The 2022 NFL season's playoff race is just starting to heat up, and a lot of eyes will be on each contender's quarterback down the stretch. Some passers are now hitting their stride, while others have seen potential concerns creep into their games. And a few teams face difficult decisions surrounding their QB situation, whether it be over the rest of the season or in the upcoming offseason.
We called on our NFL Nation reporters to answer 12 big questions around the game's most important position through two thirds of the season. Can the Giants alleviate some of the pass-rush pressure on Daniel Jones, will the Bills figure out Josh Allen's sudden red zone turnover woes, and can the Chargers unlock Justin Herbert's downfield throwing? How will the Packers, Jets and Seahawks approach offseason decisions? Can the Vikings and Patriots keep winning with marginal quarterback play? What's next for Justin Fields, Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa? And finally, what's the Saints' plan under center for the rest of the season?
Let's dive in, starting with a growing concern for one of the NFL's best signal-callers.
Are red zone turnovers becoming an issue for Buffalo's Josh Allen?
Yes, it's becoming a pattern. Now, not all of that is on Allen -- the offense as a whole has not looked the same since the team's bye in Week 7. And Allen's right elbow injury will also continue to linger, which has played a part in his performance. But it doesn't explain away the number of red zone turnovers that just weren't there earlier in his career.
Allen has been intercepted in the red zone in four of the past five games, compared to just twice in his previous 67 games. The four picks lead the NFL and are the most by any player since 2019, not including an additional fumble. The Bills are entering a crucial stretch with three straight AFC East games, and correcting the red zone turnovers will be vital. -- Alaina Getzenberg, Bills reporter
Was the secret to unlocking Justin Fields' game as simple as getting him on the move more often?
Chicago's offense wasn't capitalizing on Fields' dynamic rushing abilities during the first six weeks of the season. Now he is on pace to break the Bears' single-season quarterback rushing record (968 yards) and currently ranks seventh among all players with 834 rushing yards through 11 games. The Bears own the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense, and Fields is a big part of that with his 11.1 attempts per game.
The next part of helping Fields reach his full potential will be developing his skills as a passer, though. He has shown he can make plays happen outside of the pocket and on the run. Getting him to win from the pocket will take his game to the next level. Field's QBR from outside the pocket is 61.8 (sixth in the NFL) this season, but it drops to 25.0 (31st) from inside it. -- Courtney Cronin, Bears reporter
Is Joe Burrow poised to hit another level once receiver Ja'Marr Chase returns to the Bengals' offense?
It seems that way. The Bengals have won three of the past four games despite Chase's absence and quietly turned into one of the best offenses in the league. Burrow has done well without his top target, with Cincinnati ranking fifth in passing yards per game (257) and fourth in points per game (28) since Week 8. But he is 23rd among qualifying QBs in air yards per attempt (6.7) in that time.
If Chase can help the Bengals become more explosive offensively -- since he entered the NFL, 23.4% of Chase's receptions have gone for 20-plus yards -- it could be a massive boost for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. -- Ben Baby, Bengals reporter
What are the chances the Packers pick up Jordan Love's fifth-year option?
General manager Brian Gutekunst has already been on the record saying he doesn't envision a scenario in which Love and Aaron Rodgers are both on the Packers' roster in 2024. It would be far too cost and cap prohibitive. The Packers will know before the option deadline in May about Rodgers' status for 2023, but even if he returns for next season, he's not likely to decide then what he wants to do in 2024.
Independent of the Rodgers aspect, the Packers might still need to see Love play more this season before they can make a final call on his option. Love still has just 80 pass attempts over his career since being drafted in the first round in 2020 (three touchdown passes, three interceptions). -- Rob Demovsky, Packers reporter
Will Mike Williams' return mean Justin Herbert finally starts throwing downfield more this season?
Perhaps, but it's far from certain. Herbert is averaging 6.5 yards per attempt, which ranks 30th in the NFL. And his 6.1 air yards per attempt ranked 34th of 35 qualifying quarterbacks, ahead of only Matt Ryan.
Coach Brandon Staley said many factors have contributed: "It's a combination of how defenses are playing us. It's a combination of the transition within our offense from a personnel standpoint and trying to play to the strengths of our team that is out there in a given week."
Part of the transition in the offense has been the absences of not only Williams but also receiver Keenan Allen -- who was sidelined most of the season before returning in Week 11 -- and left tackle Rashawn Slater (on injured reserve and replaced by a rookie). It is fair to think, however, that Williams' eventual return will allow Herbert to look downfield more often. Among receivers with 250 or more targets since 2020, Williams' 12.5 air yards per target ranks fourth. -- Lindsey Thiry, Chargers reporter
Who has made a bigger impact in Tua Tagovailoa's jump this season, receiver Tyreek Hill or coach Mike McDaniel?
It's an impossible question, but McDaniel gets a slight edge here. Not only did he design this offense, but he also took it upon himself to help rebuild Tagovailoa's confidence over the offseason. Yes, the Dolphins' offense would likely be less effective without Hill in it -- the Miami receiver is leading the NFL in receiving yards with 1,233, and according to NFL Next Gen Stats, his 30% target share is the third highest in the league -- but it's hard to say whether it would even work at all without McDaniel on the sideline.
None of this, of course, takes away from Tagovailoa's own development since entering the league. His 82.8 Total QBR by far paces the league, and his 69.7% completion percentage trails just Geno Smith. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques, Dolphins reporter
The Vikings are 9-2, but Kirk Cousins is just No. 23 in QBR. Can Minnesota continue to be successful with average/inconsistent QB play?
Cousins is the first to admit he has not played well enough to meet the standards of a division-winning team. But he is coming off best individual QBR performance of the season (84.8 in a 33-26 victory over the Patriots), and it's fair to project continued improvement as he grows more comfortable in coach Kevin O'Connell's scheme. More importantly, Cousins has made exceptional throws during key fourth-quarter and overtime possessions, and he's a big reason the Vikings are 8-0 in one-score games this season. -- Kevin Seifert, Vikings reporter
Let's reset where the Patriots are with Mac Jones: Are they entrenched in their belief that he's their long-term answer?
Jones is coming off his best outing of the season, despite the loss to the Vikings (28-of-39 for 382 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions). He showed shades of 2021, when his promise had excited the fan base and coaching staff. There has been no indication that the Patriots have wavered that Jones is the long-term answer, especially among players.
"This year has been tough at times, going through an injury and battling his way back. The leader he is, we continue to ride him. ... I'm glad he's our quarterback," veteran tight end Hunter Henry said.
Jones' 35.3 QBR ranked 28th in the NFL, but he is completing 69.2% of his throws (third) and has done enough to keep New England right in the playoff picture. -- Mike Reiss, Patriots reporter
Will we see Jameis Winston under center for the Saints again this season?
It's not out of the question. Saints coach Dennis Allen openly pondered the possibility of switching quarterbacks last week but ultimately decided to stick with Dalton, which prompted Winston to publicly lament losing his starting job because of injury. Dalton's starting position has seemed contingent on the Saints' offense performing well, and it's likely nobody's job is safe after a shutout loss to San Francisco on Sunday. However, the issues against the Niners went well beyond Dalton's play, and it seems unlikely he'd be targeted as the culprit for that loss. -- Katherine Terrell, Saints reporter
What can the Giants do to lighten the pass-rush pressure on Daniel Jones?
Jones is being pressured at the third-highest rate (38.5%) this season, yet he has a completion percentage over expectation in the blue (plus-0.2%), via to NFL Next Gen Stats tracking. The Giants getting their starting offensive line healthy should help a little; it's possible three starters return this week against Washington. That won't necessarily improve their pass blocking in a dramatic way, but it will be a huge boost to their run game given the strengths of the individual players. And getting Saquon Barkley back on track (61 rushing yards over the past two games) should slightly ease the pressure on Jones. -- Jordan Raanan, Giants reporter
Have the Jets already realized Zach Wilson isn't the answer? Could they draft another QB in April?
The Jets clearly have some questions about Wilson, or they wouldn't have benched him in the middle of a playoff push. But they're also not going to draft another quarterback and start over so soon. The Jets see themselves as a win-now team and don't want to restart the rebuilding cycle.
If they do replace Wilson, it would be with a proven veteran like, say, Jimmy Garoppolo. But they haven't even reached that point yet. Publicly, the Jets insist Wilson is their future despite a 44.4 QBR and 4-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season. -- Rich Cimini, Jets reporter
Is it more likely the Seahawks re-sign Geno Smith after his huge season or draft a quarterback early in Round 1?
It's too early to make a call on this with any degree of confidence because of all the unknowns at play. The Seahawks would no doubt want to re-sign Smith if he maintains his play from the first half of the season, but what will his market look like after one strong season that followed seven as a backup? Will Smith drive a hard bargain in order to make up for all the money he didn't earn while playing on minimum-salary deals? He's currently fifth in QBR at 64.2 and is leading the NFL in completion percentage at 72.8%.
Keep in mind that Seahawks GM John Schneider came up with the Packers under Ron Wolf, who drafted quarterbacks regularly even though Green Bay had Brett Favre entrenched as the starter. So it's plausible Seattle could keep Smith either on a multiyear deal or a franchise tag and also draft a quarterback early. The Seahawks have the Broncos' first-rounder, which is currently projected to be No. 2 overall, per ESPN's Football Power Index. -- Brady Henderson, Seahawks reporter