There’s nothing better than a quarterback who has a secure pocket, reads the defense, finds the open receiver and throws a strike to him in the end zone for a touchdown. Those quarterbacks who can do that more than 30 times in a season truly have a gift.
Drew Brees is a quarterback machine, without a doubt. The New Orleans Saints quarterback has led the league in passing touchdowns in four of the last five years, finishing second to Tom Brady in 2010 after throwing 33 touchdowns. Last season was arguably the second-best season of Brees’ career.
In 2012, Brees threw for 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns—the second-most touchdowns he ever threw in a season, falling three short of his career high of 46, which was set a year earlier. In seven seasons with New Orleans, he’s averaging 34.9 touchdowns per year. That’s a lot of touchdowns.
Brees will have his top weapons from last season back for 2013, meaning he’s bound to have another impressive season in which he throws for at least 35 touchdowns. Jimmy Graham should be the top target this season, as he had the most receptions a year ago and the second-most receiving touchdowns on the Saints.
Wideouts like Lance Moore and Marques Colston should help Brees reach 35-plus touchdowns this year as well. Each finished 2012 with more than 1,000 yards, and they combined to catch 16 touchdowns. New Orleans has a bunch of other receiving options who will make Brees’ job that much easier in 2013.
We all know Brees will be among the league leaders in passing touchdowns again this season. Here’s a look at two other quarterbacks who will be toward the top of the passing touchdowns list come the end of the regular season.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Missing a season due to injury didn’t seem to restrict Peyton Manning last season. He was the Manning of old, and that was shown in the 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns he threw over the course of the season for the Broncos. In fact, he threw the second-most touchdowns of his career a year ago.
That’s pretty impressive considering Manning didn’t step on the field for one snap during the 2011 season. But that’s just the way he is. Expect to see similar numbers from one of the all-time greats again this season as he continues to improve his resume for the Hall of Fame—which he’s a lock to get into.
Manning makes every receiver and tight end better when he’s under center. It doesn’t seem likely Eric Decker would’ve caught 85 passes for 1,064 yards and a team-high 13 touchdowns a year ago of Manning wasn’t Denver’s quarterback. This year, Decker will be back, and a better version of him will be on the team too.
The Broncos lured Wes Welker away from the rival New England Patriots over the offseason, and you can bet he’s going to become one of Manning’s top targets this season. He’s never had a double-digit touchdown total in his career, but there’s a chance he catches at least 10 passes for scores in 2013.
Don’t forget about Demaryius Thomas either. He had the most receptions, targets and yards for the Broncos last season. He, Decker and Welker, among others, are sure to have Manning competing for the league lead in touchdowns this season. He could throw for at least 40 for the second time in his career.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers has been right up there with the best in the league in terms of passing touchdowns—and a number of other categories—in recent memory. He threw for 39 touchdowns a year ago, six fewer than the personal best he set a year prior when he completed 45 passes for scores.
Rodgers has nearly the same receiving corps from a year ago, and as long as he stays healthy, he can definitely hit the 40 mark for the second time in his career. That will happen if he can utilize James Jones like he did last year. Jones caught 14 touchdown passes, which was about one per 4.5 receptions.
Jones was Rodgers’ second-favorite target last season, as Randall Cobb was the leading receiver for the team. Cobb caught the most passes (80), had the most targets (104) and was 46 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. He and Jordy Nelson combined for 15 touchdowns last year and could total 20 in 2013.
The X-factor for Rodgers to lead the league in touchdowns this season is Jermichael Finley. The former Texas standout only had two catches for scores this past season, which was low considering he caught eight touchdown passes the year prior. He has the potential to catch at least eight or nine in the upcoming year.
If Jones can score around 12 or 13 touchdowns and Nelson, Cobb and Finley each account for eight or nine, that’ll put Rodgers’ total at approximately 38 for the year. A couple of other guys will likely have a score or two, meaning there’s a strong chance Rodgers throw for at least 40 touchdowns in 2013.
All statistics in this article were obtained via ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.