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QB Index, Wild Card Round: Playoff trustworthiness rankings

With the NFL's 100th regular season in the books, NFL.com editors Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr join forces to update the QB Index -- the hierarchy among starting quarterbacks -- heading into the Wild Card Round.

How do we arrive at these rankings? Well, each of the four QB watchers submits a ballot, and through the power of mathematics, we average out the results to arrive at our list. The individual rankings of each writer are listed in every QB blurb.

Now that the regular season is over, we will be focusing our rankings exclusively on the surviving playoff quarterbacks, limiting the field this week to the 12 quarterbacks who still have a role to play in the story of the 2019 season. And while the regular-season rankings attempted to take into account both in-season production and past history to create a holistic hierarchy of every starting QB in the game, the rankings for the Wild Card Round have been made with playoff trustworthiness in mind. Balancing both 2019 production and broader NFL (and postseason) track records, this ranking reflects the quarterbacks we'd feel most comfortable riding with into the highest-stakes portion of the calendar.

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1
Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 2 | Blair: 1 | Filice: 1 | Parr: 2

2019 stats: 15 games | 66.1 pct | 3,127 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 36 pass TD | 6 INT | 1,206 rush yds | 7 rush TD | 2 fumbles lost

Parr: Has Jackson ever won a playoff game? No. He's a painful 0 for 1. Has he destroyed defenses each week for the past four months? Yep. With gusto. I gave the edge to Drew Brees in my own personal rankings for this exercise, due to experience (more on that in the Brees section of the Quarterback Index) and the fact that he posted a league-best 137.0 rating in the final four weeks of the regular season. Now that I got that out of the way ... Jackson is the MVP. He did a whole bunch of things no one has ever done before, and I'm not sure any defense has an answer for him. So, yes, very large truss has been earned here.

2
Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 1 | Blair: 2 | Filice: 2 | Parr: 3

2019 stats: 14 games | 65.9 pct | 4,031 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 26 pass TD | 5 INT | 218 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 2 fumbles lost

Parr: Sure, Mahomes didn't slay it to the level everyone has come to expect during the season's final eight weeks. His 264.4 pass yards per game, 11:4 TD-to-INT ratio and 97.6 rating during that stretch are pedestrian by his standards, but let's not forget what the reigning MVP is capable of. In the history of the game, no QB has been better through his first three NFL seasons (he ranks first in pass yards, yards per attempt, pass TD percentage and passer rating over that span). Kansas City's QB1 had a rating above 110 in two of his last three games -- he clearly has been better the further removed he is from the knee and ankle injuries that played a huge role in his midseason lull. Mahomes might be rounding back into peak form at just the right time.

3
Drew Brees
Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 4 | Blair: 3 | Filice: 3 | Parr: 1

2019 stats: 11 games | 74.3 pct | 2,979 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 27 pass TD | 4 INT | -4 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 0 fumbles lost

Parr: Aside from being the career leader in passing yards, completion percentage and TD throws (there's a triple crown for you), Brees has the third-highest career postseason passer rating (100.0) among 32 QBs with 10 or more playoff starts in the Super Bowl era. He's battle-tested in January and beyond, having won a Super Bowl MVP a decade ago in one of his 15 playoff starts, but I'll admit that doesn't count for a lot in 2019. The following fact does matter in the now: Brees has four straight games with three-plus pass TDs and 0 INTs, which is one shy of tying the longest single-season streak since at least 1950. He has the most pass TDs and highest passer rating among QBs since Week 14. No, I'm not done quantifying his red-hot finish to the year. He had the highest passer rating in a single season in December in the Super Bowl era (min. 100 pass attempts). That's a guy I can trust.

4
Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 3 | Blair: 4 | Filice: 4 | Parr: 4

2019 stats: 16 games | 66.1 pct | 4,110 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 31 pass TD | 5 INT | 342 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 2 fumbles lost

Bhanpuri: Wilson just capped an MVP-caliber regular season by coming an inch short of pulling off his 29th game-winning drive since 2012 -- which would've given him the most by any QB during that span. The man possesses an unwavering confidence and self-resolve that borders on delusional. You simply cannot count him out of any contest, a truth etched into NFL history through years' worth of fourth-quarter comebacks and clutch plays. I gave Russ the edge over Brees this week because of the former's ability to manufacture crucial yards and first downs with his legs. If (and when) things break down around him, Wilson is more mobile and versatile than the 40-year-old Brees at this stage in their Hall of Fame careers.

5
Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 5 | Blair: 5 | Filice: 5 | Parr: 6

2019 stats: 16 games | 62.0 pct | 4,002 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 26 pass TD | 4 INT | 183 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 4 fumbles lost

Bhanpuri: I know it's strange not to have Mr. Hail Mary higher on this list, but Rodgers has been off ( or way off) far too often this season to warrant a better ranking. Since the Packers' Week 11 bye, Rodgers is tied with Tom Brady for the fifth-worst completion percentage above expectation in the NFL (per Next Gen Stats, min. 75 attempts), though he also ranks third in the league in passes dropped (16) during that period. His uncharacteristically high number of missed throws mixed with persistent miscommunication issues between him and his pass catchers has stalled Green Bay's offense several times this season, putting undue pressure on the Packers' defense. Can Rodgers, a playoff dynamo who's been as prolific in the postseason as any passer of the past decade, once again elevate his play in crunch time? Or has one of the clutchest quarterbacks of my lifetime truly lost some of his big-game magic?

6
Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson
Houston Texans · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 7 | Blair: 6 | Filice: 7 | Parr: 7

2019 stats: 15 games | 67.3 pct | 3,852 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 26 pass TD | 12 INT | 413 rush yds | 7 rush TD | 3 fumbles lost

Bhanpuri: The Texans QB1 owns the arm, the legs, the surrounding talent and the championship pedigree to outduel any opponent in the playoff field, but his inconsistency down the stretch this season makes him hard to trust in a one-and-done scenario. Which Deshaun Watson will we see against a feisty, physical Bills team on Saturday -- the world-beater who lit up the vaunted Patriots' defense in Week 13 or the inaccurate, largely ineffective signal-caller who barely squeaked by the Bucs three weeks later? I know Watson ranking below Rodgers will rankle some readers, especially when you compare how both have played this season, but when push comes to shove, the 24-year-old just isn't as dependable (yet!) as the two-time MVP.

7
Tom Brady
Tom Brady
New England Patriots · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 6 | Blair: 9 | Filice: 8 | Parr: 5

2019 stats: 16 games | 60.8 pct | 4,057 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 24 pass TD | 8 INT | 34 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 1 fumble lost

Blair: Is there anything as tantalizing and terrifying as the potential of seeing a god made mortal? Brady is coming off one of his most statistically underwhelming NFL seasons, but his playoff record remains supernaturally pristine, creating the odd situation where it almost seems stupidly bold to predict that a 42-year-old quarterback who struggled for significant stretches between October and the end of December will also struggle in January. The way of the universe is that Brady and Bill Belichick win Super Bowls, now and forever. Of course, that's not true. Tom's Infamous Archnemesiswill triumph at some point, reminding us that he shares the same human fate we all do. It could happen as soon as this Saturday, against the Titans, who handed Brady one of his worst losses of the 2018 season, in which he completed 51 percent of his passes with zero touchdowns and a passer rating of 70.6. Of course, the Patriots' defense could make all this hand-wringing moot. On an intellectual level, I know that we will one day have to live in a post-Brady world -- but I'm not sure I'm ready for it.

8
Carson Wentz
Carson Wentz
Philadelphia Eagles · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 8 | Blair: 7 | Filice: 6 | Parr: 8

2019 stats: 16 games | 63.9 pct | 4,039 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 27 pass TD | 7 INT | 243 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 7 fumbles lost

Blair: Now we come to the first of the true playoff naifs. To some extent, we're still trying to figure out what kind of quarterback Carson Wentz will be, coming off his fourth NFL season, in which he looked both brilliant (299.8 yards per game, 7:0 TD-to-INT ratio and a passer rating of 100.8 in the four-game win streak that propelled the Eagles to the playoffs) and pedestrian (260 yards per game, 5:3 TD-to-INT ratio and a passer rating of 81.6 in the three-game skid that dropped them to 5-7). How he handles his first playoff appearance will go a long way toward filling in the blanks on his resume created by the injuries that kept him from participating in Philly's last two postseason pushes. Here's a fact that will soon seem either slightly useless or spookily prescient: Wentz became the fourth QB since 1970 to throw for 1,500-plus yards and 10-plus TDs while notching a win percentage of .800 in December -- and two of the three (Kurt Warner in 2001 and Peyton Manning in 2013) went on to reach the Super Bowl. After a very up-and-down season, we're back where we started the season with Wentz: waiting to see what he can do in the playoffs.

9
Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 9 | Blair: 8 | Filice: 9 | Parr: 9

2019 stats: 12 games | 70.3 pct | 2,742 pass yds | 9.6 ypa | 22 pass TD | 6 INT | 185 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 3 fumbles lost

Blair: Tannehill easily outpaced Tom Brady, his opponent this weekend, in passer rating (117.5 to 88.0), completion percentage (70.3 to 60.8) and yards per throw (9.6 to 6.6). He also has more head-to-head wins against Brady (four) than any quarterback not named Peyton Manning. And yet, Tannehill's nonexistent playoff resume and the nagging fact that he flamed out in Miami makes him seem almost like a scrappy underdog. While we have reams of evidence that Brady and many of the QBs listed above Tannehill can win in the playoffs, we have zero prior knowledge of how Tannehill reacts to the January spotlight. So I understand Tannehill's ranking here. I also would not be surprised if he extended his feel-good story far beyond the Wild Card Round, with the potential to become a sort of souped-up everyman-hero stand-in for Ryan Fitzpatrick, the one-time first-round pick made relatable by his past failure and subsequent reinvention.

10
Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo
San Francisco 49ers · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 10 | Blair: 10 | Filice: 10 | Parr: 10

2019 stats: 16 games | 69.1 pct | 3,978 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 27 pass TD | 13 INT | 62 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles lost

Filice:*_Super Bowl__or bust!_ Such talk *by numerous Niners back in July raised many an eyebrow. Then San Francisco went out and earned the NFC's No. 1 seed, deftly navigating a regular-season slate that seemed to feature a high-profile showdown every other week. So, yeah, Super Bowlor bust indeed! One big question remains, though: Is Jimmy G ready to steer this ship to the promised land of Miami Gardens? Well, if last week's de facto NFC West title game is any indication, the Faithful have to be pretty enthused about their field general. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on the line, San Francisco traveled to Seattle, braved hostile CenturyLink Field and came away with a hard-fought 26-21 win over the archrival Seahawks. Garoppolo led the charge, shredding Seattle with clinical efficiency: 18 of 22 (81.8 percent) for 285 yards. How does 13 yards per attempt sound? That W also got the 49ers one step closer to their stated goal, with the victor's spoils including a first-round bye. So Garoppolo advances a round in the playoffs without playing a game. Not a bad start!

11
Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 11 | Blair: 11 | Filice: 12 | Parr: 11

2019 stats: 15 games | 69.1 pct | 3,603 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 26 pass TD | 6 INT | 63 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles lost

Filice: Trust is a funny thing. Over the 17-week sample that was the 2019 regular season, Cousins posted top-seven figures in completion percentage (69.1), yards per attempt (8.1), TD-to-INT ratio (26:6) and passer rating (107.4). According to the grading gurus over at Pro Football Focus, the eighth-year veteran notched the fifth-highest season mark among quarterbacks, finishing ahead of starry signal-callers like Patrick MahomesDeshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers. Cousins has been a full-time starter since 2015, and during this five-season span, he's logged more wins (42) than all but five quarterbacks: Tom BradyRussell WilsonDrew BreesAaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. (And remember, Cousins spent three of those five seasons with Washington, a franchise that's logged three winning seasons in the past dozen years.) That's the kind of data deluge that'd typically engender confidence in a player, no? So what's The 84 Million Dollar Man doing down here, knocking on the basement door of these trust rankings? Well, as everyone knows, Cousins' NFL resume also features some different -- more distilled, less attractive -- figures that don't exactly present the man in the most trustworthy light. Cousins' records in the playoffs (0-1), prime time (7-15) and games against teams that finish the season above .500 (6-30) all appear to suggest one simple narrative: When the lights are shining the brightest, this quarterback wilts. When the competition's raised, Cousins falls. Remember those sparkling 2019 numbers from the top of this paragraph? Well, they look a bit different when you filter them by one notable distinction:

Cousins in 2019, vs. NON-playoff teams: 9-1 record, 77.5 comp%, 15:1 TD-to-INT, 119.8 passer rating.

Cousins in 2019, vs. playoff teams: 1-4 record, 55.4 comp%, 11:5 TD-to-INT, 86.9 passer rating.

Unfortunately, the remainder of Cousins' season will be played against playoff teams.

12
Josh Allen
Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills · QB

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 12 | Blair: 12 | Filice: 11 | Parr: 12

2019 stats: 16 games | 58.8 pct | 3,089 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 20 pass TD | 9 INT | 510 rush yds | 9 rush TD | 4 fumbles lost

Filice: Through the first five weeks of the season, Allen had eight total touchdowns ... and nine turnovers. Not the kind of ratio Sean McDermott, Brian Daboll and Co. were looking for from the second-year signal-caller. But after the Bills' Week 6 bye, Allen came back a new man -- at least, on the ball-security front. Talking to the assembled media during the week following the bye, Allen provided a candid assessment of his play: "There's a lot of things we need to clean up as an offense, myself especially, you know, as far as taking care of the football, making sure that we're not putting it in harm's way. I gotta be able to do a better job of that. To go back and take a look at some of the mistakes that have been made in the last five games, you know, there's a lot of little small areas that can be fixed." And fixed they were! In the final 11 games of the regular season, Allen racked up 21 total touchdowns (15 throwing, six running) against just four turnovers (two picks, two fumbles). A 21:4 ratio? Yeah, that'll do. Now, Allen still has rough edges to his game, as evidenced by his 58.8 percent completion rate -- worst in the league among qualified passers. Quarterbacking a team that's led by its defense, Allen remains a work in progress, about to play his first postseason game. Which explains why he sits at the bottom of this trust ranking. But given the improvement he's shown from Year 1 to Year 2 -- and over the course of his sophomore season -- trust me when I tell you that I won't be surprised if he makes us look stupid during the Wild Card Weekend opener in Houston.

The Air Index delivered by FedEx ranks NFL quarterback performances all season long. What's the possibility Ryan Tannehill moves up our trust rankings next week?

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