In any season, the NFL is as good as the quarterback play. That’s never going to change. The reason the NFL has all the rules to protect quarterbacks is to avoid situations like the league faces now.
Want to know why scoring is down? Check out the QB play across the league. Why does it seem there are no great teams this season? QB play.
Why is it hard to fill out a top-five best games of the season list after two months? You guessed it.
Think of it this way: How many quarterbacks are playing better than their expectation this season? That list is very short.
There was a four-year stretch from 2018-21 in which the passer rating across the league was above 90 each season, peaking at 93.6 in 2020. That dipped to 89.1 last season and was 89.3 this season before Monday night’s game, in which winning quarterback Justin Herbert had a 65.4 rating. This season’s rating could drop well below 89 as injuries pile up and the weather gets worse.
If you watch games each week or are a Jets season-ticket holder, you don’t need stats to tell you quarterback play has not been very good
The bottom end of NFL quarterbacks is not good enough. It’s hard enough to find 32 good starters; when teams have to turn to backups it can get really bad. Clayton Tune had 27 passing yards through three quarters for the Cardinals on Sunday. Over a little more than four quarters of game action through his first two games, Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito had just 10 yards. Brett Rypien put up a 45.2 passer rating for the Rams. Tyson Bagent threw three interceptions for the Bears. At least Joshua Dobbs was good for the Vikings when pressed into duty Sunday, though he was bad enough for the Cardinals that he was benched and traded.
There was a lot of ugly quarterback play Sunday. Four teams put up six points or less. Not all of that bad play came from overwhelmed backups pressed into action.
Geno Smith hasn’t replicated his stellar 2022 season for the Seahawks. Tua Tagovailoa and Patrick Mahomes were supposed to engage in an epic shootout; both of them finished with less than 200 yards and the Chiefs and Dolphins were each shut out in a half.
Injuries have been an issue. Aaron Rodgers’ season was done after four plays for the Jets, and Wilson has been hard to watch. Kirk Cousins is done for the season, as is Daniel Jones. So is exciting rookie Anthony Richardson. Deshaun Watson and Joe Burrow have either missed time or been limited due to injuries. Kyler Murray hasn’t played yet.
Even the elite quarterbacks haven’t been that great. Burrow got off to a rough start, though he’s heating up. Josh Allen threw a terrible interception on Sunday night and is tied for the NFL lead with nine of them. Mahomes hasn’t lived up to his normal standard. Jalen Hurts has been good but not great. These are supposed to be the NFL’s must-watch superstars, and none of them are playing as well as they did last season.
A series of retirements from legends over the past few years has had an impact. Kenny Pickett hasn’t come close to replacing Ben Roethlisberger for the Steelers. Derek Carr has been OK for the Saints but he’s no Drew Brees. Baker Mayfield isn’t making anyone in Tampa Bay forget the Tom Brady era. The Falcons have used two quarterbacks this season as they continue to look for an adequate Matt Ryan replacement. Rodgers hasn’t retired but the Packers moved on from him and Jordan Love has struggled in his place.
It doesn’t sound like much if a handful of teams are much worse off at quarterback, but it’s a big deal on Sunday when half of the games in the early window are unwatchable.
Maybe Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and others in a talented 2024 draft class help. There are promising players in the 2023 rookie class, led by C.J. Stroud in the middle of what might be a historic rookie season. But it’s going to take something. Quarterback play has been uninspiring this season. You know what that means for the NFL season as a whole.
Here are the power rankings after Week 9 of the NFL season:
It’s hard to accuse teams of tanking, because in practically every case they’re not. Fans confuse bad play with tanking all the time. But when the Cardinals sit out Kyler Murray, who has had no injury listed on the team’s injury report for two straight weeks, to start Clayton Tune and watch Tune have 27 yards through three quarters, are they being safe with Murray or are they intentionally not trying?
The Giants are griping. They don’t look like they have much fight. This all comes back to head coach Brian Daboll. The Giants might not win another game the rest of the season given their quarterback situation. But if they completely quit, it’ll mean a lot of skepticism about Daboll going into Year 3.
Bryce Young is going to have the same problem Tua Tagovailoa did, and that’s the player drafted right behind him. Young is having a fairly normal rookie season on a bad team. He has his ups and downs. Sunday was a rough one, with two pick 6s. He’ll be fine. But he won’t get as much patience when C.J. Stroud, who was the second overall draft pick, looks like a future MVP. In a perfect world we’d let Young develop without comparing him to Stroud, but you know the narrative is already being set. Ask Tagovailoa how that works.
Losing to a bad Commanders team that just traded two of its best players is another low point for the Patriots. The Krafts are grumbling in the owner’s box. The Patriots are at the bottom of the AFC. And the real question is: How did this team beat the Bills?
The Tyson Bagent story has been fun, but the Bears need all the time they can get to evaluate Justin Fields. Fields could return Thursday night. The Bears have to figure out what to do at quarterback, especially if they get a top-two pick in the draft from Carolina. If nothing else, they’d benefit if Fields improved his trade value.
After a promising start, the Rams have lost four of five. The win was over the Cardinals. Over the past two weeks they’ve lost by 23 and 17 points. Even the great Cooper Kupp has been disappointing lately, with 29, 21 and 48 yards in his past three games, without a touchdown in any of them. The Rams have a bye and that will help, but they’re probably not going to be relevant the rest of the season.
Seeing Aaron Jones back to a somewhat normal workload was a good sign. The Packers still have a lot of work to do — they had a hard time putting away a Rams team without Matthew Stafford on Sunday — but at least a full offense would give Green Bay a chance to fairly evaluate Jordan Love.
Interim head coach Antonio Pierce will be interesting to watch the rest of the season. The players responded to him. The last time the Raiders had success with an interim coach, Mark Davis needed a splashier hire and made a disastrous decision to hire Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler, and let them acquire a bunch of old Patriots friends. Can Davis hold off his urge to hire a splashy name this time if Pierce does a reasonable job the rest of the season?
It was odd the Broncos didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline. Perhaps they think they’re a playoff contender, or they didn’t get a reasonable offer for someone like Jerry Jeudy. It’s fine for head coach Sean Payton to look at a team coming off a win over the Chiefs and want to see how it progresses. It’s hard to see Denver being in playoff contention, though we’ll see.
The Commanders had to notice Sam Howell throwing for more than 700 yards over the past two games. They need an answer on Howell and if he can be their future at quarterback. There are still questions about that and a lot of things Howell still needs to clean up, but he is improving. That sets him up well for the second half of the season.
Rookie QB Will Levis wasn’t great in his second start but he held his own. It’s going to be very interesting how head coach Mike Vrabel handles the situation when Ryan Tannehill is ready to return because the Titans’ best move — for this season and definitely the future — is clearly giving Levis the rest of the season.
The story of Sunday’s Bucs-Texans thriller was C.J. Stroud’s excellence, but there was a defense giving up 470 yards and five touchdowns to a rookie quarterback, and it allowed Stroud to drive the length of the field for a game-winning touchdown in the last minute. A season that started with so much promise for head coach Todd Bowles is slipping away, and Sunday’s loss won’t help.
The Joshua Dobbs story is great. Here’s the flip side: The Falcons lost at home, after leading, to a team with a quarterback who was literally getting plays explained to him in his headset as they were called in. A loss like that has to start the heat on head coach Arthur Smith, who talks like he has all the answers but might not have any.
The Colts’ next three games are against the Patriots in Germany, vs. the Buccaneers and at the Titans. The Colts aren’t a sure thing to beat anyone, but all three of those games are winnable. If the Colts can get to 7-5, it gives them a chance to dream about a wild-card berth, as unlikely as that seemed before the season started.
Sunday’s win said a lot about Joshua Dobbs, his professionalism and competitiveness. It probably said as much, if not more, about head coach Kevin O’Connell. We see coaches with good quarterbacks come into games with their teams looking unprepared. O’Connell figured out a way to have Dobbs, who had just been benched by a horrible Cardinals team and traded, run a fully functional offense and win on the road. O’Connell has had some good moments but Vikings fans should go forward after Sunday with more confidence than ever in their coach.
The Jets’ defense leading New York to the playoffs is a fun fantasy, but it’s hard to believe it’s possible. The Jets are unwatchable on offense. A 27-6 loss, with the Jets’ defense playing incredibly well and holding a good Chargers offense to 191 yards, is disheartening.
The situation around C.J. Stroud isn’t great. Nico Collins has talent but he had no consistency before this season. Robert Woods, who was supposed to be a steadying veteran presence, has been injured. Tank Dell is a rookie and not a first-rounder. The running game has done next to nothing. The offensive line dealt with multiple injuries, especially early in the season. There’s some talent but it’s worth noting that Stroud seems to be elevating everyone around him. That makes everything he’s doing even more impressive.
George Pickens’ apparent tantrum and social media scrubbing was concerning because it happened in a win after his teammate, Diontae Johnson, had a long overdue touchdown to win the game. That’s not the time to throw a fit over stats. It should be fine but Pickens and everyone else in the Steelers’ passing offense has to know Kenny Pickett isn’t playing at a level to carry all of them to 1,000-yard seasons.
The Saints remain a strange team. With all the talent on hand, should Taysom Hill lead the team in carries and rushing yards in a too-close game against the Bears? Probably not. The Saints have as much blue-chip talent as anyone but never seem to put it all together. But with their weak remaining schedule and the continuing failures of the Falcons, the NFC South is there for the taking.
The Chargers didn’t play well on offense against a tough Jets defense, and while Los Angeles’ defense plays well it has to be graded on a curve because it was against a horrendous offense. But it was still a win, the Chargers are back to .500 and maybe they can get on a run. They look better now that they’re healthier.
Many of the Seahawks’ problems Sunday can be attributed to the Ravens, who did the same things to the Lions a few weeks ago. But one thing that needs to be fixed is DK Metcalf. The Seahawks have one of the best receivers in the NFL and he’s not having nearly the impact he should. He has a middling 28-454-2 line this season. Metcalf had one catch on Sunday. The Seahawks need to get him more targets and catches. Getting him back on track is the difference between the Seahawks competing with the 49ers for a division title or falling out of that race.
Von Miller’s whiff on Joe Mixon in the backfield, when the Bills needed a tackle on third down to get the ball back, sums up where the Bills are at. The talent is there, but Buffalo is a step behind. Buffalo is about a coin flip to make the playoffs at this point. It still seems like a decent bet that the Bills will make the postseason, but it’s surprising this conversation is taking place after nine weeks.
It’s hard to take anything from the Browns’ performance because the Cardinals were absolutely miserable. The good news is Deshaun Watson looked healthy. As long as there are no setbacks he should stabilize Cleveland’s offense.
It’s fine for Micah Parsons to say it’ll be OK the next time around, but he practically said the same thing after the blowout loss to the 49ers. The Cowboys found a way to blow a winnable game against the Eagles, making a misstep every time a winning opportunity presented itself. The problem is that happens with the Cowboys way too often in big games. It seems like that’s part of their DNA, rather than a streak of bad luck.
The Bengals used September as their preseason and now they’re fine. They should continue to get better as Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins get healthier. The only problem might be that the Bengals allowed a fantastic Ravens team to get out to a significant lead in the AFC North race while they figured things out.
The story of the Dolphins’ first half of the season is set: They’re amazing against bad teams and can’t beat any good teams. They don’t have a win over a team that has a winning record. Sunday was a disappointing performance, being shut out in the first half by the Chiefs, then coming up short at the end. It’s fine to beat up bad teams, but that won’t take you too far in the playoffs.
The Jaguars get the 49ers at home Sunday in a huge game for Jacksonville. Win that and the Jaguars will take their place among the elite teams in the NFL and will have to be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender. We’ll know a lot more about Jacksonville after Sunday.
What we’ve seen during the 49ers’ swoon is how valuable Deebo Samuel is. With Samuel out, the offense hasn’t looked the same. The 49ers are deep on offense but Samuel has skills that can’t be replaced. It looks like Samuel should return this week, and the 49ers’ dominant offense should return too.
David Montgomery could return in Week 10. He was playing very well before he got hurt, and he’ll return as rookie Jahmyr Gibbs is coming off a monster game with 189 yards from scrimmage. The Montgomery/Gibbs running back combination might not be great for your fantasy team, but it will be an elite combination for the Lions the rest of the way.
The Chiefs’ offense scored 14 points against the Dolphins and was shut out in the second half. They were fortunate that the defense came up big, including a huge fumble recovery for a touchdown late in the first half. Kansas City’s defense is as good as it has been the entire Patrick Mahomes era. But we’re a half of a season in, and we have to start wondering if the offense is going to catch up.
Josh Sweat is having a great season for the Eagles. He has had at least a half-sack in six of Philadelphia’s nine games. His 6.5 sacks are second on the Eagles behind Haason Reddick at 7.5. He had 11 sacks last season and is better this season. Sweat’s sack on Dak Prescott in the final 30 seconds Sunday was a massive play in a huge win. Sweat was a fourth-round draft pick in 2018 and has been an absolute steal.
In the past three weeks, the Ravens have two 30-point wins over first-place teams from the NFC. They have a couple of disappointing losses to the Colts and Steelers, though both were close and every team has its bad games. After the Ravens destroyed the Seahawks, with the defense shutting down Seattle and the run game putting up nearly 300 yards, the Ravens take the top spot in the NFL. They have the most impressive résumé, top to bottom. This team can win a Super Bowl.