Ranking the NFL's top 10 QBs
Every week this NFL season we will be updating you on the top 10 quarterbacks in our PFF rating system, which takes into account every QB’s production over the last two seasons, with weighting towards more recent play. In essence, it answers the question of how good a player is at this very moment.
Here we rank the top 10, and also give you an in-depth look at the three most compelling QB performances of the weekend (OK, there’s no Marcus Mariota, but Sam Monson has that very well covered here): Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles and Andrew Luck.
- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, 94.0
This week was a typical sharp performance from Rodgers that saw him complete 18-of-23 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns, with a couple of his best throws being negated due to penalties.
- Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, 89.4
It was a different look for the Saints offense this week, as the short passing game took center stage. 78 percent of his 355 yards came after the catch, a league-high for Week 1.
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, 87.8
Overshadowed by Brady’s performance, Roethlisberger carried the Steelers offense with an impressive display throwing the deep ball as he completed four of eight attempts (one drop) for 139 yards and an accuracy percentage of 62.5 percent.
- Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, 85.5
Like Brees, it was a pretty statistical effort thanks to Rivers’ wide receivers and some shoddy coverage by the Detroit Lions. Of his 404 passing yards, 300 of them came after the catch.
- Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 85.1
The defending Super Bowl MVP looked sharp against an overmatched Steelers defense, finishing with an accuracy percentage of 83.9 percent and our second-highest grade of the week at +4.2.
- Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, 83.9
Sunday looked a lot like Manning’s last outing back in January, where downfield throws were hard to come by. Throw in a clear discomfort in the pocket leading to a rare four sacks, and this is not the Manning we’ve come to know. He completed only 2-of-8 passes for 33 yards on throws beyond 10 yards in the air.
- Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, 82.3
Yet another conservative approach, Romo averaged only 4.4 yards per target, third-lowest in the league, but he ran the offense efficiently before putting together a spectacular final drive to lead the Cowboys to an improbable victory.
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, 81.6
A strong performance was marred by two head-scratching decisions that led to interceptions, but Ryan jumped aboard the Julio Jones Train to 288 passing yards while only getting pressured on 19 percent of his dropbacks, second-lowest in the league.
- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, 81.5
On the other hand is Wilson, who had to face the dominant St. Louis Rams defensive line that whooped Seattle’s front five. Wilson made some plays with his legs, but he was inconsistent as a passer and stuck to the short passing game as 33 of his 41 attempts were thrown within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
- Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs, 80.0
In classic Alex Smith fashion, he finished the week with no big-time throws, but also didn’t have a turnover-worthy play, so he ran the offense efficiently enough to lead the Chiefs to victory. His first TD pass to TE Travis Kelce was a beauty, while his second was a gimme – expect even more Kelce in Kansas City’s future.
What the stats missed: Ryan Tannehill really struggled versus Washington
Every week we’ll dive into some of the plays that shaped the statistical landscape around the league.
Remember, the NFL’s version of passer rating is a great way to define a passing offense (quarterback plus receivers, pass protection, quality of opposing pass defense, etc), but it often lacks context when assigning the number to a quarterback’s performance.
Even advanced stats miss a lot of the context and nuance that goes into a quarterback’s performance, but our PFF grades are able to sort through every throw of the week to give an accurate depiction of QB play.
Miami’s Tannehill finished with a respectable passer rating of 93.5 versus the Redskins, but he was lucky to do so. When breaking down the tape, he got away with two extremely poor decisions that should have resulted in easy interceptions for the Washington defense, but neither defender was able to make the play; in fact, one of them ended up as a 10-yard completion. If these two plays were picked as they should have been and plugged into Tannehill’s stat line (acknowledging that other stats would change as well, but for the sake of context), his passer rating would drop from 93.5 to 64.6. That number would paint a much different, and more accurate, depiction of Tannehill’s performance on Sunday.
This clip from Sunday’s game explains the situation well.
On the other hand, Tennessee Titans rookie QB Marcus Mariota lit up the stat sheet, and while it was an impressive debut, our own Sam Monson touched on why those numbers were inflated.
What to make of Nick Foles
While I picked the Rams to upset the Seahawks, I’m still not a believer in QB Nick Foles as a top-end option, though he was very impressive on Sunday. He’s still not the statistical marvel that saw him post a 119.2 passer rating in 2013, a number largely attributed to Chip Kelly’s offense, good work by his playmakers and a little luck, but Foles came through with some big throws against the Seahawks, including perhaps the biggest of the entire week when he dropped a touch pass right into WR Stedman Bailey’s arms in overtime. It still remains to be seen if he can do it on a week-to-week basis for the Rams, but with their fearsome defensive line, Foles’ consistency is the key to their ability to make an NFC West push.
How the Bills shut down Andrew Luck
The Colts’ Andrew Luck makes as many big-time throws as any QB in the league, but he often does so by waiting for plays to develop and holding the ball a little longer than most. The Bills offset that with a blitz-happy approach and Luck was forced to adapt. Last season, Luck‘s average time to throw was 2.83, but on Sunday, it was only 2.4 seconds — the lowest it’s been since Week 16 in 2013.
What does this mean? The Bills forced the ball out of Luck’s hands quicker than he would have liked, and credit him for making the adjustment rather than waiting for the pressure to get there. But clearly the Colts offense was out of sync, as they couldn’t create enough separation to make the quick passing game work.
QB stats of the week
-Only five of Tom Brady’s 34 dropbacks lasted 2.6 seconds or more. Expect even more of the quick passing game against the Bills’ blitz-heavy attack this Sunday.
-Peyton Manning was sacked on 30.8 percent of his pressured dropbacks, a ridiculously high number for him, and one to watch going forward.
-Even more impressive for Foles, he was pressured 54.8 percent of his dropbacks, second-highest in the league, but he finished with and accuracy percentage of 100 percent on his 15 attempts (12-for-15 with three throwaways).
-Of the 36 quarterbacks to attempt one deep pass (20+ yards in the air), only 15 of them had at least one completion this week. So over half of the NFL failed to complete one deep pass.