NFL QB Power Rankings Week 3: Ryan Fitzpatrick in Top 10? Where did rising star Patrick Mahomes land?

Originally I was going to use this space to extoll the virtues of Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick, telling you all about the great throws that they've made through two weeks of the 2018 NFL season. This is opposite land from last year: instead of young star quarterbacks getting injured in Week 3, we have a young star quarterback returning from injury (Carson Wentz), a young star quarterback turning into an MVP candidate (Mahomes) and an old, stale retread doing the same (Fitzpatrick). 

The league is loaded with quarterbacks and it's never been easier to do the job. Which brings me to my new main point: if you hear someone blaming fantasy football for a dumb generation of football fans today, yell at them and call them stupid. Actually don't do that: just remind them politely how wrong they are. 

This is a thing that popped up on Wednesday night when someone noted on Twitter that Ryan Fitzpatrick has more touchdown passes than Troy Aikman. Aikman saw the tweet and said "who cares?," it got retweeted a ton of times and then on Thursday morning, a bunch of beat writers started blaming fantasy football for fans being dumb. 

A couple of things here: 

One, this all started because someone was trying to point out that Aikman is overrated as a Hall of Fame player. Eh, he might not be wrong. Aikman has a trio of Super Bowl rings and he's got some Cowboys Legend aura to him, but he also has the lowest number of passing touchdowns of any Hall of Fame quarterback who started their career after 1985 and second lowest in terms of passing yards of that group, ahead of only Kurt Warner. The yin/yang of Aikman and the Cowboys is obvious: his legacy was boosted by great teammates and it was also hurt by great teammates, because he was asked to do less and lost touchdowns to Emmitt Smith I'm not dogging Aikman: he is clearly a Hall of Fame quarterback, but relative to the other guys who played in his era, he had the most help and he had worse numbers. 

Two, of course Fitzpatrick has more touchdown passes than Aikman. How is this even controversial? So does Russell Wilson. So does Brad Johnson. So does Andy Dalton. So does Jon Kitna. Aikman is 71st all time in touchdown passes. This shouldn't be controversial. Modern offenses have created a world where quarterbacks are putting up huge numbers. Comparing Fitzpatrick, who started playing in 2005, to Aikman, who stopped playing in 2000, is absurd in the first place. 

Three, fantasy football hasn't made football fans dumber. It has introduced MORE fans into the nuances of football. Many of those fans are learning about the intricacies of the game and there's a learning curve there. That's fine. 

Four, I'll admit that fantasy causes people to focus on quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers more than ever before, but that's not different than it's been for the past 15-20 years. Skill position guys draw the attention. They always have and always will.

Five, let's not make this about "stat nerds." That's a silly way to approach this. Stats are important -- and anyone propping up Aikman over Quarterback X will use a statistic (i.e. the number of rings he has) in order to trump the argument. Any meaningful discussion about sports involves statistics, and broadening your statistical base will generally be a net positive, if you're willing to blend those stats with observing the game. Box score scouting doesn't work but neither does ignoring statistics and analytics. Third down conversions ... that's an analytic whether you like it or not.

Finally, fans aren't dumber. Fans are MUCH smarter. There is so much more analysis out there now than there was 10 years ago about both football and fantasy football. Not everyone is soaking in every single nugget, of course, but the amount of information available to everyone should be obvious in the death of the sleeper. A few years ago, a dude like Austin Ekeler is hanging out there on waiver wires. Now he's universally owned. You need someone like Philip Lindsay -- a guy the Broncos might not have even known was a sleeper -- to really come out of nowhere to find a sleeper. Football is covered more now than ever before. That's a good thing for everyone, especially fans, the majority of whom are much smarter about the game than they were a few years ago.  

ANYWAY, that's all I've got. Football is awesome this year, don't let it get bogged down by people making asinine assumptions about football fans or comparing Ryan Fitzpatrick and Troy Aikman. Let's compare modern quarterbacks instead! 

Yell at me on Twitter @WillBrinson with your complaints, questions and (unlikely) compliments and make sure to check out my DAILY NFL PODCAST, the Pick Six Podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes here

To the rankings:

Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers QB
Still the best in the game, even with only one leg, although if he's concerned it's doing damage, color me concerned too.
Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
Not Brady's finest effort in Week 2's loss, but the Jaguars are a very, very good defensive team.
Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers QB
Huge test for Rivers in Week 3 against a dangerous Rams secondary. Keenan Allen has lots of experience against Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. This is a fun game to watch.
Drew Brees New Orleans Saints QB
I have no qualms about moving Brees down a peg here, although it might ultimately be more about the Browns than Brees. I expect a VERY big outing from him against a banged-up Falcons team on Sunday.

The best ... arrrrrrrround. Nothing's ever going to keep them down. Or something. I bumped Brees down one spot and put Rivers up because of how they've played the first two weeks, but it's mostly nitpicking. Things are still stable up top for the most part here. It's below where things are going to get a little nuts this week.

Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs QB
If I promised to not take a knee-jerk reaction to what happens early, then I was lying. But Mahomes has been incredible the first two weeks and shouldn't slow down much against the 49ers. He's legit. He won't stay here forever but he's here for right now.
Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh Steelers QB
The Steelers got outdueled by the Chiefs in a wild game, but ultimately Roethlisberger ended up going bananas, with a three-touchdown and 452-yard effort. He threw 35 times in the first half alone. That might not be the last time he has to go huge to keep the Steelers in a game.
Cam Newton Carolina Panthers QB
Cam caught grief for his performance against the Falcons, apparently? I don't get that. He made some questionable throws but welcome aboard the bus, pal. Newton did everything he could to bail out a bad effort from the Panthers defense.
Andrew Luck Indianapolis Colts QB
Luck's numbers aren't eye-popping from the Redskins game, but he played very well and he got the sneaky Colts a dangerous road win.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
Who knows how long he'll be up in this list, but he's here now after two incredible performances that gave the Buccaneers big wins. Fitz might melt against the Steelers on Monday night, but it wouldn't be shocking if he had a big outing either.
Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings QB
Cousins deserves this list based on his game-tying touchdown throw to Adam Thielen alone. He's starting to show the upside the Vikings might have in their offense.
Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons QB
I'd like you to meet Matt Ryan, red zone rushing threat! The Falcons quarterback was efficient near the end zone and elsewhere. It was a nice bounceback performance after Ryan struggled in Week 1 against the Eagles.
Alex Smith Washington Redskins QB
Ugly effort by the Redskins offense, but I don't blame Smith for it. His receivers had some drops and the Colts defense is better than people think.

That's a meaty group of guys -- it's not that they're all "near elite" or anything. They just happen to have muddled the waters during the early portion of the season. This should be clear: no one thinks that Ryan Fitzpatrick is definitely better than Matt Ryan. I mean, some people might I guess, but I sure don't want to make that bet over the long haul. I'm worried about riding Fitzpatrick in fantasy just for this coming week alone (although the Bucs are smart to go with him over Jameis Winston until he cools down). 

Moving On Up
Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals QB
Second straight week Dalton lit up a secondary for big numbers. The Red Rifle did it against Baltimore this time in prime time and if he shows up for a big day against the Panthers in Week 3 it's going to be time to push him even higher.
Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions QB
Much better bounceback for Stafford even if the Lions lost again. 347 yards and three touchdowns -- that's closer to what Stafford could have had in Week 1 with a full game and some catches from Marvin Jones.
Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks QB
This is perhaps not reflective how Russell's true talent so much as what's around him. The Seahawks look terrible right now, and there just aren't many weapons for Wilson to utilize, nor an offensive line to protect him. It's reflective in his performance.

Differing levels for these guys in terms of where they sit in the hierarchy of quarterbacks. I think Russell Wilson will improve -- he played two tough defensive lines and played in two tough spots on the road the first two weeks of the season. He could bounceback against the Cowboys easily. Matthew Stafford needs another big game to help his boss' case against his boss' old boss. And Andy Dalton is just untrustworthy enough to hit the pause button while waiting to see if he can keep up this level of play for another week.

Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles QB
The MVP candidate from last year is finally returning for the Eagles, and it's impossible to know where to rank him coming off a torn ACL.

There might not be a bigger story than Carson Wentz returning from a torn ACL he suffered last year. The Eagles are 1-1 and could easily be 0-2 and need an injection of offense courtesy of their franchise quarterback. 

The Next Generation
Jimmy Garoppolo San Francisco 49ers QB
Efficient enough game against the Lions to get the job done, Jimmy G could be in for a big day against a Chiefs defense that lets opponents keep up with its offense.
Deshaun Watson Houston Texans QB
I'm not completely freaking out about Watson just yet. He's finding his way back from an ACL tear. I'm also thinking Houston could start to take off from a rough 0-2 start beginning this week against the Giants.
Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams QB
Nice test coming against the Chargers -- Goff hasn't exactly had incredible competition to battle in terms of the Raiders and the Cardinals just yet.
Blake Bortles Jacksonville Jaguars QB
GIMME SOME OF THAT BORTLES. I still don't trust him entirely but he's playing really well. I should probably have him higher huh?

Putting Blake Bortles in here only makes sense after the job he's done for Jacksonville in the first two weeks. He was making PLAYS against the Patriots without Jacksonville needing to lean on the run game. Maybe we were wrong about him. (TBD.) Jared Goff and Deshaun Watson still have plenty of upside, but I think Jimmy Garoppolo has shown us the most out of this group so far. 

Joe Flacco Baltimore Ravens QB
Not an ideal outing for Flacco, but the Ravens defense just let Baltimore down against Cincinnati and they were playing from behind.
Ryan Tannehill Miami Dolphins QB
The former first-round pick is starting to flash a little bit more returning from his ACL injury. He's an interesting guy to watch climbing up this list, even if his volume might never be where you want it to.
Case Keenum Denver Broncos QB
The Broncos appear to believe in Keenum as a legitimate QB1 for them. At the very least he's an upgrade over what they had who can win them close games.
Tyrod Taylor Cleveland Browns QB
He's coming SO close to getting the Browns that elusive win. Might need it on Thursday night.

Bunch of VETS on this group, all at different points of their career. I'm still buying that Joe Flacco has a great year in Baltimore and I'm starting to come around on Ryan Tannehill bouncing back for the Dolphins. Case Keenum looks like an upgrade for the Broncos for sure (Von Miller agreed on a recent podcast episode, check that out here). Tyrod Taylor is walking a tightrope right now as Browns starter. 

Mitchell Trubisky Chicago Bears QB
Great scripted first half, not-so-fantastic second half of the game for Mitchell ... for the second week in a row.
Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys QB
Great early throw to Tavon Austin but the Cowboys were largely stymied, although it may have just been them squatting on a lead.
Derek Carr Oakland Raiders QB
He completed 91 percent of his passes, didn't turn the ball over and still lost. That's brutal.
Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans QB
Should Blaine Gabbert be on this list instead? Mariota is still in a dogfight to play this week, although the line (Jaguars -9.5) indicates that it could easily be Blaine Gabbert starting.

So much to prove for these guys, all of them. 

Sam Darnold New York Jets QB
Needs a bounceback game on Thursday night. Browns-Jets isn't sexy but it's a pretty huge game for both teams and the quarterbacks involved.
Josh Allen Buffalo Bills QB
He's been thrust in an impossible situation and I think he's handling it pretty well. Man he can throw the ball a long way. Good luck @ MIN and @ GB, sir.

Methinks we could see two other guys (Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen) join Sam Darnold and Josh Allen on this list pretty soon. 

QB Limbo
Eli Manning New York Giants QB
Watching Eli try and survive behind this offensive line is going to be really difficult.
Sam Bradford Arizona Cardinals QB
The Cardinals cannot keep trotting Bradford out there if he keeps playing like this.

Going to be a long year for these two veterans. Should be much longer for Eli, who doesn't have a first-round rookie behind him. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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