Meet Colin Kaepernick's game face.
The conference championship games featured an intriguing set because Tom Brady is the legendary veteran with Flacco and Matt Ryan expecting to take that next step. Kaepernick, on the other hand, still sits at the beginning of his professional journey.
So, strictly utilizing what unfolded throughout the 2012 regular season and 2013 NFL playoffs, let's rank every signal-caller just as we would for the teams, but instead, for the most important position on the field.
It didn't matter who was under center for the Arizona Cardinals in 2012.
No one impressed.
Kevin Kolb performed the best with eight touchdowns to three picks, but he was sacked 27 times in six appearances and finished with a below 60 completion percentage. John Skelton failed to keep Arizona's fast start rolling, as he was picked off nine times and threw only two touchdowns.
Rookie Ryan Lindley even made six appearances. No touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Even worse, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback duo accounted for 10 fumbles.
This lack of execution is extremely frustrating as well because K.C. presented a strong rushing attack with Jamaal Charles. And typically, a consistently reliable ground game will set up the pass.
Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, not in 2012.
Mark Sanchez continued to regress.
In throwing 18 picks to a mere 13 touchdowns, he finished with a 54.3 completion percentage and was sacked 34 times.
Not to mention he fumbled 14 times, including this embarrassing flop against the Patriots on Thanksgiving night. That play was Sanchez's 2012 campaign in a nutshell.
Welcome to fumble city USA.
Michael Vick and Nick Foles were responsible for a combined 19 fumbles during 2012. That's unreal.
And along with getting sacked 48 times, Vick and Foles only tossed 18 touchdowns and were intercepted 15 times. On the bright side, Foles does possess some potential after throwing five scores to just two picks in the final four games.
And he finished with a 60.8 completion percentage.
Jake Locker was sacked 25 times in only 11 appearances and sported a 56.4 completion percentage.
Additionally, Locker was picked off nine times to just four passing touchdowns in his final six games.
The Tennessee Titans fielded a more potent offense with veteran Matt Hasselbeck this season, but he is also 37 years old. With Locker struggling to develop and remain durable, the Titans' future has no promise.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have something brewing with Chad Henne at the helm instead of Blaine Gabbert.
Although Gabbert had nine touchdowns to six picks in the season's first half, Jacksonville had not scored more than 23 points with him under center.
Henne's explosive performance against the Texans displayed a glimpse of his potential. It's not good, however, that the Jags' more experience signal-caller completed only 53.9 percent of his throws.
It was a rough start to Brandon Weeden's rookie season because he threw four picks to zero touchdowns against the Eagles in Week 1.
Thereafter, Weeden found a brief rhythm and finished with 14 touchdowns to 13 picks from Week 2 onward.
His best performance came over the Steelers in late November with a 65.4 completion percentage and one touchdown to one pick. Cleveland won 20-14 and found a three-game winning streak as a result.
Despite his age, the Cleveland Browns' future holds solid promise with Weeden conducting the offense.
The Miami Dolphins took a risk by selecting Ryan Tannehill at No. 8 overall in the 2012 NFL draft.
The decision, however, paid off decently well.
Tannehill didn't put up insane numbers—12 touchdowns, 13 picks and 3,294 yards—but the Dolphins started out 4-3 and were two overtime losses from being 6-1 through seven games.
Excluding his worst performances against the Texans (Week 1) and Titans (Week 10), Tannehill was quite consistent during his rookie campaign.
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 60.6 percent of his throws for 3,400 yards and 24 touchdowns to 16 picks this season.
None of his victories, though, came over an opponent that finished with a winning record.
Also, Fitzpatrick cost Buffalo in close games, such as Week 7 (Tennessee) and Week 10 (New England). His late interception against the Titans led to Tennessee scoring the game-winner. Against the Pats, Fitzpatrick was picked off inside the red zone on Buffalo's final opportunity.
It's that level of unreliability that becomes the difference between making and missing the postseason.
Cam Newton slightly regressed in 2012.
Throwing only 19 touchdowns to 12 picks and scoring eight times on the ground, the majority of Newton's success occurred from late November onward.
The Panthers were 2-8 prior to Thanksgiving.
Meaning, Carolina was virtually out of the postseason picture by the time he started rolling off wins. He also completed 57.7 percent of his passes, which is a drop from 60 percent as a rookie.
It was another good start for Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears.
But it was also another frustrating finish down the stretch.
In Chicago's final eight games, Cutler connected on just seven touchdown passes and was intercepted six times (missed 49ers game). The Bears went 3-5 in that span.
Cutler also finished with a 58.8 completion percentage and Chicago ranked No. 24 in red-zone touchdown percentage. At some point, the offense must take advantage of scoring opportunities to help the defense.
Carson Palmer's production was the Oakland Raiders' only chance for scoring in 2012.
Backed by a defense that allowed an average of 27.7 points per game, Oakland had no choice but to throw the rock.
Well, Palmer hit over 4,000 yards and completed 61.1 percent of his attempts. The lack of wins, though, can also be traced back to a 42.8 red-zone touchdown percentage (ranked No. 30).
The San Diego Chargers fielded a worse red-zone offense than the New York Jets.
And it's because Philip Rivers could get the Bolts into scoring position, but not consistently across the goal line.
Despite his 64.1 completion percentage and 26 touchdown passes, Rivers did not lead San Diego to victory over one team with a winning record. Rivers' best performances came against the Raiders and Chiefs, which doesn't hold much weight.
In short, the numbers got inflated due to a weak schedule.
If it weren't for Vincent Jackson hauling in the deep ball, Josh Freeman's numbers would be drastically reduced.
Freeman averaged 13.2 yards per completion this season, but completed only 54.8 percent of his throws.
Even worse, he tossed a mere two scores to nine picks in the final three games. Failing to finish strong is a common problem here, as Freeman and the Bucs lost seven games by eight points or less in 2012.
Christian Ponder by the numbers was solid.
Throwing 18 touchdowns to 12 picks, he had a 62.1 completion percentage and even averaged 4.2 yards per rushing attempt.
All of this production is also a credit to Adrian Peterson. Ponder was assisted by pro football's best running back, and the Minnesota Vikings don't make the postseason without him.
Ponder's impact was simply a byproduct of Peterson's dominance because any elite quarterback would have consistently torched defenses with that kind of ground attack.
Matthew Stafford had another high-powered season with 4,967 passing yards and 11.4 yards per completion.
However, the Detroit Lions did not offer much elsewhere.
Without an effective ground game, Stafford could not set up play action, and he threw only 20 touchdowns with 17 picks. Last season he tossed 41 touchdowns.
Completing just 59.8 percent of his throws, Stafford must improve at decision making because turning the ball over in a one-dimensional offense significantly reduces the odds of contending for the postseason.
Eli Manning proved once again that he is not a consistently dominant regular-season quarterback.
Coming off a 2011 season where he nearly logged 5,000 yards passing, Manning dropped below 4,000 yards and was picked off 15 times.
And even though he tossed 26 touchdowns, five occurred in the regular-season finale against the Eagles. Completing only 59.9 percent of his passes, Manning lacked his usual dependability.
Plus he was sacked just 19 times, so the pass protection was always reliable. He simply underachieved.
The Dallas Cowboys' late-season failures cannot all fall on Tony Romo.
For certain, he must perform better in games, such as the Week 17 loss to Washington, but more blame goes to the defense.
Romo had the Cowboys at 8-6 entering Week 16 versus the Saints. There, he tossed four touchdowns (no picks) in the overtime loss. Rob Ryan's defense gave up 34 points and failed to force a turnover.
A week later, Romo definitely had to play better than he did, but Dallas also gave up 274 rushing yards. So, Romo finished another non-playoff year with a 65.6 completion percentage and 4,903 passing yards.
The guy obviously can't win alone, although he is producing better than given credit for without much help from a ground game or defense.
Sam Bradford made impressive strides throughout his 2012 campaign.
Coming off a rough 2011 season, Bradford improved by throwing 21 touchdowns and was only intercepted 13 times.
Clocking out with 3,702 passing yards, Bradford completed 59.5 percent and got the St. Louis Rams to finish 4-1-1 in the NFC West: ironically, the third-best divisional record in the entire NFC.
Two NFL seasons have resulted in two playoff berths for Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals.
The next step is winning in the playoffs because the Bengals fell to the Texans for a second consecutive season.
Dalton, though, increased his impact to 27 touchdown passes against 16 interceptions and a 62.3 completion percentage. Until Dalton gets Cincy a postseason victory, however, that will continue looming over him and the team.
Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans came out the gates on fire this season.
Beginning 11-1, Schaub and the offense were rolling over teams and he had 21 touchdowns to only nine picks in that span.
Then Houston lost three of its final four, which led to missing out on a postseason bye. Schaub only tossed three touchdowns from the Week 14 road loss to New England through the postseason elimination.
It was definitely a disappointing season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Ben Roethlisberger still played reliably well.
Along with throwing 26 touchdowns, Big Ben was intercepted only eight times and he completed 63.3 percent of his attempts.
The Steelers were 7-6 with him this season and clearly need Roethlisberger for a full slate to make a postseason run.
Andrew Luck only completed 54.1 percent of his passes, but the rookie and No. 1 overall selection completely turned the Indianapolis Colts around.
He compiled 4,374 passing yards, had 23 touchdowns to 18 picks and performed well despite a defense incapable of slowing opponents down.
The running game gradually picked up as the season progressed, although that's in large part because of Luck's ability to stretch defenses and spread the field.
Drew Brees is the lone reason why the New Orleans Saints made some midseason noise after starting 0-4.
Backed by one of pro football's worst defenses, Brees was forced to outscore every opponent on the schedule.
By season's end, he amassed 5,177 passing yards, 43 touchdowns, tossed only 19 picks and had a 63 completion percentage. The guy literally was the Saints entire team, and New Orleans still went 7-9.
All it took was trading up to select Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins won the NFC East.
Closing out the regular season on a six-game win streak, RG3 finished with 20 touchdowns to only five picks.
He also rushed for 815 yards and reached the end zone eight times.
Prior to the unfortunate injury in the Wild Card Round, RG3 had Washington up 14-0 over the Seahawks. Regardless, this was one stellar rookie campaign even before the second half against Seattle.
Peyton Manning thrashed defenses throughout the regular season and finished with 37 touchdowns to just 11 picks.
The most impressive aspect came from Manning's 68.6 completion percentage after missing the entire 2011 campaign.
Turning the ball over three times in the postseason, however, doomed the Denver Broncos in January. Without question did the defense underachieve against Baltimore, but so did the pass protection and Manning's decision making.
Provided that gets fixed this offseason, then Manning will lead the Broncos to a deeper run next year.
Tom Brady put on an aerial assault during 2012's regular season with 34 touchdowns to a mere eight picks.
Racking up 4,827 passing yards, Brady mirrored that effectiveness in the AFC Divisional Round.
Hosting the Texans, Brady tossed for 344 yards and three scores. The AFC title game, though, was nearly the exact opposite.
Welcoming the Ravens back to Foxborough, Brady was limited to a 53.7 completion percentage and was intercepted twice. New England lost and Brady's postseason struggles continue against veteran defenses.
Russell Wilson outplayed all rookie quarterbacks and nearly pulled off the biggest postseason upset this year.
Accounting for 26 passing scores and possessing a 64.1 completion percentage before the playoffs, Wilson led the Seattle Seahawks to an 11-5 record.
Once January kicked off, Wilson completed 62.9 percent of his playoff attempts and compiled 699 total yards in two games. Factor in Seattle's defense and ground game, and the Seahawks will be NFC title contenders for quite some time.
Aaron Rodgers' 2012 season speaks volumes when you consider his lack of pass protection.
The Green Bay Packers offensive line allowed 51 sacks of Rodgers during the regular season. He was also sacked four times in two playoff games.
Still, Rodgers tossed 39 touchdowns to only eight picks with a 67.2 completion percentage in the regular season. The playoffs were eerily similar, as he threw three scores to only one pick with a 68.1 completion percentage.
Matt Ryan enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2012.
Throwing 32 touchdowns and only 14 picks during the regular season, Ryan echoed that in two postseason games.
In January, the Falcons got six touchdowns and three picks from Ryan and were within reach of claiming the NFC title. He completed 68.6 percent of his attempts prior to the postseason and then was 70.1 percent between two playoff games.
Atlanta took its next step toward NFC supremacy, so watch out for the Dirty Birds in 2013.
Joe Flacco has finally led the Baltimore Ravens back to the Super Bowl.
After having lost two prior AFC Championship Games, Flacco's incredible postseason play warrants the utmost recognition.
Eight touchdowns in three games to zero picks is beyond impressive.
The guy has clearly developed through every postseason appearance and has finally reached the pinnacle for his conference. Given that Baltimore sported a 61 percent red-zone touchdown percentage, that's a key reason for this January's success.
Now it's a matter of getting one more victory.
Logging regular-season victories over Drew Brees and Tom Brady, where he also outplayed them, Colin Kaepernick didn't slow down in January.
En route to a berth in Super Bowl XLVII, Kaepernick orchestrated postseason wins over Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
The NFC title game comeback win after being down 17-0 was the most impressive. It's easy to play with a lead, but Kaepernick never lost composure on the road in a tough environment against Atlanta.
Completing 62.4 percent of his throws in the regular season, Kaepernick diced up the Falcons by going 16-of-21 for 233 yards and one touchdown. Refusing to turn the ball over on Sunday, Kaepernick's impact to the San Francisco 49ers in such a brief time frame cannot be matched.