropped passes, which were issues earlier in the season. You can't blame this on Baltimore's soul-destroying running game. The Ravens' offense couldn't connect down the field largely because Flacco wasn't shooting straight.
Flacco throws in these head-scratchers four to five times a year, often on the road. It's part of the reason he's never put up great regular season stats. His streakiness paid off with an epic Super Bowl run and a monster contract, but it hasn't gone away this season. He's struggled with the blitz and can't rise above his mediocre teammates.
ProFootballFocus' somewhat subjective numbers rank Flacco as the No. 33 quarterback out of 35 this year, which feels too harsh. ESPN's QBR has Flacco at 19th, which is closer to where I'd have him.
I'll always remember his Super Bowl effort -- especially the first half -- as one of the most electric performances I've seen in person. With Flacco, anything is possible. That still cuts both ways.
*On to the top 10 ... *
Alone at the top
Let's just say it was a good week for Manning's runaway MVP chances. Here's why ...
Brees had a poor game in the Meadowlands. He underthrew a lot of deep passes, and his protection didn't fall apart until late in the game. It was the highest percentage of "bad passes" I charted by Brees this year. Brees took two delay of games penalties and the Saints' offense made a lot of unforced errors. Nick Toon hurt Brees with two huge drops. New Orleans' offense is more reliant on Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham than ever. When Sproles left on Sunday, the Saints didn't respond well.
Rivers had his moments in Washington, but he wasn't quite as sharp as usual. The Redskins had Rivers on the move a ton, which is a recipe for problems. ... Rodgers' collarbone injury is such a downer, partly because he was playing at such a high level. We'll see if he gets ready in time to save the Packers' playoff chances. ...
The next level after that
It was strange to see a 2010 Patriots game break out on Sunday against Pittsburgh. Brady had his best game of the season by leaps and bounds. He threw deep and outside the numbers better. Getting Shane Vereen back after the bye only will help. ... Russell Wilson is better than his impressive stats. So many times this season, he's beaten the perfect blitz call. Free rushers get to him, and he makes a play. He threw twointerceptions against Tampa, but earned the comeback victory. The offensive line badly needs to get healthy because this isn't sustainable.
A note to everyone tweeting at me about Matt Ryan: It is possible to play well without your team winning. He's starting to force the ball too much, though. ... Romo quietly has been trending the wrong way for a month. His yards per attempt have been below 7 in each of the past four weeks. He hasn't been as accurate or aggressive.
1. Nick Foles: Remember when his deep ball was the big concern? His seven-touchdown game wasn't the best quarterback performance of the season because he just had to make four or five tough throws in the entire game. But those throws were beautiful.
3. Robert Griffin III: This is starting to feel like the Genocoaster. RGIII was headed back up against San Diego in large part because the running game set him up. (And Pierre Garcon had one of the best games by a wide receiver all season.) We'll have more on Griffin in our "Thursday Night Football" preview.
1. Geno Smith: I've never seen a winning quarterback do less than Smith did against New Orleans. ProFootballFocus noted that 111 of his 115 yards against the Saints came after the catch. Smith missed a lot of throws early, then wasn't allowed to throw. The Jets' coaching staff deserves applause for winning that game. It's a concern the Genocoaster has pointed down two consecutive weeks.
2. Terrelle Pryor: Pryor holds on to the ball forever. Sometimes it turns into magic, sometimes the offense disappears for a half. The Raiders are not built for comebacks.