Is Lamar Jackson the MVP front-runner? (2:06)
Marcus Spears praises Lamar Jackson's play so far this season. (2:06)
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We are through five weeks of the 2021 season, and we saw many MVP-caliber performances in Week 5. Lamar Jackson led a big comeback, Josh Allen bested Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert topped Baker Mayfield in a shootout win. Injuries also popped back up, with Russell Wilson expected to miss some time after rupturing a tendon in a finger on his right hand.
On a weekly basis throughout the season, I will rate my current confidence in each quarterback's play. Who is unstoppable and in the MVP conversation? Who is struggling and needs to find consistency? Who is rising, and who is falling, after each week's game slate? Which rookies are exceeding expectations, and which veterans are leading their offenses to playoff contention? And remember, this is based on the present, not future potential.
True backups will not be included, though teams with multiple legitimate starting options might have multiple QBs listed in the rankings. Backups in line to play for injured starters will also be ranked. The list will be accompanied each week with some of the biggest takeaways and lingering thoughts from the recent performances under center, including what both the tape and numbers say about some of the game's starting quarterbacks. Here are this week's QB rankings and some notes regarding the position.
Last updated: Oct. 13
Tannenbaum's current QB rankings
Biggest takeaways from Week 5
Yes, Chargers QB Justin Herbert is my new No. 1 on the board. Why? Because he has changed the trajectory of the Chargers' franchise. They went for it on fourth down three times on Sunday in a wild 47-42 win, and that tells me everything I need to know about what coach Brandon Staley thinks of Herbert. Herbert was 3-of-4 on throws at least 30 yards downfield on Sunday, and he threw three touchdown passes off play-action. Per ESPN Stats & Information research, he joined Lamar Jackson (2019) and Patrick Mahomes (2018) as the only players under 24 years old to have at least three touchdowns and zero interceptions in three straight games within a single season. The other two went on to win MVP. I don't see any holes in Herbert's game.
Baltimore's Lamar Jackson put on a show late in Monday night's comeback win over the Colts. I love the improvement in his accuracy and yards per attempt this season. Overall, he's 12th in completion percentage (67.1%) and fourth in yards per attempt (9.1). Combined with what he can do with his legs -- Jackson is eighth in rushing yards among all players -- and it's safe to say he has played himself back into the MVP conversation. Receiver Marquise Brown on the outside and tight end Mark Andrews between the numbers are making this Ravens offense very difficult to defend.
Chiefs signal-caller Patrick Mahomes fell from No. 1 to No. 5 this week. He's occasionally forcing the ball, which has lead to six interceptions. That matches his total for all of last season, and it's more than he threw in 2019. In all, Kansas City's 11 turnovers are tied with the Jaguars for most in the NFL. And if the Chiefs' defense doesn't improve (a league-high 32.6 points allowed per game), it'll put even more pressure on him. Mahomes is still exceptional, but unless the defense takes a step forward, the pressure on this offense to be perfect will be heavy.
Arizona's Kyler Murray is the third QB in the Super Bowl era to go 5-0, complete at least 75% of his passes and throw for at least 1,500 yards in his team's first five games of a season (Peyton Manning in 2013 and Drew Brees in 2018).
I moved Cincinnati's Joe Burrow up six spots from No. 19 to No. 13 this week. He is clearly getting more comfortable. Impressively, Burrow is in the top five in both completion percentage (71.7%) and yards per attempt (8.8). His connection with receiver Ja'Marr Chase, a former teammate at LSU, might lead Chase to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. And on Sunday, Burrow stood toe to toe with Aaron Rodgers and almost beat Green Bay.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Buffalo's Josh Allen was effective holding on to the ball, completing four of six passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns on extended plays (four-plus seconds). It was the second time this season that an opposing QB went into Kansas City and outplayed Mahomes (Herbert was the other).
When the Giants blitzed on Sunday, Dallas' Dak Prescott took advantage. He threw three touchdown passes against five or more pass-rushers for the third time this season. Once offensive tackle La'el Collins returns form suspension, this Cowboys offense should only get better.
So Geno Smith will start for Seattle, with Russell Wilson recovering from surgery on his finger. What an incredible and unexpected opportunity for him. Smith looked poised against the Rams and still has a really good arm. I'm very intrigued to see how well he performs over the coming weeks, starting with the Steelers on Sunday night.