Ranking the Remaining Quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Playoffs

Andrew Watkins@@AndrewWatkins10Correspondent IJanuary 10, 2014

Ranking the Remaining Quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Playoffs

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    There’s an interesting contrast between the eight quarterbacks who are still alive in the 2013 NFL playoffs.

    On one hand, half of those passers are young guns. Neither Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson has been in the league for more than three years.

    These four (along with RGIII) seem to comprise the future of the quarterback position. Athletic, strong-armed and eager to make a mark.

    And on the other hand, we’ve got the veterans. All of Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have played football at its highest level for at least a decade.

    Three of these four have all but secured busts in Canton, and Rivers’ career stats are nothing short of impressive. Each of this quartet’s career is closer to the end than the beginning and the realization that this may be their last best shot is setting in.

    That being said, I actually found it much more difficult to rank the younger group in this list. I think that’s because we’ve yet to see the best they’ve got to offer. With none being older than 26, their career arcs are only moving up.

    Ranking Criteria: This list was compiled with numerous factors considered. Chief among them were championships, wins and losses, statistics and in several instances, potential.

8. Cam Newton

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    Yes, Cam Newton ranks last on this list. And no, that isn’t a knock on his skills.

    What landed Newton in the eighth spot is the fact that he’s only engineered one winning season to this point in his career. The players ahead of him all have at least two to their credit.

    Nonetheless, Newton has all the talent to be a top-five quarterback in the NFL for years to come.

    At only 24 years old, Newton set career-bests in several major categories this year. Newton threw a scoring pass for every year he’s been alive and completed over 60 percent of his passes for the first time in his career.

    Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was complemented by an upper-tier defense for the first time in his career.

    If the Panthers can surround Cam with a few more quality pass-catchers, then his numbers should only continue to improve.

7. Colin Kaepernick

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    With only 23 career starts under his belt, there’s admittedly a limited sample size with which to rank Kaepernick.

    Still, what Kaepernick’s shown in a season and a half is tough to ignore. He’s accounted for 40 total touchdowns and has proven efficient at taking care of the ball as well.

    Kaepernick’s been responsible for just 17 turnovers over the last two seasons.

    And I’d be remiss not to mention Kaepernick’s performance in big games. He’s arguably got the most big-game experience of any young quarterback in the NFL and has, more often than not, come through in such instances.

    Kaepernick’s resume boasts two postseason victories over Aaron Rodgers, as well as a spectacular comeback against the Falcons in last year’s NFC Championship Game. And of course, it’s tough to forget how agonizingly close Kaepernick’s Niners came to winning last year’s Super Bowl.

    However, if the last two years are any indication, Kaepernick should have a few more shots to win the Lombardi Trophy.

6. Russell Wilson

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    Russell Wilson took the NFL by storm in his 2012 Pepsi Rookie of the Year season. And this year, the undersized Wisconsin product was at it again, assuring NFL fans that he was here to stay.

    All Wilson’s done to begin his career is break the NFL record for wins by a quarterback in his first two seasons. That, and he tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record for touchdown passes in a season.

    That stat is made all the more impressive when one considers that he did so while throwing 18 fewer interceptions than No. 18. And keep in mind that Manning came into the league with the legendary Marvin Harrison at his disposal.

    Wilson’s top pass-catchers over the past few years have been Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate.

    What garners Wilson a spot above Kaepernick is his dominance in their head-to-head matchups. Kaepernick’s Niners took the most recent matchup by two points, but in the two previous games Wilson’s Seahawks won by a combined total of 55 points.

5. Andrew Luck

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    The heir to Peyton Manning’s throne has proven why he came into the NFL with such lofty expectations over the past two seasons.

    Aside from statistical success, which Luck’s had plenty of; he’s just shown a moxie that can’t be coached. He’s repeatedly seen his team fall behind by double digits and never wavered in the face of adversity.

    Luck’s got eight fourth-quarter comebacks and 11 game-winning drives to his credit over the past two seasons. In other words, 11 of Luck’s 22 regular season victories hung in the balance with time winding down.

    Of course, the most impressive of Luck’s comebacks came in last Saturday’s wild-card showdown with the Chiefs. Facing a 28-point deficit, Luck and his Colts put their noses to the grind and engineered the second biggest comeback in playoff history.

    When compared with those of other young signal-callers, Luck’s statistics don’t suggest he’d rank as the best of the bunch. However, when one looks beyond the numbers, they see that Luck is poised to perhaps have the most successful career.

4. Philip Rivers

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    After two straight subpar seasons, many thought Philip Rivers’ prime had passed him by.

    The feisty quarterback hadn’t seen the playoffs in three straight seasons and mediocrity had seemingly become the norm in San Diego.

    However, in 2013, Rivers posted perhaps the best season of his career and snatched an improbable playoff berth in the process. In fact, if not for Peyton Manning’s jaw-dropping year, Rivers would be a viable MVP candidate.

    Speaking of Manning, NFL fans will be treated to a rubber match between he and Rivers this weekend. The Broncos and Chargers split the season series and Rivers performed well in both contests, totaling three passing touchdowns and no interceptions.

    With a 2-0 record against Manning in the playoffs and a win in their most recent meeting, Rivers will likely be brimming with confidence this Sunday. And a confident Rivers means danger for Manning and his Broncos.

3. Drew Brees

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    Brees has firmly entrenched himself as the 1C. of NFL quarterbacks during his tenure as a Saint. And in a different era, he’d likely be considered the best, rather than just among them.

    Brees topped 5,000 passing yards for an unprecedented third straight time in 2013. But what Brees has accomplished with the Saints goes well beyond the Madden-like numbers.

    Brees revitalized a historically pathetic New Orleans franchise starting with his first season in the “Big Easy”. He gave a city ravaged by disaster something to smile about in guiding the Saints to the NFC Championship Game, heights they’d never reached before.

    The Saints followed that effort with two straight subpar seasons and made many wonder whether their miracle season was a fluke spurned by unparalleled motivation. Unfortunately for the rest of the NFL, no such luck.

    In 2009, Brees out-dueled Kurt Warner, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning on the way to a Super Bowl victory and a game MVP award to compliment it. Cementing his status as an all-time great.

2. Peyton Manning

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    I’m sure there was little question as to who would reside in this list’s top two spots. The more things change, as they say.

    Of course, the Manning/Brady debate will continue well after their playing days are over. As I see it, Brady’s stellar postseason record in comparison with Manning’s sub-.500 one is what garners him this list’s top spot.

    Regardless, Manning’s spectacular season (and career) deserves all the recognition and accolades that he’ll soon be lavished with.

    Manning set NFL bests for single-season passing yards and passing touchdowns. If he plays just one more season he’s virtually assured of the all-time mark for touchdown passes as well. He needs just 18 to top Brett Favre’s record of 508.

    If Peyton can close his career like the last great Broncos quarterback, John Elway, then Manning backers will have all the ammo they need to claim that he’s better than Brady.

    Elway won championships in each of his last two seasons. Coincidentally, he was 37 years old for the first, just like Manning this year.

1. Tom Brady

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    As I mentioned on the previous slide, Tom Brady’s playoff record sits at a sterling 17-7. In fact, he started his playoff career 10-0; already one win better than Manning’s nine.

    While Brady’s statistical resume isn’t quite on par with Manning’s, one has to take into account that he’s been afforded limited weapons through much of his career.

    At the start of Brady’s career, he was throwing to the likes of Troy Brown, Deion Branch and Reche Caldwell. And yet, he was still leading his team downfield in countless clutch situations.

    And then of course, there are the last few seasons. With the likes of Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski to throw to, Brady’s posted seasons on par with Manning’s best.

    Surprisingly, none of those teams netted championships. But perhaps this year’s squad, which more closely resembles those gritty Patriots teams from a decade ago, can help Tom Terrific recapture Super Bowl glory.