Another week is in the books, and there are five more quarterback performances to honor as being the five best of the week. It’s never easy to whittle the list down to five, but I feel confident that these five quarterbacks were at least in the heat of the argument.
The Seattle Seahawks 34-7 drubbing of the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football was one of the most impressive and complete wins that I have ever seen, and it came on one of the week’s biggest stages. Russell Wilson was at the center of the dominant effort, because he put forward a performance that rivaled Seattle’s star-studded defense’s day. Wilson was an incredibly sharp 22-30 for 310 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and that’s a stat line that simply jumps off the page. He totally destroyed Rob Ryan’s defensive scheme, and he finished the day with a ridiculous average of 10.3 yards per attempt. That sort of dominance is difficult to find, as Wilson picked apart the defense, looked great in the pocket, and he never made mistakes. In fact, only two passes were defended by the Saints, and one of those was a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Simply put, Wilson has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this season, and I think there’s enough leg room for there to be a great Andrew Luck vs. Russell Wilson debate. It’s been a joy watching Wilson operate, and it seems like there isn’t a glaring weakness to his game. He’s accurate, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s smart, he’s a leader, and he’s quickly knocking down holes in his game faster than Ndamukong Suh got penetration against the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving.
Cam sort of snuck in on the list (Matthew Stafford vs. Cam Newton was the subject of extreme internal debate on my part), because Stafford did a better job as a passer. However, Newton’s running separated him from the rest of the pack, as the dual-threat QB put up 68 rushing yards on five carries and a TD, with most of the yardage coming on a 56-yard run that once again showed his elite athleticism. What stands out the most to me about Newton, beyond his crazy athletic ability, is the fact that he’s done a much better job of bouncing back from rough performances this season. His bounce-back game against the Minnesota Vikings after a brutal performance against the Arizona Cardinals sparked a huge run for the Panthers that got them into the playoff discussion, and he bounced back against the rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday after a rough game against the Miami Dolphins the previous week.
The Panthers dumped the Bucs with relative ease in a 27-6 victory, and the Bucs didn’t even score after the first quarter. Meanwhile, Newton made up for two picks by throwing for two TDs and averaging an excellent 9.1 yards per attempt. He wasn’t as accurate as he was against the Vikings and St. Louis Rams earlier this year, but he was honestly just as good and continues to have a great year.
Uh, what lack of arm strength? Peyton Manning was dishing dimes all over the place against the Kansas City Chiefs, and he was at his best in a game that required him to dominate. Manning threw two interceptions, but he also compiled over 400 passing yards and tossed five touchdowns, with four of them notably going to speedster Eric Decker. What really impressed me was Manning’s ability to read coverages, and this is something that never ceases to amaze me. Whenever his elite wideouts got the least bit of separation, Manning was there to take advantage of the receiver’s skill or cornerback’s mistake. The Chiefs safeties were awful in deep coverage on Sunday, and you can’t afford to slack off with Manning under center. He can still kill you deep, because any top ten QB can make those throws. Manning is a top three QB, and his ball location was at 100% accuracy on those beautifully placed passes to Decker downfield.
ESPN’s TQBR gave Manning an amazing 97.2 rating, and his aerial assault on the Chiefs secondary was exactly what this Broncos team needed in order to win. He was even more impressive than Russell Wilson, and he needs to be since the Broncos don’t have the insane depth (the Broncos are very deep, but the Seahawks are just on a ridiculous level of deep) and defense that the Seahawks do.
I could have put Colin Kaepernick or Stafford on the list over Foles, but I decided to go with the Arizona product for his big day against the Arizona Cardinals. All the chips were on the table for the Eagles and Cardinals, and every game from here-on-out is essentially a must-win for the Eagles and Cards if they want to make it into the playoffs. The Eagles kept up the pace with the Dallas Cowboys in the neck-and-neck race for the NFC East crown, and Foles certainly helped the cause in a 24-21 victory.
He was so good in such an important game that Chip Kelly finally decided to name Foles his QB of the future, which was a big vote of confidence from CK. Foles came into the game with some mind-blowing numbers and an even more impressive total of zero interceptions, but the fact of the matter was that Foles had yet to succeed against a good defense. The Cardinals certainly have a good D with the likes of Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington, and Patrick Peterson, but Foles sliced them up for a 112 QB Rating. He threw three touchdowns, continued his trend of no picks, and he averaged a solid seven yards per attempt. Others put up better numbers, but, taking into account the situation, Foles does deserve to crack this list.
With every passing performance like this one, we are constantly reminded by just how good Tom Brady is and just how fluky his early season struggles were. Brady and the Patriots were given quite the scare by the Houston Texans, but they were able to clamp down in the second half and pull out a 34-31 win. There is no doubt in my mind that Brady deserves a spot on this list, as he had a 104.8 QB Rating and a 91.1 ESPN TQBR. He also averaged a whopping nine yards per attempt, threw for 371 yards, and beat Case Keenum pound-for-pound in a shootout despite also not having nearly as good of a running game (Ben Tate trampled over the Patriots run defense).
Brady also put up those big numbers without an “X” receiver, as Aaron Dobson was ruled out with a foot sprain and Kenbrell Thompkins had to leave the game with a hip injury. But Brady still made great throws, showed some more top-notch football IQ, and he also got some big plays going. Rob Gronkowski might be about as responsible as Tom Brady was for the 34 points and the win, but Brady was almost perfect when throwing it to Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen, and Danny Amendola. Brady has mastered the craft of accuracy and hitting possession receivers in stride, and it’s always a joy to watch Brady and Gronk connect out there.