There are a lot of great quarterbacks who never won a championship. Dan Marino and Jim Kelly are probably the most famous, but every team's fanbase has a QB they think should have won one. The Chargers have Dan Fouts, the Eagles have Donovan McNabb, the Cowboys have Tony Romo (and before that they had "Dandy" Don Meredith).
Plenty of QBs were "carried" to a Super Bowl by their team: Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Jeff Hostetler, Jim McMahon. You could make a case for plenty of other guys, too; Eli Manning, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Namath. This isn't to say any of the players I've listed (including Dilfer and Co.) were bad QBs, it's to say that football is and always will be a team sport. So in order to properly rank and project the odds of a QB winning it all, you must look at team first. With that in mind, here we go:
32 Brock Osweiler, Cleveland Browns
Looking at team first doesn't bode well for Osweiler. The Browns were 1-15 last year, becoming the first team since the 2009 Rams to earn that "achievement". The year before last they were 3-13. There are also plenty of red flags for Osweiler himself. Osweiler has fallen a long way, going from being the heir apparent to Peyton Manning and the future leader of a Super Bowl caliber squad to a guy whose team gave up a second round pick to get rid of him. Earlier this year the Texans agreed to trade Osweiler and a second round pick to the Browns, effectively paying a second rounder to have Osweiler's huge cap hit taken off the Texans books. Osweiler didn't inspire confidence in his preseason game, going 6/14 for 42 yards.
The Browns backup (for now) QB DeShone Kizer impressed, throwing a game winning TD, and it's all together possible that the Browns end up starting Cody Kessler or Kizer instead of Osweiler. It's unlikely that happens, if we're being realistic. Osweiler isn't a terrible QB, and he sometimes shows things that make you think he can be a solid starter; in last years AFC Divisional Osweiler played relatively well against the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots and the game would have been close had Osweiler's receivers not dropped two wide open touchdowns. Osweiler will also have the best Left Tackle in the game guarding his blindside, along with a very good O-line overall. The Browns aren't going to win the Super Bowl, but they may well surprise some teams and play spoiler to their AFC North rivals later in the year.
31 Mike Glennon, Chicago Bears
Mike Glennon is an odd case. Glennon seems to play well, but can't get a team to commit to him. After doing fairly well in 2013 and 2014 as the Bucs starter, Glennon was put aside so the Bucs could draft Jameis Winston. Then this offseason Glennon signed a huge deal with the Bears... Only for the Bears to trade a ton to move up and take Mitch Trubisky.
It's clear that Glennon is treated a low tier starter, and that's probably where he'll end up this year if the first preseason game is any indication. Glennon threw a pick six early on in the game, while his main competitor for the starting job, Trubisky, did quite well. The Bears are a team that is rebuilding after going 6-10 in 2015 and then 3-13 last year. To be blunt, this isn't a Bears team you want to throw the guy you invested heavily into. That's why Glennon will start.
30 Brian Hoyer, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers had a very high profile QB last year. The team also went 2-14. The 9ers hope to change both of these things this season. The 49ers signed QB Brian Hoyer "The Destroyer" earlier in the offseason. The 49ers went defense with their early picks (and looks to have killed it, getting two top 10 defensive prospects) in the 2017 draft, and are content to put the ball in the hands of shaky if not competent Hoyer.
Hoyer's biggest problem is consistency. At one point with the Browns, Hoyer's record as a starter was 9-3, before bombing during the rest of his Browns stint. Hoyer signed with the Texans in 2015 and played admirably, but got dismantled in the Texans first (and only) playoff game, turning the ball over an astonishing 5 times.
After that turnover catastrophe he then signed with the Bears, and didn't throw a single pick. Granted, he only started five games but it's still impressive. The 49ers want Hoyer to be a manager, to guide the team and not lose them easy games while they rebuild. He is called "The Destroyer" for a reason, John Lynch is just hoping it's the other team this time.
29 Christian Hackenburg, New York Jets
The Jets are still in a three-way QB battle between Christian Hackenburg, Bryce Petty, and Josh McCown. McCown is known as "Tank Commander McCown", because teams that are expected to tank love to use him. This isn't a knock on McCown, who has become a reliable starter over the years, especially since his resurgence with the Bears in 2013. The Jets aren't a terrible team either, the year before last they finished 10-6. The Jets got rid of Darrelle Revis and Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason, trying to rebuild the team while not ditching the coach. Head Coach Todd Bowles is an excellent defensive mind, and the pieces are there for the Jets. Because of this, Bowles is in a tough position. If The Jets bomb this year, Bowles is likely out, so success is a must. But what kind of success? The Jets can take the safe bet and go McCown, probably winning between three-to-eight games in the process and look like a competent team.
The problem with that is it likely isn't good enough to keep his job as it puts the Jets into the same spot next year, decent team with no answer at QB. It also means calling it quits on 2nd round pick Hackenburg, which would look bad for Bowles. This is why Hackenburg will start. Hackenburg will win any games McCown will, and he offers the upside of having a potential(though unlikely) franchise QB. If Hackenburg comes in and plays poorly and the Jets go 4-12, it was going to happen regardless. If Hackenburg plays well then it gives another reason to keep Bowles.
28 Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
The Rams did a lot to improve Jared Goff's chances this year. The Rams traded a good defensive player (CB E.J Gaines) and a second round pick for talented receiver Sammy Watkins, formerly of the Buffalo Bills. Goff wasn't great his rookie year, but it's tough to say how much of that was the team he was on.
The Rams went 0-7 with Goff as the starter, averaging just 12.1 Points Per Game. Without Goff the Rams went 4-5, which points towards it being Goff. But when you consider the offense only scored 15.4PPG without Goff, you start to think it's the offense as a whole. Goff also played four of his seven games against playoff teams, including road games against New England and Seattle. Throw in the fact it was the first season of a relocation, a coach who was facing being fired, and being thrown in half way through the season, and there are a lot of reasons to think Goff will bounce back in 2017. The Rams are stuck in between rebuilding and not. On one hand they have the best D-line in football and a good offense would put them in the mix of the NFC playoff picture.
On the other hand, if Goff doesn't pan out the Rams are in a terrible position having given up so much to get Goff. But if Goff does pan out, then the Rams could be one of the best teams in the NFC.
27 Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles is an enigma. He isn't just season to season, or game to game, he is play to play. There are times Bortles will rocket a pass to Allen Robinson that will make you wonder how any defense could stop it. Then there are throws he makes that make you wonder how the Jags ever score. Bortles is the typical gunslinger, and that is a dying breed in the NFL. The main reason the Jaguars are sticking to Bortles is 2015. In 2015 Bortles threw for 4,428 yards, 35 touchdowns, and led the Jaguars to 5 wins (the highest total for them in the past 5 years). The detractors will say he is a garbage time king, his defenders will say he is stuck on one of the worst teams in the league. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. Bortles 35 touchdown probably were an outlier, but he is also stuck being an entire offense. That all changed in the 2017 NFL draft, where the Jaguars spent the fourth pick on RB Leonard Fournette of LSU. Fournette is an amazing talent and should take a lot of the pressure off Bortles. This year the Jaguars will get to see who Bortles really is, but will they like the answer?
26 Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills
It appears the Bills have plans that don't involve Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has played well (Or at least better than any Bills QB since Bledsoe) since he was signed to the Bills in 2015, yet the Bills don't don't seem to want him. They didn't offer a long term contract this offseason, and then they traded Taylor's main weapon and offseason work out buddy Sammy Watkins to the Rams. Those aren't moves you make if he is your long term QB. At this point, it's become self-fulfilling. Taylor won't be a long term solution for Buffalo, either because he doesn't have the talent or because even he does the Bills won't want him (and he won't want them).
That isn't to say the Bills are wrong in this choice, as Taylor has struggled at times. The Bills most likely don't want to be in for Fitzpatrick 2.o, a solid QB who plays well for a team short on talent and ends up getting a long term he shouldn't have. The Bills have a good roster, with a few big name stars such Marcell Dareus and LeSean McCoy. The Bills also traded for former Eagles Receiver Jordan Matthews. Maybe the Bills haven't given up on Taylor, and are just hedging bets. If Taylor can do well with this situation, perhaps he can impress them enough to keep him.
25 Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
Why is Philip Rivers, a guy who is very close to the Hall Of Fame, this far down the list? Because of his team. The Chargers haven't posted a winning season since 2014, and haven't made the playoffs since 2013. Their best player outside of Rivers is often injured Receiver Keenan Allen. Their first round pick, wide out Mike Williams, may miss the season with a back injury. They're in the midst of an ugly relocation process that essentially gives them two away games against their biggest rival (The Raiders, who are still immensely popular in Los Angeles). They play in a division where every team has won at least 12 games in one of the previous two seasons, except for the Chargers. Phillip Rivers being their QB fixes a lot, and if they stay healthy they may be able to claw to 8-8/9-7 (though will that be good enough for a playoff spot in the super competitive AFC West?), but a Super Bowl is unlikely.
24 Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
The days where the Colts were Super Bowl favorites seem so far away now. In retrospect, it appears Andrew Luck made this appear to be a much more competitive team than it actually was. A combination of MVP caliber play, opportune moments, and a very weak AFC South (Seriously, the rest of the AFC South went a combined 14-34 in the year the Colts reached the AFCCG, the next worst Divisional Win-Loss between non playoff teams was the NFC South at 15-33, where the 7-8-1 Panthers won the division). The AFC South was so dominated by the Colts that from 2012-2014 the Colts wents 16-2 against the AFC South... and 17-13 against everyone else. These days it's the Texans division to lose, and the Colts haven't adapted well to that. Going 8-8 the past two years as the Texans won back to back AFC South titles. 8-8 isn't terrible by any stretch, it just means that the Colts 11-5 AFCCG run was the outlier, not the 8-8 seasons. Some will chalk it up to injuries on the Colts, but I disagree.
The Colts are still an average to slightly above average team with a very good QB, and could possibly make a run if the universe aligns itself right. But it probably won't.
23 Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
If this were a list of the best Quarterbacks in football, Brees would in the top-5. Instead it's based on how likely you are to win the Super Bowl this year, which puts him in bottom 10. Drew Brees has averaged (averaged!) 5,000 yards over the last three seasons. The Saints haven't posted a winning record in any of them. Brees isn't the issue, and he has some great weapons to work with including WR Michael Thomas who caught 92 balls last year for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Saints traded one of Brees better weapons away, Receiver Brandin Cooks is now with Tom Brady in New England. The Saints also play in a division with the previous two NFL MVPs, as well as the previous two NFC champions. None of this adds up to the Saints doing much this year. The Saints will likely do what they do most seasons, put up crazy offensive numbers and win between seven-to-eleven games. A Super Bowl is possible because of Brees, but don't expect it.
22 Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz and the Eagles looked like the next being the first three weeks of last year. Wentz threw five TDs and no picks, and the Eagles rolled to a 3-0 start (posting a +65 point difference in the process). From a quick glance, things fell apart after that. The Eagles finished 7-9, going 4-9 down the stretch with Wentz throwing 11 TDs to 14 INTs as the Cowboys rolled the division up. At a closer glance however you realize that of the Eagles nine losses, six of them came by one score. The Eagles added a few pieces for Wentz to play with this offseason via Free Agency and the Draft, but the Eagles defense is what will give the Eagles whatever shot at the Super Bowl they have. The Eagles added CB Ronald Darby, DE Derek Barnett, and CB Sidney Jones to their already talented defense. This came partially at the cost of WR Jordan Matthews, who was the best receiver on the Eagles roster, but that isn't really saying much.
Wentz may very well break out this season and the Eagles might follow suit. The NFC East is ripe for the taking with the suspension of Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliot and the aging of Giants QB Eli Manning. Will the Eagles take advantage of it?
21 Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens would have a very good team if they could ever all see the field at the same time. The losses the Ravens have experienced have been numerous in the past few years. In 2015 they ended the season with a team record 20 players on IR. In 2016 that number dropped slightly to 18. So far the Ravens have six players out for the year because of injuries, one who retired because of injury, and 1 more due to suspension. The Ravens are down eight players, five of which were expected to compete for starting jobs.
Oh, and the season doesn't start for another three weeks.
Flacco is out for the preseason, and there are rumors he'll miss two-to-four games to start the season as well. Injuries are the only real thing to talk about with the Ravens, as Flacco's abilities and the Ravens roster are already both established as above average. The Ravens are good in tight spots, so let's see how they do.
20 Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Kirk Cousins proved he was a franchise QB, by being deemed such twice in the past two seasons by the Redskins. In 2016 Cousins threw for 4,917 yards, narrowly missing the playoffs. In 2015 Cousins threw 29 touchdowns and led the 'Skins to the playoffs, going 9-7.
The reason the Redskins aren't higher is history. Since Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999, the Redskins have never gone further than the divisional round. That kind of ownership makes it hard to say with confidence the 'Skins are contenders, even though they have one of the better rosters in the league. If any QB for the 'Skins can break this streak, it's Cousins. Cousins played poorly in the pre-season opener but look for him to bounce back and for the Redskins to contend for a playoff spot.
19 DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans
No rookie QB has ever won the Super Bowl. It's a fact, and it's tough to overlook, even when there is a roster as talented as the Texans. DeShaun Watson isn't every other QB, however. Watson was a legend in college who decided to stay for one more year, a year that culminated in a legendary game winning drive against the Alabama Championship machine. If there is a rookie QB to win a Super Bowl, Watson would be the one to bet on, mostly because he'll be asked to do the least. The Texans roster is stacked, touting DE JJ Watt, LB Jadaveon Clowney, WR DeAndre Hopkins, LB Whitney Mercilus, and LT Duane Brown. The Texans have finished with winning records since 2014, but have failed to break deep into the playoffs due to the lack of good QB play. That's why Watson can have such a huge impact. If Watson can have a Dak Prescott-ish like season, then the Texans can win 12+ games and go deep in the playoffs. Now we see if Watson was worth what it took to draft him.
18 Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton is now well above the "Dalton line". For those unfamiliar with that term, it refers to a popular idiom that if your QB is better than Andy Dalton, you're team is set. If your starting QB is worse, then you need a new one. That line was "set" back when Dalton was a young QB getting pulled by his team, which isn't the case anymore. Dalton is now a competent franchise QB throwing to an established All Pro receiver in AJ Green and one of the fastest players in NFL history (WR John Ross, who broke the 40 yard dash record at this years combine), as well as an excellent tight end in Tyler Eifert. They also have (or at least had) an excellent defense. So why aren't the Bengals expected to go deep into the playoffs? At first glance it's because the team went 6-9-1, but the bigger reason is head coach Marvin Lewis post season record: 0-7. At this point it seems more like a fluke the Bengals haven't won a post season game, whether it's the crazy ending to the 2015 wildcard where the Bengals lost to their bitter rival the Steelers, or in 2005 when Carson Palmer tore his ACL on the first play from scrimmage (and finished the day 1/1 for 66 yards). Dalton isn't innocent in the record (including having a personal playoff record of 0-4) as his offense has averaged just 10.6 PPG in the post season. But the best team the Bengals have had was missing Dalton, the 2015 squad lost by just two with the back up QB. All that being said, it's time to take the safe bet and assume the Bengals are who they usually are: A very talented team that will lose in the early rounds of the playoffs.
17 Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It feels like the Bucs have been on the cusp of being an exciting young team for around 10 years. It was in 2010 that the Bucs shocked everyone and went 10-6, narrowly missing the playoffs. They started 4-2 in 2011 to seemingly cement their status, only to lose the final 10 games of the season to finish 4-12, and the team went through a complete rebuild the next year. The 2017 Bucs enter into this year with a very similar situation. A highly touted, highly drafted, 3rd year QB enters the season after posting a surprising winning record for his team the year before, leading to massive expectations and a "playoffs or bust" mindset. So why does Winston's upcoming season have a much higher chance of a great run? Well for starters, Winston is a better QB than Josh Freeman. Winston also has a plethora of weapons at his disposal: Receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Josh Huff form an excellent trio. He should also have a decent to good running game with running back Doug Martin leading the charge. Winston and the Bucs will make a playoff push, the only question is will it be in 2017 or 2018.
16 16. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
No Calvin Johnson, no problem. After the sudden retirement of Stafford's best weapon in the 2016 offseason, many expected a huge dropoff in production from Stafford and Co. While Stafford's stats did suffer a bit (his touchdown total went from 33 to 26, and his rating dipped from 97.0 to 93.3), his play arguably improved. The lions improved from 7-9 to 9-7, securing their second playoff appearance in three years. Stafford finally proved last year that he is a franchise QB, capable of leading a team to success independently. However Stafford is 0-3 in the playoffs, so predicting post season success is difficult. Stafford has one of the top weapons in all of the NFL in wide out Golden Tate and the bottom line remains that the Lions are a dangerous team with Stafford at the helm, and have to be respected in the NFC.
15 Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins
Two weeks ago Jay Cutler was a television analyst. Now he is the starting QB for a team looking to contend in the AFC. After Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill hurt his knee during practice, Cutler was signed to be reunited with his former offensive coordinator, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase. Jay Cutler seems to be a slight upgrade over Tannehill, and the Dolphins expect nothing less than to contend.
Had the Dolphins been content with taking whatever happens, they wouldn't have signed a veteran QB to lead them. The Dolphins give Jay Cutler a few pieces to play with, such as Jarvis Landry, the teams Pro Bowl receiver, and Jay Ajayi, the breakout star running back who helped lead the Dolphins to a 10-6 record last year. Cutler's last year ended poorly; he played just five games for the Bears in 2016 and went 1-4 during that time frame. He also posted a touchdown/interception ratio of 4/5. But Gase wasn't with Cutler in 2016. In Cutler's last season with Gase(2015) Cutler threw 21 touchdowns to just 11 picks, while averaging 244 passing yards per game. If the Dolphins make a playoff push, it will be because of their stout defense. All Cutler is needed to do is make the offense competent and keep the 'Phins competitive. A challenge which Cutler is more than up to.
14 Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings
Much maligned quarterback Sam Bradford did an admirable job in 2016. When starting QB Teddy Bridgewater suffered a devastating (and career threatening injury),a trade with the Eagles sent Bradford to Minnesota at the start of the 2016 season. Bradford got off to a hot start; The Vikings started 5-0 (4-0 with Bradford) and seemed to be in cruise control. Then the injuries kept pouring in. The result of that is that Bradford was stuck with the 29th worst offensive line, per Pro Football Focus. As a result of that, Bradford was forced to complete a lot of short passes, which yield both good and bad results. The good result was that Sam Bradford set the NFL record completion percentage(71.6%), the bad was that Bradford average just 7.0 Yards Per Attempt. While this was actually the second highest YPA of Bradford's career, it's still unacceptable in the eyes of Vikings fans. Bradford is an excellent game manager, the perfect blend of guy who completes short passes while still needing to be feared to make deep plays.
The Vikings will need an amazing defensive performance to be contenders, but the defense has shown it's capable of it. Bradford is as good as you could reasonably expect for what the Vikings need someone to do.
13 Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Marcus Mariota broke out last year, scoring 28 touchdowns in 15 games, posting a winning (8-7) record as a starter, and turning heads all around. But the Titans need him to do even more in 2017. The Titans head the list of lower level but still possible contenders that make up numbers #13-20 on this list. The talent team wide is there, and the Titans possess probably the best O-line in football. If the Titans want to make the jump to actual contender, they need to win the games they're capable of.
Last year, five of Mariota's seven losses came by one score, and a sixth came by nine points. If the Titans would have flipped even one of those, they would have made the playoffs. In all likelihood it wouldn't have mattered, as Mariota wouldn't have been involved in the post season due to a fractured right fibula during his week 16 game against the Jaguars.
Mariota seems fully healed and played in the Titans first preseason game. While Mariota struggled, he also appeared to be nimble and back to physical form. Mariota's running is a huge part of his game, and he needs it to be optimal in order to lead the Titans to glory in 2017. If Mariota stays healthy, the Titans can be a very dangerous team.
12 Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos
If the Broncos can win with a nearly forty year old Peyton Manning, they can win with Trevor Siemian. Siemian is a surprise for the Broncos, as he was considering not even joining the NFL just two years ago. Now he is the (presumed) starter for a Super Bowl caliber team. Siemian beat out Broncos first round pick Paxton Lynch at QB for the right to start in 2016, and did fairly well; Siemian posted an 8-6 W/L record while throwing for almost twice as many touchdowns (18) as interceptions (10). While he wasn't a world beater throwing for 5,000 yards, that isn't what the Broncos necessarily need to win a Super Bowl (as we learned with Manning in 2015).
The Broncos have one of the best defenses in the NFL, with potential to reclaim the title of the best in 2017. If Siemian can keep the Broncos offense in games, the team can surprise people. It's a lot more difficult to outscore guys like Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Derek Carr than it is to slow them down with the best secondary in football. This is what makes the Broncos so dangerous, as the Broncos enter most game games with the realistic scenario of "Score 21 points, and we'll win". Granted, that isn't always the case, but the Broncos don't the O to do too much. Siemian is a decent QB put in a great scenario, now we see what he does.
11 Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton is just one year removed from an MVP and the Panthers just one year removed from a 15-1 season that culminated with a Super Bowl appearance. But the Panthers bombed last year, as did Newton; the Panthers went 6-10 and Newton regressed. Newton is a good QB, of that there is no doubt, but whether his real performance is closer to to the top-3 tier play of 2015 or the top-12 tier play of 2013 remains to be seen. Stringing together consistent performances is key for Newton: in 2016 Newtons offense broke 30 points five times, but they also failed to score at least 17 five times.
When Newton can rope together performances at his best the Panthers can not only beat anyone they play, but completely blow them out, shown by 2015 when their average margin of victory was 13.2 points. But when Newton fails to show up things can get ugly, such as the 40-7 smack down Seattle gave them last year. If you're interested in misleading statistics bet big on Newton being really good in 2017, as he has makes the Pro Bowl every other year and missed it in 2016. If you're less of a guy who is into that, bet on Newton being really good because he is an NFL MVP playing on a very talented team.
10 Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
What happened to the Cardinals in the 2015 NFC Championship Game? From the start of 2015 to that game, Palmer was 14-3 with 38 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, 5,000+ yards, and just 15 turnovers in 17 games. From the NFCCG to now, Palmer has thrown 27 touchdowns to 18 interceptions, posted a 6-9-1 Win/Loss record, and committed 22 turnovers in 16 games. Can Palmer return to his near MVP form? Probably. The Cardinals downturn is due to a number of things, such as injuries to key defensive players, bad calls, and having to play many good teams in the previous two years.
Palmer actually played well in 2016, it's just that Palmer's performance the first 14 weeks of 2015 was so dominant that the the jump from "MVP" to "Average" was highlighted. The team around Palmer now seems healed up, and in addition to having a Hall Of Fame player in Larry Fitzgerald, Palmer can also utilize David Johnson. Johnson is one of the best backs in the NFL, and arguably the best receiving back who is still a primary ball carrier. 2016 was defineitly an outlier for Arizona, expect them to bounce back in a big way, led by the veteran Palmer.
9 Eli Manning, New York Giants
Eli Manning led the Giants to an 11-5 record last year, returning them to playoff contention for the first time since 2011. He also gave the Cowboys their only two real losses of last year (The 'Boys went 13-3, 2 of the losses coming to the giants and one coming to the Eagles during which the Cowboys rested starters.), so 2016 was quite the year for Eli.
The end to it left much to be desired, as the Giants were embarrassed both on and off the field during the playoffs, as the teams receivers were spotted partying on a yacht in Florida in the week leading up to their 38-13 Wild Card shellacking by the Packers. That shouldn't take away from the fact that Manning is a two time Super Bowl winner who is playing with arguably the best receiver in the NFL, making the Giants offense extremely deadly.
It was the Giants defense however that was the main reason they made the playoffs in 2016, and that needs to change for the Giants. The Giants head coach Ben McAdoo is an offensive mind who is using a Hall Of Fame (?) QB and OBJ, there is no reason this isn't one of the best offenses in football. McAdoo was a rookie coach in 2016, so expect Manning and the Giants O to get better in 2017, greatly improving their Super Bowl hopes.
8 Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith has been on the verge of making a Super Bowl for years. Smith has been the QB for a contender since 2011, first with the 49ers and then later on with the Chiefs. Smith now sees the writing on the wall after the Chiefs selected QB Patrick Mahomes 10th overall in the draft.
If Alex Smith wants to be a Super Bowl winning QB as a starter, this is probably his last shot.
Smith has been a game manager for most of his career, and what he does he does well. Give Smith a good ground game and defense, and he'll lead your team to a win most of the time. But if you need a sudden jolt of offense, the results can be mixed. In the 2016 divisional round, the Chiefs neede Smith to do more, and he failed to get it done.
Another issue Smith has is clock management. It's baffling how the Chiefs run the two minute drill sometimes, and while this may be more of an Andy Reid problem (who was infamous for his teams clock management with the Eagles, including not going no-huddle down two scores with less than 10 minutes to go in Super Bowl XXVIII).
The Chiefs also play in the ultra competitive AFC West, facing off against two playoff teams from last year twice, and the ever dangerous Chargers.
None of that changes the fact that the Chiefs are one of the best teams of the AFC, and are in capable hands with Smith. The last time Smith faced competition from a young athletic QB drafted to replace him, he led his team to one drive from the Super Bowl.
7 Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders might well have made a deep playoff push last year, if they hadn't loss their franchise QB. Carr played extremely well last year, guiding his team to a 12-3 record, but broke his fibula and missed the final week of the regular season and the Raiders wild card game.
Assuming Carr comes back at full strength, he should be among the top QBs in the NFL, and make the Raiders dark horse Super Bowl contenders.
Because the Raiders have the offensive side of the ball down, they went defense in the draft, trying to make it so Carr doesn't have to score 30+ to win. The Raiders did add a few interesting pieces for Carr to play with, WR Cordarrelle Patterson and TE Jared Cook. Both are high potential players who have shown glimpses of being very good but underwhelmed for most of their careers. Carr should be able to make the most of these guys, and throw in his already talented offense with Michael Crabtree, Marshawn Lynch, and Amari Cooper, and Carr will be right back in it to try to bring Oakland a Super Bowl in it's likely last year with the Raiders.
6 Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan was about as big of a favorite for a Super Bowl as you could have with one quarter to go this past February. Ryan and the Falcons were up 28-3 before getting outscored 31-0 to close the game out. The blame shouldn't fall squarely on Ryan, as he can only do so much. We've talked about the Super Bowl to death, instead let's discuss why Ryan will be just as good in 2017.
For starters, Ryan has been one of the NFL's best since 2010. Frequent early playoff exits along with the stretch of greatest QB play in NFL history (The passing yardage record has been broken three times since 2010) left an impression that Ryan was somewhere between 8-12 in QB rankings. In reality he was closer to 4-8, and he showed that last season.
The Falcons gave running back DeVonta Freeman a new contract recently, locking him in to the program. Ryan also has the best receiver in the NFL: Julio Jones.
Never bet against the reigning MVP. Expect huge things from Ryan in 2017.
5 Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
A week ago Prescott might be higher on this list; That was before star running back Ezekiel Elliot was suspended for the first six games of the year. There is a common way of thinking that because of how dominant the Cowboys O-line is that running backs are worthless. People seem to forget that when the Cowboys lost a top tier running back in 2015, their record dropped from 12-4 to 4-12. When they added in another top tier back to the mix in 2016, their record shot up to 13-3. See the pattern?
The Sophomore slump is a real occurrence that comes from a multitude of things: More wear on the body, more tape, teams get worse or better, plans change, etc. But what's interesting in that since 1990 there have been seven QBs to win the AP Rookie Of The Year Award. None of the other six made a Pro Bowl or All Pro team in their second year.
Will Prescott be the first to do so and keep his top tier form? Possibly, but don't bet too heavily on it. The Cowboys are a very good team, and have one of the best rosters in the league. But losing your star running back that the offense is based around for half the season isn't good.
Prescott is still protected by an amazing O-line, throwing to two excellent players, and coached well.
Maybe it will be fine, and Prescott will be the first to break the performance curse (and the second ROTY to win the Super Bowl in his second year, after Ben Roethlisberger in 2005).
Or maybe he'll be like the other 6 and history will repeat itself.
4 Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger and the Steelers need to beat the Patriots. They need to find out how, and quickly, before their window closes. The Steelers haven't beat the Patriots since 2011, having gone 0-4 in the games since then. This is hugely problematic as Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh are as good or better as every AFC team that isn't New England.
There isn't much to say about Roethlisberger: he is a future Hall Of Famer playing on a very good team in a division that's in strife. Roethlisberger has to be considered the runner up for most likely to be the AFC's starting QB in the Super Bowl.
But runner ups don't get trophies (but they do get banners if you're the Colts), and there is little point going to the AFC Championship game and getting swamped by New England.
As long as running back Le'Veon Bell doesn't hold out, the Steelers should roll. Expect "Big Ben" to contend.
3 Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is likely the best QB ever. He doesn't have the greatest legacy, he hasn't won 3+ Super Bowls, he likely won't end up starting for enough years to grab the bulk stats people love to parade when discussing GOATs. But on a game by game basis, Rodgers is a machine.
Rodgers has been an NFL starter for 9 years. He has yet to throw 100 interceptions. He has yet to throw 75 interceptions! During that time he has racked up almost 300 passing touchdowns, as well as the highest QB rating in NFL history (104.1, almost five points higher than the next closest at 99.6), and numerous other records.
What holds Rodgers back is the lack of multiple Super Bowl rings. Rodgers already has two MVP awards, a second Super Bowl would put him firmly in the GOAT discussion by any metric.
Rodgers has come close, but the Packers seem to end every post season with heartbreak: A missed onside kick cost them a trip to the Super Bowl in 2014, a 9-7 Giants team upset the 15-1 Packers in 2011, Larry Fitzgerald shaking off the entire Packers D cost them an NFCCG appearance in 2015.
Rodgers has to be considered a Super Bowl favorite, regardless of the team around him, simply because he almost transcends the position.
2 Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
One pass separates Russell Wilson from NFC favorite by fans, and legend: The game losing interception in the Super Bowl. It was simply a great play. But a pick on the one yard line with the game on the line will simply never be truly forgotten.
But it can be buried under a second Super Bowl.
The Seattle Seahawks have a secondary matched only by the Denver Broncos. Their coaching staff is one of the best. The defense seems to dominate week in and week out.
But on the offensive side, Russell Wilson is forced to play miracle worker. The Seahawks O-line was the worst in the NFL in 2016, yet Wilson still did well. He makes plays no one besides Aaron Rodgers can emulate.
He is worst protected QB in the NFL. He was sacked for a safety by his own O-line in the playoffs. But the Seahawks do what they always do: they make it work.
Wilson has a top-3 tight end in Jimmy Graham, and the 'Hawks always seem to find a playmaker who shocks everyone each year. That player has yet to reveal themselves.
Russell Wilson is the best in the NFC at "just winning". And that's what we expect him to do in 2017.
1 Tom Brady, New England Patriots
There isn't really much to say here. Brady has started for 16 years. He has won Super Bowls in five of those years. He has appeared in the Super Bowl in seven of those years. He led a team to a 16-0 record. He led the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. He broke the touchdown record by throwing 50 in 2007. He posted the best TD/INT ratio in NFL history in 2010. Then he did it again in 2016.
The Patriots added Brandin Cooks from the Saints to the spoil of riches that is the Patriots roster.
Tom Brady will always, always, always be the favorite in any given year that he is in the NFL. You're simply foolish if you don't pick him to win it every year. Every year we say "he can't do it again". Then he does it again.
He will do it again in 2017.