NFL Week 6 QB Power Rankings: Mahomes, Wilson, Watson slug it out for top spot, Mayfield plummets

It's only been five weeks, but already a great divide has emerged. The divide isn't between great teams and bad teams -- although a divide does, in fact, exist between the league's frontrunners and bottom dwellers -- but between the NFL's top quarterbacks in the thick of the way-too-early MVP conversation and, well, every other quarterback in football. What's notable is that there are only three quarterbacks in that top group, leaving the other 29 to jockey for position under their own separate subhead.

Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson are in a class of their own. They're playing quarterback at a level that none of the 29 other starting quarterbacks around the league have touched so far this season. At this point, they're the three MVP frontrunners along with Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey. That's not a problem in and of itself, but the effect is that it makes power ranking quarterbacks very difficult. Because after those first three quarterbacks, the rest of the bunch is packed so tightly together that it can be difficult to sort through the rubble.

Will Brinson, Brady Quinn and John Breech react to news of Sam Darnold's return on today's edition of the Pick Six Podcast. Listen below and be sure to subscribe:

On that note, welcome to our first edition of NFL quarterback power rankings, something we'll be continuing on a weekly basis here at CBS Sports. Below, you'll find our quarterback power rankings heading into Week 6. But first, a few notes on the criteria:

  • One quarterback per team. Whichever quarterback started in Week 5 will be the quarterback selected. So you'll find Luke Falk listed for the Jets, not Sam Darnold, who is expected back this weekend. Next week, you'll find Darnold, not Falk.
  • 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. For example, Rivers hasn't played like the 12th best quarterback this season, but his Hall of Fame resume leads me to believe his best football is in front of him, so he received 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. 

That's it. Onto the rankings.

QB rankings Week 6
Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs QB
Even after two "down" weeks by Mahomes' lofty standards, he's on pace to throw for a tick more than 5,859 yards, which would smash the all-time record. It's worth remembering that Mahomes is operating within an offense that is shorthanded and that he's dealing with an ankle injury that has limited his mobility.
Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks QB
What a week it was for Wilson, who submitted a four-touchdown performance against the Rams on Thursday night with the entire league watching, and then watched both Dak Prescott and Mahomes endure difficult outings. With that, Wilson is firmly in the MVP discussion even though he's saddled with Brian Schottenheimer as his offensive coordinator, a coach who is hellbent on establishing the run even though he has the second best quarterback in football leading his offense.
Deshaun Watson Houston Texans QB
Watson rounds out the top tier of quarterbacks. What an insane start to his career it's already been and his performance against the Falcons on Sunday was the best of his career: 28 of 33 for 426 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. He's the third-best quarterback in football right now and there's an argument to be made he could even be above Wilson. If the offensive line can continue providing adequate protection, Watson could seriously threaten Mahomes for MVP.
Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions QB
Surprise, surprise. There's no denying how well Stafford is playing through Week 5. The last time we saw him, he was outplaying Mahomes in a game the Lions should've won. Through four games -- they just had their Week 5 bye -- Stafford is averaging a career-high 8.0 yards per attempt and he's throwing a touchdown on a career-high 6.4 percent of his passes. His 1.4 interception rate would also be the lowest of his career, not counting his injury shortened 2010 season. Stafford is unquestionably playing elite football, but the question is, can he sustain it? I'm skeptical.
Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys QB
Without left tackle Tyron Smith, Prescott endured the worst outing of the season against the Packers, throwing three interceptions. But one of those interceptions bounced off Amari Cooper's hands and another came after the Packers committed a clear penalty on the intended target. Was Prescott good against the Packers? Definitely not. But he also threw for 463 yards and two touchdowns. Even after that outing, he ranks first in QBR ahead of Mahomes, third in DVOA behind Mahomes and Wilson, and second in DYAR in between Mahomes and Wilson.
Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
Brady's no longer the quarterback he once was, but he's still playing good football. His yards per attempt (7.5) is right in line with his career average and he's thrown 10 touchdowns and two interceptions, even though he's dealt with turmoil around him, most notably up front. Brady gets an added boost because he's the greatest quarterback of all time.
Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers QB
Like Brady, Rodgers is no longer the quarterback he once was, but with the Packers' defense playing out of its mind, he doesn't need to be. I said this on a recent episode of the Pick Six Podcast and I really didn't mean it as a slight, but Rodgers in a way has become somewhat of a game manager, a role that he's actually good at because he rarely turns the ball over. But what separates him from other game managers is he's still very much capable of making superhuman throws and winning a shootout if the game calls for it.
Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles QB
Through five weeks, Wentz ranks 10th in DYAR, 12th in DVOA, and sixth in QBR. What's concerning is his average of 6.6 yards per attempt, which is a full yard below his average YPA from the last two seasons. Ten touchdowns and only two interceptions is enough for Wentz to climb into the top 10, but improvements are needed.
Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens QB
He's come crashing back down to earth after an awesome start to the season, when he looked like a legitimate MVP candidate, but Jackson's overall numbers are still impressive, especially when you remember he's only heading into his 13th career start. Averaging 7.8 yards per attempt with 11 touchdowns, five interceptions, and 308 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown, Jackson is an electrifying work in progress who still ranks seventh in QBR. That all said, he's trending down. Two weeks ago, he would've been in the top five. Now, he's in danger of slipping out of the top 10.
Gardner Minshew Jacksonville Jaguars QB
He's been good enough to keep the starting job even when Nick Foles is healthy. He's averaging 255.8 yards per game and 7.8 yards per attempt, and posting a 9-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His 105.6 passer rating ranks sixth and he's a top-10 quarterback by DYAR and DVOA. He might lack elite arm strength, but his ball placement has been tremendous, even on passes downfield. Most importantly, he's kept the Jaguars afloat and has them very much alive in the AFC South. He's not just a good story. He's legitimately good at playing quarterback. And yes, he's been better than the two usually great quarterbacks directly beneath him. Even in a loss to the Panthers, he played well on the road.
Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons QB
Ryan -- normally a top-10 quarterback -- hasn't played like one so far this season as the Falcons sink even further into the abyss of suck. But he hasn't been bad. The advanced metrics actually like him better than I do. He's seventh in DYAR, and 10th in both DVOA and QBR. It's the turnovers (seven picks already, which matches his total from all of last season) that have been killer.
Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers QB
Likewise, Rivers, a future Hall of Famer, hasn't played like a top-10 quarterback so far this season with seven touchdowns and four interceptions -- two of which came on Sunday. But I'd be shocked if he doesn't make his way into the top 10 soon. Chalk it up as a slow start to the season, one that he's likely to rebound from.
Teddy Bridgewater New Orleans Saints QB
It turns out Bridgewater can throw downfield! After successfully playing the role of game-manager and checkdowner in his first two starts in place of Drew Brees, both of which resulted in wins, Bridgewater demonstrated the ability to throw deep in a win over the Buccaneers. Throwing for 314 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception, Bridgewater connected on seven of his 10 passes that traveled 10-plus yards downfield. Remember: These are power rankings, which means we're placing more value on recent performance. Bridgewater's Week 5 performance was one of the best across the league. Bridgewater doesn't have a chance to usurp Brees this year, but watching his development three years removed from a tragic injury is one of the best stories of the season and could lead to a starting opportunity after the season. It's been a joy to watch.
Jimmy Garoppolo San Francisco 49ers QB
If you would've told me before the season that the 49ers would be 4-0 after five weeks, I would've assumed Garoppolo would be playing like an MVP candidate. Instead, the 49ers have gotten to 4-0 even with Garoppolo playing like a middling quarterback: 12th in DYAR, seventh in DVOA, 14th in QBR, tied for 13th in touchdowns, 20th in yards per game, and 13th in passer rating. It's not that Garoppolo has been bad. He just isn't the reason why the 49ers are 4-0. Then again, he also hasn't gotten in their way, so nobody should be complaining too loudly about his performance so far this season. As long as he's paired with Kyle Shanahan, Garoppolo should remain a middling quarterback at worst with the potential to leap into the top 10.
Jacoby Brissett Indianapolis Colts QB
Brissett isn't usually asked to do much -- he didn't throw a single pass 20 yards downfield during the Colts' win over the Chiefs -- but he's serving his role as a game manager quite well with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. He's 13th in both DVOA and DYAR.
Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
I've been a Winston critic for pretty much his entire career and even though he won't ever stop throwing dumb interceptions, he's averaging a career-best 8.3 yards per attempt and a touchdown on a career-best 6.6 percent of his throws. His interception percentage (3.0) remains in line with his career average and only one quarterback, Wilson, has thrown more touchdowns than him. It's not that Winston has been good, but he hasn't been bad either. And this entire cluster of quarterbacks is mostly filled with not bad, but not great quarterbacks. Winston falls behind Brissett and Bridgewater because he didn't play particularly well in Week 5. A late touchdown pass in garbage time boosted his final stat line.
Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings QB
After a dreadful display against the Bears, Cousins rebounded against the Giants by completing 81.5% of his passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns. But beating up on bad teams has never been Cousins' issue. For him, it's about playing this well against good teams, something he's yet to do with the Vikings and really, throughout his entire career. He's saddled with a bad offensive line, but a quarterback making the kind of money he makes is supposed to be able to overcome the issues around him. It'll be difficult to move him up this list until he proves he can play well against a quality opponent.
Derek Carr Oakland Raiders QB
Yes, Carr played well statistically against a great Bears defense, but he wasn't asked to do much. He threw two passes more than 10 yards downfield and was seldom pressured. At this point, Carr is what he's almost always been throughout his career: An average quarterback who is capable of achieving short staccato bursts of greatness if he's well protected.
Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams QB
Even after Goff's dreadful ending to the 2018 season, nobody expected this kind of drop off. But the drop off has been severe. So far this season, no longer sheltered behind a great offensive line and running game, Goff has been awful compared to what he was in Years 1 and 2 under Sean McVay. His YPA is down a full yard from last year and he's thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns. He doesn't look like a quarterback who can overcome the deficiencies around him. He looks more like a quarterback who has been propped up by a strong supporting cast in years past and a great coach. But if anyone can fix Goff, it's McVay.
Kyle Allen Carolina Panthers QB
Allen has played as well as could've been expected in Cam Newton's absence. The Panthers are 3-0 with Allen as their starter and very much alive in the NFC South. But after an awesome performance against the Cardinals three weeks ago, Allen's play has tailed off significantly. The last two weeks, he's averaged 6.5 yards per attempt. He's doing just fine given the circumstances, but once Newton is completely healthy, the Panthers should make the switch back to him.
Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans QB
It's been a confusing season for Mariota. His overall numbers -- 7.9 YPA, seven touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 103.0 passer rating -- suggest he's playing well, buf if Mariota is playing so well, then why is the Titans offense so bad? They're scoring under 20 points per game. The advanced stats aren't kind to Mariota, portraying him as below-average quarterback (25th in both DVOA and DYAR, and 27th in QBR). Let's give him a bit of a break. He's been playing behind the 31st worst pass-blocking offensive line, per Football Outsiders.
Joe Flacco Denver Broncos QB
In breaking news, Flacco remains a very boring quarterback. Seven-and-a-half yards per attempt. Six touchdowns. Four interceptions. Blah. Blah. Blah. At least he helped the Broncos win their first game of the season on Sunday.
Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals QB
After a promising start to the season under Zac Taylor, Andy Dalton has morphed right back into Andy Dalton, submitting three straight underwhelming performances. I know his numbers looked fine against the Cardinals, but at one point late in the first half, Dalton was 3 of 7 for 17 yards. Dalton remains a quarterback who can be productive if he's surrounded by talented players in a good offense, but that's just not the case in Cincinnati right now.
Kyler Murray Arizona Cardinals QB
Murray is progressing just fine given where he's at in his career. He might not have great numbers, but you can see the flashes of greatness every now and then. Give him time to develop. Besides, he just picked up his first win as a starting quarterback.
Josh Allen Buffalo Bills QB
The Bills keep winning even though Allen can't throw the football with any sort of consistency. They aren't 4-1 because of Allen. They're 4-1 because of their defense. A year after throwing two more interceptions than touchdowns, Allen has thrown two more interceptions than touchdowns so far this season. His rushing ability remains a huge asset, but he needs to learn how to protect himself better from huge hits -- like the one that resulted in his concussion in Week 4.
Daniel Jones New York Giants QB
For a rookie on a bad team, Jones has actually played well. Like Murray, ignore his raw numbers and instead watch for the flashes of brilliance. He's made mistakes like all rookie quarterbacks, but suddenly, it's a little easier to understand why the Giants drafted him so high. He's got a chance to be good, but he's coming off consecutive underwhelming outings (5.9 YPA, two touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 71.3 passer rating). Give him time.
Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns QB
Mayfield has taken a substantial step backwards in his development after a record-setting rookie season. Behind a bad offensive line but with tremendous skill-position players, Mayfield has thrown twice as many interceptions than touchdowns. After a dreadful outing vs. the 49ers on Monday night, Mayfield has the league's third-lowest passer rating -- only Luke Falk and Josh Rosen are below him. He's 33rd, 32nd, and 32nd in DYAR, DVOA, and QBR, respectively. I still believe in his long-term future, but he's not even playing at a middling level right now.
Mason Rudolph Pittsburgh Steelers QB
Hopefully, Rudolph recovers from that brutal hit he endured on Sunday. He hasn't been asked to do much, checking the ball down a ton, but Rudolph has been passable in that role with 6.9 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, two picks, and a 102.5 passer rating. The 2018 third-round pick deserves patience.
Chase Daniel Chicago Bears QB
It turns out, Daniel isn't a better fit for Matt Nagy's system than Mitchell Trubisky. Daniel heated up in the third quarter of the Bears' loss to the Raiders in London, but his two interceptions doomed the Bears. If he's not taking care of the ball, he's not going to have much success as the game-manager type of quarterback this Bears team needs.
Josh Rosen Miami Dolphins QB
For a second straight season, it's impossible to evaluate Rosen because he's playing on the worst team in football yet again. He's shown enough flashes for me to believe in his long-term future, but he needs to get help soon before he runs out of chances to start.
Colt McCoy Washington Redskins QB
It doesn't matter if you're ranking Colt McCoy or Case Keenum here. They're all bad on a bad team. Thank u, next.
Luke Falk New York Jets QB
Thankfully, the Falk era is over in New York with Sam Darnold expected to make his return from mono this week. So far this season, the Jets have scored two touchdowns on offense. One of those came via Darnold in Week 1.
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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