2012 AFC North: Ranking the Division's Top 5 Quarterbacks
With the division boasting three playoff teams in 2011, there's high expectations for the AFC North quarterbacks to continue the trend. Let's see how the quarterbacks graded out against each other.
5. Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers
A lot of people would want to see Byron Leftwich here, but Batch has actually been a much better quarterback for the Steelers over the past few seasons.
Due to injuries and suspensions, Pittsburgh has had to turn to its backup quarterbacks pretty often over the years, and, surprisingly, its record hasn't suffered greatly. That's due in large part to Batch.
The 13-year vet has started three games for the Steelers over the last two seasons and won two of them. Batch, a former second-round pick by the Lions in 1998, isn't out to impress anybody and does a good job of managing the offense while Big Ben is down.
He's absolutely the top backup in the division.
4. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns
Trust me, it was hard to put McCoy over Batch right now, but McCoy has a lot of talent that hasn't really gone recognized.
Who will start the most games at quarterback for the Browns in 2012?
I have him ahead of Brandon Weeden because I think McCoy is a much better fit for the offense the Browns want to run, and it isn't his fault they've been that bad.
McCoy threw more touchdowns than interceptions (14-11) in 2011 and completed nearly 60 percent of his passes. He also led three game-winning drives and gave the Browns all four of their wins.
Personally, I still think there's hope for McCoy as a starter in this league. He'll have to earn his starting spot this year with Weeden coming in, but don't count Colt out.
3. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton's rookie campaign could only be out-dueled by the record-setting performance put out by Cam Newton, but Dalton was fantastic in his own right.
He took the much-maligned Bengals to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and just the third time in the Marvin Lewis era. He also competed very well with both the Steelers and Ravens.
In his first season, Dalton threw for over 3,300 yards and 20 scores while adding four fourth-quarter comebacks to his resume.
He also got some new toys this offseason.
In 2012, Dalton will have a new receiver in Mohamed Sanu, a new guard in Kevin Zeitler and a new running back in former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis. If Dalton can use these new pieces and repeat his success from 2011, the Bengals will be a force amongst the AFC North elite.
2. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco has made probably the biggest strides of any of the AFC North quarterbacks over the past two seasons.
Flacco has done a good job of taking care of the ball and has handled the transition to a passing offense pretty well.
He's won 24 games in the last two years and thrown for at least 3,600 yards the last three. He also out-dueled Tom Brady in the 2011 AFC Championship game, despite losing the contest.
Flacco's biggest problem had always been the Steelers, an enemy he defeated twice during 2011.
"Joe Cool's" next big hurdle is to get the Ravens back to the Super Bowl. His offense and defense have as much talent as any team in the league, so the weight of the world will be on Flacco in 2012.
1. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
A two-time Super Bowl Champion, Ben Roethlisberger has recorded 80 wins in eight seasons and will be just 30 years old during the 2012 season.
He is the best quarterback in the division and, right now, it's not even close.
Roethlisberger has an uncanny ability to evade pressure and extend plays, helping the Steelers to three Super Bowls during his career.
Big Ben also proved in 2011 that this was his team.
After throwing for over 4,000 yards for the second time in his career, he is clearly the leader of the Steelers' new-look passing offense.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers have all the tools it takes to be Super Bowl Champions again. They've been there before and they're young, regrouped and very talented.
Big Ben has a great shot to lead Pittsburgh back to the promised land and bring the city its seventh Lombardi Trophy.
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