Good quarterback play is contagious. It spreads to every other area of a team, benefiting not just the offense for very obvious reasons, but a defense that is suddenly able to remain on the sidelines as the offense sustains lengthy drives that result in points scored, which lessens the burden on the defense for, again, very obvious reasons. Just ask the Jets, a team that was allergic to offensive touchdowns until starting quarterback Sam Darnold made his triumphant return from mono on Sunday.

In Weeks 2-5 without Darnold, the Jets offense scored one touchdown. Against the Cowboys on Sunday, the Jets scored three touchdowns, two of which came via Darnold's right arm. Their 24 points beat their previous season high by eight points, their 382 yards beat their previous season high by 120 yards, and their 326 passing yards beat their previous season high by 157 passing yards. 

It turns out, having a good starting quarterback matters. It's infectious. And by the look of it, Darnold might actually be good.

Darnold's rookie season was overshadowed by the immediate emergence of Baker Mayfield and the rapid ascent of second-year quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, but it's worth remembering that Darnold finished a topsy-turvy rookie season on the rise. In the month of December, Darnold completed 64 percent of his passes, averaged nearly 233 yards per game, threw six touchdowns and only one interception, and posted a 99.1 passer rating. Signs of progress were there, which is why the Jets had so much optimism heading into this season.

Darnold's second year got off to an underwhelming start with a tough loss to the Bills, but that meh performance came against a Bills defense that is the league's third-best defense by DVOA. That same Bills defense held Tom Brady to 150 yards and a 45.9 passer rating a couple weeks ago. So, it was especially encouraging to see Darnold step back in under center on Sunday against a much more susceptible Cowboys defense and light them up by completing 71.9 percent of his passes for 338 yards, two touchdowns, one bad interception, and a 113.8 passer rating.

This wasn't all dinking and dunking. He actually threw the ball downfield successfully, as his NFL Next Gen Stats passing chart so clearly demonstrates.

NFL Next Gen Stats

As does his 92-yard bomb to Robby Anderson:

Last week, Luke Falk ranked 32nd on our weekly quarterback power rankings. This week, Darnold is ranked at No. 19. That represents the biggest movevement (up or down) of any team's quarterback situation in this week's edition of NFL quarterback power rankings. The Jets have gone from having the worst quarterback in football to having a quarterback who is ranked in the middle of the pack with the potential to climb even higher. 

At 1-4, the Jets are already grounded, but the rest of this season matters. It's all about developing Darnold and seeing signs of growth under Adam Gase. This can't just be a one-week explosion. Darnold needs to continue his ascent, because while the Jets might've set season highs in points, yards, and passing yards on Sunday, that's not exactly saying much. It was a low bar to clear. Twenty-four points should be closer to the minimum than the maximum. But for the first time in weeks, there's reason to be optimistic about the Jets' short- and long-term future. That reason? Sam Darnold.

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

  • One quarterback per team. Whichever quarterback started in Week 6 will be the quarterback selected. So you'll find Marcus Mariota listed for the Titans this week. Next week, you'll find Ryan Tannehill if he starts in place of Mariota. 
  • 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 13th 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 7
Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks QB
Through six weeks, the 2019 NFL season belongs to Wilson, who has piloted the Seahawks to a 5-1 record. This isn't like the Seahawks teams from the beginning of Wilson's career. He's not latching onto a great defense and letting them take him for a ride. This is all Wilson so far. He was downright brilliant against the Browns on Sunday, throwing for 295 yards and two touchdowns. So far this season, he's second in completion percentage, second in yards per attempt, first in adjusted yards per attempt, first in passer rating, and tied for second in touchdown passes. He's been the most valuable player in football.

Last week: 2

Deshaun Watson Houston Texans QB
Watson's final stat line against the Chiefs is misleading largely because Will Fuller dropped three would-be touchdowns. Even still, Watson went into Kansas City and led an upset of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs by completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 280 yards and a touchdown. He did throw two interceptions, but he also rushed for 42 yards and two touchdowns. Watson, along with the two quarterbacks positioned above and below him, is in the thick of the MVP race.

Last week: 3

Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs QB
It wasn't easy removing Mahomes from his perch atop this list. Dealing with a bad ankle and playing behind a makeshift offensive line, Mahomes still managed to throw for 273 yards, three touchdowns, one pick, and a 96.5 passer rating. He's still, in my opinion, the best player in the NFL regardless of position. And I still believe he'll top this list at the end of the season in addition to winning MVP. But he just lost to Watson at home -- not that #QBWinz is an actual stat, but I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't at all matter. Over the last three weeks, Mahomes has completed only 56 percent of his passes for 909 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, and an 89.3 passer rating. Those numbers aren't necessarily bad and, again, the ankle injury and banged up offensive line matters, but those aren't the numbers we know Mahomes is capable of submitting. As a result, he takes a bit of a tumble. Just don't expect him to remain behind Watson and Wilson for long.

Last week: 1

Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions QB
The Lions lost to the Packers, but Stafford continues to impress under Darrell Bevell. What's notable is how often Stafford is throwing the ball deep downfield as opposed to years past, when Jim Bob Cooter turned Stafford into quick-release, short-pass quarterback, which negated his strength (his God-given arm talent). Stafford threw for 265 yards against the Packers and should've been credited with a touchdown that T.J. Hockenson couldn't secure as his body hit the turf. If not for an absolute officiating meltdown, Stafford would've walked off the field as a winner. Stafford's 8.0 yards per attempt remains a career-high and his interception rate (1.2%) remains a career-low, not including his injury shortened 2010 season.

Last week: 4

Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens QB
In an easy win over the Bengals, Jackson became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era with 200-plus passing yards and 150-plus rushing yards in a regular-season game. Jackson is clearly still a work in progress, but it's worth wondering: If this is Jackson during his developmental stage, just how good might he be when he's fully matured as an NFL quarterback?

Last week: 9

Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons QB
Having Ryan outside the top 10 last week was a mistake. In a one-point loss to the Cardinals, Ryan looked like one of the five best quarterbacks in football, completing 30 of his 36 passes for 356 yards (9.9 YPA), four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 144.9 passer rating. It's not his fault the Falcons' defense got gouged by Kyler Murray. It's not his fault Matt Bryant missed a game-tying extra point. It's not Ryan's fault the Falcons are stuck in the suck. He's second to Patrick Mahomes in passing yards and leads the league in touchdown passes with 15.

Last week: 11

Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers QB
It's difficult to move Rodgers up or down after a good, but not great performance against the Lions in prime time. Rodgers was unlucky all night long, as his receivers looked more like Kevin (from the Office) trying to balance his famous chili than actual NFL receivers. Aaron Jones dropped an easy touchdown. So did tight end Jimmy Graham. The interception that Rodgers threw at the goal line was behind his intended target, but he shouldn't be blamed for an interception that hit his receiver in the face. That said, Rodgers and the Packers received a ton of help from the officials. If the Packers had lost to the Lions -- an outcome they deserved -- the story would've been: What's wrong with the Packers offense? They continue to look like a middling unit.

Last week: 7

Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys QB
Prescott continues to slide after looking like an MVP candidate in the first couple weeks. Against the Giants and Redskins in Weeks 1 and 2, Prescott completed 82.3 percent of his passes, averaged 10.9 yards per attempt, and threw seven touchdowns and one interception for a 142.9 passer rating. In the four games since, against the Dolphins, Saints, Packers, and Jets, Prescott has completed 64.4 percent of his passes, averaged 8.1 yards per attempt, and thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions for a 84.5 passer rating. Obviously, Tyron Smith's absence matters. So does the state of the Cowboys' offense, which has some questioning if Jason Garrett has hijacked Kellen Moore's shiny new offense and replaced it with his terrible old offense. Prescott remains a very good quarterback. But he's no longer in the MVP conversation.

Last week: 5

Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles QB
The Vikings' defense is good. The Eagles' secondary is not good. That's important to remember when evaluating Wentz's performance on Sunday, when the Eagles fell into 21-point hole in the first half. But Wentz played well and even brought the Eagles back to the point where it looked like they could pull off a stunning comeback. Thanks to two touchdown passes from Wentz and a field goal, the Eagles drew within four points in the third quarter before the Vikings pulled away for good. The takeaway shouldn't be: Wentz is worse than Cousins. The takeaway should be: Wentz needs more help, particularly on defense.

Last week: 8

Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
The Patriots are 6-0, but they're not 6-0 because of Brady, who actually played poorly in a big win over the Giants. Brady's disappointing outing won't necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but he looked inaccurate throwing downfield, spent most of his night checking the ball down underneath, threw an interception, and gifted the Giants a touchdown with a fumble. Brady hasn't been bad this season. He also hasn't been great. Put it this way: The Patriots are 6-0 and have obliterated almost every team in their path and Brady still isn't being talked about as a serious MVP candidate.

Last week: 6

Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings QB
Since the Stefon Diggs crisis after a thorough defeat at the hands of the Bears two weeks ago, Cousins has completed 78.6 percent of his passes, averaged 11.4 yards per attempt, and thrown six touchdowns and one interception for a 142.5 passer rating. This is what Cousins does: he beats up on bad defenses. Those two performances came against the awful Giants defense and an awful Eagles secondary. The question is, can he play this well against the likes of the Packers and Bears? That said, despite all the criticism he's faced since he joined the Vikings last year, Cousins has proceeded to complete 70 percent of his passes, average 257.8 yards per game, throw three times as many touchdowns as interceptions (39-13), and generate a 101.5 passer rating as the Vikings' quarterback. The contract is problematic. So are his performances against actually good teams. But let's not pretend like Cousins is a trash quarterback. He's got issues, but he's still good.

Last week: 17

Gardner Minshew Jacksonville Jaguars QB
Finally, Minshew Mania came crashing down. But this had more to do with Minshew's competition on Sunday: a ferocious Saints defense that has been tremendous in recent weeks. Minshew was bound to struggle at some point, and struggle he did. As a result, he drops a few spots.

Last week: 10

Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers QB
Yikes. Sunday night wasn't easy to watch. Rivers got things going by throwing an awful lateral to Melvin Gordon that the Steelers defense picked up for a touchdown. He was eventually picked off twice. There's no doubt that Rivers' offensive line remains especially problematic, but the fact remains that Rivers has not played well this season. He's currently 13th in DYAR, 17th in DVOA, and 20th in QBR. The Hall-of-Fame caliber quarterback isn't playing like one. There's a reasonable argument to be made he should be well lower than where I have him.

Last week: 12

Jacoby Brissett Indianapolis Colts QB
He was on his bye week, so not much movement for him. He's been just as good as anyone could have reasonably expected after Andrew Luck retired.

Last week: 15

Jimmy Garoppolo San Francisco 49ers QB
Like Brady, Garoppolo is quarterbacking an undefeated team but isn't regarded as a serious MVP candidate, which is indicative of the way in which the 49ers are winning: with their defense leading the charge. At this point, we know the 49ers are good. What we don't know is if their quarterback is good. On the bright side, he's completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and averaging 8.0 yards per attempt. On the downside, he's thrown seven touchdowns and five interceptions, and accumulated a 95.2 passer rating -- which ranks 15th. He's also fumbled four times in his past three starts.

Last week: 14

Teddy Bridgewater New Orleans Saints QB
Bridgewater's team won, but as previously mentioned, the Saints won because of their defense. A week after Bridgewater finally threw downfield for really the first time all season, he went 0-for-3 on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. He even admitted after the game that he didn't play particularly well, saying he apologized to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen for "making it hard on you." But he's 4-0 with seven touchdowns and two picks as the Saints' starter in place of Drew Brees. That'll work.

Last week: 13

Kyle Allen Carolina Panthers QB
Allen just keeps on winning. The Panthers have won all four games he's started this season. Along the way, Allen has played like a solid, but not great quarterback. After a 227-yard, two-touchdown, and zero-interception performance in London, he's now ranked 18th in both DYAR and DVOA, and 14th in QBR. The Panthers should still make the move back to Cam Newton when he's fully healthy, but with Allen playing this well, they have no reason to rush Newton back. They shouldn't reinsert Newton until he's completely healthy.

Last week: 20

Kyler Murray Arizona Cardinals QB
Murray has arrived. Against a terrible Falcons defense, Murray did exactly what good quarterbacks are supposed to do to bad defenses: he obliterated them for 340 yards and three touchdowns. Every week, we've been able to see the flashes of promise that made Murray the first-overall pick. Finally, he put together a complete performance. For that, he deserves credit -- even if it came against an awful opponent.

Last week: 24

Sam Darnold New York Jets QB
Welcome back, Darnold! Maybe Adam Gase doesn't completely suck? Maybe the Jets' offensive struggles this season were more about their quarterback situation than Gase? Yes, Darnold threw an awful interception, but he's still a 22-year-old, second-year quarterback. He's going to make mistakes. What's important is that he demonstrates signs of progress under Gase. We saw that on Sunday. Seven of his completions traveled at least 10 yards downfield.

Last week: N/A

Derek Carr Oakland Raiders QB
Not much movement for the Raiders quarterback after a bye week. By now, we know what Carr is (a mediocre quarterback who can thrive in the perfect situation, but falters in less than ideal ones) and isn't (a good quarterback).

Last week: 18

Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams QB
Well, that was a disaster: 13 of 24 for 78 yards (3.3 YPA!) and a 60.8 passer rating. The 49ers defense has been making plenty of offenses look silly, but this was a catastrophic performance by a quarterback who's been bad since last December. In his last 14 games, including the playoffs, he's thrown 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and he's fumbled 14 times.

Last week: 19

Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals QB
At what point do the Bengals consider sitting Dalton and giving Ryan Finley some reps? Dalton's clearly not the Bengals' long-term solution at quarterback. Finley might not be, but the Bengals should find out before next year's draft, when they'll be in a great position to select a quarterback early in the first round. The sad state of affairs in Cincinnati is not Dalton's fault, but he's not good enough to overcome this bad of a supporting cast.

Last week: 23

Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
It turns out, Jameis is still Jameis. Bruce Arians should, by now, realize he can't fix Winston, who threw five interceptions and fumbled twice in an ugly loss to Carolina. After the game, he was asked if it was his worst game, to which he replied: "Oh, no, I've had a lot of bad games." He's not wrong. Only Baker Mayfield has thrown more interceptions than Winston, who likely won't be brought back to Tampa Bay in 2020 assuming the Buccaneers behave like a rational team in the offseason. If the Buccaneers had a halfway decent backup, they could bench Winston. But they don't have one.

Last week: 16

Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans QB
He got benched for Ryan Tannehill. Like Winston, Mariota will likely be looking for a new team in the offseason. The Bears would be an intriguing landing spot. They'll likely want to bring in someone to compete with Mitchell Trubisky -- assuming Trubisky doesn't suddenly morph into a good quarterback down the stretch -- and Ryan Pace was interested in Mariota back in 2015.

Last week: 21

Joe Flacco Denver Broncos QB
Joe Flacco is still Joe Flacco. What more needs to be said? The Broncos won on Sunday, but they didn't win because of Flacco, who remains a not-good starting quarterback.

Last week: 22

Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns QB
Mayfield played better after his nightmare performance against the 49ers, but he still wound up with three interceptions. Regardless of how many have been his fault, Mayfield has now thrown 11 interceptions this season after throwing 14 all of last season. He leads the league in picks, with Winston being the only other quarterback to have already hit double digits. Mayfield is 32nd in DYAR and DVOA. The only quarterback who's been worse by those metrics? Josh Rosen. I still believe in his long-term future, but he's playing at an astonishingly low level right now.

Last week: 27

Josh Allen Buffalo Bills QB
Another bye-week quarterback. The Bills aren't 4-1 because of Allen, who is being carried by his awesome defense. If the Bills want to make any noise in January, they'll need Allen -- the 30th-ranked quarterback by DYAR, DVOA, and QBR -- to take considerable steps forward between now and then.

Last week: 25

Daniel Jones New York Giants QB
I'm not going to crush Jones for getting crushed by Bill Belichick's defense on a short week on the road. This is what we expected to happen. Plus, he threw an inch-perfect touchdown pass to Golden Tate deep down the field. The flashes are there. The consistency is not. Give him time.

Last week: 26

Case Keenum Washington Redskins QB
His performance -- 13 of 25 for 166 yards and two touchdowns -- against that bad of a team leaves a lot to be desired.

Last week: N/A

Chase Daniel Chicago Bears QB
Bye-week backup quarterback who lacks the physical traits to be an every week starter. The Bears need Trubisky to get healthy if they have any shot of emerging out of the crowded NFC North.

Last week: 29

Devlin Hodges Pittsburgh Steelers QB
Yes, he led the Steelers into Los Angeles and emerged with a win. But Hodges wasn't asked to throw the ball downfield after the team was spotted a 14-0 lead thanks to two Rivers turnovers. On passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield, Hodges went 1 for 5 with an interception.

Last week: N/A

Josh Rosen Miami Dolphins QB
I'm gonna say this every week: It's almost impossible to evaluate Rosen on this terrible of a team. But he got benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who promptly led a near-comeback. He's dead last in QBR, DVOA, and DYAR. I'd love to see him on a better team, but he's stuck on the worst team in football. As long as he continues to start, he'll likely remain at or near the bottom.

Last week: 30