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NFL QB Index, Week 5: Kyler Murray surges to No. 1

NOTE: Up/down arrows illustrate movement from the Week 4 QB Index. Rankings reflect each quarterback's standing heading into Week 5, based solely on 2021 play.

Rank
1
8
Kyler Murray
Arizona Cardinals · Year 3

2021 stats: 4 games | 76.1 pct | 1,273 pass yds | 9.5 ypa | 9 pass TD | 4 INT | 109 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 0 fumbles


Kyler's stepbacks and hesitation moves pop on social media like he's Steph Curry. But it was Murray's dominance from the pocket against the Rams that vaulted him to the top of a 10-pack of elite quarterbacks that has never been better or closer. Aside from a few YOLO throws in previous weeks, Murray's timing and decision-making have gone to another level. He knows what passes to let A.J. Green box out for. He knows how to throw DeAndre Hopkins open. He knows when to create a new pocket anywhere on the field and he knows how to run for a third-and-long conversion when all else fails. Sometimes it feels a little unfair.

Rank
2
Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 6

2021 stats: 4 games | 75.2 pct | 1,066 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 10 pass TD | 2 INT | 54 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles


The Cowboys made dissecting the frenzied Panthers defense look too easy. Dak proved he can still pick up first downs with his legs when necessary and his deep score to Amari Cooper beat excellent coverage. There are flashier quarterbacks in this young season, but none are more efficient or seeing the game clearer on a snap-to-snap basis.

Rank
3
3
Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 5

2021 stats: 4 games | 72.3 pct | 1,218 pass yds | 8.6 ypa | 14 pass TD | 4 INT | 92 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 0 fumbles


Defenses continue to dare Mahomes to beat them with short passes and the running game; the Chiefs keep getting better at doing exactly that. And the moment a defense gets caught in man coverage against Tyreek Hill for one play, Mahomes makes them pay deep. Despite too many turnovers, the Chiefs are managing 3.56 points per drive, a ridiculous number that currently ranks higher than any Mahomes-era Chiefs team and above the best offenses of all time.

Rank
4
3
Tom Brady
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 22

2021 stats: 4 games | 64.7 pct | 1,356 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 10 pass TD | 2 INT | 23 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles


With one chance to slow down the quarterback he knows better than any other, Bill Belichick chose to change defensive personnel and scheme every drive, if not every snap, adjusting before Brady could. Not many defenses have the flexibility to take such an approach, but Brady faces another one this week led by a former Patriots coach, as Brian Flores' Dolphins visit Tampa.

Rank
5
2
Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers · Year 2

2021 stats: 4 games | 68.9 pct | 1,178 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 9 pass TD | 3 INT | 31 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


My friend Nate Tice tweeted that Herbert manages to throw his line drives with touch, an observation so true and succinct that I had to steal it. The Chargers' offense showing this much variety this fast does not bode well for the rest of the league.

Rank
6
2
Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · Year 4

2021 stats: 4 games | 60.5 pct | 1,077 pass yds | 8.7 ypa | 4 pass TD | 3 INT | 279 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 4 fumbles


The Ravens took a pass-heavy approach against a Vic Fangio defense despite playing most of the game with the lead. Lamar continues to throw deep and it continues to work. If you don't see the transformation in this Ravens offense, you are trying not to look.

Rank
7
4
Derek Carr
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 8

2021 stats: 4 games | 64.1 pct | 1,399 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 8 pass TD | 3 INT | 19 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles


Joey Bosa calling Carr shook after a few early hits speaks to the reputation the quarterback earned earlier in his career. He's been money against pressure this season, though, and a couple of bad quarters against the Chargers doesn't take that away. Then again, the Raiders will need to pass protect better if they want to win the best division in football.

Rank
8
4
Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams · Year 13

2021 stats: 4 games | 68.1 pct | 1,222 pass yds | 9.1 ypa | 11 pass TD | 2 INT | 15 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles


Down weeks in Los Angeles won't look like down weeks in Detroit, but Week 4 was definitely a down week for Stafford. He missed a lot of throws and appeared to predetermine his toss to DeSean Jackson that was picked off. One game is not a huge concern, but it's worth noting how weirdly quiet Stafford's season has felt at times. He doesn't rank in Pro Football Focus' top 20 in Big Time Throws or Turnover-Worthy Plays, indicating that he's playing highly efficient, unflashy, careful football within an excellent system.


UPDATE: Stafford completed 25 of 37 passes for 365 yards, with one TD and one pick, in Thursday's win over the Seahawks.

Rank
9
2
Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks · Year 10

2021 stats: 4 games | 72.5 pct | 1,044 pass yds | 9.6 ypa | 9 pass TD | 0 INT | 58 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 1 fumble


It was a lot of fun to see Wilson show off his speed at age 32 against the 49ers because his legs have become an increasingly smaller part of his arsenal. It was also fun to see him save the day with a few vintage Russ escapes, even if Seahawks fans had to suffer through a lot of three-and-outs and a total yardage output beneath 250 to get there.


UPDATE: Wilson completed 11 of 16 passes for 152 yards, with one TD and a pick, before leaving Thursday's loss to the Rams with what coach Pete Carroll later called a "badly sprained" middle finger on his throwing hand. Wilson was replaced by Geno Smith (10-of-17 for 131 yards, one TD, one INT).

Rank
10
5
Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers · Year 17

2021 stats: 4 games | 64.5 pct | 897 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 8 pass TD | 2 INT | 8 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 0 fumbles


I did not see a football player happier in Week 4 than Aaron Rodgers, celebrating with his man Randall Cobb, after one of his darts to his old friend. There were a few more misses than usual, but the pretty throws are just so pretty that I'm willing to look past a lot.

Rank
11
1
Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills · Year 4

2021 stats: 4 games | 63.5 pct | 1,055 pass yds | 6.8 ypa | 9 pass TD | 2 INT | 129 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles


Allen's ranking is a direct result of quarterback inflation. There are no fewer than 14 starting quarterbacks playing at a high level this season, and Allen's PFF grade (20th among qualifiers) makes the case that I may have him too high here. I can live with his accuracy being diminished from a year ago if he keeps making this many big plays without many big mistakes.

Rank
12
2
Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings · Year 10

2021 stats: 4 games | 68.8 pct | 1,121 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 9 pass TD | 1 INT | 37 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles


That's two games this season in which the Vikings' offensive line has made the quarterback position nearly unplayable. Cousins didn't hold up as well as he did in Week 1 against the Bengals, but there wasn't a lot Cousins could do on many plays against the Browns.

Rank
13
Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans · Year 10

2021 stats: 4 games | 63.6 pct | 1,054 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 5 pass TD | 3 INT | 109 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles


No one has taken more sacks this season. And for one week, no one had a worse combination of pass protection and receivers who couldn't win one-on-one matchups. This is not Tannehill's decline season; he's throwing the ball quite well when he gets the chance.

Rank
14
2
Daniel Jones
New York Giants · Year 3

2021 stats: 4 games | 66.7 pct | 1,184 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 4 pass TD | 1 INT | 188 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 3 fumbles


He's playing the best football of his career, combining great decisions from the pocket with on-point throws. Even his misses are missing the right way. The offensive line deserves credit, and Kadarius Toney's explosive burst leapt off the screen last week. If this is what Jones looks like with some support, he may just get a second contract in New York.

Rank
15
2
Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 2

2021 stats: 4 games | 72.9 pct | 988 pass yds | 9.2 ypa | 9 pass TD | 4 INT | 13 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles


The Bengals were literally unstoppable in the second half of Thursday Night Football, scoring 24 points on only four possessions once they spread out the Jaguars' defense. "I knew they weren't going to stop us," Burrow told my NFL Network buddy Colleen Wolfe about the game-winning drive. "I told Zac, just get me in empty." These are the words of a young quarterback taking control of a franchise.

Rank
16
2
Baker Mayfield
Cleveland Browns · Year 4

2021 stats: 4 games | 65.5 pct | 935 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 2 pass TD | 2 INT | 59 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 1 fumble


Well, that was a surprise. After three incredibly clean and accurate weeks, Mayfield couldn't shoot straight in Minnesota. His miss of Kareem Hunt on the game's first drive while on the move brought back the old concerns of his inability to create out of structure. His performance snowballed from there, ending up as one of the worst games of his career. And while that is going to knock him down this list because one game represents a quarter of Mayfield's season so far, it was so out of character that I'm not too concerned.

Rank
17
1
Sam Darnold
Carolina Panthers · Year 4

2021 stats: 4 games | 67.8 pct | 1,189 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 5 pass TD | 3 INT | 52 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 4 fumbles


Do not play man coverage too much against Sam Darnold or he will burn you with his legs ... is not something I expected to write this season. Darnold was too slow to react to some of the Cowboys' blitzes and was fooled a few times by their coverage, but he also kept firing despite a lot of pressure and an adverse game script. (Seeing Darnold right below Mayfield, meanwhile, is giving me 2018 vibes all over again.) 

Rank
18
3
Teddy Bridgewater
Denver Broncos · Year 8

2021 stats: 4 games | 72.1 pct | 892 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 5 pass TD | 0 INT | 46 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles


The Ravens' blitz packages had Bridgewater confused and overwhelmed, eventually knocking him out of the game with a concussion. With K.J. Hamler and Jerry Jeudy out, the Broncos don't have the same quick-twitch athletes who can win early against man coverage. It's unclear if Drew Lock will get a start this week against the Steelers.

Rank
19
Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons · Year 14

2021 stats: 4 games | 67.9 pct | 990 pass yds | 6.2 ypa | 8 pass TD | 3 INT | 27 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles


A deep completion is a deep completion, even if it came on a busted coverage to Cordarrelle Patterson. Ryan hit a lot of tight-window throws against Washington and could have had an even bigger day if Calvin Ridley came down with a few other deep tries. I am headed to London this week in an effort to see if Matty Ice can build on his best performance by far under Arthur Smith.

Rank
20
1
Carson Wentz
Indianapolis Colts · Year 6

2021 stats: 4 games | 63.8 pct | 920 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 5 pass TD | 1 INT | 68 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


The loneliest, most boring hill in QB Index Hot Take Land is that Wentz hasn't played that poorly this year, injured ankles and all. He hasn't played that well, either, and the Colts' scheme has done much of the work for him, but he's looked like a starting quarterback, albeit a diminished one. To put it another way: I wasn't shocked after checking to find out he's ranked 19th in PFF's passing grade, higher than Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Wentz has mostly stayed out of the way.

Rank
21
6
Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 2

2021 stats: 4 games | 66.2 pct | 1,167 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 7 pass TD | 2 INT | 226 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles


The Eagles' offense focused on Hurts' strengths in Week 4 and it paid off. Philadelphia played with tempo, got the ball out of the QB's hands quickly and schemed Hurts' playmaking receivers in space. There were some frenetic moments where all that pace almost pushed the Eagles off a cliff, but Hurts kept getting them back on track. Even with a couple turnovers narrowly avoided, it's hard to pick too many nits on a day when Philly relied on Hurts' arm without punting once. You can see the progress in real time.

Rank
22
4
Jameis Winston
New Orleans Saints · Year 7

2021 stats: 4 games | 64.0 pct | 613 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 8 pass TD | 2 INT | 60 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 0 fumbles


Sean Payton doesn't know what to do with Jameis. The Giants game started with the QB short-hopping a 5-yard throw. Payton appeared hesitant to let Winston do much in high-leverage situations after that, but then Winston threw 4-5 dimes when called upon. It was easily his best game as a Saint. Despite that, Payton's extreme run-heavy approach helped allow the Giants to get back into the game and eventually win in overtime. It's time to take the training wheels off.

Rank
23
1
Jared Goff
Detroit Lions · Year 6

2021 stats: 4 games | 68.3 pct | 1,100 pass yds | 6.8 ypa | 7 pass TD | 2 INT | 72 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 5 fumbles


I'm not sure if there's a more consistent quarterback in the league. Every Jared Goff week -- almost every Jared Goff throw -- looks like the one that came before. He may not be the long-term solution for the Lions, but he's far from their biggest problem.

Rank
24
4
Jimmy Garoppolo
San Francisco 49ers · Year 8

2021 stats: 4 games | 66.1 pct | 925 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 5 pass TD | 2 INT | 26 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles


If that was it for Jimmy G in San Francisco, the Super Bowl starter went out with a whimper. The last month of 49ers offensive football felt like an anticlimax, with Kyle Shanahan and Garoppolo working harder for yards than Nick Mullens used to. There isn't just one reason why, but Jimmy's inaccuracy combined with the team's reliance on ever-shorter passes doesn't give him much margin for error. I swear he used to make some plays on his own, completing some "wow" throws and others with great anticipation. I didn't imagine this, right?

Rank
25
Mac Jones
New England Patriots · Rookie

2021 stats: 4 games | 70.0 pct | 1,012 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 4 pass TD | 4 INT | 27 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles


The Patriots won't go that pass-happy every week, but Josh McDaniels' decision to run a lot of shotgun spread hurry-up played beautifully to Jones' strengths. The rookie throws well against pressure, which will be a must with so few big plays in New England's offense.

Rank
26
2
Taylor Heinicke
Washington Football Team · Year 4

2021 stats: 4 games | 69.5 pct | 960 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 8 pass TD | 3 INT | 87 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 0 fumbles


The Fitzmagic continues. Almost every deep throw from Heinicke is a split second from disaster, but it usually ends up in a teammate's hands. Like Fitzpatrick, Heinicke trusts great receivers like Terry McLaurin. This is a good thing! Also like Fitzpatrick, Heinicke puts the ball in harm's way a few times each game. He needs to play this aggressively to keep up, given Washington's dreadful defense.

Rank
27
5
Ben Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 18

2021 stats: 4 games | 64.1 pct | 1,033 pass yds | 6.1 ypa | 4 pass TD | 4 INT | 10 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles


The next stage of Roethlisberger's apparent steep decline includes him missing open receivers. A quarterback known for shaking off defenders is falling away from some throws and holding the ball too long on others. If he can't make second-reaction plays or be accurate, it will be a very long season.

Rank
28
5
Jacoby Brissett
Miami Dolphins · Year 6

2021 stats: 4 games | 63.9 pct | 583 pass yds | 4.9 ypa | 2 pass TD | 1 INT | 57 rush yd | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles


The Dolphins had six first downs in the first three quarters against a slumping Colts defense. Brissett is hardly the Dolphins' only problem, but combining that 4.9 yards-per-attempt average with three fumbles and nine sacks taken over the last three weeks is rough no matter how you spin it.

Rank
29
2
Justin Fields
Chicago Bears · Rookie

2021 stats: 4 games | 48.1 pct | 347 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 0 pass TD | 2 INT | 55 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles


Fields' biggest strength may be his accuracy down the field, which he showed off against Detroit. That and a run-heavy game plan against a talent-poor Lions secondary turned Fields' brutal first start into a distant memory. He gets a slight rankings edge over the top two picks of the 2021 draft because his one good start came in two chances. Wilson and Lawrence each have one good start in four tries. THE MATH IS INDISPUTABLE.

Rank
30
1
Zach Wilson
New York Jets · Rookie

2021 stats: 4 games | 56.8 pct | 925 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 4 pass TD | 8 INT | 19 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles


Wilson missed a lot of throws against the Titans and had as many turnover-worthy plays as he did during the Patriots picks meltdown. It happens. What also happened, though: more "wow" throws from Wilson in one game than the other three combined. That was fun; more, please!

Rank
31
1
Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars · Rookie

2021 stats: 4 games | 57.0 pct | 873 pass yds | 6.1 ypa | 5 pass TD | 7 INT | 82 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles


While the Jaguars ultimately came up short, Lawrence's performance against the Bengals was so encouraging to see. He mixed in his usual pair of jaw-dropping throws with better use of his legs and no turnover-worthy plays. The injury to D.J. Chark is a bummer, but at least Lawrence's offensive line is quietly playing well for him.

Rank
32
Davis Mills
Houston Texans · Rookie

2021 stats: 3 games | 56.7 pct | 357 pass yds | 5.3 ypa | 2 pass TD | 5 INT | 1 rush yd | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles


You can go entire seasons without seeing a passing performance as rough as Mills' effort in Buffalo. He's simply not ready, and Bill Belichick is up next. The Texans have to consider whether it's fair to the rest of the roster to keep playing Mills if he starts down a similar path this week.

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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