Ranking the NFL’s top 10 QBs entering Week 5
With Week 4 in the books, we’re starting to get some separation at the top of the 2015 quarterback rankings. Only six quarterbacks have managed a PFF grade of +10.0 or better, with 15 quarterbacks settling in between +2.7 and -1.0. We also have a few big names—Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, and Andrew Luck—grading below -1.0 for their own various reasons, but they have plenty of time to right the ship or get healthy, if that’s what is holding them back.
Here’s a look at the bigger picture: our updated PFF ratings. It’s important to keep in mind that these ratings factor in a player’s past 32 games, with recent games weighted more heavily.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, 94.9
Though he didn’t throw for five touchdowns, Rodgers had another fine outing against the San Francisco 49ers, finishing at +4.4 overall. He has the league’s highest grade under pressure this season at +6.8, and Sunday was his third game avoiding a turnover-worthy play.
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, 89.4
Injured for an estimated four-to-six weeks, Roethlisberger was off to a hot start in 2015, playing perhaps the best football of his career.
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 87.4
The Patriots had a bye in Week for, so here’s what we had to say last week: Brady continues to see the field and distribute the ball at a high level, and on passes thrown in the 1–10 yard range, he’s now 61-for-78 (78.0 percent) for 546 yards, eight touchdowns, and no interceptions.
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, 87.1
A strong bounce-back game for Brees, who graded at +2.4 against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night after missing Week 3 with a shoulder injury. He led the league in accuracy percentage this week at 89.7, though there were a few questionable decisions sprinkled in that got saved due to penalties. His arm strength will be a story to monitor this season.
5. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, 84.5
Even with the big-play element taken out of the game (no targets thrown beyond 20 yards), Ryan played an efficient game against the Houston Texans, completing five-of-seven passes in the intermediate (10-19 yard) range for 118 yards.
6. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals, 83.6
Palmer continued his strong start, even in defeat, as he finished at +2.2 overall. He’s tied with Aaron Rodgers for second in the league with 13 big-time throws (BTTs), though his turnover-worthy play (TWP) percentage of 4.5 percent is 10th-worst in the league, so it will be worth monitoring to see if he increases his total of three interceptions in the coming weeks.
7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, 82.1
Romo’s broken clavicle will keep him out for an extended period of time. He was replaced by Brandon Weeden last weekend.
8. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, 81.8
It was a solid outing for Rivers, who threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns, good for a +1.4 passing grade that was Rivers’ best of the season. He wasn’t as good as the stats will show, as 129 of his yards came on a shallow cross and a dump off to Danny Woodhead. Still, it was a step in the right direction for Rivers, who had been trending downward since the second half of last season.
9. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, 81.6
Monday night highlighted the good and bad of Russell Wilson, and it evened out to a -0.3 grade. His back-to-back plays of breaking out of a sack to move the chains, followed by a strike for a touchdown in the back of the end zone were classic Wilson, and a huge part of the Seahawks’ victory. However, while there are certainly offensive line issues in Seattle, Wilson also makes it harder on them at times by vacating through the back of the pocket, and often waiting for things to break down to make a play. This style led to some costly fumbles that nearly handed the game back to the Detroit Lions. It was a boom or bust game for Wilson.
10. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings, 81.2
Facing a fierce Denver Broncos’ pass rush, Bridgewater held his own, though he had a costly fumble that sealed the game for Denver. Still, Bridgewater continues his quietly efficient ways that keep him lingering around the top 10.
What the stats missed
Each 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.
Dalton on a roll (-er coaster?)
We’ve made much of Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton’s inconsistency, with our own Sam Monson even coining the term “Daltoncoaster,” but he’s off to a fantastic start with a +12.5 grade through four games. His strong play has led the Bengals to a 4-0 start, but will he sustain it? That’s the big question in Cincinnati for Bengals fans who have seen this before. In fact, this isn’t even the best four-game stretch of his career, as he graded at +15.5 from Weeks 14 through 17 in 2013.
That strong stretch seemingly came at a good time, as the Bengals headed into their home wild card playoff game against the San Diego Chargers; but Dalton’s “hot” streak didn’t matter, as he graded at -6.2 in a Bengals’ loss. Now, this isn’t to throw a wet blanket on Dalton’s great start to 2015, just that it’s a story we’ve seen before, and one he must now sustain this level of production. If he does, Cincinnati looks like one of the better teams in the AFC, and the favorite in the AFC North.
Second-year improvements: Carr and Bortles showing encouraging signs
After grading as our bottom two quarterbacks last season at -32.6 and -38.9, respectively, Derek Carr and Blake Bortles have shown improvement in the early going this season. Carr is at +2.7 in the early going, while Bortles is grading at +0.1.
Carr has done a nice job under pressure, grading at +1.4 with 12.7 yards per attempt, and he’s had a turnover-worthy play (TWP) on only 2.88 percent of his dropbacks, eighth-best in the league. Oakland’s investment in first-round wide receiver Amari Cooper is paying off in the early going, as he and Carr have hooked up 24 times for 339 yards and two touchdowns.
As for Bortles, he looked excellent through the first three quarters or so Sunday, and while he could have done more to lead the Jaguars to victory in the second half, he showed good accuracy and decision-making throughout the game. His ball location was sporadic as a rookie, and he’s had bouts of that at times this season, but Sunday was a step in the right direction in that regard.
Stats of the week
– Despite the injury, Roethlisberger still leads the league with 406 yards on deep passes (20+ yards in the air). Right behind him are Bortles (404) and Dalton (400), while no other quarterback has reached 300 yards in that area.
– No quarterback has taken a smaller percentage of deep shots than Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford, who has attempted only 5.5 percent of his passes beyond 20 yards.
– Which QBs have been the best at avoiding sacks? New York Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been sacked on only 4.1 percent of his pressured dropbacks, while Andy Dalton ranks second at 5.7 percent.
– Among QBs with at least 100 dropbacks, Tennessee Titans rookie Marcus Mariota has been sacked on 29.5 percent of his pressured dropbacks, highest in the league.