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QB Index: Ranking the starters 1-32

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  • By Gregg Rosenthal
  • Around The League Editor
  • Published: Dec. 4, 2013 at 11:14 a.m.

Russell Wilson makes you want to speak in cliches. He makes you want to believe in "clutch" or a player's innate ability to rise to the moment. Or other nonsense like that.

After a relatively slow start to the season, Wilson played his best game of the season in Week 7 on "Thursday Night Football" in Arizona. He topped himself in prime time on Monday against the New Orleans Saints.

Starting with that Cardinals game, Wilson has thrown for 14 touchdowns with two interceptions, averaging a ridiculous 10.35 yards per attempt. He's overcome a leaky offensive line, connecting on a high percentage of passes while also being the most efficient deep-ball thrower in the league. Only the San Francisco 49ers have fewer pass attempts than Seattle, but the Seahawks are aggressive when they do throw.

Wilson's average pass length on completions is 7.74 yards, far higher than Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and every other quarterback in my top 10 below.

Wilson is not the NFL MVP (Manning is putting together an all-time season). But Wilson already deserves to be mentioned among the best quarterbacks in football. He makes the smart plays and the spectacular plays. He beats the perfectly called blitz and is finishing another season strong. He makes me want to write corny.

This is the Quarterback Index. Every four games, I rank all 32 starters, top-to-bottom. This is one of those weeks. The rankings are based on 2013 play alone.

Top of the food chain

1. Peyton Manning

2. Philip Rivers

3. Drew Brees

4. Russell Wilson

5. Aaron Rodgers (in absentia)

I could have included Manning's entire highlight reel against Kansas City. It was one of the best collection of throws by any quarterback all season. But I chose the play to the right because it's such a Manning moment. Third-and-long in a key spot. Manning recognizes the blitz, moves well in the pocket to avoid pressure and throws a dart into tight coverage. Wes Welker does the rest. Any discussion about the MVP race should have ended against the Chiefs. Manning's arm looks just fine when he can set his feet.

Rivers can't buy a break this season. He played well against a strong Bengals defense, but his receivers lost two fumbles and dropped another pass that turned into an interception. Rivers' pace has slowed down slightly after midseason, but he's been the next steadiest performer behind Manning.

Next level

6. Tom Brady

7. Matthew Stafford

8. Ben Roethlisberger

9. Andrew Luck

10. Cam Newton

11. Nick Foles

12. Bears quarterback

13. Tony Romo

14. Matt Ryan

If these rankings were based only on the last five weeks, Brady might be No. 1. ... It sounds strange, but Newton isn't playing much different than a year ago. The defense around him is far better and he's avoiding mistakes, but the Panthers' offense is a little worse overall. Newton is practically impossible to stop in short-yardage situations and deserves to be mentioned as a top 10 quarterback.

Foles isn't quite as impressive on Game Rewind as his numbers indicate, but no one could be. TheEagles' offense under Foles stretches the field and gets receivers open after the catch. He ranks eighth in average pass length through the air (9.23 yards) and first in average yards after catch by his receivers. In short: The Eagles are hitting defenses at every level. Chip Kelly has over-delivered on his hype.

I can't blame Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton for wanting to run. Indianapolis' pass protection is awful and Luck's receiving crew is falling apart. Darrius Heyward-Bey is turning into an unmitigated disaster. It's December and the Colts are counting on Da'Rick Rogers to carry the team. This closing stretch will test Luck to see if he can carry a team all by himself. ... Romo has cut down on mistakes at the expense of big plays. He's not playing poorly, but his ranking has slowly declined all season, with his yards-per-attempt (7.14) a career low by a big margin.

Middle of the pack

15. Colin Kaepernick

16. Ryan Tannehill

17. Eli Manning

18. Joe Flacco

19. Alex Smith

20. Carson Palmer

21. Mike Glennon

22. Robert Griffin III

23. Andy Dalton

Kaepernick seems like a game-plan quarterback. When 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman dials up the right plays, Kaepernick can look almost impossible to stop. But the entire passing attack has crumbled against its toughest competition, and the49ers' closing stretch is difficult. The difference between Kaepernick and Tannehill or Griffin: Kaepernick still makes five "wow" throws every week.

Tannehill has been solid in his second season without making huge strides. His deep ball is inconsistent. He had a lot of good moments in the last two weeks, so perhaps he's ready to get on a roll. ... Flacco hasplayed his best football the last two weeks as well, with a focus on vertical strikes. The same, oddly, is true about Alex Smith. This is the highest he's been ranked all season despite Kansas City's losing streak. He's shown accuracy and onions for the last three weeks. Hopefully the Chiefs continue to stay aggressive.

RGIII is right where he was ranked at midseason. After last year's wild ride, watching him now is a little depressing. I expected the Redskins' offense to improve as the season wore on, but it hasn't happened. ... Palmer moves up a tier (six spots) after a nice stretch of outings overall. The Philly game, however, was instructive. Even in a contest where Palmer completed a lot of tough throws, he left a ton of yards on the field and made some killer turnovers. ... Glennon has been a pleasant surprise. I'm curious to see how he'll bounce back from his first terrible outing in Carolina.

Five weeks ago, I ranked Dalton at No. 15 and wondered when the other shoe would drop. He's been terrible since. Three years into his career, the Bengals still can't be sure whether Dalton is "The Answer." His game against San Diego was a microcosm of his career. He had a miserable first half against one of the worst defenses in football. He followed that up with a handful of crucial throws after halftime to pull off a big road win. Then again, the defense and running game led the way. This has been a wildly up-and-down season, which is why the "After Dalton" scale remains intact.

After Dalton

24. Matt McGloin

25. Case Keenum

26. Christian Ponder

27. Ryan Fitzpatrick

28. Chad Henne

29. Kellen Clemens

30. EJ Manuel

31. Browns quarterback

32. Geno Smith

It's hard not to love what McGloin has shown thus far. He is not afraid to make tough throws and he makes quick decisions. It's wildly early, but he has a chance to stick around. ... Keenum also displayed laudable aggressiveness, which caused Chris Wesseling to temporarily fall in love. But the Texans' second-year pro struggles to put together complete games and struggles with blitzes more. ... Ponder jumps three spots after an improved stretch of play. He makes a handful of impressive throws every week, but the game still seems to move too fast for him. In his third season, there's a season that "he is what he is."

Smith plummeted seven spots after four miserable games. He has not been put in a fair situation, but he's not ready either. ... Clemens has been a little better than expected as the Rams starter. Fitzpatrick is exactly as expected: a solid backup quarterback with a touch of Fitzmagic.

The next complete rankings will come at the end of the season. Thanks for reading.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" recapped every Week 13 game.

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I won't rank Ryan lower than he deserves simply because I believe he's a noodle arm coward. If there's a qb worse than him I'm willing to admit it. I try to be as fair and objective as possible.

Yea because clearly Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Mike Glennon and and RGKnee are better than Ryan.


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Russel Wilsons ranking is comical. Must be nice to be a bus driver on a great team. Maybe he can ride it out the way Joe Flacco did his SB Ring.

While I don't think Wilson should be that high, he is quite good and loads better than Flacco. They don't ask him to do much, but he's really really good and will show it more as they take off the training wheels more.

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Based off of what...This should be interesting.

Can't wait to hear how you try to sugarcoat how great Carson Palmer is or the almighty Glennon.laugh.png

Based on stats and wins.

In all honesty, I should probably rank Alex Smith higher than Matt Ryan. His team does have 9 wins.

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Based on stats and wins.

In all honesty, I should probably rank Alex Smith higher than Matt Ryan. His team does have 9 wins.

Back to the old argument. I guess Trent Dilfer is better than Mario. He has a SB Ring.

I can tell you have never played a down of football in your life. Its a team game. End of story.

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Bit of an overreaction with Russel up there with those guys. I do like him a lot though. But those other guys are all ring holders.

Stop with giving bonus points to players that have won a ring. A ring has nothing to do with how a player is playing. In other words, you can't discount what Russel has done just because he isn't a superbowl winning QB.

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Brady is still a top 2 QB in this league.

Some writers/fans get too enamoured too quickly when a QB has early success...RG3 last year anyone?

I do like where Foles was placed. His stats rank at the very top, but that doesn't make him a top 5 QB....yet

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Gregg Rosenthal is literally the dumbest writer on the planet. Not just because of this article. Everything he writes is retarded.

Totally with you on this. The only ones who can rival him are Dave Dameshek and Adam Rank. Their dumb azz articles on whos dressed best and other estrogen filled crap like that make me despise them.

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