NFL Playoff Preview: Power Ranking All The Playoff Quarterbacks
It's playoff time, ladies and gentlemen: the month-long special occasion in which star players shine under the limelight that is the NFL postseason.
With the playoffs as wide open as they've ever been, we are certainly guaranteed a stellar January.
We've been fortunate enough to witness countless comebacks, game-winning-drives and down-to-the-wire must-win contests so far this season, and this year's playoffs are looking to be one of the best we've seen in the last few decades.
At the forefront of each playoff team is their respective quarterbacks: the guy who is expected to lead his team to the promised land. Without consistent play from the quarterback position, teams suddenly find themselves in a bit of a hole.
So, with that being said, who are the most dominating quarterbacks heading into this year's NFL playoffs?
Let's find out.
12. Charlie Whitehurst / Matt Hasselbeck
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Not much to talk about here...or is there?
In Seattle's playoff-clinching victory over Sam Bradford and the Rams, backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst accounted for 192 yards and a touchdown against one of the most inadequate defenses in the league.
Seattle was granted the victory, but how willing are we to buy into play from a banged-up Matt Hasselbeck or a healthy Whitehurst against the New Orleans Saints' defense?
Not very likely.
With a weak group of wide receivers, the Seahawks don't stand much of a chance against the New Orleans pass defense.
Next opponent: vs. New Orleans (11-5)
11. Mark Sanchez
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In leading the Jets to the AFC Championship game last season, Mark Sanchez was officially anointed as an efficient NFL quarterback.
This season Sanchez has recently battled a tweaked right throwing shoulder, furthering coach Rex Ryan's decision to rest him in New York's final regular-season game against the Bills.
Sanchez has managed a fairly decent season by NFL standards, throwing for 3,291 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
However, with the addition of All-Pro wide receiver Santonio Holmes to the lineup midway through New York's regular season, Sanchez can rest easy knowing he won't have to be perfect.
Along with Dustin Keller, Brad Smith and one of the league's best rushing attacks behind him, expectations will significantly decrease for Sanchez.
Next opponent: at Indianapolis (10-6)
10. Jay Cutler
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This was a tough one.
Bears fans probably think I'm absolutely crazy, but Jay Cutler wasn't quite as dependable this season as we all know he can be.
The untimely interceptions have become a problem for Chicago this season. However, Cutler has seemingly turned his entire season around as of late, boosting the Bears' status amongst the league's most potent teams in this season's playoffs.
With Cutler's 3,274 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, the Bears have soundly locked up the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
If Cutler can keep things going, the Bears could potentially make a Super Bowl run. If not, Chicago may be looking at an early exit in this year's postseason.
Next opponent: Bye
9. Matt Cassel
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This season has served as Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel's coming-out party.
Cassel has put up some extremely impressive numbers this season for head coach Todd Haley, all the while leading the Chiefs to their first AFC West title since 2003.
Cassel has quickly become the new face of the franchise in Kansas City and could potential become one of the top five quarterbacks in the league over the next few seasons.
However, Cassel's accomplishments wouldn't come without the league's No. 1 rushing attack and receptions from All-Pro wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
This season, Cassel has maintained 3,116 yards through the air, along with 27 touchdowns and a staggering seven interceptions.
Next opponent: vs. Baltimore (12-4)
8. Matt Ryan
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After first bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2008, Matt Ryan has catapulted the Atlanta Falcons to superb status, along with leading the Falcons to the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs at 13-3.
Since Ryan first entered the league, his talents were never in question. However, this season, his clutch abilities and poise in the pocket has shown significantly.
An 84.4 quarterback rating in the regular season is somewhat of a misleading statistic, as Ryan has nearly a 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio this year.
With the help of Falcons superstar wideout Roddy White, Ryan has attained over 3,700 yards and 28 touchdowns this season.
This will be Ryan's first go-around in the playoffs and it should be interesting to see how he handles the pressure. However, let's not forget about his clutch abilities in the fourth quarter this season—leading Atlanta to four comeback victories in the fourth quarter alone.
Next opponent: Bye
7. Joe Flacco
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One of the most unrecognized quarterbacks in the league today, Joe Flacco has yielded over 3,600 yards through the air this season, including 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
What's the method to the madness? Baltimore's outstanding wide receivers.
Between Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason, the two have combined for nearly 50 percent of Flacco's passing yardage—impressive stuff, wouldn't you say?
Along with a solid ground game led by bruising running back Ray Rice, Baltimore is one of the most complete teams in the NFL and Flacco is as deserving as anyone for their success.
With playoff experience already under his belt, Flacco is without question one of the most playoff-tested quarterbacks in the league today.
Next opponent: at Kansas City (10-6)
6. Ben Roethlisberger
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Oh, Big Ben.
After missing the first four games of the regular season, Ben Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to an 11-4 record, keeping pace with the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North Division title hunt.
It should be no surprise how much playoff familiarity Roethlisberger has gained over his seven-year career—winning Super Bowl XL and XLIII.
A solid group of receivers including the likes of Hines Ward, Mike Wallace and Heath Miller also has contributed to his playoff successes.
In 2010, Big Ben has made up for his four-game suspension, accumulating 3,200 yards, 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Next opponent: Bye
5. Peyton Manning
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Arguably the greatest regular-season quarterback ever to step onto a football field, Peyton Manning is in a class of his own when it comes to pure winning.
Again eclipsing over 4,400 yards through the air this season, Manning is obviously among the most elite quarterbacks in the NFL today. Even after getting off to an uncharacteristic slow start, Manning has again managed a 30-plus touchdown season.
Nevertheless, there happens to be a far different prospectus in his playoff career.
Manning carries a tolerable 9-9 career postseason record, including a victory against the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
But when the going gets tough, Manning has proved his worth, including an unprecedented 46 come-from-behind fourth quarter victories in his 13-year career.
Who else would you want when the going gets tough?
Next opponent: vs. New York Jets (11-5)
4. Michael Vick
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Probably the toughest decision across the board, in my opinion.
The MVP hopeful Michael Vick has proved many of his doubters wrong this season, as you can imagine.
In leading the Philadelphia Eagles to a 10-5 record, Vick has amounted to becoming must-see television across the nation—and the world for that matter.
His stellar 100.2 quarterback rating is only the beginning of his resurgence into the league. And after defeating the likes of Peyton Manning, Eli Manning (twice) and Matt Ryan, Vick is now one of the most complete quarterbacks anyone could ask for.
Passing Steve Young on the all-time quarterback rushing yardage list makes his profile one of the most impressive in the entire league—not to mention his 3,018 yard, 22-touchdown season through the air.
Next opponent: vs. Green Bay (10-6)
3. Aaron Rodgers
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Green Bay fans know exactly what I'm talking about.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has revamped Green Bay to elite status over the past two seasons, totaling up over 8,200 yards and 60 touchdowns between 2009 and 2010.
But that's not where it ends, folks.
Rodgers carries a 101.9 quarterback rating in 2010, good enough to be third best in the entire NFL, along with a total of over 3,922 yards and 28 touchdowns this season.
Without help from a consistent running game, Rodgers has put the burden on himself to carry the injury-plagued Green Bay offense and, so far, it's been working beautifully.
With help from wideouts Greg Jennings, James Jones, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson, Rodgers is without a doubt one of the most prolific passers in the NFL.
Next opponent: at Philadelphia (10-6)
2. Drew Brees
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Just when you count him out, he shocks the world.
After defeating Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV, Drew Brees continued his late-game heroics for the New Orleans Saints in 2010.
As the Saints march into the playoffs with an 11-5 record, Brees has accounted for over 4,500 yards passing and 35 touchdowns to boot.
His ability to respond when under pressure has evolved into one of his most recognizable attributes over the past few seasons and still continues to this day.
Completing 68.7 percent of his passes (tops in the entire NFL) to the likes of Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem is an awe-inspiring feat in itself.
Brees doesn't have an excessive amount of postseason experience. However, winning the Super Bowl certainly qualifies you as a premier quarterback in the NFL.
Next opponent: at Seattle (7-9)
1. Tom Brady
Who else would you expect?
Tom Brady has single-handedly made the Patriots one of the most successful NFL franchises over the past decade and in his 10th NFL season, has just under 35,000 yards passing.
But let's talk about the here and now: Brady leads the most prolific offensive team in the entire league and is doing so without ex-Patriot Randy Moss.
In his second season after missing all of 2008 with a leg injury, Brady has amassed over 3,700 yards through the air, complemented by 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Do the math and you'll find that Brady currently has an 8-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio—putting him in the most elite of categories this season.
In New England's Week 16 victory over the Bills, Brady set a new NFL record for consecutive passes without an interception (319), which was previously held by Cleveland's Bernie Kosar.
Brady has also notably added three fourth quarter come-from-behind victories this season, now giving him a career total of 32 game-winning drives in his illustrious career.
What the 2011 playoffs have in store for Brady and the Patriots may amount to yet another Vince Lombardi Trophy for New England.
Next opponent: Bye