NFL Football: 5 Quarterbacks with the Most to Prove in 2012

Wesley Kaminsky@@Wesley_KaminskyCorrespondent IIIAugust 1, 2012

NFL Football: 5 Quarterbacks with the Most to Prove in 2012

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    To win in the NFL, it's no secret that it all boils down to the quarterback play. After a record-breaking season last year, it appears the NFL has shifted to a quarterback-driven league. With Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford all eclipsing 5,000 yards passing a season ago, history was made. 

    History was also made when Cam Newton eclipsed Steve Grogan, scoring 14 rushing touchdowns in just his first season in the NFL.

    Will more records be broken this year?

    Here is a look at the five NFL quarterbacks with the most to prove in 2012. 

No. 5: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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    Let me start by saying this: I still don't know how Norv Turner is coaching the Chargers. After back to back seasons where the Chargers have missed the playoffs, somehow, some way Turner has survived in San Diego. This isn't about Turner though, this is about Philip Rivers.

    Have we seen the best out of Rivers already? After combining for just 22 interceptions in 2009 and 2010, Rivers took a step back a season when he threw for 20 alone. It was the second straight season in which the Chargers underachieved, and now the pressure is on Rivers in 2012.

    Rivers lost one of his favorite targets in Vincent Jackson over the offseason while gaining wide receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. The issue with Rivers hasn't been his weapons, but rather his poor decision-making. That needs to change for the Chargers to return back to the playoffs.

    Also, remember that guy Rivers was traded for on draft day? Eli Manning? Yeah, he has two Super Bowl victories. 

No. 4: Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

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    Similar to Philip Rivers, Tony Romo and the Cowboys have missed the playoffs the past two seasons. With just one playoff win since taking over for Drew Bledsoe in 2006, Romo has been viewed by many to be a choker.

    After the Cowboys were 7-4 a season ago, they went on to lose four of their last five games, finishing 8-8. This included a game in Week 17 in New York with a trip to the playoffs on the line where the Cowboys fell, 31-14. 

    The Cowboys have a lot to dwell on from last season, as they had a habit for blowing fourth-quarter leads. In Week 1, the Cowboys got outscored 17-7 in the fourth quarter to fall to the Jets, 27-24. Three weeks later, the Lions outscored the Cowboys 17-0 in the fourth to take the game, 34-30. Then, in Week 14, the Cowboys held a 12-point lead with 3:41 left before the Giants reeled off 15 unanswered points to keep their season alive. 

    In each of those games, Romo made crucial mistakes, which did not help his reputation as a choker. Can Romo turn it around in 2012?

No. 3: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    It still just doesn't look right seeing Peyton Manning in anything but an Indianapolis Colts jersey. Manning had been a staple of the NFL and the Colts organization for 13 seasons, and he didn't miss one game in any of those years. Then, in his 14th season it came to an abrupt end when Manning was forced to miss the 2011 season with a neck injury, effectively ending his tenure in Indianapolis. 

    Many thought that not only his tenure in Indianapolis was done, but also his career in general. After he underwent four neck surgeries, there are doubts still if his neck will hold up this season. Manning continually said that he would be back playing football, and he should know better than anybody. Actor Rob Lowe went as far as to tweet that he had been told that Peyton would be retiring.

    Thanks for that, Rob. 

    After the Colts had parted ways with Manning, many suits lined up for Peyton's services with him ultimately choosing the Denver Broncos. Clearly, John Elway and John Fox never believed in Tim Tebow, even after he had won a playoff game. More on Tebow later though. 

    Now, in 2012, it's Peyton's chance to show that he's got a few good years left in him. He's made a habit of making his targets look better than they actually are, and I get the sense Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker will enjoy playing with him. That's not a knock on either of those guys. It's just a fact that Peyton will find you. 

    Obviously, though, it all boils down to the health of Manning. This would be quite a story if he could do something special with this Broncos team. If I recall though, this Tebow guy did something special with them last year.

    OK, I'm done with the Tebow talk for now. 

No. 2: Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

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    If anything, Michael Vick has put a lot of pressure on himself and this Eagles team. After a disappointing 2011 campaign in which Vince Young proclaimed the Eagles to be "The Dream Team," the team went 8-8, peaking at the end of the season. Vick struggled,and saw his quarterback rating fall from 100.2 to 84.9. If you thought Vick would replicate his season from 2010, then you were crazy.

    Now, the talk is back, with Vick throwing out the word "dynasty" to describe this Eagles team. LeSean McCoy came to Vick's defense when he agreed the Eagles were a potential dynasty. Personally, I think Vick should worry about winning a playoff game first. Staying healthy for a season also wouldn't hurt. In nine seasons in the NFL, Vick has played fewer than 15 games five times, including 12 and 13 respectively the past two years. With the way Vick plays, it's not a surprise how often he gets hurt. It'd be an upset if he didn't get hurt again this season.

    Once again, the Eagles head into the NFL season with high expectations. They finished last season on a high note, winning their final four games and finally looking like the team everyone thought they would be. Can they carry that momentum into next season?

    The pieces are in place for Vick to shine. Can he deliver?

No. 1: Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

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    I told you that Tim Tebow talk was coming later on, didn't I? It can't be a surprise that coming in and No. 1 on this list is Mark Sanchez. After making the AFC Championship game in his first two seasons in the NFL, the Jets took a step back a season ago, missing the playoffs.

    Since Rex Ryan has taken over as head coach of the Jets in 2009, he hasn't been shy to say whatever is on his mind. This includes a few Super Bowl guarantees. He has put a target on the Jets' back whenever they play.

    Well, this offseason the story of the Jets got a little bit more interesting when they decided to trade for Tim Tebow. As usual, Tebow is the talk of the NFL, and the season hasn't even started yet. Mark Sanchez is lying when he tells you the Tebow talk doesn't bother him.

    The Jets brought him in for a reason and that was to contribute in any way possible. It's going to be tough for Sanchez if he gets off to a bad start this season. Just like in Denver last year, Jets fans will be screaming for Tebow mania to start in New York. Mark Sanchez, you are playing the role of Kyle Orton this year. 

    People were sick of Tebow last season after his magical run. You people may have to re-live it in 2012 also. I sure hope I do.