NFL Week 12 QB Power Rankings: The Chargers have a Philip Rivers problem, Dak Prescott deserves more MVP love

When, with 1:53 remaining on the game clock, Philip Rivers got the ball back at the Chargers' own 9-yard line with a chance to score a touchdown and force overtime in a must-win game against the Chiefs on Monday night, there wasn't a person in the United States or Mexico or the solar system that didn't already know how the game was going to end. We all knew it ended with Rivers throwing one of his patented game-losing interceptions before he sulked off the field and stared up at the heavens, wondering why the football gods decided he was the one worth cursing -- partly because we'd already watched him throw three interceptions (it should've been four, but Tyrann Mathieu dropped a pop up) and partly because the game-losing interception has come to define his career. 

So even when he converted an immediate fourth-and-4 with a 10-yard completion to Hunter Henry, even when he threw up an improbable, but somehow successful 50-yard bomb to Mike Williams a few plays later that brought the Chargers to within 25 yards of tying the game, and even when Rivers hit Austin Ekeler for an 11-yard gain that took the Chargers inside the 15-yard line, nobody was actually fooled into thinking Rivers was on the cusp of leading a stunning game-tying drive. No matter just how much hope Rivers tried to give Chargers fans, he was never going to give them the ending they wanted.

Just because we knew the ending didn't make watching it any less entertaining. It was like watching the prequel to a movie we love. We knew how it had to end, because we knew what happened next. But it was still fascinating to see how it came to be. We knew "Rogue One" needed to end with the Death Star plans in Leia's hands because we've all seen "A New Hope", but that didn't make Vader's hallway sequence any less thrilling. Likewise, we knew Rivers was going to blow the game. But we still couldn't take our eyes off the screen.

And he didn't disappoint:

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Vintage Rivers face included:

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To be clear -- if it wasn't already -- Rivers was bad beyond that final series. He threw an interception on the previous drive because he ignored two open receivers to hoist up an arm punt, which should remind everyone of how he handled his attempted game-winning drive against the Raiders two weeks ago.

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His second interception displayed his diminishing arm strength paired with a shocking lack of recognition.

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I have more plays GIF'd up, but for the sake of time, I'll leave it there. 

It's been that kind of season for Rivers, arguably the greatest quarterback to have never reached the Super Bowl. Through 11 weeks, Rivers ranks 17th in completion percentage, 13th in yards per attempt, 24th in touchdown percentage (just behind Bills running back quarterback Josh Allen), fourth in interception percentage (as in, the fourth-highest rate), 22nd in passer rating, 12th in DYAR, 17th in DVOA, and 24th in total QBR. According to NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano, Rivers has generated a 17.7 passer rating when the Chargers have trailed by one possession in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. Related: The Chargers are 2-7 in one-score games.

It's obviously the turnovers that have been problematic. Only Jameis Winston (18) has thrown more interceptions than Rivers (14). The lack of touchdowns has also been a problem. Rivers is throwing a touchdown on only 3.6 percent of his passes, which represents the lowest rate of his career (since he became the Chargers' starter in 2006). The touchdown rate is less concerning given touchdowns tend to fluctuate more on a year-to-year basis. That percentage should, in theory, improve next year.

But ... speaking of next year, it's beginning to look more and more like this is actually Rivers' final lap with the Chargers. Rivers is an impending free agent. He'll turn 38 next month. While there's no doubt that Rivers isn't the only reason why the Chargers are 4-7 and that the issues around him deserve scrutiny (the offensive line has been shaky and the Chargers have displayed questionable decision making pertaining to their running back committee), there's also no questioning the fact that this is the first time that Rivers actually looks washed, which makes sense given his age (ascending) and support structure (not ascending). With the Chargers on track to land a decently high draft pick, this is when they need to invest in a new potential franchise quarterback.  

The good news for Rivers is that, despite his struggles this year, he should have suitors in free agency if the Chargers don't bring him back -- and don't rule that out. The Chargers could bring Rivers back and start him as their rookie gets acquainted with the league. One year after it happened to Eli Manning, it could happen to Rivers. 

But if the Chargers do let Rivers walk, he's going to get the chance to write a different ending to his career. There are a couple near-playoff teams that could be in need of a rental quarterback, like the Panthers and Bears. Carolina -- depending on how the Cam Newton situation unfolds, of course -- would afford him the opportunity to find finish his NFL career where he spent his college years. Chicago would be a fitting match: Rivers heading to a city starved for quarterback success, and a city that never learned to fully appreciate Jay Cutler getting stuck with Cutler's former nemesis. 

I know I just spent the past few hundred words hammering him, but I do hope Rivers gets the chance to write a happier ending to his under-appreciated career -- whether it's in Los Angeles or Chicago or Carolina or wherever. It's sad to say, but if Rivers retired at the end of the season, he'd be remembered more for his failures than his successes. Fair or not, to borrow a line from Jose Mourinho (timely, I know), Rivers is going to be remembered by many as "a specialist in failure."

And it might be what prevents him from getting into the Hall of Fame while far inferior quarterbacks -- cough cough Eli Manning cough cough -- waltz on into Canton. 

Anyway, that's enough words on Rivers. Let's get to the quarterback power rankings. It should come as no surprise to hear that Rivers fell into the bottom half of this week's leaderboard. It's not all his fault, but the turnovers and fourth-quarter failures are impossible to ignore. 

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

  • One quarterback per team. Whichever quarterback started in Week 11 will be the quarterback selected.
  • 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 total QBR. For an explainer on those stats, click right here. Yes, the eye test matters too.  

Onto the rankings.

QB rankings Week 12
1
Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens QB
Another perfect performance by the new frontrunner for MVP and once again, he did it in spectacular fashion. He's now up to 3,046 yards (counting his contributions as a runner) and 25 total touchdowns. Nobody in football is playing better than him right now.

Last week: 1

2
Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys QB
Prescott deserves more MVP love. He's the reason why the Cowboys are 6-4 and atop the NFC East. After a 444-yard, three-touchdown outing against the Lions, Prescott is first in DYAR, second in DVOA, and second in total QBR. The Cowboys shouldn't try to run their offense through Zeke. They're at their best when Dak is allowed to throw early and often.

Last week: 4

3
Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks QB
No movement for Wilson after the Seahawks' bye. Really, it's not difficult to argue that Wilson should be ranked first or second. That's how tightly the top three are clustered together.

Last week: 3

4
Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs QB
The Chiefs' win over the Chargers on Monday night might've been the worst start of Mahomes' career. Even after that disappointing performance, Mahomes has still been the best quarterback in football by DVOA, which measures value on a per play basis. And even during his worst career performance, Mahomes managed to display a few moments of brilliance we've come to expect.

Last week: 2

5
Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings QB
After leading the Vikings out of a 20-0 hole against a Broncos defense that ranked sixth in DVOA at the time, Cousins deserves to move into the top five -- something that is backed up by the advanced metrics. He's fourth in DYAR and fifth in DVOA (but eighth in total QBR). Over the past few weeks, Cousins has done well to flip a few narratives on their heads -- beating a winning team and finally guiding the Vikings to a come-from-behind win.

Last week: 6

6
Drew Brees New Orleans Saints QB
That's more like it. Brees bounced back after a shockingly rough outing against the Falcons last week by completing 80 percent of his passes for 228 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. In other words, he looked a lot like Drew Brees.

Last week: 9

7
Deshaun Watson Houston Texans QB
Watson's had an awesome season, but he submitted a stinker against the Ravens on Sunday, getting picked off once, fumbling once, and getting sacked six times. It's difficult to criticize Watson for trying to do too much because we know what he's capable of when he does try to become Superman, but he did make some bad decisions against a vastly improved Ravens defense. A bounceback is needed against the Colts on Thursday.

Last week: 5

8
Kyler Murray Arizona Cardinals QB
This is the highest Murray has landed since these rankings began. While the Cardinals lost to the 49ers for the second time in three weeks, it was also the second time in three weeks that Murray posted a passer rating above 100 against the vaunted 49ers' defense. In Murray's past seven games, he's averaging 7.3 yards per attempt, has thrown 10 touchdowns and only one interception, and has posted a passer rating of 100.5. He's already the second best quarterback in the NFC West. If he's already this good, imagine how much better he'll be once the Cardinals build a strong team around him.

Last week: 12

9
Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers QB
Rodgers, who was on his bye, has been good, but not great by his standards, ranking 10th in YPA, 12th in touchdown percentage, 10th in passer rating, sixth in DYAR, eighth in DVOA, and 15th in total QBR. We keep waiting for the breakout to come in Matt LaFleur's offense, but it hasn't happened yet. It's fair to wonder if the breakout ever will come. This might just be the new normal for Rodgers.

Last week: 7

10
Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons QB
Are the Falcons actually surging? They've won two straight games mostly due to their defense (shocking, I know), but Ryan continues to play good football. He's been the league's ninth best quarterback by total QBR. He's never been the problem in Atlanta. They just need to get everything around him sorted out.

Last week: 15

11
Derek Carr Oakland Raiders QB
What's interesting about Carr's resurgence is that even though he's averaging a career-high 8.0 yards per attempt after averaging 6.7 yards per attempt through the first five years of his career, he's still only averaging 6.5 air yards per attempt, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Only two quarterbacks, both of whom play for the Saints, are averaging fewer air yards per attempt. He was fine against the Bengals, but I expected more considering just how bad the Bengals are at everything related to playing football.

Last week: 11

12
Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles QB
It turns out the Patriots' defense is still awesome and their uncharacteristically bad outing against the Ravens was more about Lamar Jackson than them. Just ask Wentz, who completed only 20 of his 40 pass attempts, took five sacks, and averaged only 5.4 yards per attempt. That said, if Nelson Agholor comes down with that tough catch in the back of the end zone, we're probably talking about Wentz's performance against the league's best defense a whole lot differently. What's concerning about Wentz so far this season is that he's averaging 6.6 yards per attempt after averaging 7.6 yards per attempt the past two seasons.

Last week: 8

13
Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
Even Brady was frustrated after the Patriots' win over the Eagles during which Julian Edelman looked like their best quarterback. The Patriots lack a dominant offensive line, which makes it difficult for them to sustain long drives, and without a vertical playmaker (no Gronk or Josh Gordon), they're not hitting on big plays. Getting left tackle Isaiah Wynn back is huge, but it's starting to look like the Patriots' defense is going to need to carry Brady to the Super Bowl.

Last week: 10

14
Jimmy Garoppolo San Francisco 49ers QB
Garoppolo actually played well (again) against the Cardinals on Sunday, but he threw two brutal interceptions, which prevents me from moving him up. Only four quarterbacks have thrown an interception on a higher percentage of their passes than Garoppolo.

Last week: 14

15
Jacoby Brissett Indianapolis Colts QB
He's better than Brian Hoyer clearly, but the Colts' win over the Jaguars was more about their defense than their quarterback. Brissett seems to have settled into the 10-16 range, which is pretty good considering he wasn't even supposed to start this season. Related: He's 13th, 11th, and 17th in DYAR, DVOA, and total QBR, respectively. His 6.9 yards per attempt remain problematic. It doesn't seem like this offense likes to get vertical.

Last week: N/A

16
Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans QB
It's a big final stretch of the season for Tannehill, who has a chance to play himself into a starting job next season.

Last week: 13

17
Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns QB
If you can't tell already, we're getting into the not-so-good portion of the list. In a mostly bad season, Mayfield was fine, but not great against the Steelers. It was only his second game this season with two touchdown passes, but both of those games have come in the past two weeks, so maybe things are looking up.

Last week: 20

18
Sam Darnold New York Jets QB
Again, this is the not-good portion of the list. That's why Darnold has suddenly climbed up all the way to No. 18. While he played well for a second straight week, throwing four touchdowns, it's his idiotic interception that makes it such a frustrating performance. Even when he lights it up, he can't seem to completely eliminate dumb mistakes. Only Jameis Winston owns a higher interception rate than Darnold.

Last week: 22

19
Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers QB
The Chargers are unofficially in the quarterback market. Even if Rivers comes back in 2020, they need to find a long-term solution ASAP.

Last week: 16

20
Josh Allen Buffalo Bills QB
Since the beginning of October, Allen has thrown 10 touchdowns and only one interception. The bad news is that he's also fumbled six times in that span. Allen remains a frustratingly inconsistent passer, but an elite runner. Unless he improves as a passer, it's unlikely the Bills will be able to mount a deep playoff run.

Last week: 27

21
Daniel Jones New York Giants QB
Coming out of the Giants' bye, Jones needs to prioritize ball security. In nine appearances, the first of which included only five snaps, Jones has thrown eight interceptions and fumbled 13 times.

Last week: 21

22
Ryan Fitzpatrick Miami Dolphins QB
He's already led the Dolphins to two more wins than they should have and the loss to the Bills wasn't on him.

Last week: 19

23
Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams QB
He made a few impressive throws in the fourth quarter to help put away the Bears, but Goff, once again, looked more like Jeff Fisher Jared Goff than Sean McVay Jared Goff, throwing an interception and just barely avoiding a pick-six to Kyle Fuller. The contract the Rams gave him continues to look like a huge mistake.

Last week: 24

24
Nick Foles Jacksonville Jaguars QB
In his return from a Week 1 injury, Foles was generous to provide another reminder that the Jaguars had no business signing him to a four-year, $88 million deal or benching Gardner Minshew for him. Foles completed 70 percent of his 47 passes against the Colts, but averaged only 6.3 yards per attempt. One of his two touchdowns also came late in garbage time. It wasn't all Foles' fault, but he also isn't the solution the Jaguars thought he was.

Last week: N/A

25
Kyle Allen Carolina Panthers QB
As I suspected, Allen appears to be better suited for a backup role. With nine picks in his past four starts, Allen shouldn't be starting in Carolina much longer. The Panthers should see what they have in Will Grier before they're forced to address the quarterback situation in the offseason.

Last week: 18

26
Jeff Driskel Detroit Lions QB
Driskel fared better than expected in his second start filling in for Mathew Stafford. His mobility has been key, as he's rushed for 88 yards across his two starts.

Last week: 29

27
Brandon Allen Denver Broncos QB
Nope. It turns out, Allen isn't the Broncos' long-term answer at quarterback. He's only a placeholder until Drew Lock is ready to debut.

Last week: 26

28
Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
Four more interceptions for Winston. He leads the league with 18. He also fumbled for the 11th time this season. In other words, Jameis Winston is still Jameis Winston. The Buccaneers have to move on in the offseason.

Last week: 25

29
Mitchell Trubisky Chicago Bears QB
The funny thing is, even though he was benched (technically because of an injury, but whatever), Sunday night was one of the better performances of his awful season. Of course, that's not saying much.

Last week: 28

30
Dwayne Haskins Washington Redskins QB
It's nearly impossible to evaluate Haskins in this Redskins offense. Check out his downfield throw to Terry McLaurin, which was negated by a penalty. That's why the Redskins drafted him. He has the physical tools of a first-round pick. Let's give him time to put it all together.

Last week: 30

31
Mason Rudolph Pittsburgh Steelers QB
The fight at the end of the game kinda distracted us from the fact that Rudolph is a terrible starting quarterback -- at least at this stage in his career. He threw four interceptions and fumbled against the Browns, but nobody will remember anything that happened before the final 10 seconds of the game.

Last week: 23

32
Ryan Finley Cincinnati Bengals QB
It's not all Finley's fault. He's a fourth-round rookie starting on the worst team in football. Of course, he's not going to be successful. But his performance -- 13 of 31 for 115 yards and an interception -- against the Raiders' 29th-ranked defense by DVOA really was that bad.

Last week: 31

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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