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NFL QB Index, Week 16: Aaron Rodgers hits No. 1 for the first time this season! Joe Burrow eyeing top five

NOTE: Up/down arrows illustrate movement from the Week 15 QB Index. Rankings include each team's starting quarterback from the previous game, based solely on 2021 play.

Rank
1
1
Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers · Year 17

2021 stats: 13 games | 67.8 pct | 3,487 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 30 pass TD | 4 INT | 87 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 3 fumbles


The Packers were held scoreless in the first quarter for the ninth time this season, tied for the highest rate in the NFL. To put it another way: Aaron Rodgers destroys worlds in Quarters 2-4 every week. Despite a few missed opportunities, Rodgers averaged 8.6 yards per attempt against the Ravens' surprisingly heavy pressure. He's playing his best while the MVP competition stumbles -- and offensive line reinforcements could be coming soon.

Rank
2
1
Tom Brady
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 22

2021 stats: 14 games | 67.1 pct | 4,348 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 36 pass TD | 11 INT | 70 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 4 fumbles


Dennis Allen is really out here preventing Tom Brady from winning an MVP and getting home-field advantage. Brady has a total of 29 turnover-worthy plays since joining the Bucs, per Pro Football Focus, the lowest rate of any quarterback in football over the past two seasons. Nearly half of those plays (13) have come in five games against the Saints! I doubt another secondary in football can match the cohesion and aggression the Saints bring each time they play Brady. The Bucs averaged 3.5 yards per passing play in 51 dropbacks -- that kind of defensive beatdown leaves a mark.

Rank
3
Kyler Murray
Arizona Cardinals · Year 3

2021 stats: 11 games | 69.8 pct | 3,039 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 20 pass TD | 10 INT | 270 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 11 fumbles


Murray missed more throws than usual in the stunning loss at Detroit. And at various points, he just wasn't on the same page with his receivers. This is a recurring trend with A.J. Green, which is a concern with DeAndre Hopkins not returning anytime soon. The Cardinals' role players behind Hopkins have to step up a notch. The biggest problem, however, was the scrambled protection without center Rodney Hudson (COVID-19 list), as Arizona routinely failed to recognize where Detroit's rushers were coming from. It wasn't the throw-to-throw disaster that a 30-12 loss to the Lions suggests, but Kyler wasn't comfortable and didn't appear to see the field well.

Rank
4
Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers · Year 2

2021 stats: 14 games | 66.4 pct | 4,058 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 32 pass TD | 12 INT | 284 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 1 fumble


A national audience saw the typical Herbert game from the last two years: maximum electricity mixed with an unusual share of bad luck. His interception came on a tipped pass. A few dropped potential touchdowns and contested-catch fails hurt. Still, it was the little things in this game from Herbert I loved. He handles hurry-up situations so well. He big brothered linebacker Nick Bolton to avoid a sack. He ran in big spots, changed tempo at will to mess with the Chiefs' substitutions and hit a gorgeous 17-yard throw to Mike Williams on third-and-1. He's close to passing Kyler Murray in these rankings.

Rank
5
Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams · Year 13

2021 stats: 14 games | 67.6 pct | 4,142 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 35 pass TD | 10 INT | 36 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles


Stafford made a raft of mental mistakes during a sluggish first half against the Seahawks, including his interception, a sack that took him out of field goal range, a delay of game and a few apparent miscommunications with Odell Beckham Jr. Then Stafford uncorks a few deep shots to Cooper Kupp and unfurls a throw like this, and all is forgiven.

Rank
6
1
Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 2

2021 stats: 14 games | 68.7 pct | 3,640 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 26 pass TD | 14 INT | 97 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 5 fumbles


I've written a lot this season about how Burrow looks like he has all the answers to the test. On Sunday in Denver, Vic Fangio schooled him for most of the game. Burrow often held the ball too long because of the Broncos' coverage until a stretch where he kept picking up first downs with his legs. When he absolutely needed a throw late in the game, he hit Tyler Boyd on a tough third-and-10 while getting hit. Those are plays which have the city of Cincinnati falling so hard, rightfully certain they found The One.

Rank
7
1
Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills · Year 4

2021 stats: 14 games | 65.2 pct | 3,734 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 31 pass TD | 12 INT | 555 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 8 fumbles


Allen had his usual collection of sharp plays, including two of his touchdown throws and a 26-yard scramble. He also threw an interception and took four sacks on a day where his offensive line struggled. While it was a relief to see Allen still knows how to hand the ball off, it's a concern that the Bills failed to top 200 net yards passing on 38 dropbacks against the Panthers. That fun second half in Tampa apparently didn't represent a sea change.

Rank
8
2
Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 5

2021 stats: 14 games | 65.6 pct | 4,052 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 30 pass TD | 13 INT | 302 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 8 fumbles


Mahomes appears most comfortable in chaos, at his best when he's making the difficult throw. On the Chiefs' two-point conversion to make it 21-21 Thursday night, he passed on two open receivers in his progression just to roll right and throw left against his body for the conversion. The Chiefs' breathtaking finish to their win over the Chargers included more than 100 yards after the catch from Travis Kelce, coming after a familiar stretch of stagnation following an opening-drive touchdown. Mahomes is feeling himself again and that's scary for the rest of the AFC.

Rank
9
1
Derek Carr
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 8

2021 stats: 14 games | 68.2 pct | 4,162 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 19 pass TD | 11 INT | 104 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 11 fumbles


Carr's receivers kept dropping passes and making mental errors in Cleveland, a theme over the last month. Carr also helped kick-start the Browns' comeback with a fumble and made a few head-scratching game-management decisions, including his YOLO interception with less than three minutes remaining. Carr was given another chance, however, and showed veteran ingenuity overcoming a huge penalty on the game-winning field goal drive. The Raiders live another week.

Rank
10
1
Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 6

2021 stats: 13 games | 68.5 pct | 3,598 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 25 pass TD | 10 INT | 105 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 10 fumbles


It's bumming me out to watch Dak these days. There are the plays where his footwork, touch and ability to manipulate defenses are beautiful. Then there are all the other plays. Prescott went back to pass 40 times against the Giants, resulting in 203 yards. The Cowboys didn't have a play over 20 yards -- and barely tried to pop one. It's a conservative offense full of protracted field goal drives and runs on third-and-long. I don't get it.

Rank
11
Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings · Year 10

2021 stats: 14 games | 66.1 pct | 3,656 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 29 pass TD | 6 INT | 99 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 8 fumbles


Like a lot of quarterbacks this season, Cousins' peak stretch is getting further away in the rearview mirror. His interior offensive line was manhandled in Chicago, but Minnesota still has to do better than averaging 2.2 yards per play passing. The Vikings had one pass over 10 yards and a stretch with seven drives out of eight in which they didn't have a first down. On the final play of the first half, Cousins threw the ball out of bounds to preserve that TD-to-INT ratio.

Rank
12
1
Mac Jones
New England Patriots · Rookie

2021 stats: 14 games | 69.0 pct | 3,168 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 18 pass TD | 10 INT | 80 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 5 fumbles


Trailing 20-0 in a big game was a good experience for Jones and he responded well during a furious fourth-quarter comeback. The rookie pushed the ball down the field and hit on three big-time throws to keep the Patriots in it. Darius Leonard fooled Jones for one pick early and Bobby Okereke made a fantastic diving catch on another, so it was hardly a clean game. But the pocket movement, touch and accuracy didn't fold under pressure.

Rank
13
1
Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks · Year 10

2021 stats: 11 games | 65.4 pct | 2,458 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 16 pass TD | 5 INT | 141 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles


Wilson was 1-of-9 on throws over 10 yards on Tuesday against the Rams, a reminder of how badly the Seahawks need Tyler Lockett. The throw that Wilson will remember, the one he said he'd like to have back, was an underthrown deep shot to D.K. Metcalf after Jalen Ramsey was beat badly down the sideline. It's been a year of missed connections between those two, and it's fair to wonder if they'll have another year together.

Rank
14
2
Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans · Year 10

2021 stats: 14 games | 66.2 pct | 3,118 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 14 pass TD | 14 INT | 243 rush yds | 7 rush TD | 9 fumbles


Sometimes I wonder if I'm crazy to think every week Tannehill is playing so much better than his numbers suggest. Then I look at his Pro Football Focus grade (seventh), as well as numbers that show the Titans are a bottom-three pass-blocking team and Tannehill has lost more production to drops than any starter in the NFL. He's in one of the worst quarterbacking situations in football.

Rank
15
4
Jimmy Garoppolo
San Francisco 49ers · Year 8

2021 stats: 13 games | 67.4 pct | 3,172 pass yds | 8.5 ypa | 18 pass TD | 8 INT | 47 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 7 fumbles


The Jimmy G discourse is almost as tiresome as the two-point-conversion and fourth-down discourses. After a sharp Garoppolo game, like Sunday against Atlanta, the numbers come out. The numbers are great, especially since midseason. The numbers matter, too, but I see the same ol' Jimmy G.


"Jimmy hasn't been much different to me all year," Kyle Shanahan said Sunday. "I think we've gotten better around him throughout the year."

Rank
16
1
Carson Wentz
Indianapolis Colts · Year 6

2021 stats: 14 games | 62.7 pct | 3,005 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 23 pass TD | 6 INT | 184 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 7 fumbles


It's been two steps forward, one back for Wentz all season. Just when he was on a streak of consistent performances, he only completed five passes against the Patriots. Despite mostly handing off, he had three turnover-worthy plays and was fortunate he didn't get picked off more than once. Frank Reich didn't appear to trust Wentz late in the game. Who can blame him?

Rank
17
4
Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 2

2021 stats: 13 games | 61.3 pct | 2,731 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 14 pass TD | 9 INT | 733 rush yds | 10 rush TD | 8 fumbles


That was everything I want out from a Hurts start. His running -- and the threat of him running -- helped put the Eagles' ground game over 200 yards again. He hit chunk plays to Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor with touch and arm strength. He only had six incompletions and moved well in the pocket. The time off appeared to do Hurts right.

Rank
18
1
Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons · Year 14

2021 stats: 14 games | 67.5 pct | 3,340 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 18 pass TD | 11 INT | 68 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 9 fumbles


I'm running out of things to say about Ryan's dependable weekly play, so I'll solve the Falcons' biggest offseason question. They should absolutely bring Ryan back and draft a quarterback to develop. The odds of finding a veteran who is a significant upgrade is way easier said than done.

Rank
19
1
Teddy Bridgewater
Denver Broncos · Year 8

2021 stats: 14 games | 66.9 pct | 3,052 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 18 pass TD | 7 INT | 106 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 1 fumble


Teddy struggled through one of his worst starts of the year before his scary concussion. The injury came when he was desperate to make a play -- any play -- to get his team the lead back. Now Drew Lock will start Sunday against the Raiders in an early win-or-go-home game between AFC In The Hunters.

Rank
20
Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins · Year 2

2021 stats: 10 games | 69.9 pct | 2,141 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 14 pass TD | 8 INT | 88 rush yd | 3 rush TD | 5 fumbles


That was a very un-Tua game, ultimately one of his worst. He had more wow plays during the Dolphins' comeback than in any other game this season, but he also had at least four big mistakes, including a pick-six. He also scrambled with more aggression, flexing on the Jets' Michael Carter II after an award-winning angry run. I wonder if Miami's coaches pushed Tua to take more chances coming out of the bye. It made sense on the ground, but the trade-off on his risky throws wasn't worth it. The Dolphins' game-winning drive was almost all runs.

Rank
21
NR
Tyler Huntley
Baltimore Ravens · Year 2

2021 stats: 5 games | 68.8 pct | 743 pass yds | 5.9 ypa | 3 pass TD | 1 INT | 168 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 3 fumbles


Huntley has already done enough to have an NFL job secured for a long time. He may get a chance to start a lot of games like a previous Ravens backup, Tyrod Taylor. Huntley has me thinking about how long people hold on to draft evaluations. I'd already rather have him long-term than Zach Wilson because it's clear one can play at this level and that proof counts more than any projection made in some vastly inferior leagues.

Rank
22
3
Jared Goff
Detroit Lions · Year 6

2021 stats: 13 games | 67.0 pct | 3,007 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 17 pass TD | 8 INT | 87 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 9 fumbles


Isaiah Simmons dropped a potential interception deep in Lions territory early Sunday, the type of game-changing stroke of luck Goff hasn't been afforded much of this season. Goff balled out after that. His running game converted some huge third downs, but there's no denying he's terrific in two-minute situations and can spin it when protected. His tackles, especially rookie Penei Sewell, are playing great.

Rank
23
Ben Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 18

2021 stats: 13 games | 65.2 pct | 3,214 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 19 pass TD | 7 INT | 10 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 9 fumbles


Roethlisberger gets rid of the ball so fast out of habit by now that he sometimes kills plays before they start. Even when his protection holds up, he has a tendency to take the checkdown before waiting to find out if the play develops. The Steelers' offense had one touchdown drive against the Titans; otherwise, they kicked field goals after being handed turnovers in Tennessee territory.

Rank
24
2
Justin Fields
Chicago Bears · Rookie

2021 stats: 12 games | 58.9 pct | 1,870 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 7 pass TD | 10 INT | 420 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 12 fumbles


There was a fourth-and-1 Monday night where it looked like the Bears had the wrong personnel on the field. The ball was snapped, Fields rolled to his right and there was no receiver available on that side of the field. It didn't go well, with Fields made to look bad because of poor organization. The rookie shows enough each week to get excited about, pushing the ball down the field and making tough completions. It's enough to give Bears fans pleasant dreams about what a different coach can do with him.


UPDATE: Matt Nagy announced Friday that Nick Foles will start for the Bears against Seattle and Fields (ankle) is questionable to play.

Rank
25
3
Cam Newton
Carolina Panthers · Year 11

2021 stats: 5 games | 54.9 pct | 623 pass yds | 5.5 ypa | 4 pass TD | 4 INT | 183 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 4 fumbles


Cam has scored a rushing touchdown in five straight games and led the Panthers in with 71 ground yards on Sunday. Unfortunately, the Panthers rushed for more yards (151) on 29 carries than they threw for (124) on 42 dropbacks. Carolina's offensive line has had no clue what to do with blitzing pass rushers all season, no matter who is at quarterback.

Rank
26
1
Taysom Hill
New Orleans Saints · Year 5

2021 stats: 10 games | 55.7 pct | 649 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 2 pass TD | 5 INT | 311 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 2 fumbles


The Saints won despite their offense on Sunday night. Hill made a few nice throws in the first half, but New Orleans somehow survived six three-and-outs and three more drives that only gained one first down. The Saints receivers don't make plays on their own, leaving the offense bankrupt on nights Alvin Kamara is shut down. They need their standout tackles back in the worst way if they want to make the playoffs.

Rank
27
NR
Nick Mullens
Cleveland Browns · Year 5

2021 stats: 1 game | 66.7 pct | 147 pass yds | 4.9 ypa | 1 pass TD | 0 INT | 0 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles


Mullens played such a controlled, clean game on Monday evening that I was hoping the Browns would let him throw the ball one more time on third-and-3 late in the fourth quarter to clinch the game. Nick Chubb understandably got the ball, was stuffed and Derek Carr drove for the victory. If nothing else, Mullens showed he could be trusted to find the right receiver on a 5-yard gain. His QBR was higher than all but one Baker Mayfield start this year.

Rank
28
1
Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars · Rookie

2021 stats: 14 games | 58.1 pct | 2,945 pass yds | 5.8 ypa | 9 pass TD | 14 INT | 264 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 7 fumbles


It's a concern there's so little, if anything, separating him and Davis Mills this season. The Jags' drops aren't helping, but the combination of Lawrence's iffy accuracy on open throws and lack of impressive playmaking is a tough watch. I'm not panicked about the future because Lawrence doesn't display disqualifying traits and generally seems to process at an NFL level. But 14 games into his pro career, the No. 1 overall pick's brand is bland.

Rank
29
1
Davis Mills
Houston Texans · Rookie

2021 stats: 10 games | 65.6 pct | 1,946 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 10 pass TD | 9 INT | 29 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles


The Texans' confidence in Mills is as noteworthy as his performance. They've adopted a pass-heavy approach early in the last two games on the way to fast starts. More surprisingly, they stayed aggressive with a lead late in Jacksonville. While that led to a killer fourth-quarter interception, Mills rewarded his team's faith with a few big completions after that to help seal the game. I've seen Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins forced to hand the ball off and punt in that spot.

Rank
30
NR
Garrett Gilbert
Washington Football Team · Year 8

2021 stats: 1 game | 64.5 pct | 194 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 0 pass TD | 0 INT | 0 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


It was the week of the perfectly acceptable emergency-quarterback performance. Gilbert didn't turn the ball over and nearly had a 14-0 lead early if Adam Humphries could've caught a pass that hit him in the chest. Gilbert barely had the ball once the Eagles' offense got rolling, which wasn't really on him. Neither was his inability to run the two-minute offense well; he was on the Patriots' practice squad five days before starting for WTF.

Rank
31
Mike Glennon
New York Giants · Year 9

2021 stats: 4 games | 53.5 pct | 673 pass yds | 5.2 ypa | 3 pass TD | 7 INT | 9 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles


Glennon was picked off three times and failed to top 100 yards passing against the Cowboys before being benched for Jake Fromm. Starting 30 games over eight seasons is not such a bad outcome for a third-round pick, but this sure looks like the end.

Rank
32
Zach Wilson
New York Jets · Rookie

2021 stats: 10 games | 56.2 pct | 1,911 pass yds | 6.2 ypa | 6 pass TD | 11 INT | 70 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 4 fumbles


The Jets started fast against the Dolphins like they did against the Eagles, with highly schemed wide-open receivers for Wilson. He still often hitched once before being sure of the throw. Like the Eagles game, everything crashed after the first few drives. The Jets had three first downs in the second half and none in the final 13 minutes, which also included Wilson losing a fumble after holding the ball too long. He took six sacks with Brian Flores creating free rushers. It's hard to ask the coaching to win for four quarters.

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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