Quarterbacks: Tagovailoa’s big rise, Newton’s struggles and Wentz’s big arm

Quarterbacks: Tagovailoa’s big rise, Newton’s struggles and Wentz’s big arm

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  • Mike Tannenbaum

We are through 13 weeks of the 2021 season, and we saw Gardner Minshew put on a show in stand-in duty for the Eagles and Justin Herbert post yet another banner day in a win over Cincinnati. Tom Brady and Kyler Murray accounted for four touchdowns apiece, and Jared Goff got the Lions their first win of the season.

On a weekly basis throughout the season, I will rate my current confidence in each quarterback’s play. Who is unstoppable and in the MVP conversation? Who is struggling and needs to find consistency? Who is rising, and who is falling, after each week’s game slate? Which rookies are exceeding expectations, and which veterans are leading their offenses to playoff contention? And remember, this is based on the present, not future potential.

True backups will not be included, though teams with multiple legitimate starting options might have multiple QBs listed in the rankings. Backups in line to play for injured starters will also be ranked. The list will be accompanied each week by some of the biggest takeaways and lingering thoughts from the recent performances under center, including what both the tape and numbers say about some of the game’s starting quarterbacks. Here are this week’s QB rankings and some notes regarding the position.

Last updated: Dec. 8

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Rankings | Week 13 takeaways

Tannenbaum’s current QB rankings

Biggest takeaways from Week 13

  • The best quarterback I saw this weekend was … Alabama’s Bryce Young. He isn’t eligible for the 2022 draft, but he was by far the best player on the field in the SEC Championship Game and has a lot of pro potential down the road. Young was accurate and poised, and he made one great decision after another on Saturday. OK, back to the varsity squads …

  • Tom Brady‘s 34 touchdown passes this season are the second most through the first 12 games of a season in his career. The only time the Buccaneers’ QB had more at this point was in 2007, when he finished the season with 50. According to ESPN Stats & Information and NFL Next Gen Stats, seven of those 34 have been thrown into tight windows, tied with Washington’s Taylor Heinicke for the most in the NFL. Eight have come while under pressure — only Buffalo’s Josh Allen (10) has more in that area.

  • Justin Herbert has his 11th career game with at least three passing touchdowns on Sunday in a win over the Bengals and fellow 2020 first-rounder Joe Burrow. The only player in NFL history with more in his first two seasons is Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino (13). His 44-yard TD pass to receiver Jalen Guyton on Sunday traveled 61.2 yards in the air, the second-longest completion by air distance this season, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Overall, Herbert has a league-leading nine completions that have traveled 55-plus yards since being drafted. The Chargers’ young star’s arm strength and mobility reminds me of John Elway. Yeah, it’s a lofty comparison, but his play merits it.

  • Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa continued his recent success on short passes (0-9 air yards), completing 21 of 25 for 152 yards and two touchdowns in that realm. He is playing efficiently and has done a much better job with ball security during Miami’s recent five-game win streak.

  • Thanks to the excellent play of his defense, Arizona’s Kyler Murray did not have to shoulder the load in his return (left ankle) on Sunday, a win over the Bears. And he still accounted for four touchdowns (two through the air and two on the ground). Murray ranks first in completion percentage over expectation (plus-6.5%), per NFL Next Gen Stats, and despite missing some time, he is squarely in the MVP conversation.

  • Seattle’s Russell Wilson completed more passes than expected (plus-9.8% completion percentage over expectation) in Week 13 for the first time since returning from his finger injury. Wilson limited the effectiveness of 49ers’ pass rush with quick passes — his average time to throw on Sunday was 2.54 seconds, a season-low. He looked much more comfortable this week in the Seahawks’ first win since October.

  • Gardner Minshew completed 80% of his passes on Sunday, going 20-25 for 242 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ win over the Jets. I’m not sure if that’s Minshew or a porous New York defense or a little of both, but the backup quarterback was impressive.

  • The Lions got their first win of the season thanks to an 11-yard TD pass from Jared Goff as time expired. Detroit passed on every single play — 14 plays — of its game-winning drive. It marked the first NFL win for Goff without Rams coach Sean McVay.

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