We are finally through the 2021 regular season. Fourteen teams look ahead to the playoffs, while 18 others turn their attention to the offseason -- and the quarterback position remains a focal point for both.
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 also will 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 -- the final edition -- and some notes regarding the position.
Last updated: Jan. 12
Mike Tannenbaum's QB rankings
This week's list took on more of a season-to-date approach, and ranking the quarterbacks each week was a great reminder of how valuable and consequential the position is for team success in the NFL. There are maybe 16 QBs who can win consistently right now, and that number might actually be high when you consider the durability concerns of Lamar Jackson, the age of Matt Ryan and the inconsistency of Kirk Cousins. The teams that have a top-tier starting quarterback are at a clear advantage over the teams that have varying degrees of question marks at the position.
Looking ahead to next season, many teams will have some decisions to make at QB. I think the following teams absolutely need to make an upgrade in the offseason: Lions (Jared Goff), Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger), Browns (Baker Mayfield), Broncos (Teddy Bridgewater) and Panthers (Sam Darnold/Cam Newton). And I think the Eagles (Jalen Hurts), Falcons (Ryan), Dolphins (Tua Tagovailoa), Texans (Davis Mills), Giants (Daniel Jones), Saints (Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill) and Washington (Taylor Heinicke) need to bring in some competition. Maybe they find an upgrade, maybe they don't. But they need some competition in the QB room.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott looked great with five passing touchdowns in Week 18, but remember that he was playing against mostly Philadelphia backups. Even so, credit Dallas for finishing unbeaten against the NFC East, the first such season for the Cowboys since 1998.
One performance that did stand out in the most competitive environment possible for Week 18 was that of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. He was tremendous Sunday night against the Raiders, despite the overtime loss. And on fourth down, he went 6-for-6 for 106 yards and a TD, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
Rams QB Matthew Stafford joined Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with 40-plus passing touchdowns in a single season with multiple teams. But his inconsistency makes him a tough evaluation. I wouldn't be surprised if he leads the Rams to the Super Bowl -- but I also wouldn't be surprised if Los Angeles lost on Monday night in its wild-card game against the Cardinals.
Coach Bruce Arians, I respectfully see it differently. Tampa Bay's Brady was great this season, but the Packers' Aaron Rodgers was playing behind a patchwork offensive line all year, and he was still the league's best quarterback. Rodgers is the MVP this season.