Predicting the Winners of Each NFL Quarterback Battle

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IAugust 16, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 10:  Quarterback John Skelton #19 of the Arizona Cardinals calls out a play against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half on August 10, 2012 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  Kansas City defeated Arizona 27-17.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Four NFL franchises—the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans—currently have quarterback positional battles being played out this preseason. 

The decisions for each head coach will likely be made over the next week or so, as the second and third week of the preseason should give all the information needed to make the difficult choice. Each quarterback will be given an extended look during the middle exhibition contests. 

Below, we predict the eventual winner in each of the four major quarterback competitions:


Arizona Cardinals
QBs: Kevin Kolb, John Skelton

There may not be a more even quarterback competition than the one currently being waged in Arizona. In just the last two days, two different reports have come out regarding the current status of the battle. 

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that Skelton is "now considered the favorite" to win the Cardinals' starting job. 

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported later Tuesday that "Kolb will be given every chance to win the job" over the next two weeks. 

As any head coach would do, Ken Whisenhunt downplayed the ESPN report to the Cardinals' official website. 

“...We’re sticking to what we said, which is sticking with the process and let it play itself out," Whisenhunt said. "I haven’t gotten into thinking about favorites and longshots.”

Considering how poor Kolb has been in two preseason appearances (2-for-9, 21 yards, interception, sack), Skelton is probably the slight front-runner right now, despite what Whisenhunt says. The Cardinals would be crazy to run out Kolb in Week 1 if he doesn't show more than what he has in a live-game setting. 

That being said, you have to assume the Cardinals are crossing their fingers that Kolb snaps out of this and wins the job. Arizona gave Kolb a $7 million bonus back in March and will also pay him $1 million in base salary.

If he continues to fall on his face, can they afford to continue waiting? Kolb is owed $41 million in the four years following the 2012 season, including $11 million in '13. 

Kolb will start Friday vs. the Oakland Raiders, but both quarterbacks are expected to get a long look. Whisenhunt will likely do the same for the Cardinals' fourth preseason game against the Tennessee Titans next week. Remember, the Cardinals got an extra exhibition contest in 2012 because of their inclusion in the Hall of Fame game. 

When push comes to shove, the Cardinals need Kolb to win this job. If you follow the money, he's the easy choice.

But Skelton gives Arizona a better chance to win football games. While Skelton lacks Kolb's arm, he's more sure in his reads and rarely makes the big mistake that Kolb has been prone to. 

It's not a perfect situation for the Cardinals, but money can't make this decision.

Prediction: Skelton

Miami Dolphins
QBs: David Garrard, Matt Moore, Ryan Tannehill

David Garrard's knee scope (out 2-4 weeks) really opened up this quarterback competition. Once considered one of the favorites, Garrard will now likely miss the regular season opener. 

Moore, starting in place of Garrard last week, missed a big opportunity to take hold of the position. He finished just 7-of-12 for 79 yards and an interception in a shaky performance during the Dolphins' preseason opener. 

Rookie Ryan Tannehill, however, was very impressive in his NFL debut. The Dolphins' first-round pick was 14-of-21 for 167 yards and a touchdown Friday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was poised in the pocket and delivered the football on time to a rather suspect group of Dolphins receivers. 

Tannehill still has work to do, but it's clear he made an impression on his coaching staff. Joe Philbin handed Tannehill more work with the first-team offense this week, and it would now be a shock if the rookie didn't get at least one start during this preseason. 

Considering all the momentum Tannehill has built over the last two weeks, a growing majority thinks he'll be the Dolphins' starter in Week 1. And it's hard not to agree. 

If a first-rounder shows he's capable of handling the job in his rookie season, there's no reason to keep him on the bench. Tannehill looks more ready for this moment than most suspected when he was drafted in April. 

Prediction: Tannehill


Seattle Seahawks
QBs: Matt Flynn, Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson

More and more, the Seahawks' quarterback competition looks like a two-man race. 

While incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson was expected to factor in one way or another, it appears as if the Seahawks are looking to deal away their most experienced quarterback sometime this preseason. 

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported this week that the Seahawks will shop Jackson barring some kind of injury to either Matt Flynn or Russell Wilson in the near future. 

With Jackson likely out of the picture, head coach Pete Carroll named Flynn the starter for a second straight week Tuesday, according to the Seattle Times. Flynn will likely play most of the first half before giving way to Wilson. It is unknown whether Jackson will play or if the Seahawks will continue to protect their trade bait from injury. 

Money is one factor in this quarterback decision (Flynn was given $10 million guaranteed in free agency), but it's not a big one. Flynn has been the best quarterback in Seahawks camp and Carroll is rewarding him with preseason starts and first-team reps. 

While Flynn wasn't spectacular in his preseason debut (11-of-13, 71 yards, interception, two sacks), this still looks like his job to lose. Wilson provided a spark in the second half, but will he be ready to lead an NFL team in Week 1?

Flynn would likely have to struggle mightily over the next two weeks for Wilson to steal this job. 

Prediction: Flynn


Tennessee Titans
QBs: Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker

Veteran Matt Hasselbeck was given the first start of the preseason in Seattle, but Week 2 allows 2011 first-round pick Jake Locker the opportunity to take a major step forward in this competition. Titans coach Mike Munchak named Locker the starter against the Buccaneers Friday.

If Locker can make the most of his 20-25 snaps this week, you would have to assume he'll be the heavy favorite to start Week 1 of the regular season. 

Hasselbeck, 36, has struggled with interceptions in training camp and may be reaching the end of the line. 

Munchak said Wednesday that Locker simply needs to continue what he's been doing in camp to win the job. 

From the Titans official website:

I think Jake Locker just has to do what he has been doing out here. He needs to do what he did last week, but finish the drives as an offense. He finished and got the field goal on one of his drives. His one drive we didn’t get a touchdown, so it would be nice to see him, even though he isn’t going to get as much time as he’d like, out of 20 or 25 plays, get at least two drives where we do something positive with points.

Unless Locker really looks rattled in his first ever NFL start Friday, this should be his job to lose. While Hasselbeck is the crafty veteran, Locker has the big arm that meshes more with what the Titans want to do on offense. 

Locker also looked more in sync with rookie Kendall Wright last week, connecting three times with the 2012 first-rounder as the Titans went down the field to score. 

Don't count out a pro's pro in Hasselbeck, but Locker appears to be a safe bet here.

Prediction: Locker


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