NFL Playoffs 2013: Evaluating the Final 8 QB's Remaining in Postseason

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2013

NFL Playoffs 2013: Evaluating the Final 8 QB's Remaining in Postseason

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    In today's quarterback-driven NFL, it should come as no surprise that the playoffs are packed with the game's best at that position. 

    Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers aren't just the best quarterbacks in the game. They all have a legitimate chance to wind up being on a very short list for best to ever chuck a pigskin. 

    If one of them can lead their team to a Super Bowl victory this year, it will go a long way towards towards accomplishing that, but that discussion is for an entirely different ranking article.

    We are here to focus on and evaluate which of the quarterbacks who still have more season in front of them is the best right now. 

No. 8: Matt Schaub

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    I don't trust Matt Schaub. If the spotlight is turned up and the game is on the line, I don't want him touching the ball. 

    Sure, Schaub is going to hold up statistically against most quarterbacks and he finished the season with a rating of 90.7, but the guy has been put in an ideal situation to succeed. He's been in the same system for years, has good blocking, a great run game and one of the game's best receivers. 

    The problem is that, when the Texans really need Schaub to be the one that spurs them to victory, he doesn't have the chops to do it. 

    In spotlight games against the Patriots and Packers this regular season, Schaub combined to throw for no touchdowns and three interceptions.

    Schaub wasn't any better in his first playoff start last week against the Bengals. He threw one pick and no touchdowns. He did complete 76.3 percent of his passes, but he was never in a position where he had to make a play to save the game and that is really where he fails. 

No. 7: Colin Kaepernick

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    How do you rank Colin Kaepernick on this list? The guy is so unproven as he has started just seven games. For that alone, he has to go near the bottom. 

    It doesn't mean he is doomed to failure, simply that it is hard to put a lot of faith in him. In the heat of a playoff battle, it is nice to have a quarterback with experience to rely on.

    Still, Kaepernick has not seemed overwhelmed by the pressure of leading one of the top Super Bowl contenders. He has made his share of mistakes indicative of his inexperience, but they were few and far between. 

    He finished the season with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. However, much like Schaub, he has quarterback-friendly surroundings and his play has not been as consistent as his 98.3 rating suggests. 

    Kaepernick proved in Week 15 against the Patriots that he can make big plays in big moments and that game had to give all 49ers fans a boost of confidence for the postseason.

    Kaepernick is exciting and I think he will prove to be a clutch player, but I worry about him having the consistency needed to make a run through the playoffs. 

No. 6: Joe Flacco

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    Joe Flacco is an experienced winner. He has been in plenty of big moments and he has come through on numerous occasions. If the guy had more reliable receivers or a clutch kicker last year, he would have led his team to the Super Bowl. 

    Still, Flacco can goes long stretches looking completely ineffective and he can make some terrible decisions. 

    The Ravens have made a new commitment to the ground game since changing offensive coordinators late in the season and Flacco has looked better while being asked to do less. 

    He threw two touchdowns and no interceptions last week against the Colts and posted a rating of 125.6, but a large part of those numbers were due to the great game of Anquan Boldin more than Flacco's play. 

    Flacco can take the Ravens to the Super Bowl, as long as he isn't asked to do too much. 

No. 5: Russell Wilson

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    After posting just one game over his first eight with a quarterback rating over 100, Russell Wilson had just one over the final eight regular season games where he was not over 100. The rookie clearly got better as the season went on. 

    He wasn't asked to do a lot in the Seahawks win over the Redskins last week. He finished with just 187 yards, and he missed a couple of easy throws. However, he made good decisions and looked poised while being on the road making his first playoff start. 

    That really shouldn't be all that surprising. The rookie has shown poise beyond his years all season and he has already authored five game-winning drives. 

    Starting a rookie quarterback in the playoffs is not supposed to be a good thing, but Wilson is playing like a seasoned veteran.

No. 4: Matt Ryan

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    This is a huge playoff game for Matt Ryan. His Falcons finished with the NFL's best record and anything short of a Super Bowl appearance will be considered a disappointment. 

    Ryan has yet to win a playoff game, the biggest blemish on his resume. In his three playoff starts, Ryan has combined to hit 63.6 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and four interceptions. 

    If Ryan is going to change that string of sub-par postseason performances, this would be the year to do it. The 27-year-old had his finest season as a pro as he finished with a rating of 99.1 and he has a host of weapons to work with. 

    Ryan had a couple of terrible games this season, as in two contests he combined to throw eight of his 14 interceptions, but he finished the year strong by throwing eight touchdowns and no interceptions over his final three games. 

    What Ryan does in these playoffs will prove to be a defining moment for him and I believe he is up to the challenge. 

No. 3: Peyton Manning

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    It is difficult to put Peyton Manning third on a list ranking anything involving a quarterback and the legend is probably going to win the MVP award for his amazing comeback season. 

    However, Manning has never been at his best in the playoffs. He is just 9-10 with a quarterback rating of 88.4 in his postseason career. That is certainly not terrible, but it is not up to Manning's standards. He has a career rating of 95.7. 

    In terms of rating, Manning is coming off of his second-best season as a pro, he has a solid supporting cast around him and his team is the No. 1 seed. 

    In other words, Manning is expected to excel, but his past performances in the postseason suggest that won't happen. 

No. 2: Tom Brady

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    Tom Brady has a sparkling postseason resume. After all, success in the postseason is how this all-time great first started to build his reputation, as he won three Super Bowls before tasting his first playoff defeat. 

    In fact, Brady ran his postseason record to 10-0 before his first loss. In those ten games, Brady threw 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions. 

    However, he has slipped a bit as of late in the postseason. He has thrown at least one interception in each of his past five postseason starts and in that span he has combined to throw eight picks. 

    Still, the 35-year-old is coming off a great season, and he has a strong supporting cast. He looks healthy and ready spur the Patriots to another Super Bowl run.

    When it comes down to it, the next guy is the only person I'd rather have under center to start a playoff game this season. 

No. 1: Aaron Rodgers

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    The defending NFL MVP is on fire right now and, when he is playing like this, he has no equals. 

    In his last six games, Rodgers has thrown for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a modest (well, for him) stat line in the Packers win over the Vikings last week as he threw for 274 yards and just one touchdown, but the Packers didn't need him to hit the airways that often as the Vikings were unable to get anything going on offense. 

    Rodgers also knows how to get it done in the playoffs. He has now started seven postseason games and in only one of those games has he not thrown more touchdowns than interceptions. 

    He has a career postseason quarterback rating of 105.4 and the dude is in the prime of his career. There is nothing he can't do on the football field and he is as clutch as it comes. 

    He is the only reasonable choice to sit at the top of this list.