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QB Index: 2013's pleasant surprises

No one saw this San Diego Chargers offense coming. No one expected Keenan Allen to be the best rookie wide receiver in the league, by far. No one told me Ladarius Green would look like the next big thing at tight end or that Ryan Mathews would run hard all season.

I definitely didn't expect Philip Rivers to be so fun to watch. Rivers' resurgence has been one of the pleasant surprises in my season's worth of watching Tuesday Morning Football. Sunday's performance against the Chiefs in Kansas City will be one that sticks in my brain for decades, taking up space where useful information should be: 38 points in 31 minutes by the Chargers offense.

Losing Justin Houston and Tamba Haliwas devastating, but Chiefs fans need to be honest about what happened. This was a scoring pace you usually only see on Saturdays when Oregon schedules a team like Nicholls State.

The playoff picture


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The latest fireworks from Rivers got me thinking:

Most surprisingly fun to watch QBs of 2013

Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson don't qualify. I expected to love watching them play every week and haven't been disappointed. Robert Griffin III and Joe Flacco aren't eligible, either. They would land on a list of the most unexpectedly frustrating players to watch. These are the players, like Rivers, that I didn't see coming.

Josh McCown: Say hello to the top-ranked quarterback in the league, according to QBR. Jay Cutler, always fun to watch, looked improved and under control early in the season. Cutler looked like a top-ten quarterback. Then he got hurt, and there's been little-to-no drop-off with McCown.

This all goes back to coach Marc Trestman, of course. He has lived up to the hype as an offensive mind. It doesn't hurt that Brandon Marshall, Alson Jeffrey and Matt Forte could be the most physical trio of skill position talent in the league. The Chicago Bears' offense went from unwatchable to one of the NFL's best in no time.

Mike Glennon: He's playing so well that it almost feels risky to talk about too much, like we could jinx it. Glennon's rookie season is a no-hitter in the top of the sixth.

Nick Foles: Remember reading about Foles-Vick all summer? All of those articles that said Foles "looked great in practice" apparently were on point. Foles caught my eye with an incredible performance as a rookie in Tampa Bay, but it was hard to imagine this type of consistency from him.

His ability to make throws on the move, and his vertical accuracy have been the most pleasant surprises.

Matthew Stafford: The ratio of amazing throws to bonehead moments has never been higher, at least until last week. Watching Stafford squander so much talent last season got tiresome. There's no denying he's taken a real step forward this year. (Assuming the Bucs game wasn't a harbinger of doom.)

On to the weekly rankings. These are based on 2013 play alone:

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The Top Shelf

Manning wasn't as bad as the numbers indicated against New England. Broncos receivers had five drops, and Manning completed a gutsy drive into the wind to force overtime. The Broncos probably win if C.J. Anderson and Wes Welker hold on to the ball in the extra session. With that said, Manning clearly wasn't the best quarterback on the field. Denver didn't even try to test the Patriots vertically in the rough conditions. Manning went through a cold stretch in the second half that included an ugly interception. This was not just a one-week blip. Manning remains the heavy favorite for MVP, but Denver's offense has has not been as dominant since Week 6.

Next level

These rankings are based on the entire season. If they were just based on the last month, Brady and Roethlisberger would be even higher. The Patriots and Steelers look like top-five passing attacks after slow starts to the year. ... Luck couldn't pull off any magic against the Arizona Cardinals, and it wasn't his pass protection's fault. His first read rarely is open. Luck needs to be nearly perfect for the Colts offense to work, and he's missed too many throws. T.Y. Hilton couldn't beat Patrick Peterson in man coverage. Coby Fleener runs fast, but he isn't a great No. 1 tight end at this stage. There still are weekly miscommunications with Darrius Heyward-Bey, and the running game is dead. This next month will seriously test Luck.

Foles cracks the list for the first time. I had a chance to go back and watch his last performance against the Washington Redskins, which was just as impressive as his seven-touchdown game against the Oakland Raiders. It will be fascinating to see how Chip Kelly's offense looks this week against the Cardinals, which easily is the best defense they've faced all season. ... There is no Jay Cutler or Josh McCown; there is just "Bears quarterback." Marc Trestman's creation is among the most consistent quarterbacks in the league.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" previewed all three of the big Thanksgiving games on the schedule.

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