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NFL QB Index, Week 8: Patrick Mahomes vaults back to No. 1; Kirk Cousins closing in on top five

NOTE: Up/down arrows illustrate movement from the Week 7 QB Index. Rankings reflect each quarterback's standing heading into Week 8.

Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 7

2023 stats: 7 games | 69.5 pct | 2,017 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 15 pass TD | 6 INT | 214 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble

Mahomes is a master of improvisation, attempting 25 of his 42 passes more than 2.5 seconds after the snap against the Chargers on Sunday, racking up 322 yards and two touchdowns on such attempts, per Next Gen Stats. That element of his game is nothing new, but the rate at which he’s succeeding is truly awesome to witness. He threw an interception in the second quarter on what amounted to an arm punt, but otherwise, he was as sharp as can be, finding open targets all over the field and rarely missing them. The 424-yard, 4-touchdown day looked exactly as the stats suggest, and his connection with Travis Kelce remains about as reliable as death and taxes.

Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 4

2023 stats: 7 games | 67.2 pct | 1,821 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 9 pass TD | 8 INT | 274 rush yds | 6 rush TD | 2 fumbles

One fourth-quarter throw in Sunday night’s game explains Hurts’ entire 2023 season to this point for me. On first-and-10 at midfield, Hurts dropped back to pass, saw A.J. Brown streaking downfield in double coverage, threw caution to the wind and stepped into an oncoming rusher as he fired a pass toward his hulking receiver. Brown came down with the catch for a 42-yard gain, setting up a touchdown run by Kenneth Gainwell two plays later. That play showed me Hurts trusts his abilities beyond the limits of what seems like reality to most. Now, that also showed up on his pick-six, as it seemed like Hurts believed he could throw through the facemask of closing rusher Kader Kohou. The defensive back predictably deflected the pass toward Jerome Baker, who caught the ball and returned it for a game-tying score. Most of the time, the confidence propels a player who is performing at a remarkable rate, statistics aside. He’s still doing more than almost any quarterback when it comes to directing an offense, extending plays and making magic. But we might have to accept that this will happen from time to time, like when he fumbled early on because he was too loose with the ball in a pocket collapsing around him. Hurts will learn to be more careful, but we can only hope it doesn’t come at the cost of his playmaking ability, because that’s what truly makes him a thrilling player to watch. Oh, he also finished with 279 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Dolphins. Good thing I covered that base for the stat-sheet scanners.

Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins · Year 4

2023 stats: 7 games | 71.2 pct | 2,092 pass yds | 9.1 ypa | 15 pass TD | 6 INT | 18 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 6 fumbles

It wasn’t an easy night for Tagovailoa, not by any stretch of the imagination. He completed 23-of-32 passes for 216 yards and made me yelp with joy when he threw a 27-yard touchdown pass beyond the reach of Philadelphia’s defense to Tyreek Hill. He also threw a mystifying interception on a pass intended for Raheem Mostert, who was floating among a sea of defenders and was way too close to a teammate in the end zone to lead me to believe those routes were run as they were drawn up. The positives were still there. They just weren’t frequent enough to keep pace with the Eagles. Losing Jaylen Waddle for a good chunk of this game didn’t help, either. I won’t hold this against Tagovailoa -- that is, unless Miami and Philadelphia meet in the Super Bowl (just kidding; there’s too much football between now and then, anyway).

Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams · Year 15

2023 stats: 7 games | 59.8 pct | 1,908 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 7 pass TD | 6 INT | 59 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles

Few quarterbacks are slinging it as well as Stafford is right now, and I reject any criticism of his standing in these rankings. If you’re watching the games (and not just checking stats), you’ll see what I’m talking about. Now, T.J. Watt read Stafford’s eyes and picked him off to set up a Pittsburgh touchdown early in the second half on Sunday. But that shouldn’t sully Stafford’s standing among the upper crust of NFL signal-callers. He’s still dropping dimes all over the field when he has ample time to throw, and the return of Cooper Kupp is only helping him. The Steelers deserve credit for shutting down the Rams in the fourth quarter, but I’m not holding the outcome against Stafford here. He’s among the best in the league through seven weeks, even if he wasn’t able to deliver a win on Sunday.

Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · Year 6

2023 stats: 7 games | 71.0 pct | 1,610 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 8 pass TD | 3 INT | 363 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 8 fumbles

Whew, buddy, did Jackson have a spectacular Sunday. All the preseason talk of Todd Monken’s offense opening things up finally came to fruition in one of the best passing displays of Jackson’s career. He made every throw look easy and appeared to be incredibly comfortable, toying with Detroit’s defense all afternoon, especially on his touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor. That play demonstrated a shift in Baltimore. In prior years, Jackson would have scrambled long before he ended up tossing the ball to Agholor. He was in complete control and used all of his abilities to produce a memorable day for the Ravens.

Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings · Year 12

2023 stats: 7 games | 68.9 pct | 2,057 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 16 pass TD | 5 INT | 16 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 7 fumbles

Cousins has been good all season long, save for turnover problems. Fortunately for his standing in these rankings, he only turned it over once on Monday night, and it wasn’t entirely his fault (Charvarius Ward won a wrestling match with rookie Jordan Addison for an interception). The rest of the game was a sparkling display of composure, accuracy and experience. Cousins routinely felt pressure in his face and found outlets for positive gains, avoiding crushing mistakes and connecting with targets at a remarkable rate. He leaned on T.J. Hockenson plenty and turned to Addison as the replacement for the injured Justin Jefferson, hooking up with him for two touchdown passes. It was the best game we’ve seen from Cousins in a long time, and a statement to those expecting him to falter in prime time.

Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 3

2023 stats: 7 games | 67.4 pct | 1,643 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 8 pass TD | 3 INT | 206 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 6 fumbles

Lawrence continues to take positive steps, stringing together some strong games that look better on tape than they do in the final stat sheet. We’re not all about numbers here, though, which benefits Lawrence, who was dialed in throughout last week’s win over the Saints. He even managed to lead Jacksonville in rushing (59 yards on eight attempts) just days after suffering a knee injury that threw his Week 7 status into question. Lawrence is steadily ascending, and the Jaguars are following suit.

Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills · Year 6

2023 stats: 7 games | 70.7 pct | 1,841 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 15 pass TD | 7 INT | 148 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 3 fumbles

Sunday was plainly chaotic for Allen and the Bills. New England sent pressure at Allen from all directions with the goal of moving him off his spot, and most of the time, it worked. Allen, who is playing through a right shoulder injury, never truly settled in and was forced to make the most of what he was given. The explosive play simply isn’t there for the Bills right now, no matter how hard they try to manufacture them, and it wasn’t until the latter stages of the game that the Bills begrudgingly settled for a reality in which their best chance of success was by taking quick options underneath. Oddly enough, that’s what led to Allen’s connection with Stefon Diggs for a fourth-quarter touchdown. It’s tough to evaluate Allen under those circumstances, especially behind an offensive line that has been beaten by aggressive defenses in the last two weeks. It just doesn’t look good right now, which isn’t really Allen’s fault, even if his early interception was indeed on him.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL UPDATE: After a few weeks of consternation from observers, Allen and the Bills returned to form against the Bucs. Allen completed 31 of 40 passes for 324 yards, two touchdowns (plus one on the ground) and an interception (off a batted ball), freewheeling and dealing as he does best to wake up Buffalo's offense in a prime-time win.

Jared Goff
Detroit Lions · Year 8

2023 stats: 7 games | 68.0 pct | 1,902 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 11 pass TD | 4 INT | 15 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 2 fumbles

For the first time in 2023, Goff was never afforded a chance to get into rhythm before a game was out of reach. The Ravens put 28 points on the board before the Lions recorded a first down, and Goff was facing pass rushers coming from nearly every angle. As a result, the Lions didn’t have much of an opportunity to keep up with the explosive Baltimore offense, and Goff didn’t really find his footing until they were essentially out of the game. Everyone needs a reason to reset from time to time, and Goff received his Sunday, along with a reminder to avoid chucking it deep when a couple of defenders are in the general area of his intended target.

Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers · Year 4

2023 stats: 6 games | 67.0 pct | 1,592 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 10 pass TD | 4 INT | 80 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 1 fumble

After one of the ugliest and most frustrating performances of his career, Herbert moved closer to his usual form in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. He delivered a few strikes early on, showing little sign of the accuracy issues that plagued him in Los Angeles’ loss to Dallas the week prior. There’s still reason to wonder whether his injured finger on his left (non-throwing) hand is an issue, as he still appears to be favoring and protecting it, but that didn’t seem to be the reason for his interceptions on Sunday. The first was deflected at the line of scrimmage, while the other was an errant throw in a desperate situation. In between, Herbert ripped a few throws to open targets (including a TD pass to Gerald Everett) and missed a couple of open ones. Generally, he had a much better game than he did against the Cowboys. It just wasn’t a masterful showing.

Geno Smith
Seattle Seahawks · Year 11

2023 stats: 6 games | 68.6 pct | 1,391 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 7 pass TD | 4 INT | 52 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble

Smith made a few throws in Seattle’s win over Arizona that made me say “wow,” and that’s without even discussing Jake Bobo’s incredible touchdown catch. It helps, of course, when a quarterback doesn’t face frequent pressure. Smith capitalized on quality protection (and a lack of a serious pass rush), firing throws all over the field on Sunday. His boundary throws were very impressive, and his sudden connection with rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba is very encouraging for the Seahawks’ chances. The only ugly decision by Smith resulted in an interception. Otherwise, it was a very strong day.

C.J. Stroud
Houston Texans · Rookie

2023 stats: 6 games | 59.6 pct | 1,660 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 9 pass TD | 1 INT | 55 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles

Stroud is the clear leader in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race after seven weeks. He plays as if he’s been in the NFL for years, which is a credit to offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik’s demonstrated ability to coach to his quarterback’s strengths. Stroud has been so fun to watch, I was disappointed when the Texans spent Week 7 on a bye. Houston is worth your time thanks to its accurate, composed rookie, who is building quite a bright future for himself. He's only moving down here because of some of the Week 7 performances by the players around him on this list.

Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 4

2023 stats: 6 games | 63.4 pct | 1,230 pass yds | 5.3 ypa | 7 pass TD | 4 INT | 14 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble

Burrow’s full-season evaluation might not justify his standing at 13th to some, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him in his last two games. He finally looks like he’s closer to 100 percent healthy and it’s showing in his play. There’s a bit of projection here, sure, but it also gives us a great reason to pay close attention to the Bengals in the next month, because if what we saw in the last two weeks is an indicator of things to come, we might end up witnessing one of the more memorable in-season turnarounds in recent memory.

Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 8

2023 stats: 6 games | 69.5 pct | 1,333 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 6 pass TD | 4 INT | 85 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 0 fumbles

Cowboys fans might riot when they see Prescott ranked below Joe Burrow. Look, I get it. When Prescott is on, it’s delightful to witness. I just need him to trust his abilities a little more and take some necessary risks to elevate Dallas’ offense and climb this list.

Brock Purdy
San Francisco 49ers · Year 2

2023 stats: 7 games | 67.9 pct | 1,668 pass yds | 8.6 ypa | 11 pass TD | 3 INT | 50 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 5 fumbles

Purdy struggled amid constant pressure in a Week 6 loss to the Browns, yet still found a way to give the 49ers a chance to win. Purdy found himself in a familiar spot late in a one-score game against Minnesota on Monday night, but instead of leading the 49ers to the doorstep of the end zone, he threw his second interception of the night by simply trying to make magic out of a play in which he should’ve conceded. That pick followed an even uglier turnover, in which Purdy sailed a pass beyond the reach of Jauan Jennings. Outside of those turnovers, Purdy strung together a nice scoring drive in the first half and found Christian McCaffrey for a touchdown. After the game, Purdy began experiencing concussion-like symptoms and was placed in the concussion protocol. Sam Darnold will start in Week 8 if Purdy is unable to play, per head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Baker Mayfield
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 6

2023 stats: 6 games | 65.2 pct | 1,363 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 8 pass TD | 4 INT | 99 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles

It’s getting difficult for Mayfield to succeed without any semblance of a running game to help him out. Tampa Bay simply cannot do anything on the ground, putting the onus on Mayfield to propel this offense. He’s doing so with Mike Evans, who caught six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown, but it’s forcing the Buccaneers to leave Mayfield to his own devices, which is dangerous territory for a gritty playmaker who refuses to concede on any down. The loss to Atlanta was a tough watch, honestly, and Mayfield made it tougher when he attempted a predetermined pass into traffic, where it was picked off by Richie Grant. The lack of a running game also forced OC Dave Canales to call three straight passes in a goal-to-go situation late, producing predictable results: Two incompletions and a sack. Tampa Bay settled for a field goal in that situation, and Mayfield wasted its other most promising scoring opportunity with his interception. Mayfield can win them games if he’s not asked to do too much, but right now, the Bucs are unfairly asking him to do everything, and paying the price for it.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL UPDATE: Against the Bills, Mayfield tried his hardest to make the best of what continues to be a difficult situation offensively for the Buccaneers, completing 25 of 42 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns. He also led a slog of a drive in the fourth quarter, a 17-play, 92-yard crawl that ended in a fourth-down touchdown pass to Mike Evans, previewing what would be a fruitless final attempt to tie the game on the last play. 

Kenny Pickett
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 2

2023 stats: 6 games | 60.9 pct | 1,257 pass yds | 6.8 ypa | 5 pass TD | 4 INT | 12 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 0 fumbles

Folks, the Steelers might have finally emerged from hibernation. Pickett was the one leading them from their cave on Sunday, injecting Pittsburgh’s offense with enough life to pull off a frantic fourth-quarter comeback. Diontae Johnson’s return certainly helped: His 39-yard reception jump-started the offense on a game-tying touchdown drive, which Pickett and Co. followed up with a 10-play, 80-yard march to take a game-deciding lead. His connection with George Pickens continues to be a remarkable thing to witness, especially on back-shoulder connections along the sideline. The addition of Johnson gave Pickett another trusty option and helped him finish with a line fitting for his afternoon: 17 of 25 for 230 yards and a 97.1 passer rating. If the Steelers can replicate this on a weekly basis, Pickett will rise up these rankings. I guarantee it.

Mac Jones
New England Patriots · Year 3

2023 stats: 7 games | 66.7 pct | 1,480 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 7 pass TD | 7 INT | 70 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles

I’m not sure if Jones was subjected to a week of constant don’t be the hero messaging or what, but he sure looked like he got the memo on Sunday. Jones rapidly improved in that department, accepting defeat when necessary and getting the ball out on time (and on target). His pass to Hunter Henry over the middle late in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty, as Jones stepped into the pocket, felt the rush bearing down on his blindside and flicked a perfect toss to the tight end to set up the game-winning score. The TD throw was pretty, too, with Jones putting just enough zip on the ball to connect with Mike Gesicki. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see this version of Jones again, but there he was on Sunday. Let’s see if he sustains this on a weekly basis.

Derek Carr
New Orleans Saints · Year 10

2023 stats: 7 games | 63.9 pct | 1,600 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 6 pass TD | 4 INT | 21 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles

A familiar story resurfaced for the Saints on Thursday Night Football, with New Orleans' offense appearing lifeless 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Alvin Kamara seemed to be the only person capable of catching passes from Carr until the Saints awoke during a desperate, frantic fourth-quarter comeback that tied the game at 24. The slow start ultimately doomed Carr, who just doesn't look comfortable with his offensive line's integrity and resorts too often to checkdowns, handcuffing an offense that has enough talent outside to be better than it is right now. It doesn't help when a tight end drops a perfectly placed pass that could have allowed them to tie the game again late.

Joshua Dobbs
Arizona Cardinals · Year 7

2023 stats: 7 games | 62.0 pct | 1,361 pass yds | 5.9 ypa | 6 pass TD | 3 INT | 232 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 6 fumbles

I’m going to give a lot of credit to Dobbs for his value as a runner because that’s where he was at his best against Seattle. Dobbs’ running ability has been on display most often when scrambling this season. However, it was all about the designed run in Week 7. Otherwise, Dobbs found the going tough behind an offensive line that struggled mightily with Seattle’s pass rush. He still fired a few impressive throws, including one to Marquise Brown along the sideline, but it ultimately wasn’t enough in a game in which the Cardinals were simply overmatched.

Sam Howell
Washington Commanders · Year 2

2023 stats: 7 games | 65.2 pct | 1,749 pass yds | 6.8 ypa | 9 pass TD | 7 INT | 119 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles

I’m going to have a difficult time dinging Howell much for his performance against the Giants because Washington’s pass protection was about as versatile as a stagecoach would be on today’s interstate highways in the loss to New York. Howell was constantly under duress at MetLife Stadium, rarely being given enough time to operate. The Commanders had no answer for the Giants’ stunts and blitzes. Howell also made a bad mistake by trying to loft a pass between defenders to Jahan Dotson. It wasn’t a good game for anyone wearing burgundy and gold, including Howell, but he wasn’t the biggest problem. He was just given a difficult task amid even worse circumstances, which showed on the final few plays, when Howell was anticipating the pass rush and trying to preemptively avoid disaster by getting rid of the ball. It doesn’t help when your teammate drops a catchable pass near the goal line on fourth down, either. 

Desmond Ridder
Atlanta Falcons · Year 2

2023 stats: 7 games | 65.4 pct | 1,630 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 6 pass TD | 6 INT | 113 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 6 fumbles

Ridder continued to show flashes of his potential with pinpoint passes and glimpses of athleticism that should make him a dynamic threat, should he ever find consistency. But that’s the problem: He’s just not consistent enough right now. He fumbled three times in the red zone against the Buccaneers in Week 7. The Falcons just aren’t finishing the job with Ridder, but because he’s still teasing them with his occasional successes -- and an ability to deliver in key moments, like his 39-yard completion to Kyle Pitts that set up Younghoe Koo’s game-winning field goal -- they have no choice but to keep testing him out with the hopes he’ll eventually find some reliability in his game. The good is really fun to watch; the bad, however, remains perplexing (and occasionally, heartbreaking).

Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans · Year 12

2023 stats: 6 games | 62.0 pct | 1,128 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 2 pass TD | 6 INT | 40 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles

Tannehill is unlikely to play this week, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. He started the Titans’ most recent game (before exiting due to an ankle injury), so he's still Tennessee's representative here coming off a bye. Tannehill’s season has been a case of occasional excellent play and a whole lot of struggles, often brought on by those around him. Overall, Tannehill has been ineffective enough to consider giving an extended look to Malik Willis or Will Levis, and it sounds like we'll see a lot of Levis, a second-round rookie, against the Falcons on Sunday. The 2023 season is starting to feel Sisyphean for Tannehill, who now has to work through another injury.

EDITOR'S UDPATE: Head coach Mike Vrabel announced Friday that Ryan Tannehill won't play in Sunday's game against the Falcons.

Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos · Year 12

2023 stats: 7 games | 66.4 pct | 1,499 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 13 pass TD | 4 INT | 171 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles

In my heart of hearts, I yearn for a reality in which Wilson makes a quick decision. He hangs onto the ball for too long far too often, still trying to play hero as if he’s in his Seattle prime. More often than not, it ends up costing the Broncos, either in the form of sacks or incompletions. There isn’t much of a rhythm with the offense, starting with Wilson, but good moments do suddenly arrive, like on his touchdown pass to Courtland Sutton. It’s much like Denver’s comeback against Chicago in Week 4: Glimpses of potential pop up, but they’re too infrequent to be expected. Denver won against Green Bay, but Wilson wasn’t the primary reason, and for a quarterback who is being paid a whole lot to lead the team, he’s not living up to that expectation.

Zach Wilson
New York Jets · Year 3

2023 stats: 6 games | 60.4 pct | 1,097 pass yds | 6.0 ypa | 4 pass TD | 5 INT | 98 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles

Wilson is finally starting to settle in a bit as the Jets’ quarterback for the foreseeable future. He’s making sound decisions when looking toward perimeter targets and isn’t afraid to run when nothing is there for him. His next goal should be to get more comfortable in the pocket and find targets effectively beyond 10 yards downfield. I’m very intrigued by his upcoming matchup against a Wink Martindale-led Giants defense that has caused plenty of problems for quarterbacks in the last two weeks. That should tell us a lot about where Wilson is right now.

Tyrod Taylor
New York Giants · Year 13

2023 stats: 6 games | 66.3 pct | 571 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 2 pass TD | 0 INT | 65 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble

If I was ranking backup quarterbacks based on production and reliability, I’d have a tough time slotting Taylor. He’s reliable in that he’ll make wise decisions and use his mobility on occasion, but his production hasn’t really been there. Take Sunday’s win over Washington, for example: His touchdown pass to Darren Waller was nearly perfect, fired between three defenders where only Waller could use his size to grab it for a score. Saquon Barkley’s touchdown reception, on the other hand, came from the work he did after the catch. Taylor deserves credit, though, for capitalizing on these opportunities. And in total, he had a nice statistical showing (18 of 29, 279 yards, two touchdowns). But none of it is impressive enough to drive a serious conversation about the future of the quarterback position in New York, at least not yet.

Gardner Minshew
Indianapolis Colts · Year 5

2023 stats: 6 games | 65.2 pct | 1,187 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 5 pass TD | 4 INT | 37 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 5 fumbles

Shane Steichen put together a fantastic game plan for Minshew and the Colts, who barreled through the Cleveland defense's previous statistical ceiling of 300 yards. Indianapolis finished with 456 yards, and Minshew had quite a bounce-back performance, getting off to a hot start (3 of 5, 84 yards, one touchdown in the first 10:32 of the game), scoring two rushing touchdowns and ripping a throw over the middle to Michael Pittman for a 75-yard touchdown that could have won the game for the Colts in a wild, back-and-forth affair. The negative side of Minshew also reared its ugly head: He threw an interception on the run, was strip-sacked by Myles Garrett twice (including one recovered for a touchdown) and accounted for four turnovers. He still needs to be better, but wasn’t nearly as dreadful as a week earlier.

Jordan Love
Green Bay Packers · Year 4

2023 stats: 6 games | 57.5 pct | 1,263 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 10 pass TD | 7 INT | 130 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 2 fumbles

The Jordan Love Experience is going to test Packers fans’ patience. It’s becoming a familiar tale, one of Love struggling to find a rhythm early in games before reverting to underneath attempts and suddenly discovering a positive flow. He did this again in the loss to Denver, leading touchdown drives of nine and 11 plays. He found some luck on a fourth-down touchdown pass to Jayden Reed, who caught it only after it deflected off the hands of Romeo Doubs. But the ugliness is still too frequent. Love threw a game-deciding interception by taking an unnecessary risk downfield late in a two-point game. Even Love’s first touchdown pass wasn’t a great throw -- Doubs simply bailed him out, reaching back to grab a terribly underthrown pass and win a tie with Pat Surtain II. Love is still a work in progress, and the process is far from complete.

Tyson Bagent
Chicago Bears · Rookie

2023 stats: 2 games | 72.1 pct | 245 pass yds | 5.7 ypa | 1 pass TD | 1 INT | 28 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 1 fumble

You know, for an undrafted rookie from a Division II program making his first career NFL start, Bagent handled it remarkably well. He didn’t trust his protection very much, but he was decisive with a lot of his passes and largely on target. Bagent relied on his athleticism to create positive plays, and most importantly, never made a crushing mistake against the Raiders. A productive run game helped him, no doubt, but Bagent was better than most anyone likely expected.

Brian Hoyer
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 15

2023 stats: 3 games | 54.8 pct | 231 pass yds | 5.5 ypa | 0 pass TD | 2 INT | -3 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles

Hoyer did a lot of what you’d expect from a veteran backup in Sunday's loss to Chicago. He completed quick throws on first reads and sensed pressure appropriately, but he struggled to make starter-caliber plays. Davante Adams dropped a well-placed Hoyer pass in the end zone, and Hoyer’s first interception was a product of a deflection off the hands of Josh Jacobs, whom Hoyer was trying to direct toward open space with his throw. But Hoyer’s second interception was just terrible, a heave that amounted to nothing more than a prayer sent in Adams’ direction. Backups need to manage games and keep them as close as possible, and Hoyer just didn’t do that very well.

Bryce Young
Carolina Panthers · Rookie

2023 stats: 5 games | 63.2 pct | 967 pass yds | 5.3 ypa | 6 pass TD | 4 INT | 65 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles

Young gave us some evidence of his potential at the start of Carolina’s Week 6 loss to Miami, leading two touchdown drives before disappearing along with the rest of the Panthers’ offense for the remainder of the game. The Panthers were on a bye in Week 7, but I’m hoping what we saw in the first quarter in Miami is a sign of things to come, because both he and Panthers fans deserve better than the product they’ve received so far in 2023.

P.J. Walker
Cleveland Browns · Year 4

2023 stats: 2 games | 50.0 pct | 370 pass yds | 5.6 ypa | 0 pass TD | 3 INT | 4 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble

I’m writing about Walker instead of Deshaun Watson because Walker played the majority of the game in another topsy-turvy Browns win. Walker still took some unnecessary risks and attempted a few ill-advised passes, but he also completed a few shocking throws that proved to be pivotal. This time around, it was a third-down toss dropped between a corner underneath and safety over the top of Elijah Moore, keeping Cleveland’s comeback hopes alive. The rest of the game was largely forgettable, though Walker has found some success targeting pass-catchers over the middle. If we ranked backup quarterbacks, Walker isn’t landing near the top of the group. He’s closer to the bottom. However, he hasn’t lost a game for the Browns yet, and with Watson working through a shoulder injury, Walker will get his second start of the season on Sunday against Seattle.  

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