It's midseason week at Around The NFL, and that means it's time for our quarterly rankings of quarterbacks from Nos. 1-32. My biggest takeaway after combing through my notes and make-believe numbers: The old guard just won't go away.
We could ask that question about many of the stars below. Manning is throwing the deep ball better this year. Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are coming off two of the best performances of their insane careers. Philip Rivers' revival has stuck, and Aaron Rodgers is in another MVP race. While the greats of the last decade refuse to struggle, the next generation is still in development. Andrew Luck has crashed the party while some of his rivals search for consistency.
Let's get to the rankings, which are based only on 2014 play. I've included each quarterback's quarter-season rank in parenthesis.
When one of my bosses was trying to convince my wife to move our family to Los Angeles after 10 years in New York, he admitted the highs weren't as high on the West Coast. But the lows weren't as low. Watching Andrew Luck is equivalent to living in New York. There will be breathtaking moments and soul-testing lapses. The Pittsburgh game was a perfect example. He had two drive-killing misfires early before a pick six to fall behind 21-3. And then he led the Colts to 20 points by halftime, including four to five great throws and a terrific two-minute drive. He took a pounding and kept going. He throws some of the best incompletions in the league, shaking off huge pass rushers like Lawrence Timmons and Jason Worilds as if they were 170-pound cornerbacks.
Yes, Luck was part of the reason the Colts trailed in the first place. But the end result is that he leads his team to more points and first downs than nearly anyone.
Manning's season started to really take flight after his late drive to force overtimein Seattle. Since then, there have been an awful lot of pretty vertical throws from a guy whose arm is probably weaker than everyone else's below. ... Brady and Rodgers had the strongest Octobers, although this ranking reflects the entire year. The Patriots are going up-tempo more often and Brady is hitting deep passes again. He's scoring at the end of halves, and his game against Chicago was as flawless as it gets; I didn't chart a bad pass out of 35 attempts. That's the first time that's happened in three years of doing this.
Roethlisberger was having a nice season even before his six-touchdown spectacular. His offensive line played so well against the Colts that he only had to improvise one throw out of 49. (So Ben didn't do Ben-like things when he was at his best.) Six of his completions were deep down the field, and three of his incompletions were drops. It was an outing for the ages.
I love watching Cam play and probably got overzealous while crowning his progress two weeks ago. He's played his two worst games of the season since. ... Brees will probably continue to move up. He played three terrific quarters in Detroit before imploding, and then completed the job against Green Bay. The next step: Grass! ... Matt Ryan's ugly interception in London was a disappointing way for him to finish an otherwise sterling first half, considering the circumstances around him.
Wilson's low rating in many advanced metrics sites (30th out of 33 on Football Outsiders, 21st on Pro Football Focus, 13th in QBR) don't seem to fully appreciate his running ability. The numbers do probably reflect the lack of big plays in Seattle's offense and the frustrating amount of short passes on third-and-long. ... Eli and Flacco are having similar seasons. They have thrown in a few stinkers but overall look much improved than a season ago.
The next level after that
My Stafford blurb last time around started with a bunch of compliments, and then ended with this: "We've been fooled by Stafford's progress before and want to see where this goes from here."
Stafford was the most consistently disappointing quarterback to watch in October, and it's not all on Calvin Johnson's absence. He misses open throws, and often by a wide margin. He makes catches harder than they need to be for his receivers. Many of the Lions' scores had little to do with Stafford, and the splash plays have been fewer and farther between. ... Jay Cutler has been the same guy for years; expectations seem to finally be changing. ... Palmer's arm looks just fine after his nerve problem. ... Kaepernick is good for one near-perfect outing every month that makes you wonder about the other three weeks. He throws in four to five plays each game that can't be duplicated. ... Dalton is a walking example of the maxim that quarterbacks get too much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose. The Bengals' success almost always is dependent on his teammates.
Tannehill has more variance in his level of play from week-to-week and half-to-half than any quarterback in the league. He was trending up until a rough, scattershot performance in Jacksonville. His toughness, telegraphed passes and lack of a deep ball are constants. The Dolphins seem to be figuring out what works for him: A lot of quick throws with some read option principles mixed in. ... Hoyer continues to look like the 2013 Nick Foles: His great stats don't tell the whole story. Hoyer misses a ton of open throws and has to lead the league in dropped interceptions. (We counted four in the Oakland game alone, when Derek Carr out-played him.) Hoyer also makes a lot of nice plays, but the Browns aren't built for the passing game to carry them. ... All of Foles' good fortune last year is evening out. He's not taking advantage of his opportunities, and he's making a crazy amount of mistakes. ... Orton is going to keep Doug Marrone employed next year; the Bills' passing game is vastly improved without EJ Manuel. Orton is enjoying one of the best stretches of his career.
The young guys (and Fitz)
Carr is aggressive. He makes the Oakland offense look professional and surprisingly fun to watch for a winless team. There is still a lot to work on here, but it looks like the Raiders might have found a keeper. ... It's very hard to evaluate Glennon with the Tampa offensive line so dreadful. ... The Rams are asking Austin Davis to do less and less each week. ... Fitzpatrick has played better than expected and will probably keep the Texans job for most of the year.
Bortles makes a few incredible throws each week, but his wild passes are a bigger concern than his over-aggressive decision-making. ... Teddy Bridgewater has not quite looked ready after his boffo first start. ... Geno Smith should get another chance to start sooner than later because Vick has been a bigger disaster when he played. ... Don't expect Mettenberger to start the rest of the season if he keeps playing like he did in his first start. There wasn't much to get excited about.