Andy Dalton, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles and Jay Cutler are up. Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck are down. Colin Kaepernick, Geno Smith and Robert Griffin III are out. Carson Palmer is back. Cam Newton is ... what, exactly?
With so much in flux, Week 10 provides a good opportunity to compare how on-field performance jibes with the votes 35 NFL coaches and evaluators cast in ESPN's 2015 Quarterback Tiers survey published four months ago. Those 35 league insiders placed Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Luck, Manning and Brees in the highest of five possible tiers. Nearly half had Manning and Brees outside the top tier already, with many more suggesting their time at the top was nearly up. Voters were much higher on Carr than they were on the other second-year quarterbacks.
What would voters say now, after a full preseason and nine weeks of the regular season? I reconnected with some of them for follow-up thoughts. What they had to say about Luck and especially Newton resonated the strongest. One key note: The Jets' Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't in the original survey given he was not the projected starter at the time, so he is excluded here. Same deal with rookie QBs, who couldn't be assessed yet.
Five QBs outperforming their preseason tiers
1. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Preseason tier: Third (2.69 average, which ranked 15th)
2015 QBR score: 84.7 (1st)
Palmer would have fallen solidly in the second tier had he not finished the 2014 regular season on injured reserve with a torn ACL.
"When it is all said and done, I don't know if he is on the elite status, but he is playing his butt off," one voter said. "I think this weekend [at Seattle] will be a good test. I just need to see it against a top-tier defense. I would give him a 2, and this weekend we will see if he is closer to a 1."
This voter noted that Palmer had lit up a series of weak defenses (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore and San Francisco) while having a harder time and ultimately losing to the best defenses Arizona has faced (Pittsburgh, St. Louis).