Entering week three of the NFL preseason, the AFC quarterback battles are beginning to take shape. Johnny Manziel saw his first action as a Cleveland Brown over the weekend. Even though he had an uneven performance, his dual threat ability was on full display.
Naturally, four out of the top five quarterbacks have won Super Bowls during their career. However, there is one young gun in the top five that’s ready to take his game to the next level. Chances are, if a Super Bowl winner comes from the AFC, it will be one of these quarterbacks to do it.
Peyton Manning had a record breaking season in 2013. What are the chances that Manning can duplicate his performance? If he does, Manning will shatter the all time touchdowns record. Still, for Peyton Manning, 2014 is about winning a Super Bowl by any means.
Note: There is no Michael Vick in the top quarterback’s list because the Jets have no plans to start Vick over Geno Smith.
Matt Schaub is also fighting for his football life with the Oakland Raiders. There’s a chance that Derek Carr could overtake him by the time the regular season starts. For now, we still have Schaub as the No.1 guy.
Matt Schaub couldn’t get out of town fast enough after the disastrous season with the Houston Texans. Luckily, he’s able to find a fresh start with the Oakland Raiders in 2014. If Schaub is unable to make plays early in the season, Derek Carr will be waiting anxiously in the wings for his time to shine. Matt Shaub had three three-And-outs during his first preseason game.
16. E.J. Manuel- Buffalo Bills
E.J. Manuel’s rookies season was derailed by injuries in 2013. He started in all 10 games that he played in, but it’s the six that he missed that were the concern for the Buffalo Bills. In his first stint at the starting quarterback, Manuel connected on 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was also (4-6) in those 10 games. Will E.J. need another six games before he realizes his second year potential, or will he have Buffalo flourishing from week one?
15. Jake Locker- Tennessee Titans
In three seasons, Jake Locker hasn’t played more than 11 games in a single year. Locker’s record as a starter is (8-10). He only has 22 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. Jake Locker did reach the 60.7% completion percentage in 2013. This is a make or break year for Jake Locker. He must show the ability to stay healthy and produce for a winning team.
14. Chad Henne- Jacksonville Jaguars
Chad Henne started 13 of the 15 games that he played in 2013. Although Jacksonville was the worst team for a large portion of the NFL season, Henne did lead the Jaguars to four wins. Chad Henne completed 60.6% percent of his passes, which was above his career average of 59.5%. However, Henne threw 13 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. Chad Henne could be a sleeper to take this Jacksonville team to a playoff berth in 2014.
13. Ryan Fitzpatrick- Houston Texans
Ryan Fitzpatrick is the oldest quarterback in the AFC South and he is looking to revived the Houston Texans’ playoff hopes after a dismal 2013 season. In nine starts for the Titans, Fitzpatrick connected on 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while completing 62% of his passes. He will be the starter for Houston unless the season goes down the drain.
12. Johnny Manziel- Cleveland Cavaliers
Johnny Manziel or Johnny Football has been doing his thing since being drafted late in the first round. Soon he'll get to make his mark on the football field. In his first preseason game, Manziel showed he has the ability to get out of the pocket and run with the ball. Johnny Manziel will get the start in the second preseason game. This should be one of the best QB battles to watch in a long while. It could be in the cards for Johnny Manziel to start week one.
11. Brian Hoyer- Cleveland Browns
Brian Hoyer started three games for the Cleveland Browns last season and he won all three games. During his short stint, Hoyer completed 59% of his passes, with five touchdowns and three interceptions. However, Brian Hoyer has to battle expectations as well as Johnny Manziel for the starting spot. Will he be on the field by October? Hoyer looked comfortable in his first action since coming back from Knee surgery.
10. Geno Smith- New York Jets
If Geno Smith expects to be a top five quarterback in 2014, the No.2 spot in the AFC East just might be too low. He was thrown into the fire as a rookie and had some positive moments. The 12 touchdowns to 21 interception ratio was not one of them. There were games that looked like he was overmatched. However, Geno Smith showed poise in comeback wins throughout the season. If the Jets can up the win total by three, they’ll be in the postseason for sure. Geno completed 55.8% of his passes as a rookie.
9. Ryan Tannehill- Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill may have had the Dolphins in the playoffs if it wasn’t for some boneheaded decisions by his offensive linemen. Still, Miami had a chance at a playoff spot before they threw the season down the drain in the final weeks. Tannehill has started all 32 games of his career and he doubled his touchdown output from 12 to 24 in year two. It’s not likely that he’ll throw for 48 touchdowns in 2014, but if he does, rest assured, Ryan Tannehill will be No.1 on this list. Overall, Ryan Tannehill has thrown 36 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. It would be wise to lover those interception totals.
8. Andy Dalton- Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton has been splendid during the regular season for the Cincinnati Bengals. In three seasons, he's made the playoffs every year, but that's where the success stops for Dalton. He's started all 48 games and has a 30-18 record in his tenure. Andy Dalton completes 60.9% of his passes and has an 80-49 touchdown to interception ratio. Any prolonged playoff success, and Andy Dalton will become one of the upper echelon quarterbacks in the NFL.
7. Alex Smith- Kansas City Chiefs
A season ago, Alex Smith was the newcomer to the AFC West. With his steady play early on, Kansas City breezed through the first half of the schedule. They faltered down the stretch and in the playoff loss to Indianapolis, but Alex Smith found his stride under Andy Reid.
6. Philip Rivers- San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers led a scrappy bunch of Chargers into the final Wild Card spot last season. Once again, a lot is expected of San Diego during the regular season. Philip Rivers played some of his best ball in his career in 2013. Philip Rivers looked ready to go in the first preseason game.
5. Joe Flacco- Baltimore Ravens
One season after winning the Super Bowl, Joe Flacco led his revamped team to an (8-8) record. He did not fare well in the passing department either. Joe Flacco threw 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. It was by far his most interceptions in his six year career. Now entering his seventh season, Flacco is ready to get back to the playoffs with the Ravens. Even with the Super Bowl mixed in, the Ravens have been trending downward in the win column for three years. Joe Flacco was paid the big bucks and he must come through in 2014.
4. Tom Brady- New England Patriots
The only Tom Brady missed games due to injury was in 2008. Otherwise, he’s been entrenched as the starter since 2001. His durability has a been a major factor, but there were some flaws in the Patriot way. Tom Brady had his lowest completion percentage (60.5) in 10 years. He only connected on 25 touchdowns, while throwing 11 interceptions. The new receivers and loss of Rob Gronkowski greatly hindered the Patriots’ offense. We’ll see if the falling stats were a trend or just a blip on the radar. Although Tom Brady has a wide gap over the rest of the divisional quarterbacks, he could be looking at passing the torch soon.
3. Ben Roethlisberger- Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 4261 yards in 2013. After a slow start, Big Ben connected on 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He almost led the Steelers to a playoff spot, but missed out on the final Sunday as well. If Pittsburgh is to make another Super Bowl run, Ben Roethlisberger will have to be at an MVP caliber for 16 games.
2. Andrew Luck- Indianapolis Colts
In two seasons, Andrew Luck has started all 32 games, and he has taken the Colts to the playoffs both times. At times, Andrew Luck dominated the competition. He’s thrown for 23 touchdowns both seasons, while cutting his interceptions in half from 18 to nine. Andrew Luck also completed 60.2% of his passes in 2013. The sky really is the limit and not only should the Colts win the AFC South, they should be one of the three favorites in the whole AFC.
1. Peyton Manning- Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning was breaking all types of records, while demolishing opposing defenses. Denver got all the way to the Super Bowl before playing their worst game of the season. Now Peyton Manning is back with more vengeance on his mind. Could he follow in John Elway’s footsteps and win a Super Bowl before riding off into the sunset?