Top 15 Offensive Players
Each week in the 2021 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season's efforts. The Week 16 pecking order is below.
NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from Week 14's rankings.
It took a team effort for the Packers to eke out a road win in Baltimore, which clinched Green Bay its third straight NFC North title. Rodgers, of course, did his part with three touchdown passes, tying Brett Favre's franchise TD pass record with 442. Now headed back to Lambeau for a Christmas Day game against the Browns, Rodgers is sure to break the record. What a gift for all the Cheeseheads in attendance.
Taylor is hot on Rodgers' heels in the MVP race after lighting up Bill Belichick and the Patriots for 170 rush yards on the ground, including the game-sealing 67-yard TD late in the fourth. Taylor has another chance to showcase why he should be the league MVP against the 10-win Cardinals on Saturday night.
The Bills snapped a two-game skid with a convincing victory over Carolina last Sunday. Allen played well enough to get the job done, with three TD passes to one pick (his ninth over the last six games). He didn't need to be elite against a floundering Panthers squad, but he'll need to channel the early-season version of himself Sunday with the division lead on the line in Foxborough. This feels like a season-defining moment for Allen and the Bills -- one they need to take advantage of to truly take the next step as an organization.
I just expect Kupp to be in the vicinity when Matthew Stafford throws the ball these days. With his nine receptions in Tuesday's win, Kupp set a franchise single-season receptions record (122), surpassing Isaac Bruce's mark of 119. He's now eyeing Calvin Johnson's NFL record for most receiving yards in a season (1,964), needing to average 113.3 yards over the Rams' final three contests to break it.
The Cardinals are trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time. They didn't just lose to the one-win Lions. They almost forgot to show entirely. Murray hasn't been as sharp over the last four games -- 63.8 completion percentage, 3:5 TD-to-INT ratio and 78.7 passer rating -- and some of those struggles can be attributed to playing without DeAndre Hopkins, who's out for the remainder of the regular season (he could return in late January). Murray and the Cards have a chance for a big bounce-back game against another playoff-caliber team in the Colts on Christmas night.
As a former NFL quarterback, it is painful to watch a game as low-scoring as Sunday's Saints-Bucs contest. The Saints deserve a playoff spot for their defensive performance alone. Brady, who laid an egg just as the MVP race was heating up, was shut out for the first time in 15 years -- 15 YEARS! That was so long ago that not one active defensive player had even entered the league yet. Wild, right?! Was Brady's play in the loss concerning? Not really. I'm more worried about all the injuries the offense suffered. Chris Godwin (ACL) is out for the year, while Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette (both hamstring) will miss time.
This Packers offense just keeps getting more potent as the weeks go by, and the Rodgers-Adams connection is as good as it's ever been. Over the last four games, Adams has 31 catches, 384 yards and five TDs. That's 7.8 receptions, 96.0 rec. YPG and 1.3 rec. TD/game in that span.
Stafford hasn't played his best football in December but his play is still better than the best of some others. It's also easy to forget the turnovers when you look at the Rams' 10-4 record. Stafford's downfield passing has been a bright spot in his first season in Los Angeles. He is tops in the league with 2,287 yards on passes of 10-plus air yards. Against a Vikings defense that ranks in the bottom five against such passes, Stafford is poised to climb next week.
To fairly assess the rest of the players here, I'm only taking into account what guys have done from Weeks 1 to 15. So, Deebo's dominant 9-catch, 159-yard performance on TNF isn't a factor in this ranking. But the impact Samuel made Thursday night, he's been making for weeks now. A nightmare for defenses and a hero for fantasy football owners, Samuel has been the catalyst to the 49ers' success in the second half of the season. So much of his influence has been due to how he's been used:
Weeks 1-9: 6 carries, 22 rush yards, 1 rush TD
Weeks 10-15: 33 carries, 247 rush yards, 6 rush TDs
Like almost every other quarterback but Rodgers, Prescott has been far from his best late in the season. After being lights out to start the year, his production has dwindled after suffering midseason injuries that have lingered ever since. However, the top-ranked Cowboys offense is more than good enough to get away with not playing its best ball against most teams, and the good teams (and quarterbacks) find ways to win. With the Cowboys clinching a playoff berth, Dak has three more weeks to find his groove before the tournament starts.
I was so sure Derek would orchestrate the Raiders' game-winning drive against the Browns that I actually left the couch and grabbed myself a snack so I could truly enjoy the show. It was the 28th game-winning drive of his career and was just the kind of win this team needed after a long week. I expect some more magic Sunday against the Broncos. Let's keep this postseason possibility alive.
Kelce took matters into his own hands late in regulation and overtime against the Chargers, hauling in five catches for a ridiculous 142 yards and a pair of TDs -- including this impressive 34-yard, walk-off touchdown in OT. After an up-and-down season, Kelce's prime-time performance with the division lead on the line could be the spark the Chiefs need as they get ready for the postseason.
Again, I'm not taking Thursday night's performance against Tennessee into consideration -- we're purely looking at Weeks 1-15 here. Kittle cracks the top 15 after a few monster games. In his three games leading up to Thursday's bout, Kittle racked up 425 receiving yards (141.7 yards per game) and three TD receptions to help the 49ers move up the NFC ladder. Heading into Week 16, Kittle led all tight ends with 77.3 receiving yards per game.
Herbert played well enough to beat the Chiefs in Week 15, but the offense's inability to convert on critical fourth downs and hold onto the ball in the red zone thwarted the Chargers' chances at earning the top spot in the division. Luckily, it's a new week and the three-win Texans are on tap. With the way the second-year passer is playing -- he's top-five in the NFL in pass yards and pass TDs -- the Chargers should hold on to their playoff spot at least for one more week.