QB Index, Week 6: Class of '04 woes; Cam Newton back

Below you'll find a breakdown of the top 15 quarterbacks so far this season. The most jarring aspect? The names that aren't listed.

The Canton-bound Class of 2004 -- Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning -- serve as a collective reminder that quarterbacks occasionally do age in this era of Brady and Brees. Roethlisberger's five-interception game -- and his reaction to it -- naturally drew headlines, but the loss to Jacksonville felt more unlucky than embarrassing.

The bigger concern is how few "wow" moments Roethlisberger has pulled off through five weeks in a career built on them. His baseline play has been workmanlike. Instead of falling off a cliff, Roethlisberger has only looked less capable of climbing one. The highs are no longer as high.

The same holds true for Rivers and Manning. My highest-graded single game from the '04 trio this season was Eli's Week 4 loss in Tampa (30 of 49 for 288 yards and two touchdowns, with an additional rushing score), hardly a performance that will be referenced during his Hall of Fame debate. Rivers has been speaking a language his young receivers don't seem to understand. The trio hasn't been bad, just average. Mid-to-late-tier starting quarterbacks depend on their teammates for big games, rather than elevating those around them. I haven't seen the game yet where these quarterbacks put their teammates on their backs.

It's not as if early struggles are limited to the mid-30s set. Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins are also off to slow starts, but they have the benefit of time on their side to sort things out. For the class of '04, that time is closer to running out.

This is the Quarterback Index. The QBs are ranked based on 2017 play only. So what's happened in previous seasons -- and what will happen moving forward -- doesn't matter. Let's get weird:

Brady followed up his worst quarter of the season in Tampa -- the ageless QB finally tossed his first pick in the opening period -- with a scorching stretch of touch throws against pressure that he wasn't making back in 2013, when he was 36 years old. His yards-per-attempt mark has gone up every season since.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 68.2 pct | 1,702 pass yds | 8.7 ypa | 11 pass TD | 1 INT 

Rodgers and Brady: The top two quarterbacks in football, same as it ever was. The Cowboys successfully played keep-away from Rodgers by giving him a scant seven possessions, which could wind up as the fewest by any team all season. He still put up four touchdowns and a field goal. Rodgers' sublime play the last two weeks convinced me he's headed for a third MVP award.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 66.7 pct | 1,367 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 13 pass TD | 3 INT | 83 rush yds | 0 rush TD 

Last year's Chiefs offense would have run the ball on third-and-16 or perhaps let Smith throw a pass short of the sticks, setting off countless salty Twitter jokes. This year's Chiefs offense dials up a vertical shot down the sideline to Tyreek Hill, and Smith drops it in the bucket for a 38-yard gain.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 76.6 pct | 1,391 pass yds | 8.8 ypa | 11 pass TD | 0 INT | 108 rush yds | 1 rush TD 

The presence of Adrian Peterson made the Saints' offense more predictable, so trading him away should only help. Brees and coach Sean Payton appeared to find an identity before their bye week with a versatile ball-control offense featuring a sneaky amount of power football that kept the Saints' defense off the field.

 **2017 stats:** 4 games | 69.1 pct | 1,135 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 8 pass TD | 0 INT 

My legendary colleague Chris Wesseling said on last Sunday's Around The NFL Podcast that Newton's previous six quarters were the best of his career, which is saying a lot for a former MVP. I never thought I'd see Newton and the Panthers act as a pass-first team, but that's been the case the last two weeks, with the running game stymied. Newton's accuracy on intermediate-to-deep throws is currently second to none, another streaky stretch in what's been a fascinatingly streaky career.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 68.3 pct | 1,237 pass yds | 8.5 ypa | 8 pass TD | 5 INT | 90 rush yds | 2 rush TD 

While solid this season, Ryan sits at No. 6 almost by default. The rest of the top 15 is very closely bunched.

 **2017 stats:** 4 games | 65.2 pct | 1,109 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 5 pass TD | 5 INT 

After logging a career-low 259 rushing yards last season, Wilson is back to his typical ground production in 2017. His legs are responsible for nearly all his passing yards, too, with almost every big completion against the Rams in Week 5 coming on a scramble.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 62.4 pct | 1,222 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 8 pass TD | 3 INT | 154 rush yds | 1 rush TD 

Stafford's arm is too big to play in an offense this condensed, especially when he can't rely on his running game to keep drives alive in short-yardage situations. The Lions rank 30th in yards per play, with Stafford only coming alive late in Week 5 when the team's dink-and-dunk approach was greeted by a soft Panthers zone defense. This Lions offense misses rookie receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring injury) a little too much.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 64.2 pct | 1,116 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 9 pass TD | 1 INT | 53 rush yds | 0 rush TD 

Yes, the big plays make up for the easy misses. Wentz is developing the mental side of his game, too, getting his team into the right call at the line of scrimmage and calmly going through reads with the benefit of great pass protection.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 62.1 pct | 1,362 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 10 pass TD | 3 INT | 108 rush yds | 0 rush TD 

The Cowboys are recognizing that they need more than just a dropback passing game, incorporating some zone-read plays and more calls with Prescott on the move in an effort to make the offense less predictable.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 62.6 pct | 1,192 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 11 pass TD | 4 INT | 126 rush yds | 2 rush TD 

Even Goff's shakier games this season show progress. The sophomore signal caller saved his best for last on the team's final drive against Seattle, with a deep toss to tight end Tyler Higbee after looking off safety Earl Thomas that ranks among Goff's best throws as a pro.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 61.0 pct | 1,360 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 7 pass TD | 3 INT 

The Bills threw the ball 25 times in the first half at Cincinnati, which was probably not the safest plan, with tight end Nick O'Leary playing the role of No. 1 receiver.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 62.5 pct | 910 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 6 pass TD | 2 INT | 121 rush yds | 0 rush TD 

With Oakland at 2-3 and Carr recovering from a significant back injury, this week's home game against the Chargers feels like a crossroads for this Raiders team. Coach Jack Del Rio indicated he expects Carr to return to the lineup.

 **2017 stats:** 4 games | 67.9 pct | 753 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 7 pass TD | 2 INT 

Siemian has a Tony Romo-like tendency to go for a little too much, which will lead to more entertainment and more need for those legal edibles in Denver.

 **2017 stats:** 4 games | 62.7 pct | 888 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 7 pass TD | 4 INT | 46 rush yds | 1 rush TD 

The splash plays will deservedly make Watson a star. But my favorite drive from the rookie so far this season was a 14-play, 75-yard march coming out of halftime against Tennessee when Titans coordinator Dick LeBeau backed off and waited for a mistake. Watson surveyed the field, took what the defense gave him and calmly directed a touchdown drive. Like a veteran.

 **2017 stats:** 5 games | 62.1 pct | 1,072 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 12 pass TD | 4 INT | 179 rush yds | 2 rush TD 

Additional QB notes

Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings: Credit offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur for doing a fantastic job with Keenum. He's undeniably been the best free-agent quarterback signed last offseason, for a mere $2 million.

Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts: Brissett's outing against the 49ers was one of my highest-graded games of the season until the 23-year-old threw an interception in overtime that showed his age. Still, he's making quicker decisions and showing off an incredible arm that can throw the ball 58 yards across his body while hopping to his right. He gets better every week, with a higher ceiling than almost anyone (including Bill Belichick) could have imagined.

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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