The most positive development in Week 13 was to see a pair of NFL’s top quarterbacks back in business.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray missed three weeks with an ankle injury, and looked like his old self as the Cardinals improved to an NFL best 10-2 with a 33-22 win over the Chicago Bears.
Meanwhile, Russell Wilson of Seattle returned to life after a poor game after returning from surgery on the middle finger of his throwing hand. Figures it will be up against the 49ers, a team he may also co-own with John York.
Wilson is now 17-4 against the 49ers, including one playoff game.
In terms of conference seeding, here are the quarterbacks who align with the postseason berths heading into Week 13.
NFC: Kyler Murray (Arizona), Rodgers (Green Bay), Tom Brady (Tampa Bay), Dak Prescott (Dallas), Matthew Stafford (LA Rams), Taylor Heineke (Washington), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers).
AFC: Mack Jones (New England), Ryan Tanhill (Tennessee), Lamar Jackson (Baltimore), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City), Justin Herbert (LA Chargers), Joe Burrow (Cincinnati), Josh Allen (Buffalo).
Here’s how they top Week 14:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (vs. Chicago) Last week: 1
The Packers had a week off to consider their mission. The NFC answer title is a foregone conclusion. But can Rodgers & Company catch up to Arizona? They have got another defeat, but beat them face to face. The No. 1 seed is in play a lot.
2. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay (vs. Buffalo) Last week: 2
News Flash! Brady had a rookie goal line gift pick six to Atlanta lineman Marlon Davidson. In addition, he had 38 of 51 for 358 yards and four touchdowns in his 30-17 win over Atlanta. Nothing to see here except a 44-year-old quarterback with 34 touchdown passes and 3,771 yards in 12 games.
3. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (vs. Las Vegas) Last week: 3
When opponents retreated to block the Chiefs’ deep attacks, coach Andy Reid did a clever deed. Mahomes to take what is available and stay organized instead of explosive. And it’s working, even though Mahomes (15 out of 29, 184 yards) has statistically had a year (by his standards).
4. Kyler Murray, Arizona (vs. L.A. Rams) Last week: 7
There’s still magic in those legs and right hand. Murray threw only 15 passes, but completed 11 for 123 yards. There were two passing touchdowns, and ran 10 times for 59 yards and two rushing touchdowns as the Cardinals improved to 9–2.
5. Dak Prescott, Dallas (in Washington) Last week: 4
Prescott (26 out of 40, 238 yards, one TD, one pick) looked better at a loss to the Raiders than in a 27–7 win over New Orleans. But then again, Saints have better defenses than attackers, so it’s probably not a surprise.
6. Justin Herbert, LA Chargers (vs. NY Giants) Last week: 9
In case you were wondering how Herbert would come back from a rough game, how does 25 of 36, 317 yards, three touchdowns and one interception hold you back in a 41-26 win over Cincinnati? The reason for this is because the Chargers look like obvious No. 2 to the Chiefs at AFC West and Herbert.
7. Josh Allen, Buffalo (at Tampa Bay) Last week: 5
In brutal conditions, Allen made 12 snaps in the red zone and conceded a touchdown. Was 15 out of 30 for 145 yards and ran for 39 yards on six carries. Probably should have run into some of those situations near the end zone, though that’s nit-picking in a strangely entertaining game.
8. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati (vs. 49ers) Last week: 8
Burrow played through a pinky injury on his throwing arm and restricted the Bengals to a 24-6 deficit within 24-22. However, the Bengals collapsed in the fourth quarter and were bowled out 17-0. Burrow was 24 out of 40 for 300 yards but had two interceptions.
9. Russell Wilson, Seattle (in Houston) Last week: 18
The numbers weren’t great in terms of downfield throwing (237 yards on 30 off 37) but make no mistake – Wilson looked very closely to see who he was and who he was up against the 49ers. At 4-8, it was probably too late for the Seahawks to score a run, but Wilson is back in form.
10. Matt Stafford, LA Rams (in Arizona) Last week: 14
No interception returned for touchdown (no interception). Stafford was 26 of 38 for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Rams got back on track. Or did they? His opponent was Jacksonville and the final score was 37–7.
11. Mack Jones, New England (bye) Last week: 6
Have a week to rest your hand after opening all three dice in a 14-10 win over Buffalo. Hey, it worked. But it doesn’t show a ton of trust from its rookie quarterback Beale Belichick, although it did envy 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. For the record, Jones’ first pass went nowhere near the receiver, but he did complete the other two for 19 yards.
12. Tua Tagviola, Miami (bye) Last week: 16
More precise horizontal work by Tua against the Giants, 30 of 44 for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interception. Something interesting is happening in Miami and Tagviola has a lot to do with it. They have won five straight after starting 1-7.
13. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (vs. Pittsburgh) Last week: 12
Bad loss for the Vikings against the Lions, although the Cousins were reasonably productive in terms of statistics. Was 30 out of 40 for 340 yards, two touchdowns and no interception. Hit Justin Jefferson 11 times for 182 yards.
14. Carson Wentz, Indianapolis (bye) Last week: 19
A walkover against the hapless Texans resulted in much mishandling, as Wentz was a 16-for-22, 158-yard caretaker for an offense that ran the ball 48 times for 238 yards against the Houston team.
15. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (at Cincinnati) Last week: 11
It’s the Jimmy G paradox—he’s 20 of 30 for 299 yards and two touchdowns to George Kittel—but he also threw two picks and batted a potentially game-tying score in the final seconds. The bottom line is that the 49ers have always been better with the Garoppolo when they run more than they pass.
16. Taylor Heineke, Washington (vs. Dallas) Last week: 15
Heineke put Washington in position for the game-winning field goal. Not exactly light against the soft raiders defense (23 for 30, 196 yards, two touchdowns, one interception), but his maneuverability and moxie could keep him employed for years.
17. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (in Minnesota) Last week: 20
Reportedly may be retired, but sometimes he’s like a cockroach at 39. You can’t get rid of that, and Roethlisberger (21 of 31, 236 yards, 2 TDs, no picks) delivered in a 20-19 win over Baltimore. Took the Steelers for 69 yards in 11 plays with game-winner Deontay Johnson.
18. Derek Carr, Las Vegas (in Kansas City) Last week: 10
We are back in ‘Bad Derek’ again as the Raiders fall 6-6. Was 28 out of 38 for 249 yards. There are no infractions or glitches, but Carr’s incompetence in the red zone has always been a mystery to a career. There’s a reason Daniel Carlson scored so many field goals, and it has a lot to do with Carr.
19. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (in Cleveland) Last week: 13
Jackson’s ability as a passerby is now a serious question. It didn’t seem so in the first season, but was ineffective (23 of 37, 253 yards, one touchdown, one interception) in a 20–19 loss to Pittsburgh. Missed some wide open throws. It’s getting worse, not better.
20. Matt Ryan (in Carolina) Last week: 17
Against Tampa Bay was 30 for 297 yards and 41 for 297 yards, but the offense produced only 17 points and Ryan absorbed five sacks. The Falcons actually led the Bucs 13-10 before absorbing a 13-point loss.
21. Teddy Bridgewater, Denver (vs. Detroit) Last week: 22
Produced a not-so-late touchdown against Kansas City and was 22 out of 40 for 257 yards. Bridgewater has to be anywhere near 70 percent to be effective. Suitable for having backup. The season may not go on with Drew Locke as a starter, but John Elway is going to go QB buy this off-season.
22. Ryan Tanhill, Tennessee (vs. Jacksonville) Last week: 23
The Colts (7-6) could have actually captured the Titans (8-4), although that’s unlikely. And it will have a lot to do with whether the better quarterback is Carson Wentz or Tannehill, who got a bye this week. Lately, it’s been Wentz.
23. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia (bye) Last week: 24
Well, it got more interesting. Harts was ruled out due to an ankle injury, and Gardner Minshoo went out and completed 242 yards, two touchdowns and 20 of 25 passes without a hitch. Against the Jets, but still. , , Coach Nick Siriani says he is still with Hurts. But for how long?
24. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland (vs. Baltimore) Last week: 25
A week to recover is probably not enough for all who make Mayfield ill. Their next three games against Baltimore, Las Vegas and Green Bay will go a long way toward determining the direction of the Browns and if Mayfield is involved.
25. Daniel Jones, NY Giants (at LA Chargers) Last week: 26
Jones was injured and gave way to Mike Glennon with predictable results. Glennon was 23 of 44 for 187 yards and an interception the Giants managed to score only three field goals in an 11-point loss to Miami.
26. Jared Goff, Detroit (in Denver) Last week: 31
All Jay Jared Goff. Finally put the Lions in the winning column with a 75-yard 14-play drive to beat Minnesota 29-27, threw an 11-yard TD pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown without time on the clock to win . The goof was 2 for 31 for 296 yards, three TDs and one interception.
27. Tessum Hill, New Orleans (at NY Jets) Last week: 28 (Simian)
A garbage time 70-yard TD pass boosted Hill’s numbers against Dallas, but his start in place of Trevor Simian was quite a disaster. Was 19 of 41 for 264 yards and threw four interceptions. Defensive tackles from six to 305 pounds included a gift from Carlos Watkins.
28. Zach Wilson, NY Jets (vs. New Orleans) Last week: 29
Wilson was 23 of 38 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 33–18 loss to Philadelphia. It was the shortest time to operate, given that the Eagles ran 41 times for 185 yards. Wilson is, as they say, “character building”.
29. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville (in Tennessee) Last week: 30
Another anemic performance against a better opponent. Lawrence is playing with such a subpar supporting cast. He was 16 for 28 for 145 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. It’s almost impossible to tell if he’s making progress on this team.
30. Cam Newton, Carolina (vs. Atlanta) Last week: 27
Joe Burrows—The NFL’s hot assistant Joe Brady is out as offensive coordinator after the LSU national championship. The Panthers are a disaster and coach Matt Ruhle could be next. Anticipating Newton, thinking about it during his goodbye week, wondered why he ever came back.
31. Andy Dalton, Chicago (in Green Bay) Last week: 21
Dalton’s future is in the form of a decent compensation. With Justin Fields injured, Dalton was 26 of 31 for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a one-sided loss to Arizona. Oh, and there were four interceptions.
32. Tyrod Taylor, Houston (vs. Seattle) Last week: 32
God, Texans are terrible. Taylor got the hook at halftime after going 5 of 13 for 45 yards and a wide receiver got an interception without completing the pass. Davis Mills was not much better in the second half. A 31–0 loss was every bit as bad as the score indicated.