Final Regular Season NFL QB Power Rankings
This season's quarterback story was dominated by an impressive group of rookies. In fact, there are three rookie quarterbacks in the top 10 of my quarterback power rankings. This development only puts more pressure on future rookie quarterbacks.
Outside of the rookies' success, the usual suspects make up the top of this list. Quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady consistently performed at a high level this season, as expected.
Check out the rest of the article to see where each quarterback lands in the power rankings.
No. 32: Kevin Kolb/ John Skelton/ Ryan Lindley/ Brian Hoyer
Week 17 Stats: 19-of-34, 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception (Brian Hoyer)
The Arizona Cardinals absolutely have the worst quarterback situation in the entire league. This is a team that had to throw in Brian Hoyer less than a week after he was added to the roster. The major struggles at the position came when Kevin Kolb went down with an injury.
Kolb wasn't having a great season, but he was doing a decent job avoiding turnovers and making plays in pressure situations. However, he just wasn't able to remain healthy long enough to help keep the wheels from falling off.
Arizona's offensive line played a major role in the struggles of each of the quarterbacks. This group has allowed a league-high 56 sacks this season. That pressure is one of the main reasons why John Skelton played so poorly.
Skelton doesn't possess the athleticism or foot speed needed to move around the pocket. Ken Whisenhunt recognized this and decided to give Ryan Lindley a shot.
The Lindley experiment didn't go so well, mainly because Whisenhunt did nothing to protect the rookie quarterback. There's no scenario that makes sense for Lindley to have three games this season where he threw the ball 30 times or more. In one of those games, he threw 52 times for no touchdowns and four interceptions.
This issue is a combination of poor play on the part of the quarterbacks, issues along the offensive line and some questionable coaching decisions.
No. 31: Brady Quinn/ Matt Cassel
Week 17 Stats: 7-of-16, 49 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions (Brady Quinn)
On paper, the Kansas City Chiefs have enough talent to contend for a playoff spot. They boast talent at the wide receiver position, and they feature running backs like Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hills as well as an improving defense.
However, the poor play by Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn has wasted the rest of the talent on the roster. Neither quarterback has the ability to consistently make the plays needed to win football games. In fact, they also made plenty of plays that hurt their team's chances of winning.
Both Quinn and Cassel will never be anything more than backup quarterbacks in this league. Look for the Chiefs to target a quarterback early in the 2013 draft.
No. 30: Mark Sanchez
Week 17 Stats: 17-of-35, 205 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception
Mark Sanchez suffered through the worst season of his career. The struggles on the field weren't the only problem, as the media created a bit of a frenzy surrounding the New York Jets' quarterback situation.
It appears that Sanchez allowed all that attention to disrupt his play. However, that only accounts for a small portion of his struggles. The biggest issue might be that Sanchez lost confidence in himself, his teammates and his coaches.
Each week, he appeared more hesitant and less comfortable in the offense. That contributed to his inconsistency and tendency to make poor decisions.
Sanchez finished the season having completed less than 60 percent of his passes and with more interceptions than touchdowns. That just isn't acceptable for a starting quarterback in the NFL. His future will be one of the more closely monitored stories of the offseason.
No. 29: Chad Henne/ Blaine Gabbert
Week 17 Stats: 25-of-41, 298 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions (Chad Henne)
The Jacksonville Jaguars have to feel completely underwhelmed by their quarterbacks' performances this season. They have to question if they have the long-term answer for the position on the roster, which says a lot, considering Blaine Gabbert was a first-round pick.
Gabbert continued to struggle making sound decisions, attacking the deep part of the field and dealing with pressure. He showed very little to say that he's ready to take a step forward in his development.
The Jaguars have to make the tough decision whether or not to move on from Gabbert. The one thing they can move forward thinking is that Chad Henne isn't the answer.
No. 28: Jake Locker
Week 17 Stats: 9-of-15, 152 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions
Jake Locker is among a handful of quarterbacks from the 2011 NFL draft who has yet to live up to his potential. The issues facing Locker are a lack of consistency, struggles with inaccuracy and a tendency to make poor decisions.
The concern is that these are all the issues that plagued Locker in college, so it shows that he has made little progress.
Locker's team, the Tennessee Titans, has taken on the personality of its quarterback. Tennessee has been one of the more unpredictable teams in the entire NFL, often struggling to win due to shaky quarterback play—a trend you'll notice among the league's lesser teams.
No. 27: Brandon Weeden
Season Stats: 3,385 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions
The Cleveland Browns' decision to draft a 28-year-old rookie in the first round was met with a lot of criticism. However, Brandon Weeden helped the Cleveland Browns notch a total of five wins this season. His season was filled with its share of ups and downs, but he showed some real promise.
Weeden put up impressive numbers despite dealing with inconsistency at the wide receiver position and an oft-injured Trent Richardson. Cleveland put the pressure on Weeden to be the offense's top playmaker, which is a lot to ask of a rookie.
Because of all the changes coming within the Browns organization, this offseason will be an interesting one for Weeden. There's a chance that the new coaching staff and general manager will feel that he's not the long-term answer at the quarterback position.
No. 26: Josh Freeman
Week 17 Stats: 19-of-35, 222 yards, one touchdown and one interception
Josh Freeman's inconsistency from week to week should cause some concerns for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization. He has had too many multiple-interception games this season, including back-to-back four-interception games.
His struggles are even more concerning when you factor in the talent that Tampa Bay has on the offensive side of the ball. Freeman has the luxury of leaning on a running game that features Doug Martin and a receiving corps with targets like Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
Freeman will get at least another season to establish himself as the long-term answer, but he should realize that another season like this won't cut it.
No. 25: Christian Ponder
Week 17 Stats: 16-of-28, 234 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions
Christian Ponder's lack of production this season was overshadowed by the play of Adrian Peterson. His inability to produce explosive plays through the air really limited the effectiveness of the Minnesota Vikings offense.
Ponder had nine games where he failed to reach 200 yards passing, and in three of those games, he failed to throw for more than 100 yards. Those numbers are hard to believe for a quarterback who plays for a winning team.
The biggest issue facing Ponder is his inability to make plays down the field. These issues are twofold, as he isn't comfortable stretching the field and he also lacks the long accuracy to complete a high percentage of those throws.
No. 24: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Week 17 Stats: 12-of-26, 225 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions
Ryan Fitzpatrick only had six games this season where he didn't throw at least one interception. That high amount of turnovers made it tough for the Buffalo Bills to compete. His turnover issues combined with a poor performance by the defense made for a very disappointing season in Buffalo.
Buffalo's general manager, Buddy Nix, has made several comments to the media about continuing to search for a franchise quarterback. Clearly, he doesn't view Fitzpatrick as the long-term solution.
This Bills team has enough talent that finally solving the quarterback problem could make them a dangerous playoff team.
No. 23: Michael Vick/ Nick Foles
Week 17 Stats: 19-of-35, 197 yards, one touchdown and one interception (Michael Vick)
The Philadelphia Eagles entered this season with a ton of pressure to earn a playoff berth. Michael Vick was at the center of all the discussions, but he struggled to overcome a shaky offensive line and turnover issues.
Vick might have excellent athleticism, but he doesn't have a great feel for the pressure. Too often, he held the ball longer than he should've, resulting in sacks, fumbles or poor throws into coverage. He was rattled from the start of the very first game, and he never got on track.
Nick Foles took over for Vick after an injury and showed some promise. He did a good job dealing with the defensive pressure by stepping up in the pocket. Foles did more than enough to earn the right to head into next season as the starter.
No. 22: Philip Rivers
Week 17 Stats: 13-of-17, 151 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions
Philip Rivers committed too many costly mistakes this season to warrant a higher ranking. Those mistakes are the main reason why the San Diego Chargers aren't in the playoff hunt. Rivers' situation this season wasn't ideal, with many factors contributing to his struggles.
The Chargers' offensive line was a total mess, with undrafted free agent Michael Harris starting at left tackle most of the season. Rivers doesn't possess the foot speed or quickness to be effective when faced with a ton of pressure.
San Diego's receiving corps also didn't help the situation. The group dealt with a handful of injuries and inconsistent play. Rivers and newcomers like Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem never found a rhythm.
There will be a ton of changes for the Chargers this offseason. However, change might be just what Rivers needs to get back on track.
No. 21: Sam Bradford
Week 17 Stats: 25-of-42, 252 yards, one touchdown and one interception
Sam Bradford quietly rebounded from last year's sophomore slump. He topped the 3,000-yard mark and threw for more than 20 touchdowns. However, his play hasn't gotten a lot of attention because of the St. Louis Rams' game plan.
Jeff Fisher spent most of the season taking the air out of the football. The offense focused on running the ball and working the underneath passing routes. However, this could have a lot to do with the fact that St. Louis lacks top-notch playmakers at the wide receiver position.
This has been the case for Bradford's entire career, as the Rams haven't made a great effort to upgrade the talent at wide receiver. Bradford won't be able to take the next step in his development unless his supporting cast improves.
No. 20: Ryan Tannehill
Week 17 Stats: 20-of-35, 235 yards, zero touchdowns and one interceptions
Ryan Tannehill's first season had some ups and downs, but he showed enough potential to give Miami Dolphins fans some optimism. Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman put together a safe game plan to help minimize Tannehill's mistakes. This helped the young quarterback build confidence throughout the season.
Next year, Tannehill must show that he can make plays down the field. However, this means that the Dolphins need to use this offseason to bring in some playmakers at the wide receiver position. So much of Tannehill's development will depend on his supporting cast.
A key stat is that Tannehill was able to top the 3,000-yard mark and keep his interception total relatively low. Though his touchdown count was also low, he proved to be a relatively efficient quarterback as a rookie.
No. 19: Jay Cutler
Week 17 Stats: 18-of-31, 257 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions
Jay Cutler's season can be summed up with the performance of the Chicago Bears offensive line, a group that made it impossible for Cutler to find any type of a rhythm. He rarely had a chance to properly scan the field or set his feet.
Despite the issues along the offensive line, Cutler managed to keep the offense productive. This has a lot to do with his athleticism and the presence of Brandon Marshall, who finally gave Cutler a true No. 1 receiver.
Cutler doesn't get nearly enough credit for his toughness and tenacity, but that could have a lot to do with his poor attitude. He'll always have a tough time getting positive media attention when he typically mishandles situations.
No. 18: Matthew Stafford
Week 17 Stats: 24-of-42, 272 yards, three touchdowns and one interception
Matthew Stafford deserves some blame for the Detroit Lions' disappointing season. There were several games where he made a critical mistake that resulted in a Lions loss. A great example of this was his costly fumble against the Green Bay Packers in Week 14 that was returned for a touchdown.
Another area where Stafford struggled was in the red zone. His 20 touchdown passes this season were less than half the amount that he produced last year. This decrease in production really hurt the team, as nobody stepped up and replaced those touchdowns.
Despite his struggles, Stafford still managed to top the 4,000-yard mark. He is still an elite talent with the potential to win a lot of games over the course of his career.
No. 17: Carson Palmer
Season Stats: 4,018 yards, 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions
Look past the team's performance, and it's easy to see that Carson Palmer still possesses a ton of ability. The Oakland Raiders just don't have the weapons to allow his success to result in wins. It would make sense if the Raiders cut ties with Palmer this offseason, as he could really help put a veteran team over the hump.
Palmer topped the 4,000-yard mark despite dealing with inconsistent support from the running game, issues along the offensive line as well as a wide receiving corps that struggled with injuries all season.
Even in the games where Palmer put up less-than-impressive numbers, he still looked good. Too often, he was forced to put the team on his shoulders in order to keep the game close. This resulted in him taking some risks.
No. 16: Colin Kaepernick
Week 17 Stats: 16-of-28, 276 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions
Jim Harbaugh showed a ton of faith in Colin Kaepernick when he named him the starter over Alex Smith. The fact that he did this so late in the season only shows that Harbaugh sees the potential that Kaepernick brings to the table.
While Kaepernick doesn't possess a lot of experience, he has done a good job of making sound decisions. He has worked hard to avoid turnovers and play within the game plan. Kaepernick needs to always remember that he has an elite defense to support him.
The biggest question mark surrounding Kaepernick is how he'll perform in a playoff environment. The San Francisco 49ers aren't just looking to record a win during the playoffs; they want to finish the year with a Super Bowl win.
No. 15: Ben Roethlisberger
Week 17 stats: 15-of-23, 134 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers' season didn't go as expected. There's a lot of reasons the team struggled this year, and Roethlisberger played a big part. His two late-game interceptions the past two weeks were what officially pushed the Steelers out of the playoffs.
Both throws were poor decisions and were very inaccurate. A season can't be summed up in just two plays, but it's hard to overlook those costly mistakes.
In Roethlisberger's defense, he had to deal with another season of inconsistent offensive line play and a limited ground game. His tenacity can sometimes be his undoing, as he has the tendency to take a risk in order to make a big play.
No. 14: Andy Dalton
Week 17 Stats: 10-of-15, 78 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions
Andy Dalton has now reached the playoffs in each of his first two seasons in the NFL. This is an amazing feat, especially because last year's team rebounded from a four-win campaign the previous season. Dalton's versatility and leadership is what makes him so effective.
The Cincinnati Bengals put a lot on Dalton's shoulders, and he responds each and every week. His relationship with wideout A.J. Green has become one of the more dangerous duos in the NFL.
Cincinnati really benefits from Dalton's underrated athleticism, as he makes plenty of plays with his feet. His ability to make plays out of the pocket has helped the Bengals overcome a lack of an explosive running game.
No. 13: Drew Brees
Week 17 Stats: 29-of-43, 396 yards, four touchdowns and one interception
Drew Brees did everything he could to help the New Orleans Saints overcome the issues created by the Bountygate scandal. However, he might have put too much pressure on himself. There were several games where Brees made too many mistakes.
It didn't help that the Saints defense allowed 27 points per game, which only forces Brees to take some unnecessary risks.
With the scandal now in the past, Brees and the Saints can concentrate on getting themselves back into the playoff picture for next season.
No. 12: Cam Newton
Week 17 Stats: 16-of-33, 248 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception
Cam Newton showed this year that he has what it takes to overcome some adversity and produce. His struggles early in the season made him a target of the media, and at first, he allowed that criticism to impact his play and demeanor.
However, Newton rebounded and led the Carolina Panthers on a four-game winning streak to finish the season.
During that streak, he completed a high percentage of his throws and did more damage with his feet. Ending the season on such a strong note is important to Newton's development, as it gives him some confidence heading into next season.
No. 11: Eli Manning
Week 17 Stats: 13-of-21, 208 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions
Eli Manning and the New York Giants suffered through a disappointing season filled with up-and-down performances by the entire team, and Manning struggled all season with turnovers and inconsistency.
He finished the year completing less than 60 percent of his passes, and he had five games with multiple interceptions.
Some of his struggles can be blamed on the rash of injuries suffered by the wide receiver corps. Manning's top playmaker, Hakeem Nicks, battled injuries that kept him from playing at full strength all season.
However, the injuries aren't enough of an excuse to justify this season. New York was in solid position to make another playoff run, but it just couldn't string together enough wins towards the end of the season.
No. 10: Joe Flacco
Week 17 Stats: 4-of-8, 34 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions
With a playoff spot already locked up, the Baltimore Ravens decided to pull Joe Flacco early in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Flacco's season has been filled with a lot of peaks and valleys, and some of the criticism thrown his way has been undeserved.
It's difficult to ask a quarterback to make the switch from being a game manager to the one responsible for winning each game. Flacco is just too used to protecting the football and allowing the defense to keep the team on top.
He deserves a lot of credit for fighting through the adversity, not to mention an offensive coordinator switch late in the year. Flacco has remained poised and continues to say all the right things. His leadership is the main reason why the Ravens earned a playoff berth this season.
No. 9: Tony Romo
Week 17 Stats: 20-of-37, 218 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions
Tony Romo's season ended the way most people expected it would: as a series of mistakes that cost the Dallas Cowboys a shot at the playoffs. Placing all the blame on Romo isn't fair, but he continues to give lackluster performances in big-game situations.
The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins are two closely matched teams, so Romo's three turnovers were the difference in the game.
It's those type of turnovers that hurt the Cowboys the entire season. For proof, note that the Cowboys lost every game where Romo threw multiple interceptions.
No. 8: Matt Schaub
Stats: 24-of-36, 275 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions
Matt Schaub's numbers don't quite stand up next to the other top quarterbacks in the league. However, that's because the Houston Texans' game plan focuses on Arian Foster and the ground attack. The truth is that Schaub's ability to play within the system is a major reason why the Texans have been so successful.
However, the past four weeks haven't been Schaub's best of the season. His struggles have played a major role in the Houston Texans' slide in the AFC playoff seeding.
Houston will need Schaub to bring his A-game if they hope to make some noise in the playoffs. There are too many talented teams in the AFC, and a poor performance by Schaub could quickly end the season for the Texans.
No. 7: Andrew Luck
Stats: 14-of-28, 191 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions
Andrew Luck has put together one of the more impressive seasons by a rookie quarterback. His numbers are one thing, but the way he led the Indianapolis Colts to a playoff berth is even more impressive. It's amazing to see the Colts go from holding the No. 1 overall pick last year to winning 11 games this season.
Luck put the Colts offense on his back and ensured that they scored enough points to win games, despite a leaky defense and a huge amount of pressure. Each week, he knew the outcome of the game rested on his shoulders.
The Colts organization is likely satisfied with how the season went, but I doubt Luck will be happy with anything but success in the playoffs.
No. 6: Russell Wilson
Week 17 Stats: 15-of-19, 250 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions and one rushing touchdown
Russell Wilson has been one of the more interesting storylines this season. His ability to overcome the questions surrounding his height has helped the Seattle Seahawks emerge as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Wilson's sound decision making and versatility is what makes Seattle's offense so dangerous.
He doesn't only impact the game with his arm, as his legs have proved to be a major weapon, too. However, Wilson is so effective because he's a pass-first runner. This means that he keeps his eyes down the field, even when flushed from the pocket.
Seattle's offensive game plan is pretty unique, in that they really focus on running the football. However, that running game wouldn't be nearly as effective without Wilson. His ability to attack the deep part of the field helps draw defenders out of the box.
It's also important to note that Wilson avoids making poor decisions and turning the ball over. Again, this is a major help to Seattle's run-heavy attack.
No. 5: Tom Brady
Week 17 Stats: 22-of-36, 284 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions
Tom Brady had yet another terrific season by topping the 4,000-yard mark and throwing for over 30 touchdowns. His offense also averaged the most points per game by a wide margin.
It's important to note that Brady accomplished this feat while missing either Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez for most of the season. Those two are a major part of the offense because of the mismatches they create, so with one of them out of the lineup, the dynamic of the Patriots' game plan changes.
Brady also did a good job overcoming some issues along the offensive line. New England's offensive line struggled containing the pass rush, which forced Brady to make some less-than-ideal throws.
No. 4: Robert Griffin III
Week 17 Stats: 9-of-19, 100 yards, zero touchdowns, zero interceptions and one rushing touchdown
Robert Griffin III has already established himself as one of the more explosive playmakers in the entire NFL. He's an exceptional athlete who possesses a strong throwing arm and can deliver an accurate football. Griffin is made even more effective because of the game plan designed by Mike and Kyle Shanahan.
The Washington Redskins have one of the more unique offenses in the NFL. They do a good job at utilizing Griffin's running ability, but they are also mindful that he's just as dangerous as a passer.
Washington didn't ask Griffin to do too much this past week, as they relied on Alfred Morris to beat the Dallas Cowboys. However, it's Griffin's play that put the Redskins in the position to earn this playoff berth.
No. 3: Aaron Rodgers
Week 17 Stats: 28-of-40, 365 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions
We've come to expect greatness from Aaron Rodgers, but this season might be the most impressive of his career. The Green Bay Packers remain strong Super Bowl contenders because of Rodgers' ability to overcome a handful of issues.
Green Bay's offensive line has struggled to keep defenders out of the backfield, and Rodgers has been forced to deal with a ton of pressure this season. However, his athleticism and feel for the pocket allowed him to make plays despite the issues.
The Packers' lack of a rushing attack also put more on Rodgers' shoulders. Each week, he knew he had to carry the load on offense.
Rodgers is just a highly talented, resilient quarterback, which is why he's one of the best players in the NFL.
No. 2: Matt Ryan
Week 17 Stats: 28-of-44, 238 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions
Matt Ryan just put the finishing touches on the best regular season of his career. He did a great job making use of all the weapons the Atlanta Falcons have surrounded him with over the past few years. There are few quarterbacks who have the luxury of targeting the likes of Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.
The biggest improvement surrounding Ryan's game came in his ability to stretch the field. Ryan routinely connected with White and Jones on big gainers. This big-play ability made the Falcons offense one of the more explosive units in the league.
However, Ryan's regular season won't mean much unless he does some damage in the playoffs. We've already seen this Falcons team flame out after success in the regular season.
No. 1: Peyton Manning
Week 17 Stats: 23-of-29, 304 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions
The Denver Broncos' aggressive move to bring in Peyton Manning has really paid off, as Manning is putting up an MVP-caliber season. Denver's offense is averaging 29 points per game, which ranks second in the NFL.
Manning's presence has helped talented youngsters like Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker establish themselves as explosive playmakers. He has also played a role in the bounce-back performance of Knowshon Moreno, who was all but written off as a bust.
It's easy to point to Manning's stats, but his impact goes far beyond his stat line. He makes those around him better. The defense even reaps some benefits from Manning, as it can afford to be more aggressive. This is because Manning has the potential to lead his team back from a deficit.