Every struggling quarterback is seeking the reset game. The game that stops the avalanche of negative attention and provides something to build off.
For many players near the bottom of these weekly rankings, Week 6 gave birth to hope. Ryan Tannehill, Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum all played their best games of the season. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians drew up a different, safer blueprint against the Jets and Carson Palmer responded, especially during a sharp fourth-quarter drive. Aaron Rodgers needs one of these games badly.
We've reached the part of the season where some starters begin to run out chances. (Ahem, Ryan Fitzpatrick.) But it's not too late to change most trajectories. It would be foolish to assume Rodgers will be a mid-tier quarterback all season or that Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota stay out of the top 20. That's the beauty of a 16-game schedule; salvation is always only a week away.
This is the Quarterback Index. Each week, we rank every starter based on 2016 performance alone.
This is everything I've ever wanted out of a Matthew Stafford season. He's playing under control, yet there's no one better at completing a low-percentage try when he needs to. It happened on a fourth-and-goal scoring strike under pressure last week, and then on a free play, Stafford casually ripped the ball 50-plus yards before getting hit. His performance against the Rams, complete with wacky arm angles and one regrettable heat-check throw, was one of the best by a quarterback all season. The Lions scored 31 points on only eight drives, tied for the fewest in a game all season. All this happened without the help of Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is one of the best play callers in football, justifying general manager Bob Quinn's decision to stick with this coaching staff in the offseason.
Brady continues to turn back time, destroying apparent weaknesses as he gets older. After a dip in pocket presence early this decade, his agility is better avoiding pass rushers now than it was five years ago. After struggling with the deep ball the last two years, he's 8 for 10 on throws over 15 yards this season.
Bookended by rookies
Newton's reset game might have already happened. While the Panthers had opportunities to score even more in the Superdome, he played like his 2015 MVP self against the Saints. His season has been all over the place, but three of Newton's five starts have been excellent. He just can't afford any down weeks this year like he had in 2014 because of his disappointing defense and the vanishing margin for error.
Middle of the pack
Taylor's reset happened when Rex Ryan changed offensive coordinators. The second-year starter has steadily improved since, in large part because the running game has taken so much pressure off him. The coaching staff isn't forcing Taylor to pull off weekly miracles with the league's worst wideout group.
The biggest concern from Palmer's outing against the Jets, especially with Seattle coming to town, was his struggles to handle the blitz. It was telling that after a long layoff, Arians' first play call on national television was a short, confidence-building throw to tight end Darren Fells. Palmer needs to re-learn how not to lose games for the Cardinals before he starts winning them with his arm again.
Diverse pedigrees, comparable standing
It's been a strange season for Tannehill. He quietly has improved at the deep ball, the one aspect of his game most picked-on in the past. His 53-yard throw rolling to his left to MarQueis Gray was one of the plays of the year by any quarterback. It's obvious that Tannehill is going to be a function of the players around him. With a healthy offensive line and dominant running game for the first time all year, he played well.
Any skeptics about Hue Jackson's "QB whisperer" bona fides need to watch Kessler's first four starts. He is limited, but is not the reason why the Browns are losing games.
Welp, Geno Smith is going to start the Jets' Week 7 game against the Ravens. Whether Fitzpatrick gets another start in New York or not, it's worth noting his incredible run. He hasn't just played for six teams since being taken 250th overall in 2005 -- he's started the majority of a season for all of those teams except in St. Louis, where he was briefly a fantasy football darling as a rookie in 2005. He probably will wind up starting games for a seventh team before he's done, too, but the decision to bench him in the here and now makes sense. He plays like a guy who knows too well that he's in a deep slump.
Kaepernick wasn't all bad in his first start. He made the right reads more often than not and he showed off the natural vision and cutbacks as a runner that were on display earlier in the decade. It wouldn't be a surprise if he put up passable numbers, especially for fantasy owners, with two easy matchups coming up next. His accuracy remains a problem that might never be solved, though.