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QB Index, Week 15: Jared Goff-Carson Wentz debate

Nearly three years after the 2016 NFL Draft, the Rams and Eagles wouldn't change a thing. The debate between Jared Goff and Carson Wentz had no wrong answer, although it certainly didn't look that way two years ago at this time.

Goff's career trajectory is yet another lesson in allowing players to mature before removing hot takes from the oven. It's no surprise that a 22-year-old quarterback didn't thrive under Jeff Fisher, but I am struck by how these two quarterbacks' early paths have diverged since Wentz tore his left ACL in a shootout with Goff's Rams in Los Angeles this week one year ago.

Sunday's rematch was supposed to be a chance for Wentz to put that memory behind him, but NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday that tests revealed Wentz has a fracture in his back, which makes him unlikely to play this week and could keep him out the rest of the season.

Wentz has struggled with injury luck dating back to his final season at North Dakota State, when he suffered a broken wrist. The bigger concern after 40 NFL starts remains his accuracy. His completion percentage went up this season (from 60.2 to 69.6) coming off his knee injury, although that was largely due to a dink-and-dunk Eagles offense that failed to push the ball down the field. Wentz still looks like a star, though, and mixed in some of the jaw-dropping plays that had him rated as a strong MVP candidate a year ago. He's among the toughest quarterbacks to bring down and completes high-degree-of-difficulty throws. But too often this year, Wentz made poor decisions or missed routine passes, with the back issues, which Rapoport says date back to October, as a potential explanation.

Anytime there was real concern about Wentz this season, he would do something dazzling, like lead the Eagles to 17 fourth-quarter points last week in Dallas. If the Eagles' defense had stood tall late against the Cowboys, Wentz could have enjoyed a signature victory made especially impressive by the fact that it came playing through injury. Instead, it was another near miss for a star-crossed Eagles defense.

Wentz is ranked No. 13 in the QB Index, which is roughly where Goff stood a season ago when Wentz suffered his injury. The Sean McVay protege has taken another clear step in his development and is ranked No. 6 so far this season, even after his rough performance last Sunday night in Chicago. Wondering what Goff's career might be like without McVay is missing the point. In Goff, McVay has found a pocket quarterback who can hit receivers in stride and anticipate throws beautifully to execute the Rams' precision offense.

Goff doesn't have the athleticism or the theoretical upside of Wentz, but Goff is naturally more accurate, and he hasn't missed any time since being elevated to QB1 as a rookie. Goff's career has followed a steady incline and he's closer in age to Baker Mayfield than he is to Wentz, who is almost two years older.

I don't want to be a prisoner of the moment and say Goff was the right pick; it also would have been unfair to say Goff was a bust two years ago. It's fair to say, though, that the analysts who backed Goff heading into the 2016 draft feel vindicated, while the Wentz hive can point to his highs of 2017 and still support their man. It's also fair to note that Goff will be the one on the field Sunday when the Eagles face the Rams, trying to secure a playoff bye, with his ascent potentially reaching all the way to the Super Bowl.

NOTE: This is the Quarterback Index. The QBs are ranked based on 2018 play alone. The next ranking of all 32 starters comes after Week 17.

It's hard to imagine Mahomes facing a tougher test -- mentally and physically -- in the AFC playoffs than he did against Baltimore last week. That was an enormous test to pass.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 66.8 pct | 4,300 pass yds | 8.9 ypa | 43 pass TD | 11 INT | 235 rush yds | 2 rush TD 

It's not exactly time to panic in New Orleans, but the Saints should be concerned that only the Cardinals have averaged fewer yards per game over the last three weeks.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 75.7 pct | 3,463 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 31 pass TD | 4 INT | 25 rush yds | 4 rush TD 

The Chargers' lowest yardage total of the season against Cincinnati coincided with one of the weakest performances of the year by the offensive line.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 69.4 pct | 3,638 pass yds | 8.9 ypa | 29 pass TD | 6 INT | 6 rush yds | 0 rush TD 

Luck's season has been defined by short timing throws, yet no team is better on third-and-10 or more. You can have it all!

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 67.7 pct | 3,759 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 34 pass TD | 13 INT | 98 rush yds | 0 rush TD 

It would be on-brand for Rodgers to play his best month of football after Mike McCarthy's firing as a "told you so" to the rest of the league. He has a 23:1 TD:INT ratio and his highest YPA since 2014 in a relative down season.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 62.0 pct | 3,700 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 23 pass TD | 1 INT | 212 rush yds | 0 rush TD 

My two lowest-graded games for Goff on the season were the last two, with his trademark accuracy deserting him even in the indoor environs of Detroit.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 64.4 pct | 3,934 pass yds | 8.6 ypa | 27 pass TD | 11 INT | 91 rush yds | 1 rush TD 

Brady's performance in Miami looked it was shot straight out of 2016-'17, with downfield darts aplenty and big performances by Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. With Josh Gordon improving every week and a healthy backfield, the talent around Brady is helping him reach his highest ranking of the season.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 65.6 pct | 3,700 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 23 pass TD | 8 INT | 35 rush yds | 2 rush TD 

Remember when people were (foolishly) saying that Matty Ice was playing better than during his MVP season? It's another solid year in Ryan's borderline Hall of Fame resume, but no one is saying that anymore.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 70.5 pct | 4,076 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 28 pass TD | 6 INT | 101 rush yds | 2 rush TD 

Wilson has shown improved movement within the pocket all season and has the uncanny knack for making a game-winning play, like his 40-yard run against Minnesota, even during a dreadful passing night in which he threw for only 72 yards.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 65.6 pct | 2,788 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 29 pass TD | 6 INT | 306 rush yds | 0 rush TD 

This season is the inverse of so many Big Ben campaigns where the eye test and play-to-play grades were superior to his traditional stats.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 67.0 pct | 4,227 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 28 pass TD | 13 INT | 94 rush yds | 3 rush TD 

Cousins was my No. 7 quarterback at midseason, so his overall grade hasn't collapsed. But three of his four worst games of the season have come in the last month, and he was absolutely seeing ghosts and hesitant to pull the trigger on open throws in Seattle.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 70.6 pct | 3,698 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 24 pass TD | 9 INT | 108 rush yds | 1 rush TD 

The recurrence of Newton's shoulder issues, so soon after his most recent surgery in 2017, raises questions about his long-term health just as he was settling in to an offense that fit him.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 68.8 pct | 3,264 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 24 pass TD | 12 INT | 473 rush yds | 4 rush TD 

Another abbreviated season would be a bummer for Wentz, but this was a mostly positive post-ACL-surgery season for the third-year pro.

 **2018 stats:** 11 games | 69.6 pct | 3,074 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 21 pass TD | 7 INT | 93 rush yds | 0 rush TD 

His first half against Carolina ranks with any half of football by a quarterback this season. The legend Evan Silva's Twitter followers would take Mayfield long-term over Wentz, Goff and Deshaun Watson and I can't even disagree.

 **2018 stats:** 11 games | 64.4 pct | 2,877 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 19 pass TD | 10 INT | 109 rush yds | 0 rush TD 

The Colts did a nice job exposing Houston's faulty communication up front with stunts and blitzes. Expect Houston's playoff opponents to do the same.

 **2018 stats:** 13 games | 66.9 pct | 3,298 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 22 pass TD | 9 INT | 410 rush yds | 2 rush TD 

The Air Index delivered by FedEx ranks NFL quarterback performances all season long. Check out the FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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