Kyler Murray could crash the party if he were to return in full force after an ankle injury that has kept him out for a month, but right now the NFC representative in the Super Bowl can be determined by a rematch between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
Brady survived three interceptions a year ago in Green Bay when the Buccaneers beat the Packers 31-26 and won the right to meet (and beat) the Kansas City Chiefs in a Super Bowl LV. Rodgers was 33 of 48 for 346 yards, but could not overcome a 28-10 deficit early in the third quarter, bringing Green Bay as close as 28-23.
In terms of conference seedings, here quarterbacks are in line with postseason spots heading into week 13.
NFC: Murray (Arizona), Rodgers (Green Bay), Brady (Tampa Bay), Dak Prescott (Dallas), Matthew Stafford (LA Rams), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers), Taylor Heineke (Washington).
AFC: Lamar Jackson (Baltimore), Mac Jones (New England), Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City), Josh Allen (Buffalo), Justin Herbert (LA Chargers).
Here’s how I rank them individually, as well as those outside of the playoffs:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (goodbye) Last week: 2
Rodgers let Matthew Stafford make the big mistakes (pick six, lost fumble) while going his course as usual (28 of 45 for 307 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) in a 36-28 win over the Rams. Davante Adams had eight catches on 104 yards, but Rodgers found eight different goals. If Rodgers’ toe injury worsens, the Packers will sink.
2. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay (near Atlanta) Last week: 4
Down 24-14 in the second quarter? For the 32nd time in his career, Brady led his team from a double-digit deficit to a victory – this time 38-31 against Indianapolis. Was 25 off 34 for 226 yards. Mostly nickel and dime in addition to a 32-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski.
3. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (vs. Denver) Last Week: 3
Had a week off to consider running the AFC West glove over the next three weeks with a chance to grab the division forever. The Chiefs host the Broncos, then the Raiders, and visit the Los Angeles Chargers on December 16th.
4. Dak Prescott, Dallas (near New Orleans) Last week: 5
Prescott was 32 of 47 for 375 yards and two touchdowns in a three-point overtime loss to the Raiders. When playing without Amari Cooper (COVID) and CeeDee Lamb, Prescott still threw some absolute pennies on deep sideline throws and acquitted himself as a top-level quarterback.
5. Josh Allen, Buffalo (vs. New England) Last Week: 7
Allen would not be happy with the two interceptions, but that hardly mattered. Buffalo dominated New Orleans and Allen was 23 of 28 for 260 yards and four touchdowns. He also had eight rushing for 43 yards.
6. Mac Jones, New England (at Buffalo) Last week: 14
The Patriots have won six straight and surpassed their opponents by nearly 25 points per game. struggle during that stretch. And Mac Jones is their quarterback. And a pretty good one. Was 23 of 32 for 310 yards, two touchdowns, no pick in a 36-13 win over Tennessee.
7. Kyler Murray, Arizona (in Chicago) Last Week: 9
The assumption is that Murray will be back after a farewell after Colt McCoy led Arizona to two wins in three games where he performed his job as a backup beautifully. The Cardinals face the Rams after the Bears and then get Detroit on the road. Could have division in the bag after three wins. If Murray is his usual self, he’s moving up next week.
8. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati (vs. LA Chargers) Last Week: 10 p.m.
The way the Bengals run the ball (38 carries, 198 yards, including 168 by Joe Mixon), life is good or Burrow. He was 20 of 24 for 190 yards and no interceptions in a blowout win over the Steelers.
9. Justin Herbert, LA Chargers (at Cincinnati) Last Week: 1
Life is uncertain at the top. Herbert fell in a 28-13 loss to Denver. The Chargers’ first eight possessions included three points, two interceptions, a missed field goal attempt and a touchdown. They added a too small, too late touchdown. A 70-yard pick-six given up to Patrick Surtain sealed the Chargers’ downfall.
10. Derek Carr, Las Vegas (vs. Washington) Last Week: 16
Great rebound (24 of 39 for 373 yards, one TD, zero turnover) in a 36-33 overtime win in Dallas after three straight losses and under par performance. The Raiders are 6-5, and for the anti-Carr portion of the fan base, Raiders QB quoted Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote on his Twitter feed. Not that he is aware of the criticism or anything.
11. JIMMY GAROPPOLO, 49ERS (in Seattle) Last week: 12
Had a bad interception early that led to a Minnesota touchdown, but recovered and made some third throws in a 34-26 victory over the Vikings. Was 17 of 26 for 230 yards and a touchdown. In a three-game winning streak, the 49ers have run the ball 125 times and thrown it 67.
12. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (near Detroit) Last week: 6
Had late wiretapping for Azeez Al-Shaair which was expensive. Cousins was 20 of 32 for 238 yards and touchdowns at 2 and 20 yards for Adam Thielen. Minnesota points total was padded with a 99-yard kickoff return in the second half.
13. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (near Pittsburgh) Last week: 8
Jackson has led the Ravens to just 26 points over the last two games and has seven interceptions over his last three. Was 20 of 32 for 165 yards, a touchdown and four choices as a defense saved him out in a 16-10 win over Cleveland.
14. Matt Stafford, LA Rams (vs. Jacksonville) Last Week: 11
That’s three losses in a row for the Rams after falling to Green Bay. And not coincidentally, three games in a row where Stafford had an interception returned for a touchdown. This went to Rasul Douglas, who brought Los Angeles behind 36-17. The game is over.
15. Taylor Heineke, Washington (in Las Vegas) Last week: 24
At this point last year, Henieke was sitting on a couch thinking his career was over. Too early to say he is the WFT quarterback of the future, but Heineke has played well enough to ensure he can be a quality backup in the years to come. Was 27 of 35 for 223 yards, a touchdown and an interception in Monday night’s win over Seattle.
16. Tua Tagovaiola, Miami (vs. NY Giants) Last Week: 23
Not many downfield things, but Tagovaiola’s accuracy lately has been interesting. He was 27 of 31 for a touchdown and no interceptions in a 33-10 victory over Carolina. He is 54 of 64 in his last two games – both Miami wins. Plus he develops a good chemistry with former Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle.
– Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) November 28, 2021
17. Matt Ryan (vs. Tampa Bay) Last Week: 21
Not very dynamic, but did not need to be in a 21-14 win over Jacksonville. Ryan was 19 of 29 for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Has fought against good teams.
18. Russell Wilson, Seattle (vs. 49ers) Last Week: 15
The final stats (20 of 31, 247 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) were deceptive. Until the last drive, Taylor Heineke looked more like Russell Wilson than Russell Wilson did. Not even close to the same guy since he came back from surgery on a finger on his throwing hand.
19. Carson Wentz, Indianapolis (Houston) Last Week: 17
Tossed a few interceptions and lost a fumble in the Colts’ last four possessions in a seven-point loss to Tampa Bay. Wentz was 27 of 44 for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Indianapolis had a 10-point lead in the second quarter.
20. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (vs. Baltimore) Last Week: 13
The Steelers were terrible against Cincinnati, and Roethlisberger was a big reason why. Was 24 of 41 in 263 yards and a touchdown, but had two interceptions. He threw a pick six as Mike Hilton returned 24 yards for a touchdown that got the Steelers down 31-3.
21. Andy Dalton, Chicago (vs. Arizona) Last Week: 22 (Justin Fields)
Rookie Justin Fields is out with cracked ribs. Meanwhile, Dalton has passed 517 yards in six blocks, but produced only two touchdowns. Interesting call from besieged coach Matt Nagy when Fields is ready to go.
22. Teddy Bridgewater, Denver (in Kansas City) Last Week: 26
Bridgewater temporarily left in the first half with a leg injury, but returned to finish with a 15-point victory over the Chargers. Was 11 of 18 for 129 yards and a touchdown as Denver rushed 147 yards on 33 touchdowns. The Broncos and Chargers (and Raiders) are 6-5.
23. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee (goodbye) Last week: 18
Even in a game where the Titans rushed 270 yards and put two backs over 100 without Derrick Henry, Tannehill looked lost in a 23-point loss to New England. Was 11 of 21 for 93 yards, one touchdown, one interception.
24. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia (by NY Jets) Last Week: 19
As a quarterback, the Hurts (14 of 31, 129 yards, three interceptions) provided a pretty nice running back (eight rushes, 77 yards). In 10 possessions, the Eagles had a touchdown, three interceptions, three points, one lost fumble and twice it turned on downs.
25. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland (goodbye) Last week: 25
The Browns may need to consider pulling the plug on Mayfield, which is a physical mess. Completed 18 of 37 passes on 247 yards and a touchdown in a 16-10 loss to the Ravens. A touchdown in 12 possessions – on a night when the Browns had four takeaways.
26. Daniel Jones, NY Giants (Miami) Last Week: 28
When Freddie Kitchens took on Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator, Jones (19 of 30, 202 yards, one touchdown) and the Giants exploded for a touchdown and two field goals in a 13-7 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
27. Cam Newton, Carolina (goodbye) Last week: 20
What a nightmare. Newton was 5-for-21 for 92 yards and two interceptions before finally getting the hook in favor of PJ Walker in the fourth quarter. It gets worse. Christian McCaffrey went on injured reserve Monday with an ankle injury. He’s done for the year.
28. Trevor Siemian, New Orleans (vs. Dallas) Last Week: 27
Drew Brees could have come cold out of the broadcast cabin at the age of 42 and been an endless upgrade over Siemian, who was 17 of 29 for 163 yards, a touchdown and an interception. When he got anything going at all, the Saints were down 24-0 to Buffalo, and fans took the turkey-induced Thanksgiving nap. Taysom Hill is expected to launch this week.
29. Zach Wilson, NY Jets (vs. Philadelphia) Last Week: 32
The overall number 2 in the draft, Wilson collected the Jets from a 14-3 deficit to a 21-14 win on the road. It was against the Texans, but when you’re a quarterback in the Jets, you take everything you can get. Was 14 of 24 in 145 yards and an interception.
30. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville (at LA Rams) Last Week: 29
Apparently has the arm talent, but not the supporting cast to get the ball down the field in this offensive. Was 23 of 42 for just 228 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Hard to say if Lawrence is getting better, but all the schnapps should pay off at some point.
31. Jared Goff, Detroit (vs. Minnesota) Last Week: 30
Give Goff credit for getting on the field with an oblique load in a short week for an undefeated team. Going 21 of 25 for 171 yards without a pick is not bad either. Lost anyway to the Bears 16-14 because he plays for the Lions.
32. Tyrod Taylor, Houston (vs. Indianapolis) Last Week: 31
With 14-3 at the Jets, Taylor’s last seven ball possessions went against one of the NFL’s worst teams like this: punt, punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, downs, end of game. Davis Mills warms up in the bullpen