Top 10 NFL quarterbacks entering Week 7
Week 6 in the NFL had a few strong quarterback performances, though it may be defined by the number of terrible interceptions that were thrown around the league (more on that below). There was some movement at the bottom end of our top 10, while most of the top guys performed up to previous standards. A familiar face or two also made their way back to the front of the pack.
Here’s a look at the top 10 quarterbacks in the league after six weeks of the season.
1. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals, 93.5
A game-ending interception marred what was an otherwise-strong performance by Palmer. Sure, he missed on a few throws—and had some luck on others—but he also had a number of well-placed passes, particularly in the end zone, that fell incomplete for various reasons on the receivers’ end.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 92.0
It was a good bounce-back game for Brady after the Cowboys kept him off balance at times in the previous week. He graded at +3.4 against the Colts, throwing for 312 yards, three touchdowns, and his first interception of the season (which wasn’t his fault, it came off a Julian Edelman drop). He has only three turnover-worthy plays all season, best in the league.
3. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals, 89.0
While his stats were inflated by throwing two touchdowns on a pass to the flat and a wide receiver screen, it was another good outing for Dalton. Perhaps more importantly, it wasn’t a disastrous outing, a trend he’s bucked to this point with no grades in the red this season. He heads into the bye after putting together the best six-game stretch of his career.
4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, 87.8
A pedestrian game by Rodgers’ standards, he had his lowest percentage of positively-graded throws, while missing a few more than usual. Still, he mixed in his requisite “wow” throws as well, all while continuing to make up for a depleted wide receiver corps.
5. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, 81.2
Despite the loss, Wilson quietly continues to play well after a slow start to the season. Though he’s faced more pressure than any other quarterback (46.8 percent of dropbacks), he’s handled it well with a grade of +6.9 that ranks second in the league.
6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, 79.0
The Falcons were never really close to beating the New Orleans Saints last Thursday night, but the offense was moving the ball well before a few costly turnovers cost them. Ryan wasn’t all to blame, and he finished at +1.5 for the night, once again doing the majority of his work at the short and intermediate level (one-for-three on deep passes for 30 yards).
7. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, 78.8
Another strong quarterback performance in a loss, Rivers took control of the Chargers’ offense, throwing the ball 65 times and racking up 503 yards. Counting stats aside, Rivers was excellent in the short game, completing all 18 of his attempts between 0–9 yards and between the numbers. He’s continued to improve after a couple of rough outings in Weeks 2 and 3.
8. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills, 78.0
Taylor missed last week’s game due to injury, but here’s what we said about him on last week’s list: Perhaps surprising to see Taylor this high on the list, but he’s made big throws and big runs for the Bills, and he did it again on Sunday. He had two game-changing runs in the third quarter, then did what he seems to do every week, and that’s break out a perfectly thrown deep ball, this time to WR Chris Hogan. He leads the league with five touchdowns on passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air.
9. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, 76.3
New to the top 10, Newton is getting MVP hype, as he’s led the Panthers to a 5-0 record while grading positively in four of the five games. He wasn’t great the entire game against the Seattle Seahawks, but his fourth quarter was outstanding as he led the comeback to keep Carolina’s perfect record intact.
10. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders 76.1
With the Raiders on a bye, here’s what we said about Carr last week: Carr held his own against the Denver Broncos, owners of the league’s best defense. He didn’t miss on many attempts, and while most will remember the pick-six that sealed the game, that play was on his receiver for failing to find the ball. On the season, Carr has made impressive strides, particularly under pressure, where he graded at -12.2 last year, and is up to +1.1 in 2015.
For the ranking of all NFL quarterbacks, be sure to access the PFF 2015 Player Grades.
Worst interceptions of Week 6
Not all interceptions are created equal, but as mentioned, there were a lot of questionable decisions by quarterbacks this week, often at crucial times—all of them costly. Here’s a look at the worst of the worst for Week 6.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans vs. Miami Dolphins, Q3 5:50
Call it a rookie mistake if you’d like, but given the other options on the list, this forced throw looks tame. Mariota comes out of the play action fake looking to throw the slant, but CB Brent Grimes is all over it and breaks on the pass quicker than the receiver. Mariota never saw him.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Q4 2.25
With the Cardinals driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown, Palmer inexplicably threw a post route to John Brown with the middle of the field occupied by safety Mike Mitchell. The game situation makes this one that much worse.
Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos, Q2 14:19
Cornerback Aqib Talib is playing off WR Travis Benjamin, but with the free safety bailing to a cover-2 look off the snap—and Talib’s history of jumping curl routes—the trap was set. McCown reached the top of his drop, threw the curl route, and Talib was off to the races with the pick-six.
Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos Q4 0:53
Okay, this one was even worse, once again adjusting for game situation. The Browns have 2nd-and-10, and they’re about 10 yards away from a reasonable field goal attempt to win the game against the undefeated Broncos. After stepping up and avoiding multiple pass rushers, McCown heaves a prayer, while drifting away from his throw—it lands right into David Bruton’s hands for the interception. Take a sack, throw it away, live another day—just don’t throw the ball up for grabs and give the game away.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns, Q5 14:34
Manning tried to give the game right back to McCown in overtime, with yet another uncharacteristic poor throw into coverage. The Browns flooded the middle of the field with defenders behind a three-man rush, and they had every passing lane covered. Manning hit the top of his drop, hitched, and threw the curl route to Demaryius Thomas, apparently not seeing LB Barkevious Mingo right in his line of sight. Manning appeared to notice his gaffe mid-throw, almost forcing Mingo to mistime his jump on his “change up,” but the damage was already done and Mingo came down with the easy interception that should have lost the game for the Broncos.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins vs. New York Jets Q3 10:18
“Don’t throw late to the flat.” That’s a common theme with two of the next three interceptions. Cousins has a “stick” concept to his right and a “slant/flat” combo to his left. His first read takes him to the stick, which he apparently doesn’t like, so he works back to the left. The slant is well-covered, so he wheels back to the flat route, blindly throwing—under-throwing, for that matter—the route that is easily jumped by CB Darrelle Revis, who was playing the flat the entire time.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers, Q3 10:53
Flacco comes out of his play action fake with a half-roll, looking to throw to the right side of the field where the Ravens are flooding the 49ers’ cover-3 zone. With a defender in his face, Flacco drifts back another 5 or 6 yards and heaves the ball off his back foot to the opposite side of the field. The only route to that side is a wheel route by the running back, that even if it is run properly, would likely call for a pass along the sideline. Instead, Flacco’s pass ends up about 15 yards in field, right to a waiting CB Kenneth Acker who was covering grass, yet came away with the gift interception.
Eli Manning, New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles Q2 12:33
“Don’t throw late to the flat,” part 2. Like Cousins, Manning has a slant/flat combo, but that’s the side of the field in which his read starts. His outside receiver is destroyed off the snap by outside cornerback Nolan Carroll, who is playing the flat in the Eagles’ cover-2 scheme. And that’s probably the most egregious part of this play; not only does Manning hesitate at the top of the drop, but given the cover-2 look, the cornerback is always going to be passing off the slant and looking for the flat route, so when Manning makes the throw, Carroll is waiting for the easy interception, strolling into the end zone.
Stats of the Week
– When facing the blitz, Andy Dalton is grading at +8.5 with a passer rating of 135.1.
– On the other end, Joe Flacco is last in the league, grading at -13.0 against the blitz, with a passer rating of 44.3.
– Colts QB Andrew Luck has the highest percentage of turnover-worthy plays (7.96 percent of dropbacks). He ranked 25th in the league last year at 4.31 percent.
– Speaking of turnover-worthy plays, Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford had 17 last year, but already has a league-high 18 this season.