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NFL QB Index, Week 12: Aaron Rodgers returns to top three; Josh Allen takes a dip

NOTE: Up/down arrows illustrate movement from the Week 11 QB Index. Rankings include each team's starting quarterback from the previous game, based solely on 2021 play.

Tom Brady
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 22

2021 stats: 10 games | 67.1 pct | 3,177 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 29 pass TD | 8 INT | 51 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles

Brady doesn't have the narrative or the athleticism, but he is the best quarterback in football through 11 weeks, at 44 years old. He's the most consistent, throw to throw and week to week. The wow throws are there -- he ranks second in Pro Football Focus' big-time throws metric -- without the mistakes. (He's 33rd in turnover-worthy plays, per PFF.) The raw analytics are there, too: He's first in Football Outsiders' defense-adjusted yards over replacement

Even Brady's interceptions are misleading; half of his eight picks came on three drops and a Hail Mary. Everyone got a laugh out of Brady's 10-yard run on Monday night, but as someone who has watched every start of his career, I swear that his pocket movement and overall speed are better than they were back in 2001. Teams like the Giants that don't mix up their coverages every snap are asking to die a slow death, like anyone who predicts Brady is set to decline.

Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 6

2021 stats: 9 games | 69.6 pct | 2,557 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 20 pass TD | 7 INT | 91 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 8 fumbles

Dak overthrew a wide-open Michael Gallup down the field on the Cowboys' first play Sunday, the start of a jittery performance in Kansas City. Prescott clearly misses Tyron Smith and the comfort his protection provides. He missed wideouts Amari Cooper (reserve/COVID-19) and CeeDee Lamb (exited in the second quarter with a concussion) against the Chiefs, too. Throwing to Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown is just not the same. 

Still, I was surprised by how effectively Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo sped up Prescott's normally measured decision-making with blitzes, holding him to 55 yards on 14 attempts against extra rushers. The Chiefs often simulated pressure before the snap and confused Dak even when they only sent four. Over the last month, Prescott has missed one game due to injury and endured his two worst starts by far.

UPDATE: Prescott was 30-of-47 passing for 375 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys' 36-33 overtime loss to the Raiders.The two-time Pro Bowler completed all four of his throws of 20-plus air yards, including a 32-yard touchdown to tight end Dalton Schultz.

Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers · Year 17

2021 stats: 10 games | 66.8 pct | 2,571 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 21 pass TD | 4 INT | 76 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 2 fumbles

Be worried, NFC. After watching half a season's worth of Aaron Rodgers, Game Manager in 2021, Aaron Rodgers, 2020 MVP came out in Minnesota on Sunday. He held the ball longer, did a better job of hunting for big plays and had half a dozen postcard throws, often against pressure, despite dealing with a toe injury. The combination of Elgton Jenkins' torn ACL and All-Pro David Bakhtiari's recent setback makes the Packers' offensive line vulnerable, but Rodgers looks ready to overcome it all.

Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers · Year 2

2021 stats: 10 games | 66.2 pct | 2,927 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 22 pass TD | 8 INT | 207 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 1 fumble

I made the short walk from the NFL Media campus to SoFi Stadium on Sunday night for a spiritual experience. Seeing Herbert fire a laser 35 yards in the air between three defenders in person helped me believe in joy. His hole shot into zone coverage, requiring a combination of touch and arm strength, made me realize we'll have plenty of fun until climate change washes us away. When you see how fast Herbert can play mentally and how overwhelming his skill set is (90 yards rushing vs. the Steelers), it makes the sluggish weeks fade from memory. 

Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings · Year 10

2021 stats: 10 games | 68.2 pct | 2,775 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 21 pass TD | 2 INT | 69 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 6 fumbles

Cousins got away with some near-interceptions against the Packers, but the Football Gods tend to reward Aggro Kirk like this when he comes out. Even Mike Zimmer is begging Cousins to "keep going for the jugular," largely because he's so good at it. As a pure downfield thrower, he might be the most accurate this season. 

Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams · Year 13

2021 stats: 10 games | 67.7 pct | 3,014 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 24 pass TD | 8 INT | 38 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble

Sean McVay adjusted his offense dramatically to suit Stafford's strengths, and he thrived out of shotgun and empty formations in the first seven weeks of the season. Those empty formations then led to disaster in back-to-back blowout losses. Will McVay pivot back to his Shanahan roots coming out of the Week 11 bye?

Derek Carr
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 8

2021 stats: 10 games | 67.9 pct | 3,041 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 16 pass TD | 9 INT | 52 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 7 fumbles

The good vibes are melting away. The Raiders haven't topped 16 points for three straight weeks and they were held to less than 300 yards by the Chiefs and Bengals. Carr remains far from the team's biggest problem, but the tepid play-calling and decision-making on fourth down is making Vegas an increasingly vanilla watch. When the Raiders needed plays in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati, Carr turned the ball over twice. The sudden lack of big plays and Henry Ruggs III's departure are clearly connected.

UPDATE: Carr threw for 373 yards and one touchdown, with 22 yards rushing, in the Raiders' 36-33 overtime win over the Cowboys. Thursday's game marked the fourth time this year that Carr produced a 100-plus passer rating (101.8) -- all of them coming in Raiders wins.

Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 5

2021 stats: 11 games | 65.5 pct | 3,200 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 25 pass TD | 11 INT | 238 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 6 fumbles

Mahomes posted a season-low in air yards per attempt against the Cowboys and was plagued by drops, with one turning into a pick. He stayed patient, but the Chiefs still put up just 19 points, getting only a field goal with two turnovers in the final two and a half quarters after a hot start. The best sign on Sunday was that Travis Kelce mostly looked like himself for the second straight week, aside from the aforementioned costly drop. As Kelce goes lately, so goes Mahomes. 

Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills · Year 4

2021 stats: 10 games | 65.7 pct | 2,811 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 21 pass TD | 8 INT | 340 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 6 fumbles

Allen's off weeks are way off. He has four starts that PFF ranked 24th or worse among starters that week, including Sunday's rain-soaked struggle against the Colts. I graded Allen with five turnover-worthy plays, a throwback to his early career struggles. The first one was instructive. The Bills had a third-and-3 on their first drive, but back-to-back penalties by the offensive line turned it to third-and-18. Then Allen tried to do too much, which has happened too often during the Bills' offensive slump.

UPDATE: Allen completed 23 of 28 passes for 260 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions in the Bills' 31-6 win in New Orleans. He also carried the ball eight times for 43 yards, rushing for four first downs.

Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 2

2021 stats: 10 games | 68.3 pct | 2,645 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 21 pass TD | 11 INT | 55 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles

The Bengals finished with only 129 net passing yards in Las Vegas, as Burrow averaged a tick over five yards per attempt in one of his quietest games. But when the team needed a money throw on third-and-goal midway through the fourth quarter, Burrow feathered a touch pass to Ja'Marr Chase into a tight window to put the game away. Burrow has carried his defense and running game plenty this season, so it was nice to see the opposite on Sunday. 

Mac Jones
New England Patriots · Rookie

2021 stats: 11 games | 70.2 pct | 2,540 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 14 pass TD | 8 INT | 60 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles

Brian Baldinger came on NFL Network and literally ripped up my QB Index, in part because he believed I had Mac too low. I am nothing if not easily persuadable. Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees fooled Jones on a few blitzes and cornerback A.J. Terrell made a sensational play on an interception, but Jones still only missed four throws all night.

Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons · Year 14

2021 stats: 10 games | 67.7 pct | 2,427 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 15 pass TD | 10 INT | 37 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles

A national audience got to see Thursday night how impossible Ryan's job is this season. There was a point in the shutout loss to New England when the former MVP was 6-of-11 for 44 yards and I remember thinking, Ryan is playing outstanding. (That didn't last.) When the Falcons face a good pass rush like the Patriots', he has zero chance to survive. New England hit him 12 times. No quarterback has been hit more this season.

Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks · Year 10

2021 stats: 7 games | 64.9 pct | 1,564 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 10 pass TD | 3 INT | 102 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles

We've gone from "Let Russ Cook" to "Let's get Russ out of prime time." The Seahawks ended a 20-drive streak without a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Arizona, but it was disheartening to see on Sunday how often Seattle tried to establish the run or establish the short passing game that's never going to be Wilson's strength. D.K. Metcalf could help his quarterback out, however, by making a contested catch every now and then.

Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 2

2021 stats: 11 games | 61.6 pct | 2,306 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 13 pass TD | 5 INT | 618 rush yds | 8 rush TD | 6 fumbles

Hurts' impact goes beyond the box score. Defenses like the Saints' unit are changing the way they defend the Eagles, sending fewer rushers because they are fearful of Philadelphia's running game. That gave Hurts more time in the pocket against New Orleans, though he couldn't fully take advantage on the way to 147 yards passing. Hurts has what you can't teach on the ground, with the third of his rushing scores (on 18 carries!) coming on a dazzling play that gave the Eagles a 40-burger. The second-year second-rounder is the key to the best running game in the league.

Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans · Year 10

2021 stats: 11 games | 66.6 pct | 2,681 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 13 pass TD | 12 INT | 172 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 6 fumbles

Tannehill had been mostly careful, if unlucky, with the ball this season. Then Sunday happened. There were four interceptions and two fumbles on a day where he could have been picked off even more. Rain was a huge factor, and the injury avalanche in Tennessee gets worse every week, but the quietly poor offensive line isn't helping, either. Few quarterbacks could thrive in this environment, and Tannehill is not among those few.

Teddy Bridgewater
Denver Broncos · Year 8

2021 stats: 10 games | 69.2 pct | 2,389 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 14 pass TD | 5 INT | 69 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 1 fumble

Anyone wondering when Drew Lock will play hasn't watched Teddy much this season. (Or Lock ever.) No one will confuse Bridgewater with a top-10 QB, but this is his best season overall since he tore his ACL.

Jimmy Garoppolo
San Francisco 49ers · Year 8

2021 stats: 9 games | 66.9 pct | 2,112 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 12 pass TD | 5 INT | 40 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 5 fumbles

On Oct. 25, after a rough performance in the rain against the Colts, Kyle Shanahan was asked if Jimmy G would remain the starting quarterback. Trey Lance's injury status was uncertain at the time. Shanahan responded "I would guess so." The 49ers are first in EPA/play in the four games since then. While Garoppolo is not high on the list of reasons for that stat, he's done his job plenty well enough each week to stabilize this offense.

Carson Wentz
Indianapolis Colts · Year 6

2021 stats: 11 games | 63.0 pct | 2,484 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 18 pass TD | 3 INT | 138 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 6 fumbles

In most weeks this season, Wentz didn't play as well as the box score indicated. On Sunday in Buffalo, the opposite was true. He hit a handful of pinpoint third-down throws early to keep drives alive. He also set the all-time NFL record for ducking his head under a pass rusher before scrambling for a key first down. The passing isn't efficient overall, though. Wentz is averaging 5.86 YPA since Week 7, which is only better than Trevor Lawrence and Sam Darnold among quarterbacks with at least three starts over that span. Wentz will go as far as his offensive line and Jonathan Taylor take him.

Baker Mayfield
Cleveland Browns · Year 4

2021 stats: 10 games | 64.0 pct | 2,166 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 10 pass TD | 6 INT | 89 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles

I'd argue this is the lowest moment of Mayfield's career after two of his worst games in successive weeks. The Freddie Kitchens season was better than this one overall. Mayfield is missing as many open throws as any starting quarterback and his tendency to leave the pocket at the first sign of a covered receiver is a bad habit that goes back years. His injuries provide context to the struggles, but they are hard to evaluate when he also moved well on many plays and had a few dimes mixed in with all the mistakes.

Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins · Year 2

2021 stats: 7 games | 68.0 pct | 1,471 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 9 pass TD | 6 INT | 68 rush yd | 3 rush TD | 2 fumbles

Tua is nothing if not consistent. He can pick apart bad defenses and get in rhythm in the short passing game. He makes his offensive line look better than it is. He struggles on the deep stuff, attempting two throws over 15 air yards against the Jets; one was picked off and the other was underthrown but went for a touchdown. The next step is to pick apart a good defense, with Sunday's game against the Panthers providing an opportunity to do just that.

Taylor Heinicke
Washington Football Team · Year 4

2021 stats: 10 games | 66.2 pct | 2,390 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 15 pass TD | 9 INT | 276 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles

Sunday was the best game of Heinicke's career. One week after helping to slay Tom Brady, Heinicke was magical on third and fourth down all afternoon. He threw from wild arm angles, fit passes into small windows and was wise enough to let Terry McLaurin be the bad man that he is. I didn't think Heinicke had a two-game stretch like this in him, saving a season that had gone sideways.

Cam Newton
Carolina Panthers · Year 11

2021 stats: 2 games | 77.4 pct | 197 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 3 pass TD | 0 INT | 60 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 0 fumbles

I was far more encouraged by Cam's first start than his Week 10 cameo appearance, despite the loss. Newton's big strides showed up on a 24-yard touchdown run, and he only had six incompletions while averaging 7 yards per throw. His timing on third downs wasn't always on point and he couldn't pull off any fourth-quarter magic, but it was one of the best games by a Panthers quarterback all season. (A low bar.) Carolina's defense just didn't show up.

Ben Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh Steelers · QB

2021 stats: 9 games | 65.3 pct | 2,259 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 13 pass TD | 4 INT | 6 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 6 fumbles

Big Ben gets extra credit for playing his best game of the season after missing practice all week, just when his team needed a big offensive effort. Then again, it's worth remembering Pittsburgh had three scoring drives of 11 yards or fewer. The offense went nowhere after the Steelers' defense turned it over on downs deep in Chargers territory in a tie game and then went backward on the ensuing possession. Still, Roethlisberger hit 2-3 dimes on top of the Bolts' helmets and mostly moved the ball well. Pittsburgh's passing game can be both getting better and not enough.

Colt McCoy
Arizona Cardinals · Year 12

2021 stats: 6 games | 75.6 pct | 684 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 3 pass TD | 1 INT | 34 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles

If Sunday's win in Seattle was McCoy's final start of the year, he went out with one of the best moments of his career. The Cardinals threw it 44 times despite playing with a lead, trusting McCoy's decisions on third downs. His legs were crucial in keeping drives alive, while his ability to move in the pocket drove Seahawks defenders crazy. A.J. Green and Zach Ertz made plays for him, but McCoy also made plays of his own. Christian Kirk dropped McCoy's best throw of the night, a dart on the run that should have ended the game. I can't tell you how happy this game made Marc Sessler in our newsroom, which made me happy, too.

Daniel Jones
New York Giants · Year 3

2021 stats: 10 games | 64.4 pct | 2,226 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 9 pass TD | 7 INT | 268 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 7 fumbles

Jones' weapons and left tackle were back, but the offensive performance grew worse. There are ugly plays that are on Jones, like his two brutal turnovers. There are plays on the coaches, like this mess and a predictable fourth-and-1 the Bucs saw come miles away that didn't include Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton on the field. Perhaps the firing of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will help, but the blame game feels beside the point because Jones and this staff are going down together.

Tyrod Taylor
Houston Texans · Year 11

2021 stats: 4 games | 62.2 pct | 763 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 3 pass TD | 3 INT | 106 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 2 fumbles

A driving rainstorm made passing difficult in Nashville, so Tyrod's legs took over. His 28 rush yards don't look like much on the box score, but his two scores and another vital first down were all fantastic, necessary conversions by Taylor. He kept the ball safe on a day where that's what was required for victory.

Trevor Siemian
New Orleans Saints · Year 7

2021 stats: 4 games | 56.9 pct | 920 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 8 pass TD | 2 INT | 18 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles

The wheels came off the Team Trev bus in the first half against the Eagles. His grisly pick-six before halftime -- Siemian's second interception of the day -- completed a 6-of-18 half that included a lot of misfires and produced a grand total of 60 yards. Siemian was not seeing the field well, seemingly spooked by a makeshift offensive line that struggled to protect. If nothing else, he kept firing during a fourth-quarter comeback attempt, continuing a wild trend where he's PFF's lowest-graded QB in quarters 1-3 and No. 1 in the fourth!

UPDATE: Siemian averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt in the Saints' 31-6 loss to the Bills, struggling to keep an injury-riddled New Orleans offense on the field for sustained periods. He finished the night with 163 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 pick.

Justin Fields
Chicago Bears · Rookie

2021 stats: 10 games | 58.1 pct | 1,361 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 4 pass TD | 8 INT | 311 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 9 fumbles

His five full drives against the Ravens, all scoreless, were emblematic of Fields' season so far. He hit three throws of 20-plus yards, all gems. He missed a few open receivers with fastballs. He held on to the ball too long a few times and took an unnecessary hit on a play where he hurt his ribs. It makes me sad he's not playing on Thanksgiving.

Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars · Rookie

2021 stats: 10 games | 58.4 pct | 2,141 pass yds | 6.0 ypa | 8 pass TD | 9 INT | 192 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 5 fumbles

Of all the Jaguars' blowout losses this year, Sunday's edition was the least on Lawrence. The score was 17-0 before the No. 1 overall pick threw his fourth pass. He didn't have a turnover-worthy play and made some quicker reads. The Jacksonville offense is broken, however, doing much of its scoring in garbage time since a Week 7 bye. Losing Jamal Agnew for the season shouldn't be that big a blow, but here we are. 

Joe Flacco
New York Jets · Year 14

2021 stats: 2 games | 64.3 pct | 338 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 3 pass TD | 0 INT | 3 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble

It feels like a long time ago that jokes about Joe Flacco's eliteness became internet shorthand for ... something. You had to be there. If Sunday's start against the Dolphins was the last of his career -- a distinct possibility -- I will choose to instead remember the first half of Super Bowl XLVII. Flacco smoked that incredible 49ers defense with one of the best array of passes I've ever seen in person in such a short amount of time. I swear that actually happened. You had to be there.

Tyler Huntley
Baltimore Ravens · Year 2

2021 stats: 3 games | 66.0 pct | 258 pass yds | 5.5 ypa | 0 pass TD | 1 INT | 50 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble

Huntley saved the best for last. His 29-yard throw to Sammy Watkins while escaping to his right to evade pressure was one of the plays of the week, setting up the Ravens' game-winning touchdown. Huntley's interview with NFL Network's Stacey Dales after the game brought an even bigger smile. The second-year pro was strong on third down, and his first NFL start provided a lot to learn for the next time he's called upon.

Tim Boyle
Detroit Lions · Year 4

2021 stats: 1 game | 65.2 pct | 77 pass yds | 3.3 ypa | 0 pass TD | 2 INT | 0 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles

After seeing the box score, I expected to watch one of the worst quarterback performances of the year. Instead, I saw a typically overmatched first-time starter throwing short pass after short pass for a coaching staff that displayed a wild lack of confidence in its guy. (The offense was mostly screens, and Detroit ran on third-and-long multiple times, including with 3:14 left in a three-point game!) At one point, play-by-play maestro Gus Johnson said, "They say he has a cannon!" Guess we'll have to take their word for it.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter.

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