We are through two weeks of the 2021 season, and Week 2 quarterback play gave us Monday night redemption for Aaron Rodgers (four TD passes), a Sunday night duel between two former MVPs (Lamar Jackson led his Ravens past Patrick Mahomes‘ Chiefs with three total scores) and another strong performance from Teddy Bridgewater with the Broncos (328 passing yards, two TDs and zero interceptions). Derek Carr continued his marvelous start — he has eclipsed 800 passing yards through two games — and Kyler Murray put on another show in the Cardinals’ second straight win.
Injuries also popped up, with QBR leader Tyrod Taylor (84.6) hurting his left hamstring and Carson Wentz managing to injure both ankles. Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa and Chicago’s Andy Dalton were also forced to the sideline.
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 with 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: Sept. 22
Tannenbaum’s current QB rankings
Biggest takeaways from Week 2
The top of my ranking is mostly unchanged, with Nos. 1-4 remaining the same as last week. But Las Vegas’ Derek Carr is playing at an elite level and continues to ascend. I had to get him up into my top eight. Carr’s 61-yard touchdown pass to receiver Henry Ruggs III in the fourth quarter of a win against the Steelers was really a glimpse into his whole Week 2 game. His ability to quickly process the read, recognize the blitz and then throw a perfect pass in stride for the clinching TD presented the best pass I saw this week. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, it had a 21.6% chance of being completed, the 11th-lowest mark on a completion this season. And per ESPN Stats & Information research, it was thrown 46 air yards, which ties the farthest for a TD of Carr’s career. He is averaging 9.2 air yards per attempt this year, up from 8.1 last season and 6.6 in 2019.
Kyler Murray led the Cardinals to another win and also deserved a jump up my board. He was 6-of-7 on throws 15-plus yards downfield and threw multiple TDs from outside the pocket for the first time in his career (two). On 77-yard TD pass to receiver Rondale Moore in the second quarter, NFL Next Gen Stats says Murray scrambled 29.4 yards before throwing — the most on a TD pass this season.
The second-best pass of Week 2 in my eyes — behind Carr’s deep ball to Ruggs — was Aaron Rodgers‘ 22-yard scoring throw to Packers tight end Robert Tonyan, who was blanketed in coverage. I’m not sure anyone on the planet outside of Patrick Mahomes could make that throw from an accuracy and touch standpoint. Maybe we should all just R-E-L-A-X.
Denver’s Teddy Bridgewater has been remarkably accurate this season, completing 77.1% of his passes (second in the league). That’s really good considering that he’s 10th in the league in yards per attempt. Really, the only negative in his game thus far is that he has taken five sacks. Bridgewater cracked my top 20 this week.
Panthers starter Sam Darnold has been solid, as well, playing with more confidence than we saw when he was the Jets’ QB. He has only one interception and has targeted running back Christian McCaffrey 15 times, completing 14 passes. He is playing with poise and confidence, and he has avoided the mistakes that plagued him in New York. Can he keep it going? His play is on the upward trajectory after a very encouraging start.
Ravens star Lamar Jackson‘s fourth-down run to clinch the win on Sunday night was a knockout punch, called by an elite coach in John Harbaugh and executed by one of the game’s young stars — who collectively willed their undermanned team to a win over a more talented Chiefs team. That’s the definition of greatness: elevating those around you. Jackson threw for 239 yards, a score and two interceptions, and he posted 107 yards and two TDs on the ground.
On the injury replacement front, Miami’s Jacoby Brissett intrigues me. He has size, arm strength and great leadership ability. Despite the Dolphins’ rough outing in Week 2 (35-0 loss to Buffalo), don’t be surprised if he’s highly competitive against the Raiders in place of an injured Tua Tagovailoa (ribs). In Chicago, Justin Fields might get the call with Andy Dalton dealing with a left knee injury. Frankly, he should have been starting already, as he’s clearly the better player. He likely won’t be perfect in his first career start, but I love Fields’ arm strength, second-reaction ability and competitiveness. Houston’s Davis Mills will start for Tyrod Taylor (hamstring), and Indianapolis’ Jacob Eason could get the nod if Carson Wentz can’t go (ankle), but I don’t expect much from either.