NFL: Power Ranking the Top 50 Active Quarterbacks

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IDecember 24, 2011

NFL: Power Ranking the Top 50 Active Quarterbacks

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    The old adage that a team is only as good as its quarterback seems to be true this season.

    It’s no coincidence that Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are the NFL’s best team, while Dan Orlovsky is under center for the league’s most inept team. It’s also no coincidence the recent quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl are all stars—Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger (twice), Eli Manning, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (three times).

    These rankings aren’t solely based on this season. A rough 2010 year won’t completely wipe out promise the quarterback displayed prior to that, which is why a guy like Josh Freeman still ranks in the top 25. I did, however, weigh heavily into performance thus far this year, since the NFL is much about what a guy has done lately.

    A quarterback has to have a team to be rated. So Peyton Manning is eligible to be critiqued, but David Garrard or Donovan McNabb are not. Neither are retired players like Kurt Warner or Brett Favre, even though their names have been linked to quarterback-decimated teams.

    So, here they are. I welcome all comments below.

No. 50 to No. 46

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    50. Stephen McGee, Dallas Cowboys: He is a terrific option as a third quarterback and will likely take over Jon Kitna’s role as the backup to Tony Romo in 2012.

    49. Billy Volek, San Diego Chargers: Who would have thought that Billy Volek holds the NFL record for most passing yards by a QB (since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970) in his first 10 starts? He hasn’t played consistently in seven years, but if Philip Rivers went down with an injury, Volek would probably fill in adequately enough.

    48. Brady Quinn, Denver Broncos: Many people still believe Brady Quinn should get a job to start somewhere. He was a first-round pick just four years ago, and after flopping in Cleveland, has backed up both Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow in Denver. He is a free agent at season’s end and may get a chance to compete for a starting job somewhere.

    47. Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions: He got to start 10 games in 2010 when Matthew Stafford went down with an injury, and did well enough. He threw for 16 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, posting a solid 81.3 passer rating.

    46. Jon Kitna, Dallas Cowboys: The injury that just put him on IR could be the end to his career, but Jon Kitna was a formidable backup to Tony Romo for a few seasons.

No. 45 to No. 41

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    45. Ryan Mallet, New England Patriots: This is purely based on projection since he hasn’t played, but Ryan Mallett is probably the best third quarterback in the NFL.

    44. T.J. Yates, Houston Texans: He’s looked really good as a third-stringer forced to start on a playoff team in December, winning each of his first two starts.

    43. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars: He looks absolutely awful, but all those saying the Jacksonville Jaguars should pick a quarterback again, come on. Look at Gabbert’s receivers. He still has more touchdown passes than interceptions this year. Give him some time to develop.

    42. Vince Young, Philadelphia Eagles: His opportunity to start in the NFL has likely passed after a horrific three-game stretch for the Philadelphia Eagles (4 TD, 9 INT), but I kept him in the top 50 because of his underrated performance for the Tennessee Titans in 2010 (10 TD, 3 INT, 98.6 rating).

    41. Seneca Wallace, Cleveland Browns: He has a better career touchdown-to-interception ratio than Ben Roethlisberger or Eli Manning, and he has a higher passer rating than John Elway. I don’t think I would want Wallace starting too many games for my team, but he’s a good veteran to have around.

No. 40 to No. 36

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    40. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers: Colin Kaepernick hasn’t gotten to play yet but he was a talented player in college, both as a passer and a runner. It’s tough to rank him without having seen much.

    39. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder has had his growing pains, as any rookie quarterback would. He has still managed to toss more touchdown passes than interceptions (13-12), although his 2-7 record as a starter isn’t much to get excited about.

    38. Matt Flynn, Green Bay Packers: With Matt Barkley staying at USC, more options are open for Matt Flynn, who is set to become a free agent after the season. Flynn spent the last four years as Aaron Rodgers’ backup.

    37. Matt Leinart, Houston Texans: Before this year, Matt Leinart said his 2010 season—spent as Matt Schaub’s backup—was the most productive time of his football career. He was poised to take over for Schaub when Schaub suffered a midseason injury, but Leinart then got hurt himself.

    36. John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals: His 5-2 record as a starter is creating a quarterback controversy, but you’ve got to be kidding if you think John Skelton is the long-term solution for the Arizona Cardinals. He has eight touchdowns to 13 interceptions and has a completion percentage hovering around 55 percent.

No. 35 to No. 33

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    35. Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots: Being Tom Brady’s backup could easily be a recipe for success. Brian Hoyer’s career numbers are about the worth of one game (26-of-42 for 264 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 77.9 rating). Nothing too exciting, but not too bad either.

    At the very least, Hoyer should get an opportunity to compete for the starting job sometime, and three years under Brady and Bill Belichick can only make him much better.

    34. Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks: He should in no way be starting football games in the NFL, but he would be a fine backup for a team. The fact that the Seattle Seahawks decided to enter the season with Tarvaris Jackson as their starting quarterback is one of the great mysteries of the modern world.

    33. Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins: Mike Shanahan liked him enough that he wanted to enter the season with either Rex Grossman or John Beck as his starter. That didn’t work out too much; Grossman has thrown 13 touchdowns to 18 interceptions with a passer rating of 71.4.

32. Tim Tebow

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    Tebow has enjoyed a remarkably successful run since taking over for the Denver Broncos. He is essentially winning ball games by managing for the first three quarters, minimizing his turnovers and playing conservative football backed by a superb defense, then turning it on in the fourth quarter with his insane ability to come through in the clutch.

    Will it last? Highly unlikely. I don’t see a quarterback with Tebow’s limited skill set lasting in this league. He is inaccurate and highly erratic as a passer, and I don’t see Tebow being able to sustain the numerous hits he will endure from running the triple-option offense.

    In all, I find the Broncos are winning more because of their running game and defense than their quarterback. If they reach the postseason, I am very interested to see how Tebow does in a playoff atmosphere.

31. Colt McCoy

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    It’s likely the Cleveland Browns will move on from Colt McCoy and draft a quarterback in this year’s QB-heavy draft class. McCoy had a stellar collegiate career, although many scouts predicted his success wouldn’t translate to the NFL.

    The Browns took a chance on McCoy and picked him in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft. He has been largely mediocre since, posting a 74.5 passer rating as a rookie and 74.6 this year. His 6-15 record won’t make the Browns jump to make him the long-term answer, but I would like to see McCoy with some serviceable wide receivers before I make my final judgment.

30. Jake Locker

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    Jake Locker likely would have been the No. 1 overall pick had he gone out in the 2010 NFL draft, but he stayed at college for his senior year and fell to eighth in the draft.

    Locker struggled with his accuracy late in college, and he’s at just 51.5 percent so far for the Tennessee Titans. The touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4-0 is impressive, and he has a passer rating of just 99.4 in 66 attempts.

    He will probably get to start full time next season, and it will be much easier to evaluate him. Locker will also get Kenny Britt back, and more consistent play from Chris Johnson would be beneficial as well.

29. Matt Moore

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    Matt Moore is making a strong case to be the Miami Dolphins starter in 2012. Realistically, there’s no way the Dolphins will pass up a top prospect like Robert Griffin III or Landry Jones from the draft, but Moore could get the call to start while the first-round rookie sits for a year.

    Moore threw three interceptions in his first two starts, but has thrown just three in seven starts since. He’s gone 5-3 since November and has posted a 2:1 touchdown to interception rating and an 88.7 passer rating for the year.

28. Kevin Kolb

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    No one really knows what the Arizona Cardinals were thinking when they handed Kevin Kolb a five-year, $63 million contract with $22 million guaranteed.

    Kolb is definitely a better quarterback than John Skelton, but he’s not the long-term solution for the Cardinals. He has struggled with injuries this year, and he’s often looked lost out on the field.

    Kolb’s numbers aren’t terrible (7.73 yards per attempt, 9 TD, 8 INT, 81.1 rating), and he will probably get another year out there, more because of what the Cardinals committed to him than the fact that he's earned it.

27. Chad Henne

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    Matt Moore took over for Chad Henne in Miami and has actually performed well enough that Henne probably won’t be back next year. Henne is a free agent anyway and it is almost a given that the Dolphins will use a first-round pick on a quarterback, meaning there won’t be room for Henne in 2012.

    Whether he gets a chance to start is doubtful. This was his year to prove he deserved it, and an early-season injury all but wiped out his opportunity. Henne hasn’t shown enough in three years, and his best bet at this point is to accept a backup role somewhere and hope an injury allows him to show his skills.

26. Jason Campbell

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    By first round standards, Jason Campbell was a disappointment, having been taken 25th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. He lasted four subpar years in Washington and has been equally subpar in Oakland.

    He has a career completion percentage of 60.8 and a low enough interception percentage that he is very comparable to a player like David Garrard.

    With the midseason trade to bring in Carson Palmer, the Raiders likely won’t go with Campbell for 2012, especially not after what they gave up for Palmer. Campbell is a terrific backup and an OK starter.

25. Josh Freeman

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    I’m not sure what to make of Josh Freeman. Two of his three NFL seasons have been miserable, but he was so good in 2010 that it’s obvious the potential is there. Next year will essentially be a make-or-break year for Freeman, who was a major reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost so many games in 2011.

    Freeman is a dual threat as a runner and a passer—when he’s on. His regression this year was to be expected; after all, there was no way Freeman could duplicate his 25 touchdowns to just six picks. His decline was startling, though, as to just how much he dropped off, although he did excel in two aspects that are difficult to maintain on a yearly level—an insanely low number of interceptions and a league-leading number of fourth quarter comebacks (warning to Tim Tebow).

    2012 will show the world who the real Josh Freeman is, and if he doesn’t turn it around, the Buccaneers will need to start looking elsewhere.

24. Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    The fact that the Buffalo Bills gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a six-year, $59 million contract is one of the most egregious decisions any team has made in recent years. Fitzpatrick is an average NFL quarterback—maybe slightly below—who had several good games in succession, and the Bills decided it meant Fitzpatrick was their quarterback of the future.

    Since signing his deal, Fitzpatrick has been statistically most similar to Curtis Painter, and he leads the league in interceptions (19). His passer rating for the season is 80.6, certainly not a bad mark, but nothing that should scream the kind of money he got.

23. Mark Sanchez

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    If Rex Ryan had traded up for Matthew Stafford in the 2009 NFL Draft, the New York Jets would be winning the AFC East.

    As it is, Sanchez probably isn’t as bad as people think he is; he has 30 total touchdowns to just 15 picks this year. Those are comparable totals to Matt Ryan (28-12) or Eli Manning (26-16), two quarterbacks who are easily considered franchise players.

    Sanchez has started since Week 1 as a rookie and has improved his passer rating from 63.0 to 75.3 to 82.2 each season. He has career highs in completion percentage (56.2), yards per game (217.8) and total touchdowns. Those still aren’t statistics that make him a franchise QB, though, and I can’t imagine too many Jets fans have a lot of confidence in the Sanchize after his awful performance against the New York Giants in Week 16.

22. Matt Hasselbeck

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    Matt Hasselbeck is enjoying his best season since 2007, and he’s done so on a new team, without No. 1 receiver Kenny Britt and with extremely inconsistent play from running back Chris Johnson.

    Hasselbeck isn’t the long-term answer at quarterback—especially not with Jake Locker waiting—but he is a fine stopgap as a veteran who manages the offense well and can make a few plays when needed.

21. Matt Cassel

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    Three years behind Tom Brady turned Matt Cassel into a solid enough quarterback, although he might not be good enough to keep Kyle Orton from taking the starting job for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012.

    Cassel topped out as a Pro Bowler in 2010, throwing 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in a career year. He came back to earth this year before suffering a season-ending injury and finished with 10 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 76.6 passer rating.

    Realistically, Cassel is an average starting quarterback. He’s an impressive story considering he never started a game at USC, but he’s essentially a fill-in for a few years.

20. Kyle Orton

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    Kyle Orton is a lot like Jon Kitna was for the Detroit Lions back in 2006 and 2007; he quietly puts up better numbers than people realize.

    In his last three seasons (2008-’10), Orton completed 60 percent of his passes and averaged 3,476 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. No, he didn’t win a lot of games for a Broncos defense that finished dead last in the NFL in scoring defense and total defense last year, but he put the team in a good position to win games.

    This year, his first start with the Kansas City Chiefs was a tremendous outing against the undefeated Green Bay Packers, making Orton the first QB to beat the Packers in a calendar year.

    I think he’s a fine starter for a football team. He didn’t come with the first-round hype of a lot of quarterbacks ranked this high, and I wouldn’t dedicate my franchise to him, but he’s essentially a journeyman starting quarterback, much like Kitna was his whole career.

19. Andy Dalton

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    Andy Dalton is essentially having the same season as Sam Bradford did as a rookie, but Dalton gets ranked one spot higher because Bradford then went and had an absolutely miserable sophomore season.

    Dalton stepped into a situation in Cincinnati in which five wins would have been impressive, and he has the Bengals at 9-6 and fighting for an AFC wild card spot. Dalton has paired well with rookie playmaking receiver A.J. Green; Dalton has 3,156 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He can be a little too streaky with the turnovers (five multiple-interception games), but he’s also displayed remarkable poise for a rookie.

18. Sam Bradford

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    After being taken No. 1 overall, Sam Bradford had a fantastic rookie season. He took every single snap for the St. Louis Rams, leading a team that had won a combined six games in its previous three seasons to a 7-9 record and a near-playoff berth.

    Bradford threw for 3,512 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and looked like the franchise quarterback for the next 10-15 years for the Rams.

    This year? Bradford has been downright awful.

    He certainly doesn’t have the receiving corps to help him out, but he has struggled with inconsistency, injuries and a terrible offensive line. Bradford’s numbers (6 TD, 6 INT, 70.5 rating in 10 starts) look more like those of JaMarcus Russell, and he has faltered in many key areas, notably his completion percentage and passer rating. His sacks show he is getting hit more than ever before, and coupled with the fact that Bradford’s bookend tackles—Rodger Saffold on the left side and Jason Smith on the right—are downright putrid (a combined 24 sacks allowed from the offensive tackles – 24!), and you can see Bradford is in a tough circumstance.

    He’s a good enough signal-caller that he should bounce back in 2012. That is, assuming the Rams are intelligent enough to draft a big-play wide receiver and a rock-solid tackle. If they don’t draft an offensive tackle, Bradford may not survive another season.

    And as to the talk that the Rams may draft Andrew Luck—this would be assuming that the Rams get the No. 1 overall pick—the Rams would be foolish to take him. They have a perfectly good quarterback in Bradford. Trade the pick for three first rounders and surround Bradford with some players qualified to play above the collegiate level.

17. Alex Smith

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    Like David Carr, I don’t believe Alex Smith has been given a fair chance. He’s had seven offensive coordinators in seven seasons now, and he hasn’t had a playmaking wide receiver, especially now that Michael Crabtree has failed to develop.

    Jim Harbaugh is coaxing the best season of Smith’s career out of the once-bust, as Smith is on pace for career highs in completion percentage (61.4), interception percentage (1.3), yards per attempt (7.1) and passer rating (91.1).

    The traits that made him a first overall pick in 2005 are evident, as Smith is displaying good accuracy, strong leadership skills and overall intelligence. The San Francisco 49ers won’t pick in the draft until late in the first round, and it is likely that they grab some playmakers for Smith to work with.

16. Carson Palmer

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    It took some time for Carson Palmer to get his feet wet after joining the Oakland Raiders, but he settled down and gives them the best chance to win since Rich Gannon was under center nearly a decade ago.

    Palmer is still inconsistent but he has the Raiders tied for first place in the AFC West and if he can get them to make a deep run in the playoffs, it was probably worth the trade.

    Palmer never won a postseason game with the Cincinnati Bengals despite going with the No. 1 overall pick in 2003, but he has made two Pro Bowls, thrown for 20 touchdowns in a season five times, and he’s passed for nearly 25,000 yards in his career. He throws too many interceptions, but in all, he’s a solid enough passer.

15. Joe Flacco

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    Joe Flacco isn’t worth the first-round pick the Baltimore Ravens used on him in the 2008 NFL draft, but he is a good enough quarterback and can help the team for years to come.

    Flacco had his best year as a pro in 2010, but has regressed this year in almost all aspects of the game. He’s been especially sharp against the division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers (524 passing yards, 4 TD, 0 INT in two games), helping the Ravens sweep for the first time under Flacco.

    He’s had some serious duds, though, as well, like the 10-for-31 performance against the New York Jets and the stinkbomb he put up on Monday Night Football against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Simply put, the Ravens will need more consistency from their quarterback in the future.

14. Cam Newton

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    Cam Newton is the favorite to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He broke into the league with a bang, passing for 422 yards in his debut and 400 yards in each of his first two games. His 2,393 passing yards through his first eight games gave him an outside chance to break Dan Marino’s single-season mark, although he has cooled off since then.

    Still, though, Newton has 34 total touchdowns (20 passing, 14 rushing), and his 7.8 yards per attempt rank 10th best in the NFL. He’s rejuvenated Steve Smith’s career. In all, it was a fantastic pick for the Carolina Panthers to take him first overall, considering the risks surrounding him.

13. Matthew Stafford

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    This was Matthew Stafford’s year to prove he could play after injuries severely limited his playing time in each of his first two seasons with the Detroit Lions.

    His numbers are simply fantastic (63.7 completion percentage, 4,517 passing yards, 36 TD, 14 INT, 94.8 rating). He’s helped immensely by Calvin Johnson, arguably the best receiver in the NFL, but Stafford is still the franchise quarterback the Lions hoped he would be when they took him first overall in the draft.

    With the Lions gearing toward their first playoff trip in over a decade, how Stafford plays in January could move him up a couple of shots in the rankings.

12. Michael Vick

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    Before the season, I probably would have put Michael Vick seventh on this list. Now, I’m wondering if I even have him too high at No. 12.

    Vick has been vastly inconsistent in 2011. He’s essentially the same quarterback he was back when he played for the Atlanta Falcons—an erratic passer who struggles with inconsistent play and a ridiculous amount of injuries.

    He is the most electrifying player who ever played the game when he runs with the football, and he gets rated a lot higher because of his underrated, undervalued ability to scramble (8.9 yards per rush this year). The Philadelphia Eagles made a mistake giving him $100 million over six years, though, because he hasn’t proven long-term that he can stay healthy enough to be a franchise quarterback, especially at the age of 31.

11. Jay Cutler

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    It is an absolute shame Jay Cutler got injured when he did, because he and the Chicago Bears were one of the hottest teams in the NFL at the time. The Bears had won five straight games, and Cutler had thrown seven touchdowns to just three interceptions during the span.

    Cutler has endured a lot of criticism during his career, most recently for his controversial injury in last year’s NFC Championship Game. He’s a warrior, though, considering he has never had a competent offensive line and he lacks a bona-fide No. 1 receiver.

    Still, for Cutler to rank in the top 10, he needs more consistency (no more 26-interception seasons). Even as good as he was playing this year, his passer rating of 85.7 was the lowest of his six-year career.

10. Matt Schaub

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    The Houston Texans got a steal when they traded a pair of second-rounders to Atlanta for Matt Schaub in 2007. Three years sitting behind Michael Vick did Schaub well, and he’s a franchise quarterback now for the Texans.

    It’s a shame Schaub got injured when he did, because the Texans may not have won the AFC South without him (although there was no real competition this year). Schaub has teamed with Andre Johnson to form arguably the best QB-WR combo in the league, and he throws a lot enough amount of interceptions that he’s a borderline top-10 quarterback.

9. Matt Ryan

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    Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons have flown under the radar for 2011, but Ryan is having probably his best year as a pro. He started the year shaky, but has thrown 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions in his last five games, and the Falcons are 4-1 during that span.

    Julio Jones has had a major influence on Ryan, but Ryan is also maturing every season. Factoring in age, Ryan (26 years old) might be the top quarterback I would take for a new team other than Aaron Rodgers. He just needs a playoff victory to move higher on the list.

8. Tony Romo

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    Like Matt Ryan, Tony Romo doesn’t have the proven playoff success to be ranked higher on the list. He is having an underrated season (65.6 completion percentage, 3,895 passing yards, 29 TD, 9 INT and a career-best 102.6 passer rating) and has the Dallas Cowboys just a win away from their third division title under Romo (assuming Romo is healthy enough to play).

    Romo has been interception-free in six of his last seven games, and he’s now posted a passer rating over 100 eight separate times this season. There seems to be talk every offseason of the Cowboys drafting a new quarterback if Romo doesn’t win it all, but the team would be absolutely foolish to trade him now.

7. Eli Manning

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    Eli Manning is absolutely clutch. I never thought I would say that, but he is. We all know of the Super Bowl drive to beat the New England Patriots, but this year, he has two extremely impressive fourth-quarter comebacks—first when he beat the Patriots again in essentially the same fashion and then when he brought the New York Giants back from 12 points down against the Dallas Cowboys with four minutes to play.

    He already has a career-high 4,587 passing yards, nearly 600 more than his previous high. Manning has 26 touchdown passes in 15 games, and his 2.8 interception rate is the second-lowest of his career.

    He has the ring to prove he is a winner. The only thing keeping Manning from ranking higher on the list is his inconsistencies—look no further than his two duds against the lowly Washington Redskins.

6. Philip Rivers

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    Too much was made of Philip Rivers’ early-season struggles. He settled down, threw eight touchdowns to no interceptions in the last four games before turning in a disappointing performance in the Week 16 contest against the Detroit Lions.

    Rivers has been remarkably consistent in his six years as a starter. He’s never missed a game to injury, and he’s averaged 3,921 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions per season. He led the AFC—a conference that included Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger—in yards per attempt three straight seasons.

    Much has also been made of Rivers’ postseason failures. He’s never won a Super Bowl, or even been to one, and he has performed substantially worse in the playoffs (8 TD, 9 INT, 79.2 rating) than the regular season. He’s also one of the toughest, grittiest competitors the NFL has ever seen. Remember when he played the 2007 AFC Championship Game with a torn ACL?

    Rivers just turned 30 years old and probably has six or seven seasons as a starter left in him. If he gets a Super Bowl ring, he will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game.

5. Ben Roethlisberger

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    It took me several seasons before I fully respected Ben Roethlisberger. I felt he rode the defense and running game as a rookie in 2004, and anyone who watched the 2005 Super Bowl could see Roethlisberger didn’t have much to do with the Steelers’ win.

    He’s been flat out clutch the past several years, though. The pass to Santonio Holmes in the Super Bowl was the stuff of champions, but equally impressive to me was the walkoff to Mike Wallace to beat the Green Bay Packers in 2009.

    Roethlisberger is as tough of a human being as has ever walked on this earth, and he’s having another MVP-caliber season for a Pittsburgh Steelers team that will be tough to play in January.

4. Peyton Manning

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    I would never cast my vote for Peyton Manning as the 2011 NFL MVP, because he hasn’t played a single snap. I do find it interesting how everyone always speculated how the Indianapolis Colts would have done without Manning behind center. 6-10 maybe? 5-11?

    Try 0-13. Seriously. They’ve since won two games that may actually keep them from getting Andrew Luck in the draft, but they came dangerously close to matching the 2008 Detroit Lions for ineptitude in a single season.

    Manning is as valuable to the Colts as any player has ever been to any team in professional sports history. The only reason I have Manning ranked behind the Big Three is because of his injuries. With three neck surgeries in 19 months, I assume Manning has lost some of the physical skills that made him a four-time league MVP, 11-time Pro Bowler and a serious threat to break all of Brett Favre’s passing records.

3. Drew Brees

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    If you ask 100 experts who the top three quarterbacks in the NFL are, I think 95 of them would put Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers (The only plausible exception in my opinion would be a vote for Peyton Manning).

    Brees finishes third of the three in my ranking, although not by much. I would really say the three are interchangeable, and I certainly wouldn’t have a problem if my team had either one.

    Brees’ assault on Dan Marino’s record for passing yards has been well-documented, but did you know Brees is also on pace to break his own record for completion percentage in a season and Peyton Manning’s record for completions in a season (450 in 2009)?

    In the last five games, Brees has passed for 16 touchdowns without throwing an interception. He’s averaging close to 350 yards per game, and he has posted a passer rating higher than 106.9 every week. The Green Bay Packers are the NFL’s best team at 13-1, but watch out for Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs.

2. Tom Brady

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    He’s been the savior for a New England Patriots team that ranks dead last in the NFL in yards allowed this year. The Patriots have given up 20 or more points 11 times in 2011, but they’re 8-3 in those contests because of Tom Brady’s outstanding play at quarterback.

    Brady won the MVP last season by throwing 36 touchdowns to just four interceptions; this year, he’s at 36 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, and his completion percentage and yards per attempt have gone up from 2010. He’s on pace to break Dan Marino’s record for passing yards too, and he won’t even win the MVP award because of how good Rodgers and Brees have been done. It’s a little like hitting 66 home runs the year Mark McGwire hits 70.

1. Aaron Rodgers

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    I almost put Tom Brady higher than Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers got the vote for several reasons: 1) He’s the reigning Super Bowl champ 2) He’s having a better season and 3) He’s a threat to run with the ball too.

    Rodgers leads the NFL in yards per attempt (9.2), touchdown passes (40), touchdown to interception ratio (6.67) and passer rating (120.1). He posted a passer rating over 100 in every single one of the Green Bay Packers’ first 12 games, and he’s accounted for multiple touchdowns in 16 straight games, dating back to the Super Bowl.

    Much has been made of the Patriots historically awful pass defense, but Rodgers is playing on a Packers team that ranks 31st in total defense, 31st in passing defense, 27th in net passing yards allowed per attempt and 27th in rushing yards allowed per attempt. Rodgers has essentially been a gigantic band-aid for a Packers team that has a slew of flaws despite its impressive 13-1 record.