We’ve just about at the mid-point of the 2012 NFL season. With Week 8 kicking off tonight, it’s time to break down the quarterbacks in the league and see where they rank power-wise.
1. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
As a rule of thumb, until you’ve been beaten, you’re the best. Ryan and the Falcons are 6-0 (the only undefeated team left), coming off a bye-week, and are preparing for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. in the first six weeks he’s completed 160 passes in 236 attempts for 1,756 yards with a 67.8 completion percentage. He’s thrown 14 touchdowns and ran in a touchdown himself. Ryan is connecting well with Julio Jones and is utilizing his tight end Tony Gonzalez better than ever. Ryan, though, has already been sacked 13 times for a loss of 107 yards and has thrown six interceptions. A little better movement in the pocket, and no one is going to stop this guy. The Falcons are going to eventually lose a game, but it won’t come this week.
2. Eli Manning – New York Giants
Sometimes he has great games and sometimes he has not so great games. However, at the end of the day, Manning finds a way to win. Manning is one of those quarterbacks that will continue to prove that games are never over until the clock reads 00:00 and will set the team up for either a field goal or a touchdown to tie or take the lead. So far this season he is 169-for-265 for 2,109 yards with a 63.8 completion percentage. He’s also been sacked only five times for 40 yards. Manning has a way of staying calm in the pocket and finding his receivers for big yards. He’s coming off a fourth quarter comeback against the Washington Redskins where he threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with under two minutes left in the game. There’s no stopping him when there are less than two minutes remaining.
3. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
It’s been a season of ups and downs for the Packers, but they are 4-3 and the last two weeks for Rodgers have been powerful ones. He handed the Houston Texans their first loss of the season when he threw six touchdowns on the night. His offensive line does have to get better though as he’s already been sacked 26 times for a loss of 142 yards. He’s been sacked five times in the last two weeks, but still managed to throw nine touchdowns for 680 yards. He is coming off an MVP season and if Packers can protect Rodgers better, he will be one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league. Sorry, Rob Parker, but Rodgers is not the best quarterback in the league this year.
4. Matt Schaub – Houston Texans
Schaub may not be putting up the biggest numbers among NFL quarterbacks, but he is doing exactly what a quarterback should be doing. He’s controlling his offense, make plays, and setting the team up for big wins. The Texans exploded onto the season starting off 5-0. After losing their star linebacker Brian Cushing, they suffered their first loss to the Packers, but regrouped against the Baltimore Ravens with a big win. Schaub 140-for-222 for 1,650 yards and 10 touchdowns this season and has been sacked 8 times for just 59 yards. The Texans are on a bye this week and will come back Week 9 against the Buffalo Bills at home. With a week of rest, Schaub and this team could come out exploding again.
5. Tom Brady – New England Patriots
The Patriots are not having a Patriots type of year, but Brady is still putting up Brady type of numbers. So far this season he is 186-for-285 for 2,104 yards with a 65.3 completion percentage. He has thrown 12 touchdowns and has ran in two. He’s kept his interceptions low to just three, but has been sacked 14 times for a loss of 96 yards. He lost a nail-biting game to the Baltimore Ravens, but his other two losses have come to the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks…teams the Patriots should not be losing to. The Patriots reclaimed first place in the AFC East over the week defeating the New York Jets in overtime, and will need to find ways to improve their defense to get better along the road. Overall, Brady has the offense in sync and has used his tight end Rob Gronkowski as his biggest weapon.
6. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
Yes, the Saints are only 2-4, but it’s not the offense that’s slipping. Brees will make your defense’s life miserable. Coming off a record breaking season in passing yards, Brees has thrown for 2,097 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’s thrown 8 touchdowns in his last two games for 747 yards. Brees is having his typical dominate year in offense, but the Saints will not start winning games until their defense gets it together. The won the last two with a bye in between with the Denver Broncos coming up next.
7. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
If I did this list earlier in the season, Flacco would have probably been in the top five. After starting the season completing over 70% of his passes, he’s not completing just under 60%. The Ravens have a 5-2 record, but their last few games have not been pretty ones. Flacco barely got by the Kansas City Chiefs in a 9-6 win, completing just 48.1% of his passes. On the season he has thrown 1,837 yards for nine touchdowns. They are still good numbers, but not the numbers he should be at with this schedule. Considering the fact that he stated he’s the best quarterback in the league, he’s certainly not proving it. Ravens have their bye this week and will try to figure out their issues.
8. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
After missing the entire 2011 season with a neck injury and basically getting kicked off a team that he built, Manning is proving that he’s not done yet. He’s thrown for 1,808 yards and 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He’s playing like the Manning we’re all used to seeing and could make this team even stronger as the season rolls along. The Saints are next up.
9. Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears
When Cutler is on, he’s plays like a top five quarterback. When he’s off, he looks like he’s playing is first ever football game. Cutler is one of the most erractic quarterbacks in the league, but this season I place him in the top ten because of the success the Bears have had this season. He’s thrown for 1,359 yards and eight touchdowns. He is finding a good rhythm throwing to Brandon Marshall this season and the two have carried their team to a 5-1 record.
10. Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger has had better seasons, but he’s still effective with the Steelers. So far he has thrown 1,765 yards and 11 touchdowns and has kept his interceptions to three. Roethlisberger is still the big athletic quarterback that can move well in the pocket and run if he needs to. A lot of the Steelers’s struggles this season have come on the defensive side that’s been dealing with injuries. The Steelers are 3-3 this season and if Roethlisberger stays healthy they will pose a threat.
11. Tony Romo – Dallas Cowboys
I think Romo is a good quaterback. I don’t place him in the top 10 because he and his receivers never seem to click. The last two seasons his connections with Miles Austin have improved, but could be better. Him trying to connect with Dez Bryant, though, is a never ending saga of disappointment. He’s thrown 1,636 yards for nine touchdowns so far this season. Romo still relies on the tight end Jason Witten to complete most of his passes, and uses the running game to move down the field. The problem with the running is that his backs DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones can’t stay healthy. He has nine picks this season, but five of them were against the Chicago Bears. Even with that hiccup, Romo does have a way of keeping interceptions in a minimum as he does have a way of moving well in the pocket under pressure. I won’t be shocked if he throws no more than two picks going forward.
12. Alex Smith – San Francisco 49ers
Smith may not have the explosive numbers of a top NFL quaterback, but he’s proven effective for the 49ers. Since the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, Smith has been an NFL quarterback that no one has seen come from him. Smith can run an offense like a leader, but I don’t rank him higher as the 49ers wind up relying on their special teams and David Akers to stack up the points. In the two weeks where they’ve blown out the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills for a combinded 79-3, Smith threw just three touchdowns. Smith has, however, completed 66.8% of his passes so far this season and can move the offense down the field. If he can get passes off in the redzone better, he can be a better quaterback.
13. Christian Ponder – Minnesota Vikings
I have to say, Ponder has shocked me this season. I think he always had the potential to do great things, but to do it this early in his career with the Minnesota team that he has is highly impressive. He’s led the Vikings to a 5-2 record and has thrown for 1,492 yards and nine touchdowns. He also ran in a touchdown himself in an impressive win over the San Francisco 49ers earlier in the season. Ponder is showing great movement in the pocket, focus, and a calming sense of nature when making plays. Now that he has Adrian Peterson back, he has learned how to use him to his advantage. Plus, he’s making a great connection with Percy Harvin. This kid is good.
14. Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers
Rivers started the 2012 season strong, but the last few weeks have been the opposite. Two weeks ago before their bye, Rivers got the Chargers off to a fast 24-0 start over the Denver Broncos. However, he wasn’t able to produce anything else throughout the game, and the Broncos came all the way back to win 35-24. I get that the defense gives up all of those points, but for Rivers to not answer any of them is not good. He is coming off a bye week and will play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, which is a good way to get himself and the team back on track.
15. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Of all of the rookie quarterbacks this season, Wilson has impressed me the most and could be the dark horse in the Rookie of the Year voting. He doesn’t get off a ton of passes, but when he does he makes them count…and they’re clutch. He is 104-for-175 in passing attempts for 1,230 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s beaten teams like Dallas, Green Bay, and New England and nearly beat the 49ers. I think Wilson is the perfect quarterback that the Seahawks have needed. They have a solid defense, and if they can build him offensive weapons in the future, he could shape out to be a great NFL quarterback.
16. Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
RGIII is having a Rookie of the Year type of season with the Redskins. He’s leading all of the NFL in completion percentage completing 70.4% of his passes. He’s throw for 1,601 yards and seven touchdowns, but has rushed 64 times for 468 yards and six touchdowns. He has, however, fumbled the football seven times so far this season. We’ve seen running quaterbacks in Michael Vick, Tim Tebow, and Cam Newton, but RGIII has proven to be the fastest and most athletic of the bunch…as well as the smartest. If he can hold onto the football better when he attempts to run, he will be one of the most dangerous quaterbacks the NFL has seen in a long time. NFL teams have figured out Vick, Tebow, and Newton, but there’s a good chance they may not figure out RGIII. We’ll see.
17. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
For a quaterback that just came off a 5,000 passing yard season, he is struggling a lot so far this year. His numbers are solid, but not nearly on the pace he was on last year. He’s passed for 1,756 yards and five touchdowns and has scored two himself. A lot of his yards last year came at the expense of passing to Calvin Johnson, but he’s been very quiet this year. Is the “Madden Curse” affecting the whole team?
18. Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals
This has been a strangely down year for Dalton considering the Bengals’ record. The funny part is that his individual numbers are not bad. He’s thrown for 1,831 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he does have 10 interceptions. He’s thrown at least one pick in each of his games, three against the Miami Dolphins and two against the Browns. He’s also been sacked 17 times already which hasn’t been a ton of help. He is still completing 64.2% of his passes and his regaining a good rhythm with AJ Green as the season rolls along. They are on a bye this week and face the Broncos 11/4.
19. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
Luck is the other guy that is having a Rookie of the Year type of season. After a drama filled offseason of dumping Peyton Manning and drafting Luck number one, he has taken a broken Colts team and is already starting to rebuild it. He started the season off shaky, but the last few weeks he has shown himself as a mini-Eli Manning, making late game heroics and come-from-behind victories. Luck is everything you would want in a young NFL quarterback and he’s only going to get better.
20. Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins
So far this season, Tannehill has given the Dolphins something they had been missing for a while: a competent quarterback. I always liked Tannehill and I was a little upset that he was drafted to the Dolphins for the sake of his talent. I wasn’t shocked when the Dolphins decided to make him the started, either. The Dolphins are 3-3 and Tannehill has thrown for 1,454 yards and just four touchdowns, and ran in one touchdown himself. His biggest game came against the Arizona Cardinals. Despite the loss, Tannehill threw for 431 yards. If Tannehill keeps up his play and the Dolphins draft with a brain in the future, he could make the Dolphins relevant again.
21. Michael Vick – Philadelphia Eagles
Vick, like Cutler, is just another one of those erractic quarterbacks. The Eagles are 3-3 this season and Vick has thrown 1,632 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s ran the ball 41 times for 205 yards and has scored two touchdowns. He is, however, leading the NFL in turnovers. He’s thrown eight intercpetions and has fumbled the football nine times, five of which were lost. Ouch! His offensive line doesn’t help him out much either has he’s been sacked 17 times already. Unless Vick can rally together a better second, the Eagles could decided to let him go. They’re coming off a bye week to face the undefeated Falcons.
22. Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams
It’s been an up and down season for the Rams, but Bradford is holding his ground. He’s certainly having a much better season that last year. So far he’s thrown for 1,592 yards and seven touchdowns, but he’s been sacked 21 times already. Basically he doesn’t get much of an opportunity to find his open receivers. Danny Amendola returned to practice and hopefully he will be healhty enough to start playing games again after suffering a dislocated collar bone against the Cardinals. Bradford does have to keep his turnovers down. He has six interceptions and three fumbles, none of which lost, though. It could have a lot to do with the pressure he’s faced this season. If Bradford can find a way to move in and out of the pocket and avoid defenses, he can keep those numbers down.
23. Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are still trying to find some rhythm with their new head coach Greg Schiano, but overall Freeman is having a solid season. Despite a 2-4 record, Freeman has thrown 1,538 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also limited his interceptions to five. He does have four fumbles, none of which were lost, though. If Freeman’s offensive weapons are working. It’s the defense that isn’t doing it’s job.
24. Carson Palmer – Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are 2-4 this season, but Palmer has been effective. He’s thrown 1,732 yards and seven touchdowns completing over 60% of his passes. He has fumbled the football four times, though, losing two of them. The Raiders are on a bye this week and then have the Buccaneers, which could go for a great show. I think the more experienced quarterback in Palmer will win that battle.
25. Ryan Fitzpatrick – Buffalo Bills
It’s been an up and down year for the Bills and they are currently sitting at a 3-4 record. Fitzpatrick is still completing over 60% of his passes with 1,435 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has thrown nine interceptions and fumbled three times.
26. Mark Sanchez – New York Jets
Sanchez is having quite the unique season, mostly because of all of the bull he’s had to deal with. Sanchez’s numbers overall aren’t terrible. He’s thrown 1,453 yards and nine touchdowns. His turnover numbers have gone up though. He’s thrown seven interceptions and fumbled six times, two of which were lost. The last one he lost was the deciding factor in the overtime game last week against New England. Some are saying Sanchez is awful. I think he’s decent with the potential to be good, but he’s not given weapons to work with and has to deal with the spotlight of Tebow. I almost feel bad for him.
27. Brandon Weeden – Cleveland Browns
The Browns might be 1-6, but Weeden is having a solid rookie year by the numbers. He’s thrown 1,783 yards and nine touchdowns, but he does have 10 interceptions. His season started off slow, but he’s slowly improving week-by-week. I’m excited to see what he does for the rest of the season.
28. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Newton from from a intimidating Rookie of the Year quarterback, to a lost boy that is too sad to find his way out of a hole. The Panthers are 1-5 and are showing zero signs of improving. Week after week Newton is in a losing situation and he sits on the sideline with a towel on his head. He has thrown 1,387 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also thrown six interceptions and fumbled the football another six times, three of which were lost. The only way Newton is going to get better is if he grows up a little bit and remembers he’s not at Auburn anymore.
29. Blaine Gabbert – Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s almost hard to find one specific word to describe Gabbert’s season with the Jaguars. He’s thrown just 906 yards and six touchdowns, but is completing over 50% of his passes. He’s also turned the ball over six times on the season. With Maurice Jones-Drew likely out, it’s not looking good for the Jaguars’ 1-5 season.
30. Jake Locker/Matt Hasselbeck – Tennessee Titans
Yes, two quarterbacks are here. Jake Locker began the season as the starting quarterback, but thanks to injuries he’s had to share the spot with the veteran Matt Hasselbeck. Both quaterbacks have given the Tennessee fans something to cheer about and are currently 3-4 on the season. With Kenny Britt back, as long as he stays healthy, they have a stronger receiving core.
31. Kevin Kolb/John Skelton – Arizona Cardinals
Kolb started strong with a 4-0 record, lost the next three, got hurt, and now the Cardinals are slipping. If Kolb can get healthy, then the Cardinals may be able to get back on track. The 49ers Monday Night are up next.
32. Matt Cassel/Brady Quinn – Kansas City Chiefs
This year’s Chief’s team may be one of the biggest quarterback debacles in recent history. Cassel has gone from year taking the Chiefs to the playoffs, to being cheered by the fans after getting injured. It doesn’t look good for the Chiefs at all this season, so I’m not expecting much to come out of this.
Follow Kelsey O’Donnell on Twitter @KelsODonnell