I do this every year. It’s my concession to the belief that QBs win in the playoffs and everything else is just window dressing. Then, Mark Sanchez makes the AFC Championship game and we all toss ourselves into a vat of battery acid. I usually link back to the previous year’s post, but no one ever clicks on that, and you get the idea (no Peyton Manning this year). But, the general idea is, this is a ranking of the guys you’d want to start in the playoffs for you this year and only this year. It doesn’t take into account their running games, defenses, or anything like that. Also, if you’re injured (sorry Cutler-Face) you don’t get a ranking.
1. Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is so far ahead of everyone else right now, it’s embarrassing. I don’t want to get into the hyperbole, “Rodgers is playing QB better right now than anyone has ever played it,” but it’s a damn clinic. If you chose anyone else first, you’re Brett Favre.
2. Tom Brady. Brady needs a good playoff run. He remains incredibly prolific in the regular season, but hasn’t taken the Pats deep into the playoffs since they lost the Super Bowl. At times this year he’s looked a fraction off, but with those TEs and his track record, he’s got to be #2.
3. Drew Brees. The Saints are hot right now and Brees is leading the way. He’s back to fantasy god status, and if he runs into Green Bay and Rodgers in the playoffs that game could be epic. Think of the exact opposite of the BCS Championship game.
4. Ben Roethlisberger. We’ve seen an interesting transition in Pittsburgh. Big-Ben now shoulders a lot more responsibility with the running game playing a complimentary role. With Wallace and Brown on the outside, he’s been able to show off some pretty refined passing skills. Another proven winner.
5. Cam Newton. Think of Newton on a team that had a strong defense. Think of how dangerous he could be if he had a little more protection, and more than Steve Smith. Surrounded with playoff-caliber talent, I think he’s a total nightmare to game plan against. A wrecking ball version of Michael Vick. He runs for TDs at will.
6. Eli Manning. I’m hoping the Giants somehow get into the playoffs this year, because I’d like to see how Eli fares. We need to get past judging Eli solely by that Super Bowl run. He gets credit for it, but we’ve got to build the resume up a bit more. If this team slips in, it’d be on him to perform at a high level for them to advance.
7. Philip Rivers. You know, I just watch games like last night and I can’t get over the notion that it isn’t Rivers’ fault in San Diego. Remember the criteria, we’re starting from scratch with a playoff caliber roster, Rivers can get the job done for you.
8. Tony Romo. The fact that I can’t go any lower on Romo is an indication of how bad the QB play is around the league. Romo is having a good year, but he’s proven he can’t be trusted in big games. His talent, though, edges him into the top-10, with my regrets.
9. Matt Ryan. Ryan leaves a bad taste in your mouth after that game Sunday. How ’bout that Wade Phillips? But, that stinkbomb aside, it’s been a decent year for Matty Ice. He’s avoided the cliff that Joe Flacco fell off at the very least. Here’s another guy we’ll learn a lot about if the Falcons make the post-season.
10. Michael Vick. It’s been a horrid year for Vick and Philly, but I don’t know that you can judge any Eagle on this season. That’s rock bottom, and they’re polluting each other, it’s a mess. Free Vick from Reid and this malaise, and you still have a guy with a pretty unique skill set.
11. Matt Stafford. I think at some point in the relatively near future, I’m going to be proven right about Jim Schwartz. He’s taken Detroit completely off the rails, and I think Stafford is one of the most impacted by their total lack of discipline. He’s a guy that I think can win you a game, though, without much help and so he stays above the next tier.
12. Mark Sanchez. I thought about Alex Smith here but whether you think it’s a fluke or not (I think it’s a fluke), Sanchez has upped his game a bit in the post-season. He’s always had plenty of help, but he’s avoided the Mark Sanchez horror show that we see 4, 5 times a year in the regular season.
13. Matt Hasselbeck. The pickings are getting slim. What’s amazing about the former pride of the Pacific Northwest is that he’s been OK this year. Nothing gets noticed in Tennessee except for CJ2K’s fantasy troubles, so Hasselbeck’s very typical year goes by without a blink. If you can get him upright, at least he’s played in big games.
14. Alex Smith. Smith wouldn’t have cracked the top-35 last year, so it feels a little ridiculous putting him even this high, but considering what else is out there and Smith’s obvious influx of confidence–you can’t go much lower than this. I suppose there is such a thing as a late-bloomer, but this is all about what the 49ers have surrounded him with. If you had a real juggernaut, you might be able to slip by with Alex Smith at the helm.
15. Joe Flacco. What a terrible year. Where would this team be without its ageless defense and Ray Rice? I wouldn’t want Flacco anywhere near my playoff squad, but as they say at the bars at 2 AM, we are officially out of options. At least Flacco has playoff wins and a positive memory or two to fall back on.
16. Carson Palmer. 17. Andy Dalton. 18. Tim Tebow. 19. Kevin Kolb. 20. Matt Moore.