1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Last year's playoff MVP and the favorite for this year's regular season award is still the best quarterback in the NFL at the moment, despite his Packers not repeating as Super Bowl champions.
Rodgers' ability to play in all conditions at his best is what gives him a slight edge over Drew Brees. Rodgers also has greater mobility that allows him to flourish in spite of his protection, while Brees and Brady benefit from top-quality starters holding off blitzers.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
The man who broke Dan Marino's passing record with ease this year is the only possible candidate to take the MVP award away from Rodgers. Brees' accuracy and poise in the pocket are astounding, while his leadership makes him invaluable to the Saints.
"Invaluable" is the key word, as the 33-year-old needs a new deal from the Saints. Whatever it takes, they have to bring him back.
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Having arguably your most impressive season in your career at 34 years of age—and doing so only a few years removed after a major injury—is impressive. Considering the year previous he was the first-ever unanimous MVP, then you begin to fully understand the amazing abilities of Tom Brady.
Brady likely won't ever match his statistics of 2007, but this year he worked with less talent and still brought his team to the Super Bowl. For as long as he plays in the NFL, he will be one of the best at his position.
4. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
Manning's career may be over, but until that announcement is made, he is still an MVP candidate year in and year out for me. The only ever four-time MVP's true value to his franchise was determined this year, as the Colts fell apart without him.
If Manning has indeed played his last snap in the NFL, then the whole league will miss him, not just those in Indianapolis.
5. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Archie's younger son has developed a tendency to come up big when it counts. Having already won one ring, this year Eli has carried a young and transitioning offense with his consistency and leadership.
Eli claimed before this season that he was on Brady's level; once the season started, he proved it.
6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Injuries held Roethlisberger back this year, but even when he was fully healthy, he returned to the Roethlisberger of old. He remains a playmaker, but his weight and decision-making were once again issues, as he didn't show the same commitment that was evident last year.
There is no doubt about Roethlisberger's passion to play the game when on the field, but his work off the field doesn't appear to be on a similar level. It doesn't help having to make those decisions with defenders draped over you, of course.
7. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Rivers' issues this season were mostly due to protection problems. He didn't deserve to be in the Pro Bowl, but considering how he carried the team previously, his status as a top 10 quarterback was never going to be under threat.
Very few quarterbacks in the league could be elite without good pass protection.
8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo rightfully received a lot of criticism this year for a few mind-boggling decisions. However, the NFL is a 16-game season, and without Romo, the Cowboys wouldn't have even been a respectable group this year.
His overall play in dealing with a confused, ineffective offensive line (for the most part), plus a key injury on the outside to Miles Austin, was impressive overall. You can argue that Romo has lost the Cowboys many games, but he has also won them a hell of a lot also.
9. Matt Schaub, Houston Texas
Schaub may play in arguably the most quarterback-friendly offense in the NFL (star receiver, two quality tight ends, excellent running game, good pass protection), but the drop-off was palpable between he and T.J. Yates.
That drop-off is reflective of the quality of Schaub as opposed to the inability of Yates. Yates played well, but without Schaub's precision and leadership, the Texans were never going to make it to the Super Bowl.
10. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler receives a lot of criticism that is unfair. His courage was questioned after last year's playoffs, but anyone who watched him during the regular season knew that that was unfair. In fact, quite often it takes more courage to take yourself out of a game rather than stay in and hurt the team.
Working behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league without a first-choice receiver, Cutler still stood tall and threw strikes repeatedly when he was on the field for the Bears. It's no coincidence that their season shut down without him. Very few quarterbacks could have survived in that offense in Chicago, much less match the success of Cutler.
11. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
The youngest quarterback ever to eclipse 5,000 yards passing in a single season is the obvious favorite for the Comeback Player of the Year award this year. Stafford's potential is limitless. He is still only 23 and has already been in the NFL for three years.
Once he develops more consistency with the accuracy of his short and intermediate passes, Stafford will be able to challenge the elite passers in the NFL. His arm strength is special, but harnessing it further will be key for the Detroit Lions' future.
12. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
The first overall pick didn't take long to dispel the doubts and disprove his doubters. From his very first professional game to the last of the season, Newton showed off a comfort level that few rookies grasp and some veterans never reach.
With accuracy, velocity and consistency, Newton's arm is among the best in the league. Once he further develops, he could join the best of the best, but even if he has already hit his ceiling, he is already an offensive machine and franchise quarterback—which is a ridiculous statement to even comprehend for any rookie.
13. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans
He may have left his home in Seattle to keep the seat warm for Jake Locker, but that didn't prevent Matt Hasselbeck from reminding everyone why he was once an All-Pro selection. Hasselbeck entered the season fully healthy and carried the Titans' offense as Chris Johnson struggled.
Without Kenny Britt he was somewhat handcuffed, but Hasselbeck still got the job done for the most part in Tennessee. As far as starting quarterbacks go, you can do A LOT worse than Matt Hasselbeck.
14. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Had Cam Newton not taken the league by storm, the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year would've been Andy Dalton.
Dalton took over the quarterback job in Cincinnati embroiled in turmoil. His poise off the field to deal with the Carson Palmer drama must have matched his poise on the field.
Unlike most rookies, Dalton seamlessly moves through his progressions and rarely makes rookie mistakes. One must wonder what his ceiling is, but so long as he and Jay Gruden are together, the Bengals can consider their offense in good stead.
15. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Despite signing a $100 million deal prior to this season, Vick's level of play never really matched the money he was given. Playing behind an offensive line that struggled all year with receivers who had their own respective problems, Vick wasn't helped by his teammates.
Nonetheless, Vick needed to show greater leadership and impose himself on games without making so many mistakes. His tendency to miss time through injuries is also always going to be a negative against him.