Sizing up the race for the NFL's QBR crown

Dak Prescott has been at or near the top of the QBR charts for most of the 2016 season. AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

With two weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, there is a three-way battle to see who will finish 2016 atop the Total QBR leaderboard. Matt Ryan (81.8 Total QBR), Dak Prescott (81.5) and Tom Brady (80.6) are all separated by just over a point. Each have had stretches of leading the league, but which QB has the inside track at winning the QBR crown? Let's take a look at what each faces as the season winds down.

Ryan's resurgence

Ryan wrested control of the top spot after a dominating performance (96.7) against the 49ers on Sunday. This isn't his first time atop the leaderboard this season, as he led the league for a four-week stretch between the conclusion of Week 4 through Week 7 when Brady took over. Ryan finishes the season with a road game against the Panthers and a home contest with the Saints, who rank 25th and 28th, respectively, in QBR defense.

Inside the matchups: Ryan has played fairly well against Carolina during his career, owning a 66.6 Total QBR. He also holds a 70.4 Total QBR in home games against the Saints, so there is a pattern of success.

What he needs to do to keep the top spot: Simply playing to historical career norms probably won't do it for Ryan, but maintaining his current career-best QBR figure (81.8) in those games just might. It should go without saying that continuing his great play in New Orleans is likely a must, as is a solid performance in Carolina.

Can the Dak Attack come back?

Sitting less than a half-point behind Ryan is the Cowboys' surprising rookie. Prescott previously held the top spot after Weeks 12 and 13, before Brady briefly reclaimed the top spot after Week 14. Prescott vaulted Brady again this past week ... when Ryan chased them both down. Dallas concludes its regular season with a home game against Detroit (21st in Total QBR allowed) and on the road against Philadelphia (14th).

Inside the matchups: We don't have much career history to look back on, but Prescott did play the Eagles earlier this season in Dallas and was held to at 67.8 Total QBR -- his third-lowest game of the season.

What he needs to do to take the top spot: Remember, there's a chance Dallas has everything sewn up prior to its Week 17 meeting in Philadelphia, and Prescott resting part of the game could mean his season-long number doesn't move very much. So Prescott's most realistic path could be a big game against the Lions to overtake the top spot, followed by minimal action in a meaningless Week 17.

Don't count out touchdown Tom

Brady may be in third place now, but his five weeks atop the QBR leaderboard are tied with Ryan for the most this season. Brady led the league between Weeks 8 and 11, and again after Week 14. He and the Patriots will finish the season with a home game against the Jets and a trip to Miami.

Inside the matchups: Since 2006, Brady has a 76.3 career Total QBR in home games against the Jets and a 64.4 career Total QBR in road games vs. the Dolphins. His 64.4 mark in Miami is about as close as any team has come to containing Brady and marks Brady's lowest road QBR against any opponent he's faced at least three times. Brady has struggled the past two seasons in Miami, posting a Total QBR of 29.8 in 2014 and 27.3 in 2015.

What he needs to do to take the top spot: It's important to note that because of his four-game suspension, Brady has 122 fewer plays than Ryan and 94 fewer than Prescott, which means his season QBR will move slightly more based on his final two games than that of his competition. Still, a huge game against the Jets is essential -- possibly a 90+ performance -- especially if he continues to struggle in Miami.

With all three packed closely, it is tough to say which player is truly a favorite, but it should be fun to watch it play out.

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