Tannenbaum’s QB rankings: Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow light it up, Carson Wentz pinpoints a tough TD throw

We are through 16 weeks of the 2021 season, and Joe Burrow starred with 525 passing yards in a big win. Elsewhere, Carson Wentz made a difficult TD throw in a critical spot, and Dak Prescott lit up the first-half scoreboard in a rout of Washington.

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 and some notes regarding the position.

Last updated: Dec. 28

Mike Tannenbaum’s current QB rankings

Biggest takeaways from Week 16

  • Indianapolis’ Carson Wentz was really impressive Saturday night, going 18-of-28, 225 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The key play for him came on a 14-yard TD pass to receiver Dezmon Patmon with 6:37 left in the fourth quarter, giving the Colts a nine-point lead. Facing three pass-rushers and eight defenders in coverage, Wentz found Patmon on an extended post route. It was a really impressive throw while moving to his left and throwing across his body to the back of the end zone. Wentz finished the night with a perfect passer rating (158.3) on passes with over 10 air yards, completing five of six for 108 yards and a TD (plus-26.9% completion percentage over expectation, per NFL Next Gen Stats). Wentz is expected to miss this weekend’s start after testing positive for COVID-19.

  • The Titans’ Ryan Tannehill got his safety blanket — receiver A.J. Brown — back on Thursday, and he looked better in the win. Brown caught 11 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown, and half of Tannehill’s completions went his way.

  • Joe Burrow was absolutely sensational on Sunday for the Bengals, throwing for 525 yards and four touchdowns in a massive division win against the Ravens. Seven different players caught passes, and Burrow had a wild 10.2 yards per attempt. Per ESPN tracking, Burrow was pressured on only 18% of his dropbacks, the third-lowest rate of his career, and he was 5-of-7 for 117 yards on those snaps.

  • Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense were never forced to punt in Sunday’s win against the Patriots. That’s the first time in Bill Belichick’s coaching career that an opponent went punt-less in a game, per ESPN Stats & Information. Allen puts so much pressure on defenses by moving around in the pocket and still threatening the big play, with the ability to get the ball down the field on the move. Besides throwing for over 300 yards, he also ran for 64. Allen was the best player on the field.

  • In back-to-back weeks, Houston’s Davis Mills has outplayed Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence. On Sunday, he had only six incompletions, threw two touchdown passes and looked like he belonged as a NFL starter.

  • The Raiders’ Derek Carr completed all eight of his intermediate-distance passes (thrown 10-19 yards downfield) for 133 yards and a TD, tied for the most intermediate passes without an incompletion in a game this season, per ESPN Stats and Information.

  • At the half of Sunday night’s blowout win against Washington, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had a positive completion percentage over expectation when throwing to every level of the field (NFL Next Gen Stats). On throws to targets behind the line of scrimmage, it was plus-8.9%. Between 0-9 yards downfield, it was plus-7.3%. In the midrange (10-19 yards downfield), it was plus-21.4%. And finally, on deep balls hurled at least 20 yards downfield, it was plus-8.1%. Prescott completed 71.8% of his passes overall for 330 yards and four touchdowns, and he didn’t even play the full game, as Dallas leapt to a big lead in the first half.

  • Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins finally threw a red zone interception. He entered Sunday with 21 TD throws and zero interceptions in the red zone this season, per ESPN Stats & Information, and only Tom Brady (25) had more touchdown passes without a pick.

  • Zach Wilson‘s 52-yard rushing TD was the longest by a QB since 2015, when Marcus Mariota took an 87-yarder to the house, per ESPN Stats & Information. It was also the longest touchdown run by a Jets QB in franchise history.

  • On Saturday, Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield was 2-of-10 for 40 yards and four interceptions on throws to targets at least 10 yards downfield, per ESPN Stats & Information. He’s the first Browns QB to throw four interceptions in a game since Brandon Weeden in 2012.

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