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NFL QB Index, Week 10: Tom Brady reclaims No. 1 spot; Matt Ryan enters top 10

It's been a rough few weeks for the top of the QB Index. Kyler Murray got hurt on the final Arizona play of the Cardinals' first loss and missed a start. Dak Prescott played worse against the Broncos than Cooper Rush did against the Vikings. Tom Brady went into his bye on a game-sealing turnover, Matthew Stafford gave the game away against the Titans, and Derek Carr's turnovers were decisive in a loss to the Giants. Even Lamar Jackson's last two games -- a blowout loss to the Bengals and an overtime win over the Vikings -- were uneven for his lofty standards.

This is why I push back against too much MVP talk before Thanksgiving. The rest of the season will decide awards and we're only now hitting the first round of regression for a lot of quarterbacks who got off to unsustainably scorching starts. Anyone making a definitive statement about the race now is looking for attention when there's still nine weeks to go and everyone knows the weeks to come count a little extra when it comes to hardware.

NOTE: Up/down arrows illustrate movement from the Week 9 QB Index. Rankings reflect each quarterback's standing heading into Week 10, based solely on 2021 play.

Rank
1
2
Tom Brady
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 22

2021 stats: 8 games | 67.3 pct | 2,650 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 25 pass TD | 5 INT | 39 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles


On a week-to-week, snap-to-snap basis, I give Brady the slight edge through the first half of the season as the best quarterback in football. It's close at the top, but Brady's availability and consistency is better than the field. He spoke last year about solving some of the Bucs' offensive problems during their 2020 bye week, so I'm curious to see what this group looks like after a week off. 

Rank
2
2
Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · Year 4

2021 stats: 8 games | 65.0 pct | 2,209 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 13 pass TD | 7 INT | 600 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 5 fumbles


Lamar's performance against Minnesota was his season writ small: a few misses during an ugly start, a barrage of deep and intermediate throws against zone coverage, better running instincts than any player in football and a comeback victory where he played the hero. He's on pace to top his own QB rushing yards record while throwing for over 1,500 yards more than a year ago. He already has four fourth-quarter comebacks.

Rank
3
2
Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 6

2021 stats: 7 games | 69.4 pct | 2,045 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 18 pass TD | 5 INT | 86 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 6 fumbles


That performance came out of nowhere. Or perhaps it came from Prescott's calf injury, which interrupted the rhythm of this Cowboys offense. Prescott moved well Sunday, but he missed a lot of throws. The absence of left tackle Tyron Smith allowed pressure to get to Dak, and he didn't respond well. There were also tipped passes on key downs and drops. A missed game and a performance like this knocks him out of the QB Index's top spot, but Dak and the Cowboys still should love where they are at the season's midpoint. 

Rank
4
2
Derek Carr
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 8

2021 stats: 8 games | 67.3 pct | 2,565 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 13 pass TD | 7 INT | 34 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 6 fumbles


Everything was going smoothly in the Meadowlands until Carr missed an open Darren Waller in the end zone late in the second quarter. Red zone struggles continued and Carr suddenly turned the ball over three times in the second half, including a pick-six. The Raiders moved the ball well otherwise, but it's notable how low Carr's average depth of target has been over the last two games. Las Vegas' run game is back, but coverage has dictated the dink-and-dunk offense returning, too. 

Rank
5
Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams · Year 13

2021 stats: 9 games | 68.2 pct | 2,771 pass yds | 8.6 ypa | 23 pass TD | 6 INT | 37 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


Credit Stafford for understanding where he fell short on Sunday night. He chastised himself for spotting the Titans 14 points with picks and holding the ball too long in an effort to make big plays. I don't think Sean McVay will suddenly scrap the dropback passing game that Stafford has excelled at just because of one poor outing, but Los Angeles clearly had the wrong game plan against Tennessee. Physical fronts could continue to give the Rams' offensive line problems.

Rank
6
3
Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers · Year 2

2021 stats: 8 games | 66.1 pct | 2,350 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 18 pass TD | 6 INT | 95 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 1 fumble


I'm not sure how I feel that Herbert is at his best this season playing deep inside of structure. His time-to-throw and average-depth-of-target numbers were incredibly low against an Eagles defense that was allowing short throws. This isn't an entertaining use of Herbert's gifts, but it was incredibly effective in the win at Philly. (And he always mixes in one Herbertian play to keep the fans engaged.)

Rank
7
Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills · Year 4

2021 stats: 8 games | 65.5 pct | 2,236 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 17 pass TD | 5 INT | 319 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 5 fumbles


For much of the Bills-Jags tilt, Allen played well despite an offensive line and running game that didn’t make the trip to Jacksonville. But all three of his turnovers were his fault, including a pair of the hero ball variety that once sunk a playoff game in Houston. The Bills did not handle the blitz well and teams are finding success playing Allen with a similar two-deep look, effectively taking away the big plays. The Bills are 19th in explosive pass rate, per Sharp Football, after finishing seventh a year ago. That development's especially worrisome considering they’ve played the easiest schedule of passing defenses, according to Football Outsiders.

Rank
8
2
Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 2

2021 stats: 9 games | 68.2 pct | 2,497 pass yds | 8.7 ypa | 20 pass TD | 11 INT | 44 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles


Burrow finds a way to impress even during a down week, which wasn’t as down as the box score showed. His outside receivers, Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, didn’t come down with a handful of catchable balls, and the Bengals moved the ball well considering the poor game script. The red zone interceptions are a problem, but I just can’t get over how much stronger his arm is this season.

Rank
9
5
Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons · Year 14

2021 stats: 8 games | 69.4 pct | 2,157 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 15 pass TD | 6 INT | 37 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 4 fumbles


It's been a feast-or-famine season for Ryan. In four of his games, he's been one of the best five quarterbacks that week. In the other four, the Falcons have barely moved the ball. Serviceable pass protection is the common trait of the strong games, and there's no question that Ryan is at home in Arthur Smith's offense. If you need a field goal drive late to win, there aren't that many quarterbacks I trust more to deliver. 

Rank
10
2
Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings · Year 10

2021 stats: 8 games | 68.2 pct | 2,140 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 16 pass TD | 2 INT | 76 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 4 fumbles


Cousins made one fantastic deep touchdown throw against the blitz and delivered yet another clutch, late-fourth-quarter drive that didn't lead to a win. Unfortunately, the Ravens' early failure sending pressure did not stop them from killing the Vikings' overtime drive with extra heat. This Minnesota offense is hard to figure out, so often great in the first quarter before long bouts of sleep. 

Rank
11
Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 5

2021 stats: 9 games | 65.2 pct | 2,534 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 20 pass TD | 10 INT | 227 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles


I feel like I'm losing perspective about what I'm seeing from Mahomes this season because I've long said he's the best quarterback I've ever seen, with the best start to his career by any quarterback since Dan Marino. Here's what the numbers say: The Chiefs have the 25th most efficient offense since Week 5. QBR has Mahomes 16th, he's ninth in EPA/CPOE composite and PFF grades him 23rd, below Daniel Jones, Geno Smith and Tua Tagovailoa. When he snaps out of this funk, it will probably have to do with his decision-making rather than some schematic cure-all. It's not like the Chiefs are seeing two deep safeties for the first time.

Rank
12
1
Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans · Year 10

2021 stats: 9 games | 66.1 pct | 2,145 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 11 pass TD | 8 INT | 168 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 3 fumbles


The first game without Derrick Henry had its share of issues. Tannehill averaged 5.3 YPA and was picked off again on the way to 125 net passing yards, but at least Julio Jones looks healthy again. A.J. Brown isn't likely to kill two drives with drops again, either. Tannehill's two clutch fourth-down runs were typical of a season -- and career -- where Tannehill's legs often prove crucial in big situations. 

Rank
13
2
Baker Mayfield
Cleveland Browns · Year 4

2021 stats: 8 games | 66.7 pct | 1,917 pass yds | 8.5 ypa | 8 pass TD | 3 INT | 80 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 4 fumbles


Sunday's Bengals beatdown was typical of the best Baker games under Kevin Stefanski. He hit a handful of gorgeous throws, made good decisions and only needed to drop back 24 times because the Browns' running game was so good. This is a replicable recipe and it's not too late for this Cleveland offense to rediscover its 2020 mojo, though Nick Chubb's positive COVID-19 test doesn't help.

Rank
14
3
Teddy Bridgewater
Denver Broncos · Year 8

2021 stats: 9 games | 70.2 pct | 2,163 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 14 pass TD | 5 INT | 69 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 1 fumble


This was Vic Fangio's dream vision of this Broncos offense. Teddy was on time, saw the field well and hit a handful of exquisite touch throws into tight windows when called upon, while being supported by a roguish run game and stifling defense. Bridgewater is now No. 2 in EPA/CPOE composite, surrounded by a bunch of MVP candidates. That number may outline that stat's limitation, but it also proves Bridgewater is more efficient than conventional wisdom suggests.

Rank
15
3
Carson Wentz
Indianapolis Colts · Year 6

2021 stats: 9 games | 63.3 pct | 2,198 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 17 pass TD | 3 INT | 121 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles


One way to evaluate the effectiveness of a play-caller/scheme is to ask how often the quarterback's first read is open. The answer in Indianapolis was A TON on Thursday night, and for so much of this season. Wentz doesn't move like he once did, but he excels in tightly managed games like these, especially with the offensive line and running game dominating.

Rank
16
Mac Jones
New England Patriots · Rookie

2021 stats: 9 games | 68.0 pct | 2,135 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 10 pass TD | 7 INT | 59 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles


The Patriots coaches clearly emphasized getting the ball out quickly against the Panthers' pass rush. Jones hit just enough third-and-long throws and converted a few fourth-down runs to be a contributor in New England's win, but there has been an uptick in negative plays. The Pats have lifted their rookie the last two weeks after the reverse being true for much of the season. (Also: C'mon, now.)

Rank
17
6
Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 2

2021 stats: 9 games | 61.5 pct | 1,981 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 11 pass TD | 4 INT | 494 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 5 fumbles


Less is more for Hurts, at least over the last two weeks. A smaller number of dropbacks led to more on-target intermediate strikes to DeVonta Smith against the Chargers in the best start of his career. More rushing attempts, however, is just more. Hurts is now 13th in the NFL in rushing yards, ahead of notable running backs like Austin Ekeler and James Conner. Only Lamar Jackson and Nick Chubb have a higher yards-per-carry average. And the last two weeks have allowed the Eagles' offense to climb to 14th in EPA. In other words, the Jalen Hurts offense is working pretty well.

Rank
18
2
Daniel Jones
New York Giants · Year 3

2021 stats: 9 games | 64.8 pct | 2,059 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 8 pass TD | 5 INT | 258 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 7 fumbles


The Giants barely had the ball in a strange game against the Raiders, but Jones made a surprising amount of third-and-long conversions to help his team get the victory despite his quiet box score. Here's to the G-Men looking healthier on offense after this bye week with their defense starting to lock in.

Rank
19
3
Jimmy Garoppolo
San Francisco 49ers · Year 8

2021 stats: 7 games | 65.3 pct | 1,754 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 8 pass TD | 5 INT | 33 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 5 fumbles


The 49ers' offense is coming around. Jimmy G has played his best two games of the season in successive weeks, with his defense and his teammates' fumbles the biggest issues against Arizona. When pressure arrives, however, Garoppolo not only doesn't have answers, but often takes costly sacks rather than getting the ball away. It's felt this way before, but Jimmy may need to further the 49ers' dominance over the Rams on Monday night to stay in the playoff race and keep his job.

Rank
20
1
Mike White
New York Jets · Year 4

2021 stats: 3 games | 72.7 pct | 702 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 5 pass TD | 4 INT | -1 rush yd | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles


It felt particularly cruel for White's injury to occur after a terrific touchdown throw and before an inspiring finger gun salute. It's also not too surprising that the Jets will take another look at White this week even while Zach Wilson returns to practice. The fact that Josh Johnson and White have eight touchdowns combined in limited work while Wilson had four in six starts is a little awkward. 

Rank
21
NR
Colt McCoy
Arizona Cardinals · Year 12

2021 stats: 4 games | 84.6 pct | 249 pass yds | 9.6 ypa | 1 pass TD | 0 INT | 17 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles


Sure, most of McCoy's yardage on Sunday came after the catch. But he was on time on his bomb to Christian Kirk, showed calm under pressure setting up James Conner's big screen-pass touchdown and made great decisions late on where to throw the ball to pick up crucial third downs. If the Cardinals earn the No. 1 seed, don't forget about Colt!

Rank
22
3
Ben Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 18

2021 stats: 8 games | 65.6 pct | 1,986 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 10 pass TD | 4 INT | 6 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 5 fumbles


Big Ben put his whole heart into that 42-yard throw to James Washington on Monday night, which showed the limitations and charm of this season in Pittsburgh. He's giving it his best in what is likely his swan-song campaign. The Steelers had a lot of chances to put the game away and could only muster 280 yards against a depleted Bears defense, but once again it was just enough.

Rank
23
3
Geno Smith
Seattle Seahawks · Year 9

2021 stats: 4 games | 68.4 pct | 702 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 5 pass TD | 1 INT | 42 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 1 fumble


Russell Wilson has a high bar to clear in his return to the lineup. Geno completed 24.9 percent of his throws over expectation against the Jaguars, the highest CPOE in a game since Drew Brees in Week 15 of 2019. Jacksonville's dominant defensive performance against Buffalo the following week makes Geno's performance even more impressive. If the QB Index were solely based on Weeks 8 and 9, Geno would be ranked ahead of Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford and Patrick Mahomes. No wonder Odell Beckham Jr. wants to go to Seattle.

Rank
24
NR
Tyrod Taylor
Houston Texans · Year 11

2021 stats: 3 games | 63.2 pct | 656 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 3 pass TD | 3 INT | 78 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 1 fumble


Whether it was rust or regression, Taylor's four quarters against the Dolphins were as ugly as his first six quarters of the season were beautiful. Houston's struggles to slow down an opposing blitz weren't magically solved by the switch to a veteran QB, and Taylor struggled with accuracy. Look for Tyrod to get more chances to turn the ship around.

Rank
25
2
Jared Goff
Detroit Lions · Year 6

2021 stats: 8 games | 66.9 pct | 1,995 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 8 pass TD | 6 INT | 76 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 7 fumbles


In case you were curious, Goff's backup is David Blough. Steven Montez is on the practice squad. Perhaps the Lions will want to take a look at Blough to see if he fits as a long-term backup, but I can't imagine that happening until much later in the season. 

Rank
26
6
Justin Fields
Chicago Bears · Rookie

2021 stats: 9 games | 59.4 pct | 1,282 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 4 pass TD | 8 INT | 288 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 8 fumbles


How fun was that? Fields' decisiveness running the ball kept the Bears alive early and his aggression down the field should have won the game for them late. He completed nine of 16 passes over 10 yards for 225 yards and a TD, averaging the second-highest depth of target of any quarterback in a game this season, according to Next Gen Stats. He's now had his two best starts in successive weeks. This is The Way. 

Rank
27
NR
Trevor Siemian
New Orleans Saints · Year 7

2021 stats: 2 games | 58.6 pct | 408 pass yds | 5.8 ypa | 3 pass TD | 0 INT | 2 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles


Siemian helped steer the Saints to a win over the Bucs and graded out well in a loss to the Falcons, according to Sean Payton, PFF and the QB Index. The lack of playmakers in New Orleans is probably an unsolvable problem, but Siemian can't be faulted for dudes dropping on-time throws. The QB wasn't great, but he authored an epic comeback that his defense couldn't complete and was good enough to keep the starting job. 

Rank
28
NR
Jacoby Brissett
Miami Dolphins · Year 6

2021 stats: 7 games | 64.4 pct | 1,127 pass yds | 5.6 ypa | 5 pass TD | 4 INT | 64 rush yd | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles


I watched the condensed Texans-Dolphins game over breakfast, in large part, so I can write with confidence that Brissett was better than the box score showed against Houston. Whether that previous sentence is worth an hour of my life is up to you, my editors and my maker. (Mom?) Brissett got rid of the ball more quickly, made a few nice throws on the run and one of his picks came on a tipped ball

Rank
29
1
Taylor Heinicke
Washington Football Team · Year 4

2021 stats: 8 games | 63.9 pct | 1,928 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 11 pass TD | 9 INT | 232 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 4 fumbles


An MRI this week on Ryan Fitzpatrick's hip will be telling. It's worth wondering if it makes a lot of sense for the 38-year-old to play football again after such a serious injury for a team going nowhere. Kyle Allen is Heinicke's backup and could ultimately get a look, especially with an unforgiving schedule of the Bucs' and Panthers' defenses coming up next.

Rank
30
1
Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars · Rookie

2021 stats: 8 games | 59.5 pct | 1,821 pass yds | 6.2 ypa | 8 pass TD | 9 INT | 136 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 3 fumbles


I can't remember the last Jaguars game where there weren't a handful of killer drops. Lawrence continues to hold the ball a beat too long and his accuracy is impacted by his lack of timing, but the lack of support in Jacksonville is a real problem. Lawrence's production is down since the bye week, as are his big mistakes.

Rank
31
NR
Jordan Love
Green Bay Packers · Year 2

2021 stats: 3 games | 58.5 pct | 258 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 1 pass TD | 1 INT | 20 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles


I'm glad that smarter football people than myself -- like J.T. O'Sullivan of the QB School and even Packers coach Matt LaFleur -- provided some context for Love's struggles Sunday. The protection issues were certainly not on Love. Troy Aikman was losing his patience with a quarterback not yet comfortable with game mechanics, but at least Love closed with his best throws down the stretch. The biggest issue from my seat was ball placement. Love didn't hit his spots and it got him in trouble. I'd love to see him get another start this weekend if the culture has truly canceled Aaron Rodgers

Rank
32
4
Sam Darnold
Carolina Panthers · Year 4

2021 stats: 8 games | 59.5 pct | 1,986 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 7 pass TD | 11 INT | 185 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 6 fumbles


The Panthers don't even pretend they are going to throw past the sticks on third-and-long anymore. Darnold has thrown for 5.0 YPA since Week 5, almost a full yard worse than any other quarterback with two starts in that span. He also leads the league in turnover-worthy plays on the season, per PFF. It was the right time to bench Darnold, even before he went for an MRI on his injured shoulder, which will keep him out several weeks. Quarterbacks who have played a lot better have received far fewer chances.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter.

The Air Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL quarterback performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote after Sunday Night Football.

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