Every Wednesday during the NFL season, USA TODAY Sports will assess everyone's favorite topic: quarterbacks. Who's hot? Who's not? Who has the most exciting matchups?
Here's this week's QB Hot Sheet:
Five to watch this week
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: The season is basically lost, but it will be fascinating to see how Green Bay’s offense looks after coach Mike McCarthy was fired. There was a clear disconnect with Rodgers and McCarthy, so look for interim coach Joe Philbin to scheme a plan against the Falcons of things Rodgers does best.
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: In recent weeks, Pittsburgh has gone away from running the ball. With running back James Conner out with an ankle sprain, even more pressure will fall on Roethlisberger to keep the offense moving. The Steelers have lost two in a row, including a collapse against the Chargers after leading by 16 points. The Raiders should be an easy opponent, but five turnovers in the last two is unacceptable.
3. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers: He has finally limited turnovers and is turning in efficient performances. Not coincidentally, Tampa has won two in a row. Against the Saints, Winston will need to maintain his heightened level of precision passing (72.6 percent completion rate over last three games) and avoid costly mistakes.
4. Andrew Luck, Colts: Coming off of easily his worst game of the season, Luck can’t afford another dud. The Colts (6-6) are visiting the red-hot Texans, who have the NFL’s longest winning streak at nine games. He has thrown three picks in the last two games and has to avoid turnovers against Houston.
5. Mark Sanchez, Redskins: Things are unraveling for Washington (6-6), which lost its second quarterback for the season to a broken leg in three weeks and has dropped three games in a row. So now Sanchez will be the one to try to salvage the season. He couldn’t get much going against the Eagles on Monday night and could be in for more of the same against the Giants.
Three trending up
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs: His four-touchdown day pushed Kansas City over the Raiders, but with Kareem Hunt released, it was Mahomes who led the team in rushing yards (52). If the Chiefs' ground game sputters, the offense will be more reliant on him than ever.
2. Winston: Still a small sample size, but the last three games have been a good showcase for Winston in his push to get the Buccaneers to commit to him beyond this season.
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks: Seattle is quietly firming its spot in the playoff chase and Wilson is the reason why. He’s on pace for career bests in QB rating (115.5) and passing touchdowns (currently with 29).
Three trending down
1. Drew Brees, Saints: Clamped down on by the Cowboys defense, Brees turned in his worst game (64.3 percent completion rate, 127 yards, one TD, one interception) of the season. He’s still a leading MVP candidate and should bounce back against a porous Bucs defense.
2. Cam Newton, Panthers: Four picks in a loss against the Buccaneers continued a skid for Newton and Carolina. The Panthers have lost four in a row and Newton has thrown seven interceptions – including at least one in each game – in the losing streak.
3. Luck: An eight-game streak of three or more passing touchdowns was snapped in a shutout. Luck took three sacks – second-most this season – and didn’t look comfortable all day against the Jaguats.
1. Mahomes (last week: 2): He reclaims the top spot after a few weeks at No. 2. He's now on pace for 54 touchdowns, which would put him one behind Peyton Manning’s single-season record.
2. Brees (1): He still leads the league in completion rate (75.5 percent) but slips one spot back.
3. Philip Rivers (3), Chargers: A signature victory against the Steelers showed what he does best: spread the ball accurately to different targets and take calculated shots down the field.
4. Wilson (5): At one point against the 49ers, he needed just four completions (on six passes) to gain 102 yards and three touchdowns. He’s elevating Seattle and is on a roll.
5. Luck (4): He’d be higher if he had fewer turnovers, but his 32 touchdown passes, good for second-best in the NFL, keep him in the top five.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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