Quarterback Rankings Re-Do: Aaron Rodgers Surges To Top Spot

Aaron Rodgers

After Week 7, some bonehead thought he could rank the top 40 NFL quarterbacks based on barely two months of play. Don’t you just hate know-it-alls?

Fast forward another month, and with 11 weeks of the season in the books we have a much better grasp on the season and the quarterbacks — at least that know-it-all thinks he does. So why not give it another shot?

In the first edition, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers rounded out the top four, but given a string of Packers victories and the plummet of the Chargers, obviously things need be re-worked. Tom Brady wasn’t playing like Tom Brady in early October, but quickly he reminded us not to petition for his retirement ever again.

Here’s the Nov. 19 edition of the top 32 starting quarterback rankings in the NFL. Remember, this is for the quarterback we’d want to trot out for Week 12 of this season, not 2018 or 2008.

1. Aaron Rodgers

2. Tom Brady

3. Peyton Manning

4. Andrew Luck

This is the obvious collection of “elite” quarterbacks this season, and Rodgers by far has been the best for his team. Rodgers leads all NFL quarterbacks with an 85.9 Total QBR on the year, helping the Packers drop 108 points in their past two games, not surprisingly both victories. Not far behind is Brady, who thanks to some improved play from his offensive tackles and a healthy Rob Gronkowski, has been able to round back into form and lift New England to six straight wins, throwing 20 touchdowns compared to three picks during that span.

Manning’s statistical numbers aren’t as eye-popping as they were a year ago, and obviously he’s been hamstrung by injuries to his offensive cavalry in recent weeks. Still, Manning struggled in the cold weather at Foxborough, where it looks like the road to the Super Bowl will have to travel through in the AFC. Luck has made the leap into the “elite” category this season, as he and T.Y. Hilton have built a divine chemistry that has Colts fans reminiscing of Manning to Marvin Harrison. Like Rodgers, one of the tools that helps Luck be so effective is the use of his legs.

5. Drew Brees

6. Ben Roethlisberger

7. Tony Romo

8. Philip Rivers

At times, Nos. 5-8 have been categorized in the top echelon of NFL quarterbacks. Brees is having another solid statistical career, but it’s actually a disappointing year for the New Orleans offense. Injuries have plagued numerous players from Mark Ingram to Jimmy Graham and now Brandin Cooks, and the one lynchpin, Brees, has suffered because of it. Big Ben has posted some video game-esque numbers at times, but had some questionable efforts against the Jets and Titans in recent weeks. He’s been as good as any quarterback in the league for stretches, but also endured his share of struggles.

Romo has been reduced to a game-manager role this season, with one blip on the radar coming against Washington, forcing him to miss the following start. Still, he’s picked up his play and sparked the offense when his number has been called upon. Rivers was an early MVP favorite, but like the rest of the team, his play has soured in recent weeks. The Chargers’ offense has shown up anemic against Oakland and Miami, as Rivers has struggled playing through what appears to be rib injuries.

9. Matt Ryan

10. Russell Wilson

11. Joe Flacco

12. Matthew Stafford

Not surprisingly, these quarterbacks are all at the helm of competitive teams and largely dictate just how successful they’ve been on the season. Ryan was unstoppable out of the gate for Atlanta, but has struggled behind a patchwork offensive line minus its Week 1 starting tackles. Wilson has been excellent this season, but the Seahawks lack legitimate receivers, which has stymied the passing game. Wilson’s had to make do by being a mobile threat first and foremost.

Flacco was off to a torrid start with Steve Smith surfacing as his new No. 1 wide receiver, but the veteran has cooled off and subsequently so has Baltimore’s offense. Stafford isn’t posting the big-time stats this season, but the Lions are leading the NFC North. It doesn’t help that Calvin Johnson has been in and out of the lineup, but Stafford has been able to make plays with the game on the line.

13. Ryan Tannehill

14. Alex Smith

15. Colin Kaepernick

16. Jay Cutler

17. Cam Newton

The surprise here is Tannehill ranked ahead of Kaepernick, Cutler, or Newton, but the third-year quarterback has turned his season around since nearly being benched against Oakland and actually posted career-best numbers as the Dolphins march toward an AFC wild card spot. Smith, too, is a bit of a shocker. The ultimate “game manager” has lifted Kansas City into a first-place tie with Denver in the AFC West, despite not being able to get his wide receivers involved much. Still, he’s made plays utilizing the tight ends and Jamaal Charles out of the backfield to lift the Chiefs to five straight wins.

Kaepernick isn’t developing into the dynamic playmaker from behind center most expected him to be, but he’s making enough big throws and picking up crucial first-downs to keep the 49ers in the playoff hunt. Cutler’s big plays have been negated by his knack for turnovers, and he’s seemingly punching his ticket out of Chicago. Newton isn’t getting any protection from his offensive line and no help from his running game, and being on his backside most of the game isn’t giving him many opportunities to help his team.

18. Drew Stanton

19. Michael Vick

20. Brian Hoyer

21. Kyle Orton

22. Eli Manning 

23. Andy Dalton

24. Josh McCown

The “middle of the pack” starters include three quarterbacks that began the year as backups, as well as McCown, who regained his job after No. 2 Mike Glennon struggled to replace him.

Stanton is 3-1 while replacing Carson Palmer, including helping Arizona score early and hold on against the Lions a week ago. Vick is out-playing Geno Smith, largely by avoiding the costly turnovers that hurt the Jets for the first nine games of the year.

Hoyer is staving off first-round selection Johnny Manziel, and it’s a tricky situation because the Browns remain in playoff contention. Hoyer struggled a week ago against Houston, but two weeks earlier he shined against Cincinnati.

Orton jump-started the Bills offense after taking over for EJ Manuel, but over his past two games he’s managed one touchdown as the team has dropped two in a row, likely costing them a playoff spot. Manning is coming off a five-interception game that’s simply putting the Giants in an embarrassing light right now, and it’s hard not to wonder how much longer he’ll remain under center in New York.

Dalton followed up his worst passer rating of his career against the Browns with his best against New Orleans. The Bengals lead the division still, but no thanks to Dalton’s inconsistent play. McCown tore up Washington last week, building chemistry with first-round pick Mike Evans, but it’s hard not to recall posting average numbers against a weak Atlanta defense a week earlier and his struggles at the start of the season.

25. Shaun Hill


27. Ryan Mallett

28. Mark Sanchez

Onto this group, where there’s question marks aplenty. Hill helped the Rams over Denver a week ago, but isn’t that to the credit of the St. Louis D? Griffin has played subpar since regaining the job in Washington, and whether it’s the new offensive scheme or lingering effects from the injury, he looks nowhere close to the Offensive Rookie of the Year form of 2012.

Mallett is coming off his first start, a win for that matter, but there’s plenty more that needs to be seen out of the longtime Brady backup. Sanchez is 1-1 in his two starts filling in for Nick Foles. He routed the Panthers then got beat up by Green Bay. He’s got six touchdowns and four picks, which is reminding a lot of Eagles fans of the Sanchez that used to don another shade of green.

29. Derek Carr

30. Zach Mettenberger

31. Teddy Bridgewater

32. Blake Bortles

Then there’s the rookies. Carr has been the most effect of the bunch, leading all rookies in passing, though he’s been unable to get the Raiders into the win column yet. Mettenberger looked sharp at times against Pittsburgh on Monday night, but it’s obvious the Tennessee coaching staff is limiting the playbook for him.

Bridgewater has been improving weekly for Minnesota, but we’ve really yet to see a signature performance out him just yet. And of course there’s Bortles, who has shown a ton of promise at times, but we remind you he still leads the NFL in interceptions.

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Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.