It's pretty simple in the modern-day, pass-heavy NFL: You
can't win a Super Bowl without an elite quarterback. As good as Seattle's
defense was in 2013, Russell Wilson still was elite under center. Here's an
early quarterback power rankings heading into the 2014 season.
1. Peyton Manning,
Broncos: How can you argue with a guy who set NFL records for passing yards
and touchdowns while leading the NFL's most prolific scoring offense in history?
Manning won't have Eric Decker (87 catches, 1,288 yards, 11 TDs) this season
but has plenty of other weapons. The Broncos are second Super Bowl favorites
with San Francisco at 15/2 at Bovada's NFL odds.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Green Bay
learned what life would be without Rodgers last season when he was limited to
just nine games and the Pack fell apart without him. Rodgers returned with an
epic performance in the regular-season finale in Chicago to win the NFC North.
3. Drew Brees,
Saints: He likely would have been the 2013 MVP if not for Manning. Brees
was second in the NFL in yards, touchdowns passes and completion percentage.
He's still not quite the same player outside the dome, however.
4. Russell Wilson,
Seahawks: Wilson won't win you too many games but he's not going to lose
any, either. He's the prototypical game manager. His Seahawks are 6/1 favorites
at sportsbooks to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
5. Andrew Luck,
Colts: Luck still throws too many interceptions but is very clutch and led
that amazing playoff comeback against the Chiefs. The addition of former Giants
WR Hakeem Nicks should help boost Luck to his best season yet.
6. Philip Rivers,
Chargers: He was reborn under new coach Mike McCoy and offensive
coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The latter is gone, with former NFL QB Frank Reich
replacing him, but that McCoy is still around should keep Rivers at a high
7. Tom Brady,
Patriots: Brady looked very mortal at times last season and posted his
lowest season rating (87.3) since 2003. His receiving corps continues to leave
much to be desired because you can't count on tight end Rob Gronkowski staying
8. Matthew Stafford,
Lions: The additions of new head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive
coordinator Joe Lombardi as well as the signing of free-agent receiver Golden
Tate should bring the best out of Stafford. Plus he can always just throw jump
balls to Calvin Johnson.
9. Colin Kaepernick,
49ers: Still fairly inaccurate and turnover-prone, but a full season of
Michael Crabtree can only help Kaepernick. And if the 49ers somehow get DeSean
Jackson, look out.
10. Matt Ryan,
Falcons: Tony Gonzalez said Ryan wasn't quite elite last year, but Ryan
also lost top receiver Julio Jones in the fifth game of the season.
Unfortunately for Ryan, now Gonzalez is gone.
11. Nick Foles,
Eagles: Purely on 2013 statistics, the NFL rating leader should be higher.
However, Foles has yet to prove it over a full season and could lose his No. 1
WR in DeSean Jackson.
12. Tony Romo,
Cowboys: Remains a regular-season star. Sports bettors should stay away
from Romo and the Cowboys in those winner-take-all Week 17 games, however.
Roethlisberger, Steelers: Rather quietly, Big Ben threw for the second-most
touchdowns and yards in his career in 2013. However, the Steelers look pretty
old and now Roethlisberger doesn't have second-leading receiver Emmanuel
14. Jay Cutler,
Bears: Look at what Marc Trestman did with Josh McCown with Cutler out.
Chicago has some of the best skill position talent in the NFL around Cutler. He
simply needs to stay healthy.
15. Andy Dalton,
Bengals: He will be playing for a contract extension most likely and his
future in Cincinnati. Dalton had his best regular season in 2013 but flopped
again in the playoffs.
16. Cam Newton,
Panthers: He would likely be a few spots higher if Carolina didn't appear
to have the worst receiving group in the NFL after losing its top three
pass-catchers from last year.
17. Joe Flacco,
Ravens: His serious regression in 2013 is fairly concerning. That can
happen to a guy who gets a mammoth contract. Flacco has never been a great
regular-season QB. The addition of Steve Smith should help Flacco's numbers.
18. Eli Manning,
Giants: Eli has always been interception-prone, but he tossed a whopping 27
of them in 2013. Does he have one more Super Bowl season in him? Manning's numbers
have gotten worse each of the past two seasons.
19. Robert Griffin
III, Redskins: Will he ever be the dynamo he was as a rookie? Two career knee
surgeries indicate otherwise. However, now that he's a full season removed from
his most recent one, and rid of the Shanahans, RGIII should be better in 2014
than last year.
20. Sam Bradford,
Rams: This is likely a make-or-break season for the former No. 1 overall
pick in St. Louis. Bradford was playing well before suffering a season-ending
injury in 2013. Also expect the Rams to get him more receiving help in the
draft (Sammy Watkins?).
21. Ryan Tannehill,
Dolphins: If Miami can protect last season's most-sacked quarterback,
Tannehill could take a big-time jump in production in 2014. It is concerning
the Fins offense went into the tank the final two weeks of 2013 with a playoff
berth on the line.
22. Carson Palmer,
Cardinals: Now that Palmer has a
full season under his belt in Bruce Arians' offense, Palmer could have his best
season since his early Bengals years. He played much better the second half of 2013.
23. Alex Smith,
Chiefs: If Smith plays like he did in the playoff loss to the Colts, the
Chiefs are Super Bowl contenders for sports bettors. However, Kansas City
appears to be a worse team through free agency so far.
24. Jake Locker,
Titans: It's make-or-break season for Locker in Tennessee for sure. The
good news is he has a terrific offensive head coach in Ken Whisenhunt, who has worked
wonders with an old Kurt Warner and a broken Philip Rivers.
25. Case Keenum/Ryan
Fitzpatrick, Texans: Keenum wasn't half-bad at times for Houston after
replacing Matt Schaub last season and there's still plenty of talent around him
in the likes of Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and DeAndre Hopkins. Keenum, who
presumably will beat out Fitzpatrick, likely is only holding the job for a
26. Josh McCown,
Buccaneers: Chicago's offense was always a problem when Lovie Smith was the
head coach there so it's ironic the new Tampa Bay head coach signed McCown away
from the Bears. Smith says McCown is his starter despite the fact Mike Glennon
was the best rookie QB in the NFL a year ago. McCown may have been a Marc Trestman-created
flash in the pan.
27. Chad Henne,
Jaguars: Henne is a serviceable veteran who also is likely only holding the
job for whichever QB that Jacksonville takes in this year's draft. If No. 1
receiver Justin Blackmon can stay out of trouble and on the field that will
help Henne's numbers. Jacksonville has the lowest opening 2014 wins total of
4.5 at sportsbooks.
Smith/Michael Vick, Jets: The Jets want Smith to win this job, but Vick is
probably the better bet. It's also wise to expect Vick to get injured at some
point as happens every season. Vick had a solid 86.4 rating last season in his
limited time with the Eagles. Smith has proven he can lead fourth-quarter
comebacks at least.
29. Brian Hoyer,
Browns: Hoyer had two solid starts with Cleveland before suffering a
season-ending injury. He has two excellent targets in WR Josh Gordon and TE
Jordan Cameron. It's all but a lock Cleveland will take a QB with the No. 4
overall pick but unlikely the guy taken starts from Day 1.
30. Matt Schaub,
Raiders: It wasn't so long ago Schaub was considered a near Top-10
quarterback, but he looked shell-shocked last season in continually throwing
pick-sixes and getting benched. Still, Schaub seems good value for a
sixth-round pick in a trade and as a placeholder for whichever QB the Raiders
choose in the draft. A 12th straight losing season looks likely for Oakland.
31. E.J. Manuel,
Bills: Buffalo was 4-6 in Manuel's 10 games a season ago. He didn't show he
was the long-term solution at the position, but didn't show he wasn't, either.
32. Matt Cassel/Christian
Ponder, Vikings: Ponder, the former first-round pick, could be traded or
released, while Cassel got a two-year, $10 million extension. That leaves one
to believe he will start. Poor Adrian Peterson. The Vikes also are likely to
grab a QB early in the 2014 draft.