The quarterback is the most visual position on a football team and although they receive too much credit when teams win and too much blame when teams lose. The quarterback play in 2012 should be the best quality in the last fifty years. Here is how I rank the eight divisions based on quarterback play.
8. NFC West: The NFC West comes in last place due to the quarterback competitions between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton in Arizona and the three way battle between Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Flynn, and Russell Wilson in Seattle. Also with the lack of quality pass protection for Sam Bradford in St. Louis, and the run oriented offense lead by Alex Smith in San Francisco. Another factor in the NFC West’s last place ranking is because none of these quarterbacks have led a team to the Super Bowl.
7. AFC South: The AFC South earns the seventh place ranking due to a rookie starting quarterback in Indy, a second year quarterback in Jacksonville, a quarterback competition in Tennessee, and the health status of the starting quarterback in Houston. Andrew Luck is a rookie quarterback for the Colts and it is yet to be determined how he will hold up over the course of a full NFL season. The Jaguars are hopeful that second year quarterback Blaine Gabbert will have a breakout season. Matt Hasselbeck did lead his former team to the Super Bowl but currently he is competing for the starting job at Tennessee with Jake Locker. Matt Schaub is a good starter in the NFL but needs to stay healthy.
6. AFC East: Tom Brady is a great quarterback with multiple Super Bowl appearances but the AFC East comes in sixth due to the other quarterbacks in the division. Miami has a quarterback competition between Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill. Ryan Fitzpatrick is improving for Buffalo but he needs to lower his number of picks. Mark Sanchez will need to be more consistent with his play, and the arrival of Tim Tebow to the division might help the Jets win more games but does not mean a higher ranking for the AFC East.
5. AFC North: The AFC North has a solid collection of quarterbacks. Roethlisberger has been the starting quarterback in three of Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl appearances. Joe Flacco has been a solid starter on some good Baltimore teams. Andy Dalton had a great rookie season leading the Bengals to a 9-7 playoff appearance. The quarterback competition between Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden in Cleveland is the reason this division comes in at number five.
4. NFC South: Drew Brees led the Saints to the Super Bowl in 2009 and still leads a high powered Saints’ offense. Matt Ryan is a steady performer for the Falcons, Cam Newton had an exciting rookie season with Carolina, and Josh Freeman needs to bounce back from disappointing season last year for Tampa Bay. If Freeman returns to his 2010 form the NFC South moves to a third place ranking, if not they slip to number five.
3. NFC North: The strength of the top three quarterbacks in this division really make up for another quarterback in a bad situation. Aaron Rodgers gives the Packers a great starting quarterback. Matthew Stafford might be able to lead Detroit deep into the playoffs. Jay Cutler needs to stay healthy to give the Bears a chance to compete in the NFC North. While Christian Ponder has his work cut out for him in Minnesota.
2. AFC West: The arrival of Peyton Manning to the Broncos adds a future hall of famer to the division but everyone will be watching to see if Manning can return to his All-Pro form. Philip Rivers puts up quality numbers for the Chargers. Oakland’s mid-season acquisition of Carson Palmer gives them a quality starter. Matt Cassel needs to stay healthy and have a big year in Kansas City.
1. NFC East: If Robert Griffith III can live up to the hype, the Redskins will have a quality NFL Quarterback and this ranking will be justified. Eli Manning is fresh off of leading the Giants to another Super Bowl victory, Michael Vick is still a dangerous quarterback for the Eagles, and Tony Romo continues to put up solid numbers for the Cowboys but might be the least notable quarterback in the division.
The writer has been following the NFL since 1982.