Starting Quarterbacks for NFL 2014 Playoffs

By Chris Malumphy

If regular season quarterback ratings alone determined the outcome of the 2014 NFL playoffs, we'll be watching Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys battling Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. And two of the better teams throughout the past season, the Arizona Cardinals and the Cincinnati Bengals, will be making hasty playoff exits due to the erratic play of their starting quarterbacks Ryan Lindley and Andy Dalton. Lindley, of course, has no business starting in the playoffs, or at any other time, except that both Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton are injured, and Logan Thomas is even less qualified at the moment. Even if Stanton has an early recovery from injury, the Cardinals will remain hard-pressed to advance very far in the playoffs, since he has the next worst QB ranking. Dalton and the Bengals are another story altogether. Dalton has moments when he seems to be superb, but those instances never seem to be maintained for long as Dalton has thrown more interceptions than any of the other playoff qualifiers. His lack of success in big games also weighs heavily upon him, but he has the talent to turn that around and a strong running game and good receivers to help out. On the downside, he threw for only 19 TDs in 2014, the fewest in his career.

Seven of the 12 quarterbacks starting in the playoffs will be former first round draft choices, including four players who were the top pick in the draft. The four top draft picks are: Peyton Manning, 1998; Matthew Stafford, 2009; Cam Newton, 2011; and Andrew Luck, 2012. The other first rounders are: Ben Roethlisberger, the 11th pick in 2004; Joe Flacco, the 18th pick in 2008; and Aaron Rodgers, the 24th pick in 2005. The totals would be eight first round picks and five top choices if not for the injury that ended Carson Palmer's season prematurely and doomed the Cardinals' Super Bowl hopes. The five starting quarterbacks who are not former first round picks are: Andy Dalton, 2nd round in 2011, Russell Wilson, 3rd round in 2012, Tom Brady, 6th round in 2000, Ryan Lindley, 6th round in 2012; and Tony Romo who was undrafted in 2003.

But being a first round draft pick won't matter if the starting quarterback's regular season rating determines who will prevail in the playoffs, because it is the undrafted Romo who compiled the best record in that regard. Romo had a fantastic season completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 8.5 yards per attempt with 34 touchdowns and 9 interceptions and a 113.2 rating. Romo will also be assisted by DeMarco Murray who was equally remarkable with 1,845 yards rushing and another 416 yards through the air for a combined league-leading total of 2,261 yards from scrimmage. Like Dalton, Romo is often criticized for coming up short at playoff time, but this year could be different.

Romo wasn't the only quarterback to have an outstanding 2014 season. Aaron Rodgers, who appears to be battling J.J. Watt for the MVP Award, threw 38 TDs with only 5 interceptions and had a 112.2 rating. Ben Roethlisberger tossed 32 touchdowns, had 9 interceptions and a 103,3 rating. Peyton Manning cut down on his passing towards the end of the season, but still had 39 touchdown passes with 15 interceptions and a 101.5 rating.

Of course, for the past decade no one has been able to have a serious conversation about potential Super Bowl winners without mentioning Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback Tom Brady. Brady threw for 33 touchdowns with 9 interceptions and a 97.4 rating. Even though he gets little help from his running game or his defense, Andrew Luck and his league-leading 40 touchdown passes and 96.5 rating can't be discounted. Nor can former Super Bowl champions Russell Wilson (20 TDs, 7 ints, 95.0 rating) and Joe Flacco (27 TDs, 12 ints, 91.0 rating). Wilson is also supported by the best defense in the league and the powerful running of Marshawn Lynch. Flacco's support has been spotty this season. In this group of quarterbacks, as talented as they are, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton play second fiddle, but have the potential to make things interesting.

Starting Quarterbacks for 2014 Playoff Teams
Team Name Att Comp Pct Yds Avg TD TD Pct Int Int Pct Sacked Rating Drafted Round Pick Player
CowboysTony Romo43530469.937058.5347.892.129113.2      
PackersAaron Rodgers52034165.643818.4387.351.028112.2200512424
SteelersBen Roethlisberger60840867.149528.1325.391.533103.3200411111
BroncosPeyton Manning59739566.247277.9396.5152.517101.51998111
PatriotsTom Brady58237364.141097.1335.791.52197.42000633199
ColtsAndrew Luck61638061.747617.7406.5162.62796.52012111
SeahawksRussell Wilson45228563.134757.7204.471.54295.0201231275
RavensJoe Flacco55434462.139867.2274.9122.21991.0200811818
LionsMatthew Stafford60236360.342577.1223.7122.04585.72009111
BengalsAndy Dalton48130964.233987.1194.0173.52183.520112335
PanthersCam Newton44826258.531277.0184.0122.73882.12011111
CardinalsDrew Stanton24013255.017117.172.952.11178.7200721143
CardinalsRyan Lindley934548.45626.022.244.3656.82012615185