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Where Mark Sanchez's Performance Ranks Among Week 1 Quarterbacks

Rocco ConstantinoContributor IOctober 24, 2016

Where Mark Sanchez's Performance Ranks Among Week 1 Quarterbacks

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    There were a ton of story lines in Week 1 to follow if you are a fan of NFL quarterbacks.

    You had Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson making their NFL debuts, Jay Cutler and Peyton Manning coming back from injuries and Mark Sanchez's quest to find the end zone.

    That doesn't even take into account the expected aerial exploits of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

    All that being said, some quarterbacks came through on their expectations while others fell flat.

    And as with any week in the NFL, there were a number of surprise performances.   

    From a Jets' perspective, Sanchez turned in an A+ performance in the face of all those who have doubted him.  It was a fantastic first step to the season, but it remains to be seen if it will continue.

    But for now, let's take a look at where Sanchez's game stands among the top 10 quarterback performances during Week 1.

10. Matthew Stafford

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    Just like last year, it was bombs away in the passing game in Detroit.  

    Matthew Stafford hurled the ball all over the field for the tune of an NFL-high 355 yards in a surprisingly close 27-23 win over the Rams.

    One of the big reasons why it was so close though, was Stafford's three interceptions, so he will get marked down for that.

    After last season and the start of this year, Stafford is clearly one of the elite passers in the NFL.

    While Stafford racked up the big yardage all day, he saved his first touchdown until there was 10 seconds left in the game, when he hit running back Kevin Smith for a five-yard touchdown for the come-from-behind win.

    Stafford has no problem racking up big-time yardage, but he has to limit his mistakes against better opponents.

9. Tom Brady

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    It wasn't a vintage game for Tom Brady by any means, but he got the job done when he needed to.

    The Patriots ran the ball 33 times on Sunday as they handled the Titans easily.

    Besides taking a shot to the face that bloodied his nose, Brady played a simple game of pitch-and-catch with his weapons to the tune of 236 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

    With the game already in hand, Brady threw just three passes in the fourth quarter.

    He will have bigger days for sure in the yardage and touchdowns columns, but only Alex Smith completed passes at a better percentage on Sunday.

8. Christian Ponder

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    While the focus of the day may have been on the return of Peyton Manning and the debut of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, Christian Ponder quietly had a terrific game for the Vikings.  

    Ponder won for the first time at home and beat an AFC foe for the first time by leading the Vikings to a 26-23 win over the Jaguars.

    Ponder got off to a slow start with just 78 yards passing in an ugly first half, but give him credit for bouncing back to lead his team to the win.  

    Ponder gets a huge amount of credit for even getting his team to overtime in the first place.

    The Vikes got the ball back down by three with 14 seconds to go.  He quickly completed two passes for 32 yards to set up a game-tying, 55-yard field goal to force overtime.

    Ponder then went 3-for-3 on a 55-yard drive in overtime to lead the Vikings to what turned out to be the game-winning field goal.

    After his weak first half, Ponder finished with an impressive stat line of 20-for-27 for 270 yards.

    While he didn't throw any touchdowns, Ponder made clutch throws late and allowed the Vikings to pull out the game.  

7. Jay Cutler

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    Peyton Manning wasn't the only star quarterback to have a big day coming off an injury.

    Jay Cutler made his return to the Bears Sunday after missing the final six games of last season with a broken thumb on his throwing hand.

    Although his opponent was the lowly Colts, Cutler lit up the field for 333 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-21 Bears' win.

    The first three times he dropped back to pass, Cutler was sacked, threw an incompletion and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.  However, after that, there was little to complain about.

    Cutler marched the Bears up and down the field for five touchdown drives and if the Bears weren't having such success jamming the ball down the Colts' throats in the running game, Cutler could have picked up a few short-yardage touchdown tosses.

    When the dust settled, Cutler was 21-for-35, completing 60 percent of his passes for a passer rating of 98.9.  

    Only Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford threw for more yardage than Cutler on opening day.

6. Peyton Manning

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    It took a while for Peyton Manning to get going on Sunday, but when he did, he was absolutely on fire.  

    Manning snapped into his usual form precisely at 10:10 of the second quarter when he started to click on his short passes, moving the chains on a methodical, 12-play drive capped by a Knowshon Moreno 7-yard touchdown run.  

    On the drive, Manning was 6-for-7 and even scrambled for seven yards to pick up a first down.

    Manning finished 19-for-26 for 253 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.  

    He may not have had the biggest statistics on the day, but the efficiency in which he operated was impressive, as was beating a top team like the Steelers in his first game after missing the entire 2011 season.

    People may want to rank him higher, but his slow start and the fact that 71 of his passing yards came on a one-yard pass keep him in the middle of the pack.

    It's not a bad place to start coming off of four neck surgeries.

5. Mark Sanchez

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    Once you looked past the absence of touchdowns in the preseason, it was clear that Mark Sanchez had improved in his accuracy and maturity.

    Against the Bills Sunday, Sanchez added multiple trips to the end zone into the mix.

    Sanchez was terrific in rolling up a 123.4 passer rating in a 48-28 thrashing of the Bills Sunday.  He was accurate, assertive and consistently took shots down the field.

    Sanchez completed 70.4 percent of his passes, continuing a trend of improved accuracy he set in the preseason.

    His touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley was perhaps his best throw.  Despite a nice pump fake by Sanchez and double-move by Kerley, Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin didn't bite. Sanchez threw the ball anyway, and laid it right into Kerley's hands, just out of the reach of the leaping McKelvin.

    Sanchez finished with 19 completions in 27 attempts for 266 yards.  His stat line would have been even better, but with the Jets up big, he threw just five passes the entire second half. He completed four of those passes with one touchdown.

    Sanchez was one of five quarterbacks who threw three touchdowns on the day.  

4. Matt Ryan

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    The Falcons' idea to transform into a pass-first team looked like the right decision on Sunday and a big reason was the play of Matt Ryan.

    Ryan racked up over 200 yards passing in the first half alone on the way to a 40--24 trouncing of the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Only Robert Griffin III had a higher rating than Ryan's 136.4 and he was one of just five quarterbacks to throw for three touchdowns on the day.  For good measure, he ran for a five-yard score to cap a nine-play, 70-yard drive in the third quarter.

    Ryan's statistics could have been even better as he threw just three passes in the fourth quarter as the Falcons milked the clock on a 40-17 lead.

    He finished 23-31 for 299 yards and four total touchdowns and finished in the top three in touchdowns, passer rating and completion percentage on the day. 

3. Alex Smith

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    If Alex Smith is going to play this efficiently all season, there aren't going to be many doubters that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through San Francisco.

    With the Packers, Giants and Saints losing on Sunday, the 49ers were the only NFC "final four" team to win on Sunday.

    Make no mistake about it, the 49ers are led by a ferocious defense first and foremost, but Smith does what is asked of him and does it very well.

    On Sunday, the 49ers opened up a 16-7 halftime lead at Green Bay.  The lone first-half touchdown for the Niners was the result of a methodical 92-yard drive that took 5:10 off the clock.

    That drive, capped by Randy Moss' first touchdown as a 49er, was Smith at his best.

    Given the lead to start the second half, Smith got even better.

    Smith had just one incomplete pass the entire second half (a deep shot he took with Vernon Davis in the third quarter) and didn't just manage the game, he helped to win it.

    He led the 49ers on another long touchdown drive in the third quarter and helped salt away the time as the Packers mounted a ferocious late comeback.

    Smith is never going to have the best stat line as far as yardage or touchdowns, but he needs to start getting credit for being the quarterback of a winning team.

    He finished by completing 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.  His 76.9 completion percentage was the best in the NFL this weekend. 

2. Tony Romo

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    It may have happened nearly a week ago, but Tony Romo's opening-night performance still resonates as one of the best of the week.

    Romo took his Cowboys into hostile territory on Wednesday night and led his team to an upset over the defending Super Bowl champions.

    He was an outstanding 22-for-29 for 307 and three touchdowns and picked apart the Giants defense with precision.

    Romo rightly has the reputation as someone who doesn't handle pressure particularly well, but he authored a terrific late drive to put this game away.

    The Cowboys got the ball up 17-10 with 13:03 left in the game and Romo subsequently led them on an 82-yard touchdown drive.  The best part of the drive was that it took 7:06 off the clock and ended with a beautiful touchdown pass to Miles Austin.

    Romo didn't throw an incomplete pass the entire fourth quarter.

    Romo has put up stats like this frequently throughout his career, so this should come as no surprise.   However, looking this good against the defending Super Bowl champs should give Cowboys fans plenty of hope for 2012.

1. Robert Griffin III

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    There were times during Robert Griffin's performance Sunday that it looked like he was back at Baylor playing against Stephen F. Austin.

    The fact that he did what he did in his first NFL game, on the road, in the Superdome makes his performance even more remarkable.  

    Every time Drew Brees put points on the board and got the Saints' faithful into the game, Griffin answered right back with a play that was more impressive than the next.

    Griffin finished the day with a 139.9 passer rating, the highest in the NFL, and was 19-for-26 for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

    As expected, the explosive Griffin also added 42 yards on the ground.  

    Any way you slice it, Griffin's performance was absolutely sublime and if he keeps this up, the Redskins could become an immediate factor in the NFC East.

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