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Testing Conventional Wisdom: Power Rankings by Quarterback Strength

The easiest, simplest way to separate teams in the NFL is to look at the quarterbacks.  Or so the logic behind reactionary analysis goes.

So here’s my proposal.  I’m going to rank the 32 NFL teams considering nothing but the quality of the starting quarterback.  No intangibles here.  Just cold hard stats and reasonable assumptions for the 2009 season based off past statistics.

If the wisdom holds, these rankings should hold throughout the test of a 17-week season.  At the end of the season, some of my quarterback predictions should look wrong, but hey, we know a lot about the quarterbacks, and if nothing else truly matters for teams that make up the “have nots” at the QB position, then there’s no reason to think these won’t hold.

The First Tier

1. New Orleans Saints: Preseason favorite look to lay siege to the league behind the rocket arm and pinpoint accuracy of Drew Brees.

2. Indianapolis Colts: All-time NFL Great Peyton Manning looks to win his 2nd NFL title and double his all-time greatness.

3. San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers is out to show former draft-mates Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger where they can stick their 100 million dollar contracts.

4. New England Patriots: Tom Brady’s goal is to make Patriot fans forget all about the Matt Cassel era.

5. Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo looks to lead the Cowboys back to the second round of the playoffs, but this time, they look to do it the hard way.

6. Miami Dolphins: Chad Pennington will try to build on a 16 start season with a 16 start season.

7. Seattle Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck will try to build on a 9 start season with a 16 start season.

8. Arizona Cardinals: Kurt Warner could become the first 38 year old to lead the NFC in passing.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Carson Palmer will try to build on a 4 start season with at 16 start season.

10. Atlanta Falcons: the NFL’s all time career leader in comeback victories with 6 or fewer seconds, Ryan will look to win in game in only 4 seconds this season.

The Second Tier

These teams are all above average based on their prolific passing potential.

11. New York Giants: Eli Manning looks to help a bunch of unimportant people on his team get paid as a pass it on favor from David Tyree.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars: David Garrard looks to rebound back to his career-best darkhorse MVP candidate that no one knows or cares about.

13. Houston Texans: If Matt Schaub can avoid getting hit after the play, he can carry the Texans on his back to the playoffs.  Well, assuming his knee can hold up under the weight of the expectations.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger hopes to hold the ball long enough to frustrate Tom Brady into subsidizing him a third ring.

15. Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler brings the awesomeness that the Bears offense has lacked since it had Jim McMahons shades, or Sid Luckman’s…luck?

16. Washington Redskins: Jason Campbell’s baby steps forward give him a nice foothold in the elite class of the NFL’s top half quarterbacks.

17. Philadelphia Eagles: Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb realizes that life was better on the other side of this mythical line drawn in the sand after the 16th best NFL Kewbie.

18. Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers’ fourth quarter performance last season was lacking, and this year, his offensive line is lacking.  The difference, of course, is it’s a lot less painful when you suck over a cherry-picked period of time then when the players who are paid to prevent you from getting hit aren’t any good.

19. Carolina Panthers: Jake Delhomme might show enough ingenuity to switch roles with Steve Smith this year, given the proliferation of the wildcat and of Delhomme’s inability to throw the ball to players on his own team.

Third tier

These are your average teams who could get lucky and be good.

20. Denver Broncos: Kyle Orton drags his mediocrity to a higher altitude where a thin-air kicking game can convert his standard two first downs and bust into actual real points in an NFL game.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If Byron Leftwich can hold off Josh Freeman and Luke McCown to start in the NFL this year, he should return to the class of passers who are valuable but always under threat of losing their jobs.  By this point, he should be nice and comfy.

22. Tennessee Titans: Can Kerry Collins hold up for 16 games?  The Titans’ ranking at No. 22 says–maybe.

23. Detroit Lions: If Daunte Culpepper has anything to say about it, the Lions will prove to be not the worst NFL team in the NFC North.

24. St. Louis Rams: Mark Bulger is Ben Roethlisberger light.  Throws an accurate ball when he gets the three hours in the pocket needed to release it, runs pretty well for good yardage, can rack up the TD’s if he gets help from his offense.  But what makes them different is their weight.  Mark Bulger is just the lighter of the two players.

25. Kansas City Chiefs: Will Bernard Pollard be a distraction to Matt Cassel’s ability to focus on NFL success in the great midwest?  He’s a quarterback killer.

Fourth Tier

These teams are not average.

26. Buffalo Bills: Trent Edwards will have fun passing to Terrell Owens from his back this season.  T.O. would do the same thing if he was in charge.

27. Cleveland Browns: Brady Quinn needs to get some starts to get his feet wet in the NFL, but Cleveland management has been able to hold him off the field thus far.  Stay strong, guys.

28. Baltimore Ravens: How will Joe Flacco cope with three and four receiver route packages this season?

29. San Francisco 49ers: Shaun Hill is good enough to stay in this league until Mike Singletary gets his playoff ambition on.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Tavaris Jackson survived Brett Favre, and now looks to handle the Detroit Lions twice this year as modern contemporary Gus Frerotte was able to last year.  Barely.

31. Oakland Raiders: JaMarcus Russell is throwing darts this year in Raiders camp, which is helping S Michael Huff make the team.

32. New York Jets: The Jets will roll with rookie Mark Sanchez for most of this year, but as luck would have it, their schedule just reads ‘Oregon State’ 16 times.

Obviously, one of the points of this list was to point out the ridiculousness of modern QB and team analysis.  This list wasn’t created to accurately forecast anything, but it will be worthwhile to bring it back up at the end of the season not only to see how I did in ranking the ‘Kewbies’, but also how my half-assed effort compares to people who are much better compensated to provide half-assed opinions.

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