If Jordan Love's Week 1 cameo and abbreviated preseason action are any indication, Sunday's Green Bay-Kansas City game will still be fascinating without Aaron Rodgers. As the Chiefs adjust to their reality as a station-to-station offense, Matt LaFleur and Packers fans get a sneak peek into what the future could look like. Expect fireworks.
In just eight Week 1 dropbacks against the Saints, Love had a beautiful touch pass while rolling left, a throw off his back foot that traveled 37 yards to the sideline on the money and a fumble near the goal line that showed a lack of pocket awareness. The preseason reps were similar, with a bevy of big-time throws and turnover-worthy plays all mixed together in a stew that showed off his considerable gifts and inexperience. It reminded me of young Josh Allen.
Winning without Aaron Rodgers is a lot more complicated than winning without Davante Adams, but LaFleur has proven incredibly resourceful while piling up 33 wins against just seven losses in his regular-season career. If nothing else, look for Love to put on a show.
NOTE: Up/down arrows illustrate movement from the Week 8 QB Index. Rankings reflect each quarterback's standing heading into Week 9, based solely on 2021 play.
2021 stats: 6 games | 73.1 pct | 1,813 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 16 pass TD | 4 INT | 70 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 6 fumbles
Judging by his pregame workout this past Sunday, Dak has a strong chance to return this week against the Broncos. I didn't want to remove him from the top of the QB Index because of one missed game, but that missing start could be a tiebreaker by the end of the season. With Denver, Atlanta and Kansas City next on the schedule, he may not need a tiebreaker for a while.
2021 stats: 8 games | 72.7 pct | 2,276 pass yds | 8.9 ypa | 17 pass TD | 7 INT | 147 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 7 fumbles
The Packers took the Cardinals out of their usual rhythm on Thursday night. Murray barely had the ball, was pressured up the middle and his accuracy was off, perhaps because of a wrap on his pinkie. With that said, Murray delivered two straight touchdown drives with multiple gotta-have-it fourth-down conversions when he absolutely needed them. A third courageous drive would have been completed for the win if A.J. Green knew to turn around. That's a resourceful, MVP-like finish with a little more help.
2021 stats: 8 games | 67.3 pct | 2,650 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 25 pass TD | 5 INT | 39 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles
I feel like most of my weekly Brady writeups here go something like ... It wasn't even one of Brady's better games and he finished with 375 yards and four scores. Yet it's always true! New Orleans defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is a problem Brady and Bruce Arians have yet to truly solve in four meetings. But Brady still delivered some gems against a game Saints defense. In quiet moments when I question my potential bias of leaving Brady this high after eight games, I just visit PFF's grades and other analytic measurements and see that they have him even higher.
2021 stats: 7 games | 64.9 pct | 1,943 pass yds | 8.6 ypa | 10 pass TD | 5 INT | 480 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 5 fumbles
Rashod Bateman quickly added a new element to Baltimore's passing game. If the expected returns of tight end Nick Boyle and wide receiver Sammy Watkins go well, perhaps Jackson can keep up this torrid pace. An improved running game would help even more; the Ravens are only 12th in EPA/play on the ground despite Jackson leading the league in yards per carry for a third straight season.
2021 stats: 8 games | 68.9 pct | 2,477 pass yds | 9.1 ypa | 22 pass TD | 4 INT | 24 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble
Every week, Stafford makes at least one of those throws. This week, it was a moon shot that traveled 58 yards in the air before hitting Van Jefferson in stride. Stafford's arm strength makes zone coverage difficult to execute. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are often assisted in making the first defender miss because Stafford's pass gets there so fast, giving his receivers time to make a move and watch a cornerback fly by.
2021 stats: 7 games | 67.7 pct | 2,269 pass yds | 8.5 ypa | 12 pass TD | 5 INT | 29 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 5 fumbles
Carr's average salary, guaranteed money and 2021 cash earned all rank outside the top-12 quarterbacks. His contract is up after the 2022 season and he's due to make $19.88 million next season. This is the time the organization would normally think about an extension for a 30-year-old playing at a career-high level, but would Mark Davis even let general manager Mike Mayock go there?
2021 stats: 7 games | 65.4 pct | 1,972 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 17 pass TD | 3 INT | 269 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 4 fumbles
The Bills had more yards and first downs in the first half of the Nathan Peterman Game than they did against the Dolphins on Sunday. But still, Allen's ability to take what the Dolphins' defense gave him and solve Miami's blitz three times on third-and-long with throws to Cole Beasley showed improved maturity from the franchise quarterback. He and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll are better at diagnosing their problems during the game.
2021 stats: 8 games | 67.1 pct | 1,894 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 17 pass TD | 3 INT | 47 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 0 fumbles
Rodgers was playing with a different style this season before he contracted COVID. He averaged fewer than 5.0 YPA against Arizona for only the sixth time in the Matt LaFleur era, which shows the limitations of box score scouting. It was a strong game for Rodgers overall, the epitome of the Aaron Rodgers, Game Manager season I've been writing about for weeks. It's as if all the offseason focus about savoring the moment and the reduction of ego has allowed Rodgers to blend into his surroundings and become one with Matt LaFleur's system.
2021 stats: 7 games | 63.7 pct | 1,994 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 16 pass TD | 6 INT | 81 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 1 fumble
There was a disagreement in postgame comments between Herbert and Keenan Allen about whether they were surprised the man-heavy Patriots played so much zone after showing man-to-man looks before the snap. Either way, Herbert was often a beat late and subsequently inaccurate against New England, allowing the pressure to get home.
Both of his interceptions were the fault of his pass catchers: an Austin Ekeler drop and the type of Jared Cook miscommunication that has happened so often that he's on his sixth team. Still, that's two games in a row where Herbert couldn't come up with answers to the questions posed by two of the game's best defensive minds.
2021 stats: 8 games | 67.9 pct | 2,215 pass yds | 9.0 ypa | 20 pass TD | 9 INT | 43 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble
It's easy to forget Burrow has only started 18 NFL games because he's so composed. His touchdown throw rolling left to the left to Ja'Marr Chase highlighted his improved arm strength. The Jets, aware that Burrow has carved up blitzes, didn't send extra pressure often. Despite a rough start and shaky interior line play, Burrow adjusted well until a tough-luck tipped pick at the line of scrimmage.
2021 stats: 8 games | 66.5 pct | 2,368 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 19 pass TD | 10 INT | 229 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles
There's no question Mahomes is coming off the worst two-game stretch of his career. And four-game stretch. And half-season. The turnovers have distracted from Kansas City averaging 5.0 yards per play or fewer in three of the last four games. The Jets and Lions average 5.0 yards per play. In a league where game plans are so lionized, the Chiefs know exactly how defenses will try to stop them each week. The defenses know how the Chiefs will try to counter. I'm tired of hearing the Chiefs need to be patient; 48 throws for 275 yards is plenty patient. They just haven't been explosive or in rhythm on anything but the shortest of throws.
2021 stats: 7 games | 69.0 pct | 1,953 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 14 pass TD | 2 INT | 75 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles
Cousins wasn't as bad upon second viewing of the Cowboys loss as I remembered, just uninspiring. When you grade out fairly well while throwing 20 second-half passes for 79 yards, it's a sign the offense is limited. Spooked by a poor offensive line, Cousins targeted a lot of underneath routes when deeper options became available soon thereafter. The Vikings coached as if they didn't believe the Vikings' offensive line could survive against the Cowboys, and they were probably right.
2021 stats: 8 games | 65.6 pct | 2,002 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 10 pass TD | 7 INT | 165 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 3 fumbles
The Colts, like many teams, loaded up to stop Derrick Henry and dared Tannehill to beat them. After two gnarly early picks, Tannehill was narrowly up to the challenge. Henry's upcoming absence from the lineup will test just how scheme-dependent Tannehill has been in Tennessee the last three seasons. (Or how Henry-dependent the scheme is.) I suspect Tannehill will hold up better than most people think.
2021 stats: 7 games | 68.6 pct | 1,814 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 13 pass TD | 6 INT | 29 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles
Apparently, there will still be days when the intriguing Falcons offense gets manhandled. Shaq Thompson and friends handed the Falcons their lunch, bum-rushing Atlanta's offensive line any time Ryan held the ball. So he didn't. Despite completing 74 percent of passes, Ryan finished with 146 yards, two picks and a fumble. Three more challenging matchups await in the next three games: at New Orleans, at Dallas and vs. New England.
2021 stats: 7 games | 66.7 pct | 1,699 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 6 pass TD | 3 INT | 80 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 4 fumbles
The highs aren't too high this season. The lows are getting a bit lower. Jarvis Landry's drops didn't help, but Mayfield continues to convert pressure into sacks at a higher rate than nearly anyone in football. He had Odell Beckham wide open for a potential game-winner, didn't see it, pump-faked and was subsequently late and wild on a throw that could have changed the trajectory of the Browns' season. He hasn't hit enough of those types of throws.
2021 stats: 8 games | 68.1 pct | 1,997 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 9 pass TD | 6 INT | 55 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles
The Patriots let Mac Jones cook again in the first half against the Chargers and he almost burnt their chances for victory by connecting on just 8 of 22 passes, complete with the misfires and misreads we've regularly seen from the rest of this rookie quarterback class. He bounced back to go 10 of 13 for 92 yards in the second half, the type of managed, efficient play that had the cognoscenti clamoring for more aggression in the first place. New England will need to strike that balance the rest of the season, which should be easier with the rest of the team around Jones improving.
2021 stats: 8 games | 70.4 pct | 1,914 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 13 pass TD | 5 INT | 70 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble
The return of Jerry Jeudy and Albert Okwuegbunam helped Teddy return to his point guard proclivities against Washington. While the defense has been a massive disappointment in Denver, the offense is 11th in EPA and 13th in DVOA despite their missing players. Pat Shurmur's group has mostly handled its business.
2021 stats: 8 games | 62.2 pct | 1,926 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 14 pass TD | 3 INT | 108 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles
This was the game the Colts hoped Frank Reich coached out of Wentz, the game where he was the primary reason his team lost. The decisive late interceptions completed a meltdown that started much earlier. Wentz missed many open throws, almost always high. His best plays were drawn pass interferences. He has seven turnover-worthy plays in the last two weeks, per Pro Football Focus, including another red zone fumble. Reich accosted himself for play-calling after the game and the Indianapolis media surprisingly agreed. It was a failure of execution, not coaching. Reich's play-calling is the primary reason the Colts still have playoff hopes.
2021 stats: 7 games | 59.0 pct | 1,170 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 14 pass TD | 3 INT | 166 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles
The last few images of Winston's season were so fitting:
- A gorgeous touchdown to Tre'Quan Smith with Ndamukong Suh bearing down on Winston, showing beautiful touch and accuracy.
- Jameis was only in position to get hurt because of his vastly improved movement skills, which helped him escape a collapsed pocket and rush for 40 yards in the first quarter.
- Multiple teammates going into the blue injury tent with Winston, something I've never seen before.
- Winston celebrating an improbable Saints victory amid strobe lights in the locker room, waving his crutches in the air like he just don't care (about his torn ACL.).
I'm so disappointed I won't get to watch an entire season of Winston playing on this Saints team because it was shaping up to be a lot of fun for everyone involved.
2021 stats: 8 games | 64.1 pct | 1,949 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 7 pass TD | 5 INT | 241 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 6 fumbles
It hurt me, 2021 Daniel Jones enthusiast, to see the third-year pro play one of his two worst games of the season in prime time. There was a lot going against Jones, as always, with a trio of receivers hurt during the game. Still, he missed a few opportunities for big plays, while the sacks and fumbles are on the rise again.
2021 stats: 2 games | 74.0 pct | 607 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 4 pass TD | 4 INT | -1 rush yd | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles
Well, then. White had an unblocked defender at his feet on his very first snap as a starter. Like a seasoned vet, he retreated and calmly found a 9-yard gain. The Bengals helped make life easier by almost never sending pressure and playing soft coverage. White knew where the soft spots in the coverage were, was decisive and was on point with some firm intermediate throws when he needed to be. He made his teammates look better. While it was White's first start, the fourth-year pro had a much better command of Mike LaFleur's offense than rookie Zach Wilson.
2021 stats: 6 games | 64.2 pct | 1,428 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 6 pass TD | 4 INT | 30 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 5 fumbles
This is what Garoppolo looks like with pristine pass protection. He delivered to open receivers, was feisty around the goal line and let Deebo Samuel do most of the hard work. It didn't feel like a "Jimmy G is back!" game so much as a "The 49ers' offense is finally working!" game, which is just fine. Trey Lance is on the roster in the first place because Kyle Shanahan was convinced Garoppolo is a function of the players around him.
2021 stats: 8 games | 61.3 pct | 1,819 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 10 pass TD | 4 INT | 432 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 5 fumbles
He is so dynamic in the open field; I'd love to see it more. Hurts barely threw the ball against Detroit, but he was on point when he did. Hurts passes the first test of being an NFL quarterback: If he's protected well, he delivers from the pocket. That may not be enough to be the long-term starter for the Eagles, but it's plenty for Hurts to have a long NFL career as a factor. That's better than most late-second-round quarterbacks and plenty of firsts.
2021 stats: 5 games | 65.6 pct | 1,040 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 7 pass TD | 5 INT | 62 rush yd | 2 rush TD | 1 fumble
Tua probably didn't play that differently against the Bills. He just played the Bills, after a soft landing from injured reserve against the Jaguars and Falcons. Miami's offensive line just can't hold up long enough to go down the field and Miami's play-callers haven't figured out how to create open receivers in a condensed field. Everything is contested. Much of it is frantic. Tagovailoa's underwhelming arm strength only accentuates the feeling that he's working extremely hard for every first down.
2021 stats: 7 games | 65.1 pct | 1,781 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 8 pass TD | 4 INT | 6 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 5 fumbles
The Steelers' dink-and-dunk offense works much better with Najee Harris and the running game starting to roll. Still, no quarterback is more reliant on his teammates making plays for him than Big Ben. Pat Freiermuth did it Sunday on a fourth-down deflection, or the Steelers would have scored single digits in Cleveland. Only Jared Goff has completed a lower percentage of throws over 20 yards, but I give the Steelers some credit for continuing to try.
2021 stats: 4 games | 68.4 pct | 702 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 5 pass TD | 1 INT | 42 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 1 fumble
Geno should have bought himself a few more years in the league with his three-game stretch as a starter, especially in Sunday's win over Jacksonville where he started 14 for 14. Overall, he would rank in the top 25 of QBR if he qualified and 21st in PFF's grading out of 35. He made good decisions and showed touch against the Jaguars. Most importantly, he was Geno through it all. "I'm not trying to be arrogant or anything like that, but I've done it for a long time. You can pull up tape from 2014 of me doing the same thing." INDEED.
2021 stats: 8 games | 66.9 pct | 1,995 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 8 pass TD | 6 INT | 76 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 7 fumbles
The score was 31-0 Eagles and I caught myself thinking, Jared Goff has played OK in this game. His PFF score was 63.4, exactly one-tenth of a point below what he posted Week 7 in Los Angeles and one tick about his 62.0 grade for the year. Five of his games have been graded between 62 and 64. There is no more consistent quarterback in football, for better or worse.
2021 stats: 8 games | 60.8 pct | 1,814 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 7 pass TD | 8 INT | 176 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 5 fumbles
Darnold played his best game by far in more than a month. This being true in a game where he averaged fewer than 6.0 YPA against Atlanta without completing a touchdown drive speaks to the lowered expectations in Carolina, but Darnold threw and ran the ball well. His status for this week is uncertain after being concussed on a massive hit by Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun.
2021 stats: 2 games | 60.0 pct | 325 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 2 pass TD | 1 INT | 2 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble
Dallas more than doubled Minnesota in passing first downs, pass plays over 15 yards and yards per completion. Only one team attempted more throws of 20-plus yards in Week 9. Rush put the ball in harm's way too often, but this aggressive approach is a credit to the Cowboys coaching staff under Mike McCarthy and led directly to a victory Sunday night. Rush is probably a one-and-done starter this season, but a performance this good is worthy of a QB Index writeup. Who knew that the Cooper Rush-Mike White camp battles of 2018 and '19 would prove so monumental to the history of the NFL?
2021 stats: 8 games | 63.9 pct | 1,928 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 11 pass TD | 9 INT | 232 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 4 fumbles
The closing sequence in Denver was a microcosm of Heinicke's season. It's fun sometimes watching him move the ball down the field, but no team is worse at closing in the red zone.
2021 stats: 7 games | 59.6 pct | 1,703 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 8 pass TD | 9 INT | 132 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 3 fumbles
The Jaguars didn't score until there was less than two minutes remaining in Seattle. At one point, the team went more than a quarter without a first down as Lawrence missed seven straight passes. There weren't many big mistakes from the rookie, just a lot of plays where he held the ball forever or missed throws. It was a highly disappointing way to return from the bye week after Lawrence was previously trending up.
2021 stats: 8 games | 59.5 pct | 991 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 3 pass TD | 7 INT | 243 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 8 fumbles
More of that, please. Fields played one of the better games by a rookie quarterback all season, decisively running and hitting open receivers. There were only two (effective) designed runs, so most of Fields' 101 yards on the ground came from scrambles. He also made a few pretty throws on the run to his left and was accurate, leading five scoring drives out of seven before a desperate final possession. Even his interception on that drive was a great deep ball that hit Darnell Mooney's hands.
2021 stats: 7 games | 67.0 pct | 1,357 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 7 pass TD | 8 INT | 8 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles
It was great that Mills helped the Texans score 22 points in a six-minute span after falling down 38-0 Sunday, hitting a couple of wow throws to pull off one of the great backdoor covers of all time. The other three and a half quarters before the Rams backups came in weren't as great. I'd play Tyrod Taylor because these snaps don't feel that productive for Mills. Giving him some time on the bench before bringing him back in December makes sense, unless the Texans are not interested in trying to win.
UPDATE: On Thursday, the Texans named Tyrod Taylor the starter for Sunday's game in Miami.
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