Another week is in the books, and it’s time to take a look at the top five quarterbacks of Week 15. Let me start off by saying that there were a few close calls, but I think these five guys were clearly deserving of placement on this list.
San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers
With so many performances like this one, it’s incredible to think that Philip Rivers still isn’t getting his due on a national scale. As far as numbers and importance go, Rivers has all the requisite features of a legitimate MVP candidate, and yet people trumping Rivers literally get laughed at by skeptics who never seem to refute the pro-Rivers argument with actual facts. Thursday night’s win was honestly more about coaching than Rivers, but he had himself a great game in a massive victory over the rival Denver Broncos. It’s never easy to lead your team to victory over the Broncos, but Rivers was able to do just that and looked as accurate as ever. I think you can make a serious argument that Rivers is back to being the fifth-best QB in the game, and you can also make the serious argument that the league’s leader in completion percentage is also the most accurate QB in the game.
There was no chance of him missing this list, especially with a QB Rating of 120 and an ESPN TQBR at 92.4. Rivers played a hyper-efficient game, and that’s exactly what the Chargers needed out of him on Thursday.
Minnesota Vikings QB Matt Cassel
Two Matts (Asiata and Cassel) combined for two amazing performances to help spearhead the Vikings upset of the playoff-hopeful Philadelphia Eagles, and it was absolutely incredible watching a backfield comprised of these two go for a whopping 48 points. It was one of the most remarkable stories of Week 15, and Cassel is at the front-and-center of it.
I am convinced that his 57-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings was the throw of the week, because he was able to get it to Jennings despite the fact that three Eagles defenders were in the area. That throw would have been incredible even for a downfield passer of Aaron Rodgers’s caliber, but Cassel was able to show the arm strength and ball location to perfectly place the ball to Jennings within the crowd of Eagles defenders. Even more amazingly, Cassel was able to lead Jennings a little bit, and Cassel’s play was a catalyst for Jennings’s biggest game of the season.
Overall, the former Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots signal-caller finished with an outstanding 382 yards, 10.9 yards per attempt, and an ESPN TQBR of 96.3.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith
Even though the game manager mostly made easy throws against an awful Oakland Raiders defense, it would have been a disservice for me to leave Alex Smith off of this list. I mean, he only threw three incomplete passes, and he finished with a perfect 158.3 QB Rating. That’s enough for him to make this list, and he was as efficient as it gets. Riding Jamaal Charles, Smith finished with a whopping 14.4 yards per attempt average, and he threw five touchdowns compared to just zero interceptions. He also at a TQBR of 90.7, an excellent EPA, and put up mind-blowing numbers to spearhead the Chiefs 56-point day. While he wasn’t the best QB on this list, he undoubtedly deserves to make this list for putting up those kinds of stats.
Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill
While New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady received the Pro Football Focus’s highest grade for a QB this week (I feel a bit bad for leaving him off), I’m going to recognize Ryan Tannehill instead. Thanks to Tannehill, the Dolphins were able to get a crucial victory over their division rivals, and he was simply sensational in a victory that almost ended up in a defeat thanks to Brady’s heroics (it’s incredible watching Brady put this team on his back, but that’s exactly what Rivers has been doing all year).
Anyway, back to the quarterback who actually made this list of five. Tannehill continues to have an incredibly impressive sophomore year, and he’s certainly made good on the expectations of Dolphins fans. He shows a lot of moxie out there, and he’s quietly developing into a great quarterback in South Beach (“quietly” on a national scale, that is). Tannehill went 25-37 for 312 yards, had an excellent 8.4 yards per attempt, and he threw three touchdowns and no interceptions against a Patriots defense that was powerless to stop him. The Texas A&M product finished with a 120.6 QB Rating, and he can clearly be pointed to as the main reason why the Dolphins won.
St. Louis Rams QB Kellen Clemens
The St. Louis Rams pulled off an epic upset of the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, and we already honored superstar defensive end Robert Quinn with our Player of the Week award, so now it’s time to talk about the Rams quarterback. Quinn was a constant thorn in Drew Brees’s side and disrupted the Saints offense, but it didn’t seem like anyone was disrupting Clemens. In fact, the Rams veteran backup was hit just one, and the amazing running of Zac Stacy and the added time in the pocket helped Clemens produce an extremely efficient 14-20 line. He had himself a great game on the stat sheet despite not having Tavon Austin, and Clemens ended up spreading the ball around instead to a variety of receivers. He finished with a terrific 95.7 TQBR and an also-impressive 126.7 QB Rating, and he deserves to make this list for those numbers and for helping the Rams upset the Saints.