The Buffalo Bills are a good football team. I don't need to tell you this. You already know this. After all, the Bills have already clinched a playoff berth. With one regular-season game remaining on the calendar, they're sitting at 10-5 with the league's eighth-best point differential. By DVOA, they're the league's 11th-best team. Their defense is ranked fifth in DVOA. Even oft-maligned second-year quarterback Josh Allen has shown signs of progress. You get the point. The Bills are good.
But if the Bills are going to do more than merely make an appearance in the postseason -- if they're going to win their first playoff game since 1995 -- they need more from Allen. They don't need more spectacular plays from their strong-armed, athletic quarterback. They get enough of those. They need fewer negative plays. Put another way, they need more consistency out of him come January.
What makes Allen such a tantalizing player is that he's capable of making the kind of jaw-dropping plays we associate with someone like Patrick Mahomes. What makes Allen such a frustrating player is that in between those jaw-dropping plays, which he can make as both a passer and a runner, he makes the kind of mistakes that we associate with someone like, say, Mitchell Trubisky.
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The full spectrum of Josh Allen was on display this past weekend. In their seven-point loss to the Patriots, which marks the second time this season the Bills have hung tight with the Patriots but have ultimately come up a buck short, Allen completed 13 of his 26 pass attempts for 208 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 102.7 passer rating. Against the league's best defense, that's a strong statistical performance -- or at the very least, better than most of us assumed he'd manage. But again, the game was a microcosm of the Josh Allen experience. On a throw to throw basis, he was mostly either great or bad. There was rarely a middle ground.
There was lots of bad -- everything he did in the first half until the final moments. His miss to a wide-open Cole Beasley on a short-range throw that would've given the Bills a third-down conversion in a key area of the field stands out, because it's a glaring miss.
The switch flipped late in the half when Allen dropped a 33-yard perfectly weighted dime into Dawson Knox's hands to set up the Bills for their first touchdown. It's as perfect as a throw can get.
But early in third quarter, Allen missed what very well could've been a huge touchdown and definitely would've been a third-down conversion. He had John Brown running over the middle with all defenders out of range. Brown was open from the get-go. But from the onset of the play, Allen locked onto Cole Beasley at the bottom of the screen. He did not throw the ball to Brown.
In case it wasn't already clear how open Brown was:
On the next possession, Allen made one of the best throws of the season -- it was Mahomes-esque -- for a go-ahead 53-yard touchdown. It was out of this world, the kind of throw that doesn't seem like it should be within the range of possibilities for a human being.
But Allen still had one final mistake in him. With a chance to tie the game in the final moments, Allen had Knox open for a touchdown on second-and-goal. He sailed the throw.
On third-and-goal, Allen took a sack. On fourth-and-goal, he was forced to throw up a prayer. It fell incomplete. The Bills lost.
Because of how close the Bills came to beating the Patriots (or at least forcing overtime), the main takeaway from the game was that the Bills are going to be a tough out in the playoffs and very well might manage to win a playoff game. It's entirely true. I'm not refuting any of that.
But the key in all of this remains Allen. We know the Bills' defense is good. But Allen (who, again, has improved this season!) is the unknown.
The thing is, the Bills don't need Allen to be Superman. They just need him to be more consistent. They need to eliminate some of those ugly plays. The good news for the Bills is that Allen has already managed to eliminate some of the ugly. Since his three-interception debacle against the Patriots in Week 4, Allen has thrown only three interceptions in 11 games. Now what they need him to do is eliminate the negative plays that don't end in turnovers, but can be characterized as missed opportunities. Whether he can do that remains to be seen. But if he can, the Bills will likely snap their playoff losing streak -- this year or in the wars to come.
In this week's edition of quarterback power rankings, Allen remains in the middle of the pack, which to be completely honest, is far higher than I ever thought he'd get this season. Before we get to the full rankings, a reminder of the rules:
- One quarterback per team. Whichever quarterback started in Week 16 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, total QBR, and completion percentage above expectation. For an explainer on those stats, click right here and here. Yes, the eye test matters too.
Onto the rankings.
Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens QB
| The board, the lightning, the thunder (to quote the great Lana Del Rey), what more is there to say about the league's MVP? Against the Browns, he added 238 passing yards, 103 rushing yards, and three more touchdowns to his totals. It was remarkable how quickly he flipped the game on its head late in the first half, leading two scoring drives that totaled 138 yards and 14 points in only 78 seconds. Catch the wave and take in the sweetness. |
Last week: 1
Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs QB
| If the Bears weren't inept offensively and had been able to keep pace with the Chiefs' offense, Mahomes likely would've done more damage instead of salting the game away in the second half. But Mahomes was brilliant, per usual, against one of the league's top defenses. After a rough stretch, by his standards, after coming back from his injury, he appears to be fully back. The rest of the AFC playoff field should be terrified. |
Last week: 2
Drew Brees New Orleans Saints QB
| Last season, Brees faded down the stretch. This year, he's peaking with 22 touchdowns and two interceptions in the eight games since he returned from his thumb injury. Maybe that injury was actually a blessing in disguise, because he doesn't appear to be wearing down as autumn turns to winter. |
Last week: 3
Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks QB
| It's definitely not all Wilson's fault as the injuries begin to mount in Seattle, but the Seahawks QB hasn't been at his best dating back to Week 10. In his past six games, he's averaging 7.5 yards per pass and has thrown seven touchdowns and four picks for an 89.8 passer rating. He's still one of the league's top quarterbacks, but he no longer has a shot to usurp Jackson in the MVP race. |
Last week: 4
Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans QB
| Despite the Titans' two-game losing streak, Tannehill has continued to play at a high level. Against a good Saints defense, he threw for 272 yards and three scores. He still leads the league in completion percentage above expectation and he ranks sixth in DVOA, which measures value per play. |
Last week: 6
Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings QB
| No, Cousins was not good against the Packers on Monday night. He was dreadful. It also wasn't entirely his fault considering the Vikings' offensive line got mauled by the Packers' defensive front and failed to provide adequate protection. Cousins remains this high because his overall body of work this season has been impressive. He's pieced together the best season of his career, ranking 10th in DVOA even after Monday night's catastrophe. |
Last week: 5
Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys QB
| It definitely looked like Prescott was bothered by his shoulder injury on Sunday, which is a shame, because it's a disappointing way for him to end an otherwise good season. There should be no doubt that the Cowboys need to make Prescott their new long-term quarterback even if he wasn't able to overcome the issues around him to lead them to the playoffs. Give him a new contract and coach ASAP. |
Last week: 7
Deshaun Watson Houston Texans QB
| Watson has quietly struggled since he took down the Patriots a few weeks ago. Against the Broncos, Titans, and Buccaneers the past three weeks, he's completed 60.6 percent of his passes, averaged only 6.6 yards per attempt, thrown two more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (3), and accumulated a 70.1 passer rating. He remains this high because he's been mostly good throughout the season and the quarterbacks positioned below him haven't been good enough to surpass him. |
Last week: 8
Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
| What's encouraging is that Sunday was Brady's best performance since September. He looked nimble in the pocket and he was more accurate targeting receivers who actually gained some separation. Brady wasn't necessarily great, but if he and the Patriots' offense plays like this for the remainder of the year, they're good enough to win the Super Bowl (duh). |
Last week: 15
Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons QB
| Ryan's playing nowhere close to his peak at age 34, but he has helped the Falcons surge, by their standards, in the second half of the season. His reputation and his history help him sneak his way into the top 10. |
Last week: 9
Kyler Murray Arizona Cardinals QB
| He was putting together a nice performance in Seattle until a hamstring injury ended his afternoon. His little flick pass on the run to Larry Fitzgerald should be on his highlight reel for years to come. If the injury prevents him from suiting up in Week 17, what a special year it was for Murray. He lived up to expectations. |
Last week: 12
Jimmy Garoppolo San Francisco 49ers QB
| Garoppolo was dreadful ... until late in the game when he led the 49ers to 10 points on their final two drives to give them a huge win over the Rams. On the game-winning drive, he converted two third-and-16s. |
Last week: 10
Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles QB
| Wentz primarily targeted his tight ends and running backs and, well, it worked against a disappointing Cowboys defense. He attempted only two passes at least 20 yards downfield. But it worked. |
Last week: 13
Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers QB
| The Packers won, but Rodgers underwhelmed once again. In his past three games, he's completed under 60 percent of his passes, averaged 6.1 YPA, and has thrown only two touchdowns and one pick for a 79.4 passer rating. This season, he ranks ninth in DYAR, 11th in DVOA, and 21st in total QBR. He hasn't been bad. He just hasn't been peak Aaron Rodgers. |
Last week: 11
Derek Carr Oakland Raiders QB
| It doesn't always look impressive, but Carr still went 26 of 30 for 291 yards, one touchdown, and a 118.2 passer rating in a win over the Chargers. He also rushed for a touchdown and did NOT fumble the ball out of the end zone in the process. Progress! |
Last week: 17
Josh Allen Buffalo Bills QB
| It seems like Josh Allen will either throw one of the worst passes ever or one of the best passes ever. There's seldom any middle ground. When it all clicks, it's awesome -- just check out his downfield completions against the Patriots. But it doesn't click often enough. Allen has improved this season, but the Bills need more consistency out of their quarterback. |
Last week: 18
Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams QB
| I actually thought Goff played one of his better games in a loss to the 49ers as Sean McVay tried to move the pocket on as many snaps as possible and dial up easy throws for his struggling quarterback. Goff wasn't great -- I mean, we all saw that pick-six -- but he also wasn't a disaster. That's not the highest bar, especially for a quarterback with a monster contract, but it's the quarterback the Rams are stuck with. |
Last week: 20
Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers QB
| Rivers didn't turn the ball over after a four-turnover debacle a week ago, but he also failed to pick apart a bad Raiders defense. |
Last week: 19
Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns QB
| Mayfield hasn't been impressive this season and I wouldn't say he played well against the Ravens, but the Ravens defense has been tremendous over the past several weeks and Mayfield was able to do some damage. I'd grade it as a positive performance, especially in the context of his entire season. Improvements are still needed, of course. |
Last week: 21
Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
| After his four-interception masterpiece, he's now two interceptions away from becoming the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a single season. |
Last week: 14
Gardner Minshew Jacksonville Jaguars QB
| The Jaguars were right to make the switch back to Minshew, but there's no denying that Minshew was poor against the Falcons (13 of 31 for 181 yards and a touchdown) and the mania has worn off. But he's already exceeded expectations as a sixth-round pick and deserves more time to develop -- almost like the Jaguars never should've benched him for Nick Foles. |
Last week: 16
Ryan Fitzpatrick Miami Dolphins QB
| I know these rankings aren't based on #QBWinz, but Fitzpatrick has led the Dolphins -- a team we all thought could conceivably go winless -- to four wins in 12 starts. That's impressive. He threw four touchdowns against a horrible Bengals defense. |
Last week: 24
Sam Darnold New York Jets QB
| Darnold flashed his potential with a great 23-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson early on and considering how dominant the Steelers defense has been this season, he played pretty well as a passer. Unfortunately, in the process of helping the Jets upset the Steelers, he had his soul stolen by T.J. Watt on a strip-sack. |
Last week: 23
Jacoby Brissett Indianapolis Colts QB
| Brissett is one of the league's best backups, but the Colts should aim higher by adding another quarterback in the offseason. He has some clear limitations. The Colts just don't really stretch the field. He didn't attempt a single pass more than 20 yards downfield. |
Last week: 22
Daniel Jones New York Giants QB
|A line of 28 of 42 for 352 yards and five touchdowns? Yeah, that'll work. His reward? Getting sacked by Chase Young for the next few seasons. Because the Giants beat the Redskins, Washington now has the best chance to wind up with the second-overall pick. Even when the Giants win, they lose. |
Last week: N/A
Dwayne Haskins Washington Redskins QB
| Haskins continues to improve. Before leaving with an injury, he went 12 of 15 for 133 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 143.2 passer rating. I think he's shown enough glimpses of promise the past couple weeks for the Redskins to be cautiously optimistic heading into next season. The key will be surrounding him with talent and hiring the right coach to lead his development. |
Last week: 26
Drew Lock Denver Broncos QB
| We've already seen Lock be a bit of a gunslinger earlier this season, but on Sunday, we got to see him do his best game manager impression. And he wasn't half bad at it. Don't take it from me, though. Just listen to what Vic Fangio said about his rookie quarterback: "He's done enough to show he definitely could be the guy, and we're looking for that to be the case." Contrast that to what Fangio said before the season: "He's not a QB yet. He's a hard-throwing pitcher who doesn't know how to pitch yet." Like the Redskins, the Broncos should be cautiously optimistic heading into next season. |
Last week: 28
Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals QB
| Congratulations to Andy Dalton (and his No. 1 fan, John Breech) for leading an epic comeback against the Dolphins that eventually ended in a loss that secured the top pick in the draft for the Bengals. Three of his four touchdown passes came in the final 6:15 of regulation. |
Last week: 29
Mitchell Trubisky Chicago Bears QB
| There's nothing more to say about Trubisky. His accuracy is nonexistent -- just look at the deep touchdown he missed to Allen Robinson down the left side of the field. His decision-making is terrible -- just look at that awful sack he took near the sideline. He's not the Bears' answer at quarterback. |
Last week: 25
David Blough Detroit Lions QB
| He's not any good, but we've known that for a while now. Thank u, next |
Last week: 31
Will Grier Carolina Panthers QB
| Welp. That was a rough debut for the rookie, who did his best Kyle Allen impression with three interceptions. Still, he should start again in Week 17 because the Panthers need to get another look at him before heading into a pivotal offseason with huge questions at quarterback -- which is why Grier should've been made the starter weeks ago, but I digress. |
Last week: N/A
Devlin Hodges Pittsburgh Steelers QB
| With six interceptions in the past two weeks, it turns out Hodges has, in fact, killed the Steelers.|
Last week: 32