NFL Week 10 QB Power Rankings: Matthew Stafford is playing at an MVP level for a disappointing Lions team

If only the Lions weren't the Lions. Because if the Lions weren't the Lions -- and by that I mean, if the Lions weren't  3-4-1 after blowing a 17-point lead to the Cardinals in Week 1, becoming a victim of Patrick Mahomes' wizardry in a tight loss to the Chiefs in Week 4, getting screwed by the officials in a narrow loss to the Packers in Week 6, and falling a lousy yard short against the Raiders on Sunday -- Matthew Stafford would be in the MVP conversation. 

We're halfway through the season and Stafford, the king of hollow stats, is playing at an MVP level -- the only problem being, the Lions are 3-4-1 and the Lions being 3-4-1 renders Stafford's MVP level of play unimportant when it comes to the actual MVP conversation. He won't win. But since this is a story about quarterbacks -- not MVPs -- let's take a few moments to appreciate just how well Stafford is actually playing in his 11th NFL season. 

It's been eight games and Stafford has thrown for 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns, and five interceptions, which means he's on pace to throw for 4,998 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He's second in touchdown passes behind only Russell Wilson -- the rightful frontrunner to win MVP. He's second in touchdown percentage behind only Wilson. He's fourth in yards per attempt behind only Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins, and Dak Prescott. He's fifth in passer rating behind only Wilson, Mahomes, Cousins, and Deshaun Watson. He's also third in DYAR, fifth in DVOA, and seventh in QBR. By most measures, he's a top-five quarterback.

So, what's changed? It was only a year ago that we were lamenting his contract and talking about how it would hold back the Lions in the years to come considering they won't be able to get out from underneath it until 2021 at the absolute earliest. Now? Stafford is still paid handsomely ($29.5 million this year, $31.5 million next year, and $30 million in 2021), but he actually looks like a quarterback the Lions can win a title with provided they find a way to fix the defense -- we're looking at you, Matt Patricia, a former rocket scientist (kinda) and current defensive mastermind (probably not). 

What's changed is that the Lions replaced Jim Bob Cooter with Darrell Bevell at offensive coordinator and Bevell has allowed Stafford to use his arm talent to throw the ball downfield with frequency. Cooter tried to limit the mistakes that Stafford has a habit of making by forcing him to get the ball out quickly to underneath receivers -- at the beginning, it actually seemed like a good idea. In 2016, Stafford averaged 8 air yards per attempt, which was the league's eighth-lowest average. In 2017, he also averaged 8 air yards per attempt. In 2018, he averaged 7 air yards per attempt, which was the league's sixth-lowest average. This year, under Bevell, Satfford is averaging 10.7 air yards per attempt. Only Jameis Winston ranks ahead of him. As a result, he's averaging 8.6 yards per attempt after averaging 7.1 yards per attempt during the first decade of his career. It turns out, letting Stafford use his God-given arm strength is actually a good idea. 

All air yards stats via NFL Next Gen Stats

That doesn't mean Stafford has eliminated the kind of mistakes that have often plagued his career. While he's managed to keep his interception count down -- his interception rate of 1.7 would be the second lowest of his career, not including his injury-shortened 2010 season -- he's still making mistakes. We saw that against the Raiders on Sunday and against the Giants two Sundays ago.

But with Stafford remaining aggressive, he's able to offset those mistakes with big plays downfield. We also saw that against the Raiders on Sunday and against the Giants two Sundays ago.

Stafford is throwing a touchdown on 6.5 percent of his passes. His career touchdown rate entering the season was 4.4 percent. While that number is bound to regress, it's indicative of how aggressive the Lions have been. They're letting Stafford sling it and Stafford is letting Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones go up and get the ball. So far, it's working.

At 3-4-1, the Lions probably aren't good enough to make a playoff push, which disqualifies Stafford from the MVP conversation. But he deserves recognition for playing the best football of his career. That's why you'll find Stafford occupying a familiar spot in this week's edition of quarterback power rankings.

Before we move onto the power rankings, a reminder of the rules.

  • One quarterback per team. Whichever quarterback started in Week 9 will be the quarterback selected. So you'll find Jacoby Brissett listed for the Colts this week. Next week, if Brissett is unable to play due to his knee injury, you'll find Brian Hoyer listed in his place.
  • Recent success matters more than past success. These are power rankings. That's why you won't see Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, at No. 1. We're valuing performances this season more than performances in previous seasons. We're valuing performances last week more than performances four weeks ago. As a result, don't be surprised if the rankings fluctuate in a major way each week.
  • But reputation and history do matter, because they're tools we're using to predict future success. All-time greats get a bit of a boost.
  • There's more to the rankings than wins and losses. Wins are not a quarterback stat. While we're definitely taking into account wins and losses, it's not the only thing that matters. You'll see a ton of other stats listed -- like DYAR, DVOA, and QBR. For an explainer on those stats, click right here. Yes, the eye test matters too.  

Onto the rankings.

QB rankings Week 10
1
Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks QB
The clear frontrunner for MVP, Wilson threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns against the Buccaneers, even leading two game-winning drives. After Jason Myers missed what should've been a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation, Wilson led the Seahawks right back down the field in overtime and this time, finished the game himself with his fifth and final touchdown.

Last week: 1

2
Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens QB
I was tempted to move Jackson above Wilson, but Wilson's performance against the Buccaneers was just too perfect for me to do so. Still, what Jackson did on Sunday night might've been the best performance of the week. Against a Patriots team that came into the game allowing fewer than eight points per game, Jackson led the Ravens to 17 points on their first three drives of the game. Already at that point, the Patriots had given up the most points in a game all season long -- and there were still nearly three full quarters to go. In what ended up being a 17-point win, Jackson completed 17 of his 23 pass attempts for 163 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, and a 107.7 passer rating. And oh yeah, his video-game athleticism allowed him to rush for 61 yards and two touchdowns.

Last week: 2

3
Deshaun Watson Houston Texans QB
In another more ordinary season, in which Wilson isn't sporting a 22-1 TD-INT ratio and Jackson isn't the league's most exciting and unique player, Watson would be the frontrunner for MVP. He's playing at that high of a level. Against the Jaguars in London, Watson completed 78.6 percent of his passes for 201 yards, two touchdowns, and a 120.4 passer rating. If either Wilson or Jackson stumble in the second half of the season, Watson is best positioned to overtake them.

Last week: 3

4
Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions QB
The Lions lost, but don't blame Stafford, who continues to play the best football of his career in Darrell Bevell's offense that is letting Stafford chuck the ball downfield with frequency. If the Lions weren't the Lions, he'd be an MVP candidate.

Last week: 4

5
Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys QB
Prescott wasn't perfect against the Giants on Monday night. He was picked off on the game's first offensive snap, failing to see the underneath defensive back as he tried to jam a dart into a slanting Michael Gallup. He missed a few throws that he usually makes. But even though he was off his game, he still managed to rack up 257 yards and three touchdowns. I'm going to keep repeating this as long as it remains true: Prescott is flying under the radar as a legitimate MVP candidate (if Wilson, Jackson, and Watson stumble, of course). He's sixth in DYAR, fourth in DVOA, and second in QBR. He's been one of the league's best quarterbacks all season long.

Last week: 6

6
Drew Brees New Orleans Saints QB
Not much movement for Brees after the Saints' bye week, but he should move up the board after facing the Falcons and their shambolic defense in Week 10.

Last week: 7

7
Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers QB
Remember when Aaron Rodgers was suddenly an MVP candidate after big games against the Raiders and Chiefs? His MVP candidacy took a substantial hit after a pitiful performance against the Chargers, during which the Packers' offense averaged 3.8 yards per play -- the Bears managed to average more yards per play against the Eagles in a performance that everyone thought was the worst of the week, if not the season. Rodgers was bothered by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram all game long, but did at least manage to pad his stats late. He won't receive credit for that here. Rodgers is back outside the top five, which is supported by the advanced metrics. He's seventh in DYAR, eighth in DVOA, and 11th in QBR.

Last week: 5

8
Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles QB
It wasn't pretty. Despite utterly dominating the Bears on both sides of the ball, the Eagles only just barely hung on for a one-score win. But let's give Wentz some credit for playing well against yet another good defense. A week after he completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 172 yards and a touchdown against the Bills, Wentz completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 239 yards and a touchdown against the Bears' still very good, but not great defense. His efficiency remains a concern. He's averaging only 6.8 yards per attempt. What's interesting is that he's actually pushing the ball downfield, averaging 8.6 air yards per attempt, per NFL Next Gen Stats, which ranks 12th, just ahead of Watson. The problem? Wentz's completion percentage above expectation is negative-2.4, which is the ninth worst in football.

Last week: 10

9
Jimmy Garoppolo San Francisco 49ers QB
We spent the first half of the season praising the 49ers' defense, but wondering if Jimmy Garoppolo would end up holding back the 49ers. We thought he might be a liability. One game isn't enough to completely shake the narrative, but there's no denying that Garoppolo finally went out and won the 49ers a game. 28 of 37 for 317 yards and four touchdowns? That's the kind of performance we've been wanting Garoppolo to deliver for a while now. As a result, he makes his first appearance in the top 10. His anticipation throw to Emmanuel Sanders is one of the best throws of the season by any quarterback.

Last week: 13

10
Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings QB
On the bright side, Cousins threw three touchdowns -- all on third down. Then again, he also completed only 50 percent of his passes and averaged only 5.8 yards per attempt against a Chiefs defense that has improved, but still came into the week ranked 17th by DVOA. On the Vikings' attempted game-winning drive that resulted in a three-and-out before the Chiefs won the game with an actual game-winning drive, Cousins went 1-for-3 for negative-seven yards. Cousins was brilliant in his previous four games, but that run finally ended on Sunday, as his record against winning teams suffered yet another hit.

Last week: 8

11
Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
Another week, another blah performance for the greatest quarterback of all time. It's getting more and more difficult to justify keeping Brady this high on the leaderboard. Is he dealing with a less than ideal situation involving brand new receivers and a shorthanded offensive line? Absolutely. But great quarterbacks are supposed to be able to overcome less than ideal circumstances and Brady hasn't been able to. After a forgettable performance in a loss to the Ravens, Brady now ranks 10th in DYAR, 15th in DVOA, and 10th in QBR. He hasn't been bad. He just hasn't been Brady.

Last week: 9

12
Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers QB
Maybe the Chargers actually have a postseason push in them? After bumbling their way through September and October, the Chargers earned a huge win over the Packers that put them right back in the playoff mix. To get there, they'll need Rivers to keep playing the way he has over the past three weeks. In that span, during which the Chargers have gone 2-1, Rivers is completing 67.4 percent of his passes for nearly 275 yards per game, three touchdowns, only one pick, and a 100.5 passer rating. He's up to ninth in DYAR and 10th in DVOA, but only 16th in QBR.

Last week: 17

13
Derek Carr Oakland Raiders QB
It's time to give Carr the credit he deserves. Like Stafford, he's playing the best football of his career and he's a big reason why the Raiders are ahead of schedule in their rebuild. Through eight games, Carr is on pace to throw for 26 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. But what's most impressive is that he's averaging 7.9 yards per attempt after averaging 6.7 yards per attempt through the first five years of his career.

Last week: 16

14
Kyler Murray Arizona Cardinals QB
Against the league's second-best defense, Murray posted the highest passer rating of his young career. Check out his 88-yard touchdown pass to Andy Isabella, because even though Isabella accounted for most of those yards with an incredible run after the catch, it was Murray who hit Isabella with an absolute dart on a 20-yard out with a defender underneath. Murray continues to prove why he was worthy of the first-overall pick.

Last week: 18

15
Jacoby Brissett Indianapolis Colts QB
Brissett sprained his MCL, so he wasn't able to play much during the Colts' loss to the Steelers. Brian Hoyer filled in for Brissett and actually performed above expectations, throwing for 168 yards and three touchdowns, although he did put the Colts in a difficult spot with an ill-timed pick-six. Hoyer's immediate success begs the question: Is Brissett's level of play this year more about him or more about Frank Reich, who seems to get the most out of every quarterback in his system?

Last week: 12

16
Gardner Minshew Jacksonville Jaguars QB
And with that, the Minshew era is over. After a two-interception, two-fumble performance in London, Minshew has officially lost his job to a now healthy Nick Foles. It's awful luck for Minshew, who hadn't submitted a truly poor outing until Sunday, which just happened to coincide with Foles' return. There's a legitimate argument to be made that the Jaguars are making a mistake to bench him. Even after the London disaster, Minshew has thrown 13 touchdowns and four interceptions in eight starts and nine total appearances. As a starter, he led the Jaguars to a 4-4 record. He's the reason why they're still alive in the AFC South. By DYAR, he's been the league's 12th best quarterback, just behind Matt Ryan and just ahead of Brissett. The Jaguars should be trying to develop him so they can build around him and his cheap rookie contract. Instead, they'll go back to the quarterback they overpaid in free agency. I think it's a mistake.

Last week: 11

17
Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams QB
Coming out of the bye week, the Rams get the Steelers, Bears, and Ravens. To go 2-1 or 3-0 in that stretch, which is necessary to keep pace with the 49ers and the Seahawks, the Rams will need Goff to pick up where he left off before the bye week. In his past two games, he averaged 9.4 yards per attempt and threw four touchdowns and no interceptions. In his six previous games, he averaged 7.0 yards per attempt and threw for seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Last week: 15

18
Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans QB
Nobody really expected Tannehill to leap into the top 10 right? At this point in his career, we mostly know what kind of quarterback he is -- although, in fairness to him, after seeing what Adam Gase is doing with the Jets, maybe it's time we wonder how much Gase actually hindered Tannehill and not the other way around. Tannehill wasn't good against the Panthers, but one of his two interceptions bounced off the hands of his target. I do think he's playing well enough in place of Marcus Mariota that he'll get a chance to compete for a starting job next year. In three starts, he's completing 70 percent of his passes, averaging 8.3 yards per attempt, and has thrown for six touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 102.6 passer rating.

Last week: 14

19
Matt Moore Kansas City Chiefs QB
Moore, who wasn't even supposed to be playing football this year, should not be playing this well. Filling in for Mahomes the past three weeks, Moore is averaging 219.7 yards per game and has thrown four touchdowns without an interception. While it's true that Andy Reid deserves most of the credit and that Moore's receivers and running backs have made his job easier, it's also true that Moore is playing better than anyone in Kansas City could've dreamed of. His touchdown pass to Hill on Sunday was the kind of throw that we normally associate with Mahomes.

Last week: 19

20
Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
First, the good: Winston went punch-for-punch with Russell Wilson in Seattle. He generated 335 yards and two touchdowns through the air. If the Buccaneers had won the overtime coin toss, Winston would've had the chance to finish the job. Now, the bad: Winston was lucky to see what should've been an end-zone interception turn into a touchdown and he lost a fumble that led to a Seahawks field goal. Even when Winston plays well, which he did on Sunday, he still can't avoid the brutal mistakes that have come to define his career. Since he entered the league as the top-overall pick in 2015, he's thrown the most interceptions and is tied for the lead in fumbles among all players.

Last week: 23

21
Kyle Allen Carolina Panthers QB
Allen rebounded nicely after getting pummeled by the 49ers and with Cam Newton hitting IR, he'll likely remain the Panthers' starter until January. It's Allen's chance to prove that he should be the Panthers' full-time starter beyond this season. So far, he's been decent -- 23rd in DYAR and DVOA -- but looks better suited to be a top-tier backup. He's got two months to prove otherwise.

Last week: 21

22
Ryan Fitzpatrick Miami Dolphins QB
In the most obvious outcome ever, Fitzpatrick was just good enough to ruin the Dolphins' tank job by beating his former team. Fitzpatrick remains one of the most streaky quarterbacks ever and on Sunday, he was FitzMagic, not FitzTragic. There's no way to know which version will show up next week. So just enjoy the ride.

Last week: 27

23
Matt Schaub Atlanta Falcons QB
Not much movement for Schaub after the Falcons' bye week. He shockingly came out of nowhere to throw for 460 yards against the Seahawks the last time we saw the Falcons, so he remains higher than expected on the leaderboard. With Matt Ryan possibly returning this week, this might be the last time we see Schaub. With the way his career has unfolded, I suspect that it won't be the last time we ever see him in action. Say what you want about him, but he's like the villain in a horror movie. He just won't go away.

Last week: 20

24
Josh Allen Buffalo Bills QB
It's never pretty, but Allen has played halfway decent football by his standards the past three weeks, throwing for 531 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. Then again, he's also fumbled five times in that span. He never makes it easy.

Last week: 26

25
Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals QB
It'll be Ryan Finley here next week. But Dalton is still good enough to start for a team equipped to win right now. He'll hopefully get that chance next year.

Last week: 29

26
Brandon Allen Denver Broncos QB
Well, that was a pleasant surprise. Allen had never taken a real NFL snap since the Jaguars drafted him in the sixth-round three years ago. Against the Browns on Sunday, he made his NFL debut and he proceeded to complete 12 of his 20 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. Perhaps most importantly, he didn't turn the ball over. Nobody will say Allen is the franchise quarterback the Broncos have been desperate for since Peyton Manning retired, but Allen has already exceeded expectations by helping the Broncos beat a desperate (but very bad) Browns team.

Last week: N/A

27
Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns QB
Mayfield wasn't good against the Broncos, but it was still somehow his second best performance of the season in terms of passer rating (90.7). That's how bad he's been in Year 2. As for his mustache? No comment.

Last week: 22

28
Mason Rudolph Pittsburgh Steelers QB
The Steelers keep winning, but they're not winning because of their quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger doesn't need to be worried about losing his job to Rudolph next year.

Last week: 31

29
Daniel Jones New York Giants QB
What made his performance on Monday night so disappointing is that the Cowboys' defense was actually vulnerable. They came into the game ranked 19th in DVOA. Heck, we saw Sam Darnold tear them up (by his standards) a couple weeks ago. Jones continues to struggle since his first start. In seven starts, he's thrown eight interceptions and fumbled nine times. It's not all on him -- the Giants need to prioritize building a better offensive line -- and he deserves patience, but he's done nothing to validate their decision to draft him sixth overall.

Last week: 24

30
Dwayne Haskins Washington Redskins QB
Nobody expected Haskins to look good against the Bills. Let's give him time to develop. He clearly needs it and if the Redskins can provide him with a better supporting cast and coaching staff that'd be great too.

Last week: N/A

31
Mitchell Trubisky Chicago Bears QB
I'm sick of writing about a quarterback who can't throw a football. At halftime, the Bears had one (1!) passing yard. It's time for the Bears to sit Trubisky for Chase Daniel, because trying to develop Trubisky is pointless and by continuing to play him, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace are unable to evaluate the rest of the offense as they head into a pivotal 2020 season. The only reason Trubisky isn't ranked dead last is because Sam Darnold and the Jets managed to lose to the Dolphins.

Last week: 30

32
Sam Darnold New York Jets QB
You lose to the Dolphins, you don't get to move up. Those are the rules. And if it's not a rule yet, let's make it one. Darnold has nine interceptions in five games. His red-zone pick against the Dolphins was one of the worst decisions of the 2019 season.

Last week: 32

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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