Is Aaron Rodgers the top quarterback remaining in the playoffs?
The quarterback is the most important position on the field when it comes to the NFL playoffs.
Nearly all of the teams playing in the divisional round have gotten this far based on the spectacular play of their quarterbacks over the course of the regular season—and in the Wild Card Round for some as well.
Some will struggle as the playoffs continue and others will rise to the occasion to prove their dominance as a quarterback in the NFL.
But which remaining quarterback is the best? One is a Rookie of the Year candidate, one is a Comeback Player of the Year candidate and two or three are Most Valuable Player candidates.
Here’s a look at how each quarterback remaining lines up against the others who will play in the divisional round.
Regular Season Stats: 3,817 YDS, 22 TD, 10 INT
Divisional Round Matchup: vs. Denver Broncos
Joe Flacco is your everyday, run-of-the-mill quarterback in the NFL. He’s very average and not very special.
During the regular season, Flacco finished in the middle of the pack for nearly every important quarterback statistic. He was 14th in passing yards, 19th in completion percentage and tied for 15th in touchdown passes. In my opinion, that doesn’t scream elite quarterback.
The Ravens are probably more dangerous on the ground than they are in the air with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Flacco is just bound to get eaten up by the Broncos defense come Saturday.
Regular Season Stats: 1,814 YDS, 10 TD, 3 INT
Divisional Round Matchup: vs. Green Bay Packers
It’s tough to compare Colin Kaepernick to the other quarterbacks remaining in the playoffs because he didn’t begin the season as the starter and hasn’t played nearly as much.
But it’s obvious that Kaepernick is a threat through the air and has the speed and elusiveness to take off running. He did average 6.6 yards per carry on 63 carries during the season. Take into consideration that he has fumbled the ball nine times this year too.
Passing, Kaepernick has a good completion percentage at 62.4 and does have the receivers necessary to make big plays. As I wrote yesterday, though, Kaepernick will be the one who blows San Francisco’s upcoming game against the Packers.
Regular Season Stats: 3,118 YDS, 26 TD, 10 INT
Divisional Round Matchup: vs. Atlanta Falcons
Russell Wilson is bound to be one of the best quarterbacks in the next couple of years. But based on his play this season, despite being a rookie, he’s the sixth-best quarterback remaining.
Wilson is, however, the best mobile quarterback playing this weekend. No one else has legs like he does and can evade tackles like he can. Over the course of his rookie season he’s also been extremely accurate with the football through the air.
Head coach Pete Carroll rarely has to be afraid of Wilson throwing an astray pass into the arms of a defender. His 64.1 completion percentage proves that, which was also the eighth-best in the NFL. He is definitely a great playmaker, but let’s see how he does against the Falcons before we start crowning him.
Regular Season Stats: 4,008 YDS, 22 TD, 12 INT
Divisional Round Matchup: vs. New England Patriots
Matt Schaub stunk down the stretch of the regular season. All the Texans had to do was win one of their final two games to clinch a first-round bye, but they couldn’t do that, and most of the blame can be put on Schaub.
Houston is lucky to have one of the elite running backs in the league for when Schaub isn’t throwing the ball well. The Texans have gotten this far in the postseason because they are balanced, not because they have a good quarterback.
Schaub could crumble at any moment on the field. In the final four weeks of the season, he only threw one touchdown pass while getting picked off three times. He didn’t do much in the Wild Card Round either, throwing for 262 yards with an interception.
Regular Season Stats: 4,719 YDS, 32 TD, 14 INT
Divisional Round Matchup: vs. Seattle Seahawks
Matt Ryan truly had an incredible year with the Atlanta Falcons, leading them to the best record in the NFC. He’s really starting to be able to put his name up in the category of top quarterbacks in the league. But is he the best remaining quarterback? No, not this year.
Ryan finished near the top of most quarterback statistical categories this season and does deserve some recognition for it. He has been good over the past couple of years, but this year he was great.
The Seahawks have a very good secondary, so Ryan has to be smart when firing the ball to one of his touted receivers. He was the most accurate passer in the league this season and only had 14 passes picked off, so he should be alright.
Regular Season Stats: 4,295 YDS, 39 TD, 8 INT
Divisional Round Matchup: vs. San Francisco 49ers
Aaron Rodgers is hands down one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s done incredible things for the Packers since taking over for Brett Favre, including winning an MVP and a Super Bowl. But there are still two quarterbacks more dangerous than him still playing in the postseason, so he gets the No. 3 ranking.
Rodgers has had yet another remarkable season, throwing for the second-most touchdowns during the season while barely throwing any interceptions. He also finished the year leading the league in passer rating by more than two points. To say that he isn’t efficient or accurate would be a huge lie.
Despite not being the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Packers are probably still the team to beat to get into the Super Bowl, and that’s mainly because of Rodgers. If it weren’t for the next two quarterbacks and a guy who runs for a living, you could make a case for Rodgers as this year’s MVP.
Regular Season Stats: 4,827 YDS, 34 TD, 8 INT
Divisional Round Matchup: vs. Houston Texans
What can you say about Tom Brady, who has had just about as much success as any quarterback ever to take the field? Well, I’m saying he’s No. 2 and not No. 1.
It was another year in the life of Brady, throwing for a large number of yards, plenty of touchdowns and few interceptions. He’s had great regular season and postseason success over the course of his career and is just slightly behind the guy on the next slide.
Although not the best quarterback remaining, Brady is still one of the biggest nightmares for defenses, and he’s great at picking them apart. Whether it’s calling an audible at the line or moving a guy in motion, he just makes things difficult for those trying to make his life difficult. He should be able to carry the Patriots to at least the AFC championship if not the Super Bowl.
Regular Season Stats: 4,659 YDS, 37 TD, 11 TD
Divisional Round Matchup: vs. Baltimore Ravens
Peyton Manning was on a different roster last season and didn’t even step on the field. And yet, here he is with a new team—the No. 1 team in the AFC—trying to make his way back into the AFC championship. If it weren’t for Adrian Peterson, who had an incredible comeback campaign, people would be drooling over Manning—if they aren’t already.
But Manning is the best quarterback in the NFL—not just the best one still alive in the postseason. He’s as consistent as you’re going to find in professional football and never goes down without a fight. He’s ranked near the top of every statistical category you can find. He just knows exactly what he needs to do and how to do it.
Not many quarterbacks can say that. Obviously, all quarterbacks know that they want to be one of the best, but how many can really say it? Manning is one that can. The Ravens defense doesn’t stand much of a chance against Manning, and it’s going to be difficult to take down either Tom Brady or Matt Schaub the following week, but never count Manning out. For a guy who didn’t play in 2011, it doesn’t look like he lost a step all year long.