With the 2012 regular season set to come to a close this weekend, we decided to take a look at the quarterback situation for all 32 NFL teams, and here’s what we came up with. We ranked the current starting quarterbacks using a series of metrics, including stats, win-loss record, durability, consistency, potential ceiling, contract situation and intangibles. Here’s our list.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- Heading into the final week of the season, he’s going to throw for more than 3,900 yards and 30 touchdowns, and will have a completion percentage of 65 percent or better while throwing fewer than 10 interceptions for the third time in the last four seasons. Not even Tom Brady will do that. (Through 15 games, Rodgers has completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,930 yards, to go along with 35 touchdown passes and eight picks.)
2. Tom Brady, Patriots -- His performance Sunday against the Jaguars likely knocked him from MVP consideration, but he’s still one of the two or three best quarterbacks in the game. The numbers might not be at the same levels as 2010 or 2007, but this year isn’t far off (63 percent completion rate, 4,543 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 8 interceptions).
3. Peyton Manning, Broncos -- He's having a terrific year (68 percent completion rate, 4,355 yards, 34 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) particularly when you consider the neck surgery and the acclimation to a new team. I'm not quite ready to include him as part of the MVP picture (if I had a vote, it would go to Adrian Peterson) because he had six games to feast on the AFC West, as well as Cleveland and Carolina. But Manning certainly deserves Comeback Player of the Year honors.
4. Drew Brees, Saints -- Brees was a legit member of the MVP discussion a few weeks ago for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that he was pretty much holding everything together in New Orleans. (If the Saints could stop anyone, they’d be headed back to the playoffs. But that’s not so much on Brees.) But a three-game losing streak in late November and early December drove the Saints from the postseason picture. Still a very good season (63 percent completion rate, 4,781 yards, 39 touchdowns and 18 interceptions), but the man only can do so much.
5. Matt Ryan, Falcons -- Few quarterbacks have been as consistently impressive over the last two years as Ryan -- this season, he’s got a 69 percent completion rate, close to 4,500 yards passing and almost a 2.5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (31-14), but we’ve past that point with him now. He’s reached the level where he will be judged by what he accomplishes in the playoffs, and in that vein, this has a chance to be a career-defining postseason for the former Boston College star. Atlanta has been terrific in the regular season the last two seasons but has lost its last two playoff games by a combined score of 72-23. (Atlanta comparisons aside, Ryan is starting to feel like the football version of Dominique Wilkins -- a great player who is one of the best in the game in the regular season but just doesn’t have what it takes in the playoffs.)
6. Robert Griffin III, Redskins -- RG3 is going to get some MVP votes. Not that he deserves the award, but he should get a lot of credit for turning around a moribund franchise. As a rookie -- any quarterback who throws for more than 3,000 yards (3,100 through 14 games) with a completion percentage of 66 percent and 20 touchdowns against five interceptions deserves some level of recognition. Credit should also go to Mike Shanahan for playing to Griffin’s strengths and not trying to make him something he’s not.
7. Russell Wilson, Seahawks -- He may not have RG3’s gaudy stat line, but through 15 games with Seattle he has 2,868 yards with a 63 percent completion percentage and a 2.5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. More importantly, he has the Seahawks playing their best football at the most important time of the year. This group of rookie quarterbacks won’t be able to match the 1983 class when it comes to Hall of Famers, but Wilson, Luck, Griffin and Tannehill all will be very good quarterbacks in this league for a very long time.
8. Eli Manning, Giants -- After three really impressive seasons when he topped 4,000 yards passing and a 60 percent completion percentage, Manning took a small step back this season (he’s at 3,740 passing yards and a 59.8 completion percentage through 15 games, to go along with just 21 touchdowns vs. 15 interceptions) as the New York offense struggled a bit. The Giants were a tough team to read all season, and Manning’s occasional inconsistencies mirrored New York’s ups and downs. At the time of year when New York usually is playing its best football, the Giants have lost three of their last four, capped off by ugly back-to-back losses to the Ravens (33-14) and Falcons (34-0). Not all of that is on Manning, but just as he is celebrated for his late-season work in years past, he has to share some of the blame for New York’s late-season woes this year.
9. Colin Kaepernick, Niners -- It's a key stretch for the youngster. He’s had a phenomenal season with San Francisco, but it will be interesting to see how he and the Niners respond to their Sunday night blowout at the hands of the Seahawks. He doesn’t have the numbers of some of his rookie counterparts -- thanks in part to the fact that he doesn’t have a full season under his belt -- but through 12 games (seven starts) the completion percentage is good (63) and clearly he's a good decision-maker with a strong arm.
10. Matt Schaub, Texans -- Like Ryan, this postseason, Schaub stands at a key moment in his career -- he’s assembled very good numbers over the last four seasons (four years where his completion percentage is over 60 percent, as well as a steady 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and an average of more than 3,000 passing yards each of the last five years). But now, he’s ready to take the leap to the next level. Will he be a very good regular-season quarterback on a good team, or he could be the guy who begins to cement a legacy with the Texans? Sunday’s game against the Colts, as well as the upcoming postseason, is a golden opportunity for Schaub to show that he can take that next step as a signal caller.
11. Andy Dalton, Bengals -- The best quarterback in the AFC North? Yep. He completes more than 60 percent of his passes (62 percent this year), will throw for more than 3,500 yards (3,591), and still can reach the 30-touchdown plateau. Oh, and he also has his team going to the postseason for the second time in his relatively brief NFL career. Flacco and Roethlisberger have taken a step back this season, and while Dalton needs to cut down on his picks (he has more interceptions than touchdown passes over the last month), he had a career-defining moment last week against the Steelers, leading the Bengals to a last-second win that knocked Pittsburgh out of the playoff picture.
12. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers -- Arguing with offensive coordinators and gagging a key regular-season game away at home vs. a division rival isn’t a good way to go out for Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense. It’ll be interesting to watch the evolution of the quarterback over the next few years -- he just turned 30, and while he’s never been a huge stats guy, there’s some change in his offensive personnel. How he adjusts to what’s going on around him will reveal a lot about how the next few years of his career will go.
13. Andrew Luck, Colts -- Just steady, consistent and dependable. His numbers are just a shade behind some of his fellow first-year quarterbacks (including a 54 percent completion percentage, and almost as many picks -- 18 -- as touchdown passes -- 21). But there’s no reason to think those numbers won’t increase over the next few seasons. When you’re comparing him against the rest of the field he’s in the middle of the pack, but don’t expect him to be there for long.
14. Joe Flacco, Ravens -- Flacco is a free agent going into the offseason, and while he’s better than many might give him credit for, it wasn’t the sort of year he wanted to have before hitting the open market (60 percent completions, 3,783 yards passing, 22 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) and possibly landing a colossal payday. That being said, he’s probably going to be the best free agent quarterback on the market this offseason. If the Ravens aren’t going to pay him, someone else likely will.
15. Tony Romo, Cowboys -- What to think? One week Romo looks electric, leading the Cowboys back from the brink to a win. The following week, he’s a dog who can’t get out of his own way. At this point in his career he is who he is -- the sort of quarterback who can pile up amazing numbers (66 percent completions, 4,685 passing yards, 26 touchdown passes) but also keep both teams in the game at the same time (16 interceptions ... which isn’t even a career-high).
16. Jay Cutler, Bears -- Hard to imagine there’s a more polarizing starting quarterback than Cutler. A true gunslinger (and that’s not necessarily a compliment), he can make throws that few quarterbacks can complete, but he’ll also drive Bears fans crazy with his decision-making. But even though he has a 59 percent completion rate and 2,776 passing yards through 14 games with 18 touchdowns vs. 14 interceptions, he’s Chicago’s guy until the end, especially when you consider Jason Campbell is the alternative. Plus, he was the inspiration for Smokin’ Jay Cutler.
17. Sam Bradford, Rams -- Bradford and St. Louis have made some nice gains this season under Jeff Fisher, but when you compare him to this year’s rookie class, you have to wonder if/when he’s going to be able to make the leap. He’s a very nice quarterback (59 percent completions, 3,450 yards, 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions), but now, at the end of his third full season in the league, the former No. 1 pick doesn’t look like the sort of guy who can put a franchise on his shoulders and take it to the next level. At least not yet.
18. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers -- If you take his first-half numbers, you could make an argument that Freeman was ascending into the top half of the league when it came to young QBs -- a completion percentage around 60, decent passing yardage and a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio. He and running back Doug Martin were two of the biggest reasons the young and hungry Bucs were one of the better young offenses in the league over the first eight games. But all of that went south about midway through the season. Freeman continues to struggle with accuracy -- he threw five picks over the first nine games but 11 in the last six, including eight in the last two. He needs to develop more consistency if he wants to be mentioned as one of the better young QBs in the league.
19. Matthew Stafford, Lions -- Stafford is talented enough, but Detroit underachieved this season. Stafford has impressive numbers (60 percent completion rate, 4,695 yards, 17 touchdowns, 16 interceptions), and clearly has developed a special relationship with Calvin Johnson. But the Lions have to mature a lot this offseason if they’re going to take the leap and be a consistently good team. Stafford has to play a large role in that process.
20. Chad Henne, Jaguars -- Henne gets kicked around as a journeyman, but he has proven as the 2012 season has come to a close that if he ever gets into a situation where he has some quality offensive parts around him, he can flourish. (If the Jaguars throw him out in favor of Tim Tebow, they should be roundly criticized -- Henne is never going to be a great quarterback, but he’ll get your team a lot further than Tebow ever will.) Oh, and Henne is the subject of the best quarterback GIF of them all.
21. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins -- He suffers slightly when compared to the rest of this year’s rookie quarterbacks (58 percent completion rate, 3,059 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions), but he could be the centerpiece of a football resurgence in South Florida. Tannehill, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and coach Joe Philbin all are part of a nice foundation of talent -- it’s just going to be up to Miami ownership not to muck it up and get impatient if the Dolphins aren’t in the Super Bowl next year.
22. Philip Rivers, Chargers -- Another guy at the crossroads. Would he thrive if he got away from Norv Turner (as, if everyone expects, Turner is gone in San Diego)? Or could the new coach come in and make some tweaks to his game and really maximize what is an obvious set of offensive talents? Either way, he’s probably sticking around with the Chargers for the foreseeable future -- he’s signed through 2015, with a massive cap hit ($15 million-plus) if he’s cut before then. (For what it’s worth, he’s sitting on a 64 percent completion rate, to go along with 3,455 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.)
23. Brandon Weeden, Browns -- The forgotten man of the 2012 quarterback draft class, Weeden actually has had an OK year under some tough circumstances with the Browns (57 percent completion rate, 3,385 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, 17 interceptions). Like Tannehill, he suffers when compared to this year’s rookie class -- really, those are good numbers for any rookie who starts every game in his first year in the league -- but those stats will have to improve if he wants to remain the man in Cleveland going forward.
24. Cam Newton, Panthers -- A fascinating study. Newton clearly has the mental and physical skills to thrive in the league -- in a down year, he still has a 60 percent completion rate with 4,051 passing yards with 21 touchdowns and 17 picks. Now it’s a matter of whether or not he can put it all together and take it to the next level. However, the next stage of his development will likely be tied to who will take over as the next coach in Carolina. If Ron Rivera and his staff are shown the door, Newton needs a quarterback-friendly OC and/or head coach for him to continue to progress.
25. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills -- He’s always got that Harvard education to fall back on. (You knew he went to Harvard, right?) A better-than-average quarterback who completes 61 percent of his passes, he’ll finish the year with more than 3,000 yards passing (he’s sitting on 3,175 with 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions), he likely would thrive with a consistent set of offensive options around him, but it doesn’t appear to be working for him in Buffalo. The sad thing is that his contract pretty much makes him untradeable. (Seriously ... Google "Ryan Fitzpatrick," and the first suggestion that comes up is "Ryan Fitzpatrick contract.")
26. Carson Palmer, Raiders -- Good numbers, I guess -- 61 percent completion rate, 4,018 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 14 interceptions. But the 32-year-old is an irrelevant quarterback for an irrelevant franchise. It appears that Terrelle Pryor will get the start in the regular-season finale against the Chargers.
27. Christian Ponder, Vikings -- Probably too low (62 percent completion rate, 2,701 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, 12 interceptions), but when your No. 1 job as a signal-caller is to not screw up the handoff to Adrian Peterson, the bar is set pretty low. Unlike a lot of guys at the bottom of this list, he should keep his job for the foreseeable future, and he even could move up if the Vikings are able to put a few more offensive options around him this offseason.
28. Jake Locker, Titans -- Locker is a solid, upright citizen who says "please" and "thank you," drinks his milk all the way to the bottom of the glass and asks to be excused before he leaves the table. He's a nice quarterback for a middle-of-the-road to below-average team (56 percent completion rate, 2,024 yards, 10 touchdowns, 11 interceptions), but likely never anything more than that. He could be on the outs in Tennessee if/when Mike Munchak is fired at the end of the season.
29. Nick Foles, Eagles -- Who knows? He’s probably shown enough that he deserves a full year as a starter in Philly to see what he could bring to the table over the course of an entire season, but with Andy Reid on his way out the door, he probably won’t get that opportunity. He could draw the attention of his new coach in Philly, but at best he’s part of a positional battle this offseason with whoever the new regime decides to bring in.
30. Brady Quinn, Chiefs -- He's had a relatively strong finish considering what’s around him, but it probably won’t matter, as Kansas City figures to try to sweep everything clean and start fresh in 2013.
31. Ryan Lindley, Cardinals -- This is not so much an indictment of Lindley but merely an indicator of how things have gone this season in Arizona. It’s a shame that things spiraled out of control so fast for the Cards this season in large part because of the instability at the quarterback position. Maybe Brian Hoyer is the answer? If not, they’ll have to look toward free agency or the draft to try and remedy their issues. It would be a shame if a wide receiver like Larry Fitzgerald spent another year wasted.
32. Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow/Greg McElroy, Jets -- Whichever starting quarterback emerges from that clown car of a locker room deserves to be panned.