Top 11 NFL quarterbacks entering Week 13

Steve Palazzolo updates the top QB rankings, diving into some of the most compelling performances through Week 12.

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Top 11 NFL quarterbacks entering Week 13

This week, we’re changing things up a bit, as I put my own twist on the top quarterbacks.

While the current PFF rankings will be heavily involved in the list, I’ve added my own slant to the rankings that takes into account a few more factors other than just overall grade. After 12 weeks of action, there are clearly three quarterbacks playing at a higher level than the rest of the group, and while the second tier of signal-callers is still an impressive bunch, they just haven’t been as consistent on a week-to-week basis as the top three.

Here’s a look at how the top quarterbacks shake out heading into Week 13.

On top of their games, few weaknesses

1. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals, 98.6

Even with the Cardinals just sneaking past an overmatched 49ers team, Palmer continued his excellent stretch of play with a number of impressive throws, many of which should have been touchdowns. A fade thrown right on the hands of Larry Fitzgerald was dropped; another perfectly tossed ball on a double-move saw John Brown accidentally step out of bounds. Regardless of missed opportunities, Palmer capped the day with a pinpoint, over-the-shoulder throw to J.J. Nelson that set up his game-winning touchdown scramble. Looking beyond the boxscore, it was another strong display from the 35-year-old.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 98.3

With nearly all of their top playmakers injured, the New England passing game had a different look on the road against Denver. Brady took many more low-percentage downfield throws than he’s used to, and only hit on one of his seven deep attempts—though the completion went for a 63-yard touchdown on a wheel-route to running back Brandon Bolden. With documented issues hurting the offensive line, Brady has been pressured on 47.1 percent of his dropbacks the last two weeks, a huge increase from the 31 percent he faced in the first nine games of the season. Both the deep passing attack and pressure from opposing defensive fronts will be something to monitor in December for Brady and the Patriots.

3. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, 96.9

In one of the best games of the weekend, Roethlisberger was firing accurate passes all over the field against the Seahawks, and he continues to rival Palmer as perhaps the best downfield thrower of the 2015 season. He graded at +6.2 on passes thrown at least 10 yards in the air, on his way to throwing for 456 yards on 55 attempts. When Roethlisberger is healthy, and when wide receivers Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton are getting open, Pittsburgh’s passing game is perhaps the most dynamic in the league.

Second tier: Mostly good, some weaknesses

4. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals, 86.1

Breakdown: Dalton is grading at +12.5 against the blitz, with a passer rating of 117.2. The now seasoned quarterback ranks fifth in the league with 676 yards on deep passes.

5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, 84.3

Breakdown: Rodgers has posted a three-to-one ratio of big-time throws (BTTs) to turnover-worthy plays (TWPs), ranking third in the league. His percentage of positively-graded throws ranks 20th in the league, though, just one year removed from leading football in this category.

6. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, 79.9

Breakdown: Newton has the third-highest percentage of big-time throws at 6.8 percent of dropbacks. On the flip-side, only four other quarterbacks have had a higher percentage of negatively-graded throws than Carolina’s MVP candidate.

7. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, 84.9

Breakdown: Not surprisingly, Brees leads the league with an accuracy percentage of 54.9 percent on deep passes (20+ yards in air). His downfall has been when opponents collapse the pocket, where he’s graded at -4.8 when pressured, with a passer rating of 63.1.

8. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders, 84.0

Breakdown: Only in his second season, Carr is grading at +16.7 against the blitz, with a passer rating of 125.3. The improvements are eye-opening. Carr is grading at +9.6 when under pressure in 2015, compared to -13.2 a year ago.

9. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, 83.8

Breakdown: Despite the losing, Rivers is doing a nice job of protecting the ball, ranking fifth in lowest percentage of turnover-worthy plays (2.24 percent). For the season, 56.0 percent of his yards have come after the catch, second-highest in the league.

10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, 84.4

Breakdown: Atlanta’s lack of a playmaker opposite WR Julio Jones has hindered Ryan’s statistics, but he’s still played well overall. His worst plays have been really bad, though, and unlike other quarterbacks, the turnover-worthy plays always seem to come back to bite. Ryan has 13 turnover-worthy plays on the season and 12 interceptions, an extremely high percentage being converted.

11. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, 81.2

Breakdown: Wilson is boasting a league-high accuracy percentage of 90.6 percent the last two weeks. He’s come on strong and did an excellent job of bouncing back after a pair of uneven starts in Weeks 8 and 9. Wilson has the third-lowest percentage of negatively-graded throws on the season.

QB superlatives

Most big-time throws (BTTs):

Carson Palmer, 42

Lowest turnover-worthy play perentage (TWPs):

Tom Brady, 1.54 percent

Highest percentage of yards after the catch:

Alex Smith, 59.2 percent

Highest percentage of yards through the air:

Brian Hoyer, 66.8 percent

Lowest accuracy percentage on deep passes (20+ yards):

Marcus Mariota, 16.2 percent

Lowest percentage of deep pass attempts:

Matt Ryan, 7.1 percent

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • KWS13

    Cam Newton got a +.4 this week and wasn’t in the top 10 last week, is he supposed to be in the top 10 and got a MAJOR re-grade that isn’t represented here or is he just NOT actually supposed to be on the list?

    • Kornel Hartung

      He is the +1 of the regular “top ten” list.

    • Malachi

      read the introduction…

      • KWS13

        I did, they didn’t include the statement that they included one guy that isn’t in the top ten but plays for an undefeated team so that somehow places him 6th overall ahead of guys with higher grades

        • Malachi

          “I’ve added my own slant to the rankings that takes into account a few more factors other than just overall grade”

          • KWS13

            I guess that’s just not how I interpreted that, I took it as defining the two tiers to show their difference. A lot of what PFF does is separating individual from team so that they included an 11th QB who is now on the last undefeated team despite his personal performance which is, by their standards (grades) lesser than that of his peers on this list. Just come curiosity, for instance Ryan is ranked lower than 2 guys with lower grades, albeit Ryan is why they have been losing wheras Rivers is NOT why they are losing and Carr is one reason they ARE winning. Just more subjectivity than usual this week

          • Malachi

            tru, fair enough.

  • fred

    Carr will be number1 next year

  • anonCamb

    Ben hasn’t played every game. These rankings are pretty strange.

    • Scott Kohler

      He’s also been throwing tons and tons of picks to go with almost the same amount of tds

  • anonCamb

    Drew Brees has not played well. Ben has a much smaller sampling size than the rest. Rivers is frustrating. These PFF stats need to be taken with heaps of salt.

    • Scott Kohler

      Drew has played a lot better than you think. You can’t just look at the stats and say, “oh, he’s not playing well” because you actually have to watch the games. You obviously haven’t. He had 10 ints, which isn’t that good. But, at least 7 of those were either off the hands of a receiver or a miscommunication. He’s been throwing dots all year and his o-line has definitely been underperforming this year. His “decline” has absolutely been way overblown

    • jeff

      Keep crying hoe, Rivers should be higher than Overrated BEN.

  • Ron rogers

    Idiot fools and their grades…HILARIOUS GEEKS!!!!

  • skwirrl

    Ryan losing games and stinking it up with a beast in Julio. Has always had an offensive juggernaut carrying him. Alex has Jeremy Maclin as his #1 and that’s the best #1 he’s ever had. He had a line that’s only recently become less than an utter abortion. Balling and the biggest reason his team is now the WC leader. Not on the list. PFF is garbage.

    • Scott Kohler

      Matt Ryan is complete crap, we can agree to that, but I’m not really convinced that Alex Smith is a top 10 QB. He’s definitely better than a Ryan though. You also have to take into account that Alex is dinking and dunking down the field (60% of his yards are after the catch) with the exception of last game.

  • Aaron

    Why is Ryan still in this? He sucks. P.S. I’m a Falcons fan.