Ranking the quarterback situation for all 14 NFL playoff teams originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
An elite quarterback does so much for a team’s Super Bowl chances.
It’s the hardest position to find a world class option in, but teams with the luxury of fielding one usually find themselves in the playoffs – if they have the proper talent around the signal caller.
That’s very much the case heading into the 2022-23 NFL playoffs. The teams with an elite QB who has weapons are considered contenders (Chiefs, Eagles, Bills, etc.) while those looking shaky under center – mainly due to injuries – are not (Dolphins, Ravens).
Let’s rank all 14 teams’ quarterback situations as the NFL playoffs begin:
14. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore would be higher up the list, but Lamar Jackson’s lingering knee injury drops them all the way to last. Jackson, who could miss six straight games if he doesn’t play against Cincinnati, is backed up by Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown, two quarterbacks who went undrafted in 2020 and 2022, respectively.
In five appearances (four starts) to end the season, Huntley threw more picks (three) than touchdowns (two) and posted a high of 187 passing yards. His rushing ability also wasn’t on par with Jackson’s, but it’s hard to replicate the production of a former league MVP.
Brown, meanwhile, started against Cincinnati in Week 18, but completed 19 for 44 passes for 286 yards, no touchdowns and two picks.
It doesn’t help that the Ravens don’t have elite wideouts to help. Tight end Mark Andrews continues to be their go-to option through the air. Baltimore needs a lot of luck to go far this postseason, starting with getting a healthy Jackson back.
13. Miami Dolphins
It’s a tough matchup even when healthy, but not having Tagovailoa or Bridgewater further dampens Miami’s outlook. Seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson could be in line to start, but his Week 18 performance against the New York Jets – where he also had an injury concern – didn’t do him any favors,
Thompson completed 20 of 31 passes for 152 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per throw in an ugly 11-6 win. Miami’s best chance at beating Buffalo is limiting Allen and Co. as much as possible and not getting forced into a shootout. If it’s not Tua starting, the Dolphins might be one and done barring a miracle.
12. New York Giants
The No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft is finally living up to some expectations. No, Daniel Jones won’t blow you away on the stat sheet, but he’s unlocked one crucial aspect that initially blocked his potential: the silly mistakes.
Previously, especially in his last two seasons, you couldn’t watch a Giants game without thinking a Jones’ mistake was coming. Usually, whether it’d be an interception, fumble or overthrow, he’d prove you right.
That hasn’t been the case this year, as he’s taken better care of the ball and made smarter decisions. But he also isn’t the QB who can win you games through the air. The simpler the game, the better for him. That’s not usually the case in the postseason, though, so Jones, who also hasn’t meshed with any wideouts in previous seasons, comes in at No. 12.
11. Seattle Seahawks
Geno Smith has had a sensational year, a career year, in fact, that could see him earn a much-deserved payday come the offseason. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett each logged over 1,000 receiving yards this season, too, a year in which many believed Seattle would punt its playoff chances after trading away Russell Wilson.
But does he move the needle for the No. 7 Seahawks to go the distance, especially with the top-ranked 49ers defense first in his path? He’s definitely proved he can be a starting-caliber QB in the NFL, but he’ll need to be almost flawless to lead this Seattle offense far.
To even have Geno in this spot after an otherwise rough NFL career shows how remarkable his growth has been.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Whether his hand injuries are still bothering him or not, his individual play has been uninspiring all season. He’s thrown a pick in 10 of the 12 games he appeared in this season, with five of them featuring two. On the year, he’s logged just 23 touchdowns to 15 picks.
CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz are a solid group. Noah Brown has finally emerged, and Tony Pollard has been a sturdy option from the backfield. But until Dak proves otherwise, his inability to make plays when it matters most is why he’s not considered one of the true elites in his position.
Kirk Cousins won’t like this: The Vikings might just be the most fraudulent top-four seed in the postseason. The 8-9 Buccaneers and 9-8 Jaguars are not fooling anyone, but the 13-4 Vikings were fortunate to survive countless close games, most notably the infamous 33-0 comeback against the Indianapolis Colts.
Cousins led the way in a season that statistically was similar to his last seven campaigns, with Justin Jefferson being 200 yards shy of a 2,000-yard receiving year being the main difference.
But, like Dak, Cousins has been made out. He can win you games in the regular season, but against elite defenses, he crumbles come playoff time. They should have enough to beat New York a second time this season, but it gets tricky beyond that.
Trevor Lawrence has enjoyed a breakout year in Florida after an underwhelming start. Maybe that’s because Urban Meyer was subtracted out of the equation, but also because Lawrence has intriguing options around him.
Jacksonville’s passing offense ranks at least 10th in several categories (pass yards per game, passes attempted, completion percentage, etc.) with Christian Kirk surpassing expectations with a 1,108-yard receiving season. Zay Jones, Evan Engram and Marvin Jones Jr. have all chipped in, too. Even 2021 first-rounder Travis Etienne thrived in both the run game (1,125 yards rushing) and the pass game (316 yards).
The Jaguars have often been held back due to their leaky defense, and the offense isn’t always clicking like it could, but Lawrence and Co. can gain valuable experience this year to increase their ceiling moving forward.
7. San Francisco 49ers
They might not need him to, however, with the way Brock Purdy has stepped up despite being the Mr. Irrelevant from the 2022 draft. And it’s not like Purdy is the next Nick Mullens in the Bay Area, either. Some of his records are already putting him in the company of Patrick Mahomes and Kurt Warner.
Putting Purdy and San Francisco at the halfway point of this ranking is far from a slight. With the weapons at his disposal and the efficiency he’s displayed, Purdy can very well lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance – but he has to prove these words correct before he gets ranked any higher.
Justin Herbert is very much that guy – or in other words, he’s #him. For Herbert, it’s always been a matter of keeping his top targets healthy. That still hasn’t always been the case in 2022, but Herbert has done his part to get the Chargers the No. 5 spot and they could be the wild card team to make a Cinderella run should the defense hold.
Despite Austin Ekeler’s 915-yard rushing season, Los Angeles possesses a passing-first offense. The Chargers rank second in passes per game and pass percentage, third in pass yards and completion percentage and have six different players who logged 500 or more receiving yards.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have undoubtedly underperformed expectations this season, but none of it falls on Tom Brady, the 45-year-old wonder who continues to exceed his aging doubts.
Tampa Bay’s rushing offense ranks dead last in the league, and the rush and pass defense is around average. That makes sense given its 8-9 record, yet Brady has been the key lifeline.
Mike Evans had his ninth straight 1,000-yard receiving season, and Chris Godwin joined him in that department after recovering from a serious knee injury. They’re a tad short beyond that, but Brady always gives his team a shot. He does not go any higher than No. 5, though.
Don’t attack me, Eagles fans. We all know how good Jalen Hurts is now, and he’s a deserved candidate for Most Valuable Player. But now we need to see him take Philadelphia on a deep run when it matters most.
But, in a similar sense to Purdy, he needs to prove these words right first before he goes any higher. It’ll start by putting last year’s playoff game against Brady and Co. behind him.
3. Buffalo Bills
Is this the year Josh Allen and the Bills overcome the Mahomes and the Chiefs hurdle? They’ll need to surpass another team yet to come on this list first, but Allen is a worthy candidate to come in at No. 3.
His interception woes haven’t faded away yet – he’s thrown 14 this year – but he’s arguably the best dual-threat QB in the league, with Hurts and Jackson also in the conversation.
Allen has improved countless facets of his game to take Buffalo up the NFL ladder, and the franchise could’ve very well had at least one Super Bowl appearance from the following few seasons had it not been for Kansas City. Allen surely has the quality to take his team far, and he’ll be looking to do so for his good friend Damar Hamlin as extra motivation.
Joe Burrow in Week 18 hit the NFL with perhaps the coldest quote in a while. Speaking on the Bengals’ championship window ahead of the playoffs, Burrow said: “The window’s my whole career.”
And he’s right.
Burrow bounced back in impeccable style after an injury-plagued rookie season to take his team to the Super Bowl last February, and they fought to the very last minute against a star-studded Los Angeles Rams squad.
The surprise factor isn’t in their favor anymore, but Burrow, along with 1,000-yard wideouts in Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase (Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon and Hayden Hurst also deserve recognition) will be a tough core to stop. Let’s see if Cincy has revenge in its sights.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
No Tyreek Hill, no problem. Mahomes and Co. finished the regular season with the league’s No. 1-ranked offense in terms of points per game, yards per game and play, touchdowns and points per play.
The Chiefs don’t rely on a running game and have a faulty secondary that could cause issues, but they’re not a team shy of getting into a shootout if necessary. In fact, they relish such scenarios.
Mahomes is the best quarterback in the game, and his ability oftentimes defies logic. With Travis Kelce, Juju Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jerick McKinnon all playing their part through the air, Mahomes is the needle-mover to put Kansas City as the top team in the quarterback situation ranking.