QB Index, Week 12: Kirk Cousins merits long-term deal

The Redskins' running game has largely been absent all season. The team's star tight end, Jordan Reed, and the big free-agent wide receiver pickup, Terrelle Pryor, have been missing in action. The offensive line has transformed from an asset to a weekly question mark. Yet, Kirk Cousins has survived and often thrived.

Perhaps it took a season like this, where seemingly everything has gone wrong around Cousins, for the front office to buy into him as "The Guy." Washington is unlucky to be 4-6, but Cousins has proved his worth more than he has in any other season by making the players around him better, with Sunday's dazzling performance in New Orleans standing out among his career-best games. He showed a veteran's ruthlessness, completing 11 of 14 passes for 177 yards and a score to the side of the field that Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore vacated after his injury. Ultimately, Cousins was let down by his defense on a day where he delivered pinpoint touch passes down the field with regularity.

Cousins won't deal like that every week, but few players do, except Hall of Famers. His tenacious play throughout the season demands acknowledgement that he ranks above the median on The Dalton Scale, the line that separates a franchise quarterback from a guy who needs to be replaced. Cousins is an asset, and I'd be stunned if he's not paid like one in Washington on a long-term deal this offseason.

This is the Quarterback Index. The QBs are ranked based on 2017 play only. The next ranking of all 32 starters comes after Week 12.

THE BEST OF THE BEST

 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 68.7 pct | 3,146 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 22 pass TD | 2 INT 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 59.7 pct | 2,430 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 25 pass TD | 5 INT | 224 rush yds | 0 rush TD 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 62.6 pct | 2,801 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 21 pass TD | 7 INT | 376 rush yds | 2 rush TD 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 71.6 pct | 2,783 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 15 pass TD | 5 INT | 2 rush TD 
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This group is starting to separate from the pack. Wentz played a near-perfect second half in Dallas after a sluggish first 30 minutes, which included six straight failed possessions. What separates Wentz is his ability to reset and fit passes into tight windows an instant after making some death-defying escape from a pass-rusher in the pocket. I can't remember many 168-yard performances that were more impressive. ... It's amazing how much the Falcons' defense sold out to stop Russell Wilson's running ability, limiting the pass-rushers coming at him and using Vic Beasley to "spy" on him. It's also amazing how often that plan failed, with Wilson rushing for 86 yards. He's reached the rare level of superstardom where we expect jaw-dropping greatness on a weekly basis, and he still delivers. ... Brees showed against Washington that the Saints can still be explosive through the air, with a four-play, 87-yard, 48-second drive to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Brees leads the NFL in net yards-per-attempt at 7.74, so this team is very efficient passing the ball when it needs to be.

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR

 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 66.9 pct | 2,567 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 15 pass TD | 8 INT 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 69.4 pct | 2,674 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 18 pass TD | 3 INT | 200 rush yds | 1 rush TD 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 63.1 pct | 2,760 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 19 pass TD | 5 INT 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 61.8 pct | 2,597 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 16 pass TD | 10 INT 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 62.8 pct | 2,139 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 16 pass TD | 7 INT | 247 rush yds | 5 rush TD 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 66.7 pct | 2,796 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 17 pass TD | 5 INT | 141 rush yds | 3 rush TD 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 62.1 pct | 2,232 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 14 pass TD | 11 INT | 436 rush yds | 4 rush TD 
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Ryan's performance on "Monday Night Football" was typical of his last month: He played much better than his solid box-score line indicated: 19 of 27 for 195 yards and two scores. He was accurate all over the field, didn't make a poor decision all night and showed improved timing down the field with his Falcons receivers. He's thrown nine touchdowns with two picks over the last five weeks, and both those picks were arguably not his fault. Unlike just about every player in this tier, Ryan is the same, week after week. He's showing signs of hitting a strong closing kick that could have him right back with the top quarterbacks in football. ... Roethlisberger has had brief, great stretches of play this season against the Chiefsand Bengals, but nothing quite like his performance in the second half against Tennessee. He got the ball out of his hand faster, and the team responded with some of the best offensive rhythm it's had all season. I'm very curious to see if they can build on it in an otherwise one-sided matchup with Green Bay on "Monday Night Football."

NEXT LEVEL

 **2017 stats:** 9 games | 63.9 pct | 2,191 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 14 pass TD | 8 INT 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 60.3 pct | 2,514 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 17 pass TD | 7 INT 
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 **2017 stats:** 10 games | 61.3 pct | 2,610 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 16 pass TD | 4 INT | 1 rush TD 
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 **2017 stats:** 9 games | 62.6 pct | 2,089 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 8 pass TD | 10 INT | 186 rush yds | 4 rush TD 
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 **2017 stats:** 9 games (8 starts) | 65.7 pct | 2,194 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 12 pass TD | 5 INT 
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Goff has made a lot of pretty downfield passes this season, but he's ranked relatively low because his success is mostly a function of the offense around him. That's not an indictment on Goff; it's the result of great coaching for a second-year quarterback who is learning more every week. He didn't grade out any differently against Minnesota than he did during the Rams' recent blowout wins. The difference was a defense that didn't set him up on short fields and his teammates (Cooper Kupp and a stagnant running game) slowing the team down. Some of coach Sean McVay's schemed-up shot plays didn't pop against an experienced Vikings defense. If there is currently a weak point to Goff's game, it's his inability to throw well on the run after he's pressured. Playing behind this excellent Rams offensive line, Goff fortunately doesn't need to escape pressure that often.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

Check the Air Index each week to see which quarterbacks are delivering at the top of their game, just like FedEx Ground delivers with fast and affordable shipping.

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