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Matthew Stafford ranked 12th in NFL.com QB rankings

Some media members aren’t ready to forgive Stafford for 12 years with the Lions, apparently

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

So far this season, Matthew Stafford is a two-time NFC Offensive Player of the Week, ranks third in passing yards, second in yards per attempt, third in passer rating, first in adjusted yards per attempt, second in DYAR, first in DVOA, and he’s taken the same offense that 23 points per game in 2020 with Jared Goff to one that is now scoring 28 points per game.

Could Matthew Stafford still be a worse QB than Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins?

That answer is “Yes” for NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal, who ranked Stafford 12th in his Week 6 NFL QB Index order. Four spots lower than where he was in Week 5. Why? The answer might not lie in statistics that are proven on the field, but instead ones that happen in the minds of PFF graders.

Is Stafford getting knocked down slightly because his degree of difficulty is easier as a Ram? Absolutely. Did too many Rams drives in the last two weeks end because Stafford missed open throws? Why else would I ask? Stafford’s talent and excellent closing ability make up for a lot, but his PFF grade has been worse each week this season for a reason. It’s enough to move him down a few spots in an extraordinary year of quarterback play.

Rosenthal has Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, and Dak Prescott in his top-three, while even Patrick Mahomes (6th), Russell Wilson (10th), and Aaron Rodgers (11th) also have to deal with being ranked lower than they’re accustomed to, like Stafford. Well, maybe Stafford has rarely ever been ranked in the top-10 after his 12 years with the Detroit Lions, but you would have thought that his September outings would’ve quelled some doubts.

Meanwhile, Derek Carr is ranked seventh and Kirk Cousins is 11th.

Stafford has transformed the Rams offense and his 9.5 intended air yards per attempt ranks fourth, after Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield. In 2020, this number was 6.2 iAY/A with Goff, the third-lowest mark in the NFL, ahead of only Drew Brees and Alex Smith.

Greater risks mean greater rewards — but also greater risks. I can handle a few errant throws by Stafford (his 33 “bad throws” is ninth-most in the NFL, a category led by Brady at 43 bad throws) and Stafford’s bad throw percentage of 19.4% is slightly lower than Brady’s. Rosenthal’s top-ranked QB this season.

Stafford’s on-target percentage of 76.5% is better than 15 starting QBs, including Brady. Stafford has also done the best job in the NFL of avoiding sacks and his ability to climb through a broken pocket to find an open receiver has been second to nobody this season.

But you have to forgive the media. They were perhaps burned by believing in Stafford in the past and are hesitant to give him that same amount of slack for poor plays in 2021. Regardless of whether or not he’s taken over virtually the same exact offense that Goff was inept in and made it one of the best in the league, and absent the fact that Stafford has already had four games with a Y/A above 9.0 (Stafford’s Week 1 showing set a career-high in Y/A and passer rating), and even if nobody talks about the fact that the Rams have faced the 10th-hardest schedule of defenses by DVOA, many people are just more used to ridiculing Stafford than praising him.

The change was never going to happen overnight and even if it did — Stafford sure seemed to transform LA and Cooper Kupp’s prowess overnight — the slightest sign of discomfort will send many people running back to their comfortable “Stafford is overrated” blankets for another night.

The only way to enact a permanent change in their minds will be by displaying a permanent change on the field. Matthew Stafford’s been mostly-great in 2021 and it will only be up to Matthew Stafford to keep that going.