With each passing year, no pun intended, the National Football League becomes more and more of a quarterback-driven league. The day and age of teams running the football 40 times per game are a thing of the past, replaced by an era in which quarterbacks throwing 50 passes across four quarters of play is commonplace.
Thus, having the right guy under center is more important now than ever. Simply put, a team can’t contend if they don’t have a good quarterback. And with rare exception, they can’t win a title unless they have a great quarterback.
So which teams are in the best shape, and which ones are in a world of hurt, when it comes to having the right person in this vital position? The editors at cover32 provide their rankings of NFL quarterbacks, based on who would be the starter if the season got going today:
1. Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) – Yes, he’ll turn 38 years old in March, so Manning’s best years are behind him. But he just set the single-season record for passing yards and touchdown throws; he’s the best in the game.
2. Tom Brady (New England Patriots) – Another aging veteran, but the soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback is still at the top of his game. Want proof? He led the Patriots to a 12-4 record after losing his top-five receivers.
3. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints) – Some people are down on Brees after his dismal performance in the playoffs at Seattle, but the Seahawks can make anyone look bad. He’s still a dangerous passer, especially in the Superdome.
4. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) – How important is he to the Packers? Look what happened to Green Bay this season when he was out with a broken collarbone. His fourth-down throw to win the division in Week 17 shows his mettle.
5. Eli Manning (New York Giants) – Coming off of a 27-interception season, this may seem way too high for Manning. But the guy has won two Super Bowls; and he wasn’t just along for the ride. In a big game, the younger Manning always shows up.
6. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) – People forget that there is still plenty of room for improvement, given that Wilson has only played two seasons. But having a Super Bowl ring helps hide any flaws that still need buffed out.
7. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts) – He has a big-time arm, the ability to make just enough plays with his legs and is a great leader. Right now, he’s the No. 1 choice as the player who will be the be QB for the next 10 years.
8. Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys) – Knock him all you want; Romo isn’t the problem in Dallas, unless Cowboys fans think they’re going to find someone who is better than 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. He’s the one thing right in Big D.
9. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers) – All of those hits are starting to take their toll on Big Ben, but he still had a very good season in 2013, despite not having much of a running game and losing his No. 1 receiver last offseason.
10. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions) – Yes, he makes too many mistakes, but that’s primarily because he’s called upon to do absolutely everything for the Lions offense. With the ball in his hands all of the time, there are bound to be a few miscues.
11. Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers) – Many thought his career was all but over a year ago at this time, only to see it resurrected by new head coach Mike McCoy. Rivers is unorthodox, but he’s a winner; he’d lift any team in the league.
12. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals) – After a third-straight one-and-done in the playoffs, it’s fashionable to bash Dalton. But that’s shortsighted. Keep in mind, he’s led Cincinnati to the postseason in each of his three seasons; think about that.
13. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) – Newton grew by leaps and bounds in 2013, leading the Panthers to the NFC South title. Adding leadership and winning to his résumé was about all that this former No. 1 overall pick was missing.
14. Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens) – Yes, he has a Super Bowl title to his name. But with each passing game, it looks more and more like Flacco might have been a flash in the pan. He needs a few more good seasons or he’ll be Mark Rypien 2.0.
15. Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers) – Perhaps the most-dangerous player in the league, Kaepernick has a deadly combination of passing and running. Right now, he’s just too inconsistent, however; that needs to be corrected.
16. Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears) – Cutler has all of the physical tools, but his inability to come up big in the big moment is becoming troubling. He’s not a kid anymore; at this point, he needs to be way more mature on the field that he currently shows.