Last season in the NFL, there were 3 quarterbacks who threw for over 5000 passing yards with two breaking the previous record help by Hall of Famer Dan Marino. Seven quarterbacks threw for 4000 plus yards. With numbers such as those being posted, it is clear that league is becoming more and more of a quarterback league with every passing season.
With the quarterbacks around the league getting plenty of opportunities to carry their teams, one has to wonder which NFL division has the best quarterbacks from top to bottom. I took the time to rank all eight divisions based on quarterback talent and quarterback depth.
1. NFC North (Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Christian Ponder): The decision to put the NFC North atop of this list was a fairly easy one. Entering the 2012 season, all of the quarterbacks are due for a huge season sans Ponder. With Rodgers coming into the season as the undisputed “best player in the world”, Stafford and Cutler will be proving how they are top 10 quarterbacks throughout this season and with such high value at the QB, three out of the four teams in this division may make the playoffs. Ponder will get to experience a full training camp this season as he enters the year as the number one quarterback on the Minnesota Vikings roster, so improvement will be a must for him.
2. NFC East (Eli Manning, Robert Griffin III, Tony Romo, Mike Vick): Second on the list, the NFC East brings the most balanced quarterback talent in the league from top to bottom. The only question with this list, talent wise, is whether rookie RGIII can live up to his second overall pick hype. Manning walked away with another Super Bowl victory, Romo threw for 4000+ yards and 31 touchdowns and Vick, despite multiple injuries, remains as one of the most entertaining players in the league. With quality play from all four teams, expect the division to remain tight and whoever gets the best player from their leader will win the division.
3. NFC South (Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Josh Freeman, Drew Brees): With New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees headlining the NFC South, in comes the division with some of the best young talent in the NFL. While Josh Freeman is set to have a bounce back year with a revamped offense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, if he avoids the “sophomore slump”, are both expected to take a have a huge year putting their team into playoff contention. Also, here’s a reminder that Brees threw for 5,476 yards last season which is an NFL record.
4. AFC North (Ben Rothleisberger, Brandon Weeden, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco): With only one rookie out in the bunch, the AFC North stands ahead the rest of its conference counterparts when it comes to quarterbacks. When healthy Big Ben can be as good as the rest of the elite quarterbacks in the league. After Ben, young QBs Flacco and Dalton, who both threw for over 3000 yards had good years and are expected to take the next step needed for their teams. As for Weeden, expect an up and down year as he attempts to give the Cleveland Browns some solidarity at the position for years to come.
5. AFC West (Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, Matt Cassell): Oh how things can change from the beginning of 2011 to now. With Matt Cassell and Phillip Rivers remaining as the same starters from 2011, the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders have gone from Tim Tebow and Jason Campbell to Manning and Palmer which is undoubtedly an upgrade for both teams. Fittingly, each starter is expected to have a bounce back year whether it is Manning or Cassell who both coming off of injured reserve or Palmer and Rivers who both played below their expected level last season. We know the talent is here, but proving they can get back to their normal selves is the real question.
6. AFC East (Tom Brady, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Tannehill): When it comes to ranking quarterbacks, it is unusual to see New England Patriots QB Tom Brady so low, but that is the reality of the AFC East. Fitzpatrick had a break out year last season and is expected to maintain his level of playing. Tannehill is starting as a rookie for a Miami Dolphins team that lacks a quality receiving core. Things will tend to be rocky in South Beach. As for Sanchez, he has the talents to be a quality starter, but with a rocky offensive line, lack of quality receiver and Tebow-ers booing at his every mistake, it could get ugly for the New York Jets quarterback.
7. AFC South (Matt Schaub, Jake Locker, Andrew Luck, Blaine Gabbert): After the Indianapolis Colts replaced 4-time MVP Peyton Manning with Andrew Luck, the number one overall pick, they dropped in their overall quarterback rankings. Usually flying under the radar as a top quarterback, Schaub stands as the only veteran. The youth shows: Gabbert, Luck and Locker are entering their first seasons as NFL starters. Many expect the youthful players to have a balanced year for their squad. As for Schaub, expectations are high for his Houston Texans and, if healthy he may be the key component in them making a bid in the Super Bowl.
8. NFC West (Alex Smith, John Skelton, Russell Wilson, Sam Bradford): Is it a surprise that the weakest division in football boasts the weakest batch of quarterbacks? Alex Smith finally looked half the part of a number one overall pick last season as he took his San Francisco 49ers to the NFC championship. With the other three, Bradford and Skelton are entering their third year where they need to prove they are the quarterbacks of the future for their squads and Wilson, a rookie, has yet to play a game for the Seattle Seahawks.