The NFL is a quarterback's league.
We have seen it more this year than ever that the quarterback is the most important player on the team. With the NFL postseason beginning tomorrow, the quarterbacks on the league's best teams will go head to head for their shot at a Super Bowl championship.
The first game of the postseason will feature two rookie quarterbacks, Andy Dalton and T.J. Yates.
Dalton's Bengals were one of the surprise teams this year. His contributions, along with the impact of A.J. Green, have turned Cincinnati into a playoff dark horse. Dalton hasn't been an elite play-maker by any means, but he has played at a high enough level to win some big games for the Bengals this year.
T.J. Yates' road to becoming Houston's starter wasn't as smooth. With starting quarterback Matt Schaub out for the year with a broken foot and backup Matt Leinart out with a broken collarbone, Yates was thrust in to the starting job. He went 3-3 in his six starts and managed to lead the Texans to an AFC South division title.
Both quarterbacks have taken very different routes in their journey from college quarterback to NFL starter, but they have both ended in the same place.
Who wins tomorrow?
So the question remains, which young quarterback will come out on top this weekend?
Here is the breakdown:
Andy Dalton finished the year with a 58.1 completion percentage along with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. On top of that, he threw for 3,398 yards and finished with an 80.4 completion percentage.
Dalton's year can be summed up as playing excellent against mediocre to poor defenses, but struggled against the elite defenses. One of those defenses that he struggled against was the Houston Texans.
In a 20-19 Week 14 loss to the Texans, Dalton only threw for 189 yards and one touchdown. He didn't turn the ball over at all, but his 57.1 completion percentage in that game wasn't anything special. When it comes down to it, Dalton didn't lose the Bengals the game, but he didn't win it either.
The Houston Texans biggest improvement this year was their defense. The arrival of Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator and the implementation of a 3-4 defense turned the Texans into one of the fiercest defensive units in the league.
All of which has made T.J. Yates' life a lot easier.
Yates has started five and a half games of football for the Texans this year. He has a 3-3 record in that span, winning his first three and losing his last three.
Yates threw for 949 yards along with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He had a solid 61.2 completion percentage and a 80.7 quarterback rating. These numbers are far from dazzling, but he has been able to get the job done up until this point.
When it comes down to it, Andy Dalton has outplayed and accomplished more than T.J. Yates this season.
Yates has done a serviceable job as the Texans' starter, but he was a fifth-round draft selection and a third stringer for a reason. He has been carried by the Texans' stellar defense and failed to step up when they needed him. Three straight losses, including one to the worst team in football, is not a way to generate momentum heading in to the postseason.
The Bengals' defense is talented as well and as long as Dalton doesn't make mistakes, Cincinnati should come out on top in a low-scoring battle.
Dalton has both more potential and more talent than Yates. There is no denying he is the superior quarterback.
By the final whistle in tomorrow's game, that'll be very clear.