Ranking NFL quarterbacks has never been more difficult. The league has never seen so many good passers (and runners) at the position as it has in 2019, from rising young stars to accomplished veterans with plenty of above-average players in between.
Because our preseason rankings weren’t enough, we will keep doing weekly updates based on the natural fluctuation of football’s most important position.
This week, it’s time to recognize that no one is playing the position better overall than the new leading candidate for MVP and also give more props for the big-time player in Big D. There’s no doubt this season has been all about the emergence of the best athletes at the position.
From the best to the worst current starters for every team, let the debate continue.
NFL quarterback power rankings: Week 12
1. Lamar Jackson, Ravens (last week: 2)
Jackson now has head-to-head victories over Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson, outplaying them both in big games for his team. He was also greatly responsible for taking down the Patriots and their defense. He’s on pace for 3,612 yards passing and 30 TDs with 8.1 yards per attempt and a 106.3 passer rating. He’s also on pace for a record 1,250 yards rushing and 10 more TDs there. That’s one of the greatest individual seasons in NFL history, and therefore completely MVP-worthy.
2. Russell Wilson, Seahawks (1)
Wilson leads the NFL with his 114.9 passer rating and 23 passing TDs. He’s still firmly in the MVP conversation, as he keeps putting his team on his back, too. He can get his lead back from Jackson with a strong finish after a bye, but that might require him helping his team win the NFC West.
3. Dak Prescott, Cowboys (5)
Prescott leads the NFL with 3,221 passing yards after dropping 444 on the Lions last week. He’s on pace for 5,153 yards, which would be more than Patrick Mahomes posted in his 2018 MVP season. He’s doing it at 8.8 yards per attempt with a 104.1 passer rating. His nine interceptions with 21 TDs might keep him from getting enough juice for MVP behind Jackson and Wilson.
4. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (3)
Mahomes has proved he’s human battling through his own injuries as well as those to his receivers and offensive line. He still makes plenty of plays Kansas City needs with his arm and now more so with his legs. The lost time and reduced numbers probably rule out an MVP repeat, but he’s still rating 110.0 at 8.7 yards per attempt.
5. Deshaun Watson, Texans (4)
Watson did his typical rebound from a bad game in making the big plays needed to take down the Colts on Thursday night, with a big assist from the return of speedy deep threat Will Fuller to complement and open up more things downfield for DeAndre Hopkins. Watson is having a special season with his arm and legs to be on par with the quartet above.
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6. Kirk Cousins, Vikings (10)
Cousins was also overdue for a big bump with his impressive pocket passing, as he’s averaging 8.6 yards per attempt in rating just behind Wilson at a ridiculous 114.8 with 21 TDs to only three interceptions. The big-game narrative on him has quickly changed, as he’s locked into all of his receivers, playing well off the run with a 70.6 completion percentage to boot.
7. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (6)
Rodgers is only at 7.8 yards per attempt, and his 102.7 passer rating is actually a little shy of his career mark (103.1). But he’s no longer asked to carry Green Bay with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams doing damage out of the backfield and the pass defense much improved.
8. Drew Brees, Saints (9)
Brees is completing 75.4 percent of his passes over his five games, adding up to a 104.8 passer rating despite being at only 7.6 yards per attempt. New Orleans continues to be more about the defense and running game, but he’s back to pouring on some great gravy.
9. Tom Brady, Patriots (7)
Brady hasn’t dropped off as much people would like to think beyond some of the natural decline you would expect at age 42. He has also kept his team winning despite the offensive frustrations that include shaky line play, an inept power running game and a compressed passing game that’s short on healthy impact wide receivers. He still has plenty of GOAT equity, but consider he’s down to 6.8 yards per attempt and a 90.1 passer rating.
10. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (11)
Garoppolo is up to 10 interceptions, but he’s got that Brady comeback flair working for him. With a good three-week stretch, he’s up to a 68.8 completion percentage, 7.8 yards per attempt and a 97.7 passer rating. The narrative of him being the Niners’ weak link was lame. Watch him go to work now with all of his best weapons healthy together.
11. Derek Carr, Raiders (13)
Forget what we thought about Carr in the first year with Jon Gruden. He’s had a terrific comeback season — knock on wood if you’re with us. Carr is completing 72.3 percent of his passes at 8.0 yards per attempt, taking full advantage of superior pass protection and better receivers to post a playoff-worthy 105.2 passer rating.
12. Carson Wentz, Eagles (8)
Wentz is in the same situation as Brady, caught more in passing battles vs. his team’s own attrition. He’s lost some of his accuracy without having good opportunities to stretch the field with the deep ball. He’s hanging tough to keep the Eagles in the playoff race, but the numbers are down to a 61.2 completion percentage, 6.6 yards per attempt and a 91.4 rating.
13. Matt Ryan, Falcons (12)
Now that the Falcons are winning again with much better defense, you can go back to appreciating what Ryan keeps giving them as a steady, mentally tough force. His numbers are better than you think with 7.6 yards per attempt and a 97.8 rating.
14. Jacoby Brissett, Colts (14)
Brissett’s solid season had a hiccup with his knee injury, which also cost the Colts a couple of key games. They are a run-heavy team, but they need to let him loose a little more with his big arm, as they’ve gone a little conservative with their receiving limitations. He’s proved capable of handling being more playmaker than caretaker.
15. Kyler Murray, Cardinals (15)
The rookie keeps his solid upper-half position going to the bye. Coach Kilff Kingsbury has adapted his offense more to Murray’s strengths, and it’s shown as he’s strung together consecutive solid games with better red zone finishing.
16. Baker Mayfield, Browns (17)
It’s been a slow climb for Mayfield to get back to where he finished his rookie season. But he’s been sharp in the past two games, both wins, and it helps he’s getting more help from his backs and wide receivers when he throws. The schedule ahead gives him a chance to turn a sophomore slump into more third-year promise.
17. Ryan Tannehill, Titans (20)
Tannehill is 3-1 as Tennessee’s starter since taking over for Marcus Mariota, making strong decisions while being aggressive and accurate with the ball. He’s rounded out the offense to allow Derrick Henry to run well without being the sole center of attention. The Titans can’t be ruled out to make more wild-card and division noise down the stretch.
18. Josh Allen, Bills (23)
Allen had shown only marginal improvement from his rookie season, still relying a lot on his running, until he had a spectacular passing game against the lowly Dolphins in Week 12, the best of his young career. He’s done what he’s needed to do to put the Bills in playoff position.
19. Sam Darnold, Jets (25)
Darnold, like Mayfield and Allen, is beginning to find his groove again in an offense that caters to his strengths, albeit against weaker opponents. The early bout with mono hurt his preseason momentum with Adam Gase, and we’re seeing of late why that combination might work after all.
20. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers (16)
Winston’s league-leading interception total (18) isn’t all his fault, but it’s high enough to drop him a few spots lower with younger QBs playing well. We still stick by the fact that the Buccaneers need to reinvest in him because he does have good chemistry with their main receivers, who no longer included O.J. Howard.
21. Daniel Jones, Giants (21)
Jones stays where he is coming out of his first bye as an NFL starter. The rookie first-rounder has shown plenty to think the Giants made the right pick at No. 6 overall. It looks like he will have Sterling Shepard back to help, but he could really use safety-valve tight ends Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison being healthy, too.
22. Philip Rivers, Chargers (18)
Speaking of interceptions, here’s another gunslinger who has thrown seven in the past two games. It’s clear, despite his declining arm strength, Rivers is trying to do too much to win games, leading to head-scratching veteran mistakes. Let’s hope the recency bias doesn’t hurt what had been a slam-dunk Hall of Fame case.
23. Nick Foles, Jaguars (24)
Foles returned to start in Indianapolis, throwing one interception that counted and another that was a “pick two” after a touchdown. The Jaguars immediately have gotten more aggressive throwing the ball downfield with him, which is good for second-year breakout wideout D.J. Chark but not so much for everyone else in the offense.
24. Jared Goff, Rams (22)
We’re to the point with Goff playing poorly, the Rams’ pass protection woes and receiver reshuffling that the team is starting to take the offense out of his hands. He’s failed to live up to his contract, given highly-paid, so-called elite QBs are supposed to lift their teams, not get buried under problems around them.
25. Kyle Allen, Panthers (19)
What was that? Allen saw Winston and Rivers with his four interceptions against the Falcons. The confidence he showed early as Cam Newton’s fill-in has been exchanged for tentative and rattled passing ever since this became an audition for a full-time gig in 2020. The irony is, Allen is starting to now prove he’s not the answer.
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26. Jeff Driskel, Lions (30)
Driskel isn’t very accurate and tends to take off and run a lot instead of hanging in there and extending to make pass plays. But he’s kept Detroit’s offense viable as best as he can with his physical skills given he’s a big dropoff from Matthew Stafford, who was arguably enjoying his career-best season.
27. Mason Rudolph, Steelers (26)
Rudolph was the fourth QB to have an interception meltdown in Week 12. Part of the problem is the Steelers don’t trust him to push the ball downfield, and now there are more running game issues and a key wide receiver injury to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
28. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins (27)
Fitzpatrick’s intangibles and toughness have meshed with the mentality of coach Brian Flores to turn the Dolphins from a joke to semi-respectable given their depleted talent. But the running game and defense aren’t good enough to overcome any real shakiness from him.
29. Brandon Allen, Broncos (30)
Allen gave the team some good fight in the near-upset against the Vikings, but his physical talent limitations are pretty evident. Expect to see rookie second-rounder Drew Lock get a shot soon so Denver knows how much it needs to think about drafting another QB, this time in the first round.
30. Mitchell Trubisky, Bears (29)
The end of the Rams’ game, when he sat out with a hip injury, has created only more mystery about Trubisky and how much Matt Nagy really wants to be attached to his third-year quarterback. Trubisky must finish the season strong in better matchups to regain his coach’s confidence (and his own), and the Giants and Lions back-to-back qualify.
31. Dwayne Haskins, Redskins (31)
Haskins played better against the Jets with the added benefit of being at home after a bye. Washington was slow on fully supporting him as a first-round pick, but perhaps some accelerated development will make the organization feel better about his franchise status for 2020.
32. Ryan Finley, Bengals (32)
The rookie is pretty much just handing off to Joe Mixon because he’s been shaky throwing the ball with major receiver limitations. The fact that Cincinnati isn’t trying to give him a real audition indicates it is headed toward taking a true franchise QB at the top of the 2020 draft.