Carson Palmer #3 of the Oakland Raiders scrambles away from Ndamukong Suh #90 of the Detroit Lions
The running backs in the AFC West may be good but they aint got nothing' on the quarterbacks. Every one of the AFC West quarterbacks have been to at least one Pro Bowl, three of them have been to multiple Pro Bowls. This is going to be one hotly contested division at the quarterback position.
Quarterback is probably the most important position in any team sport in the world. No one position affects a team's outcome more than that of the quarterback. It is the reason I saved it for the last position. Typically when doing rankings, the quarterback comes first. But in the fashion of a countdown, number one finishes it off.
Here are my AFC West Rankings by each team's quarterback:
From a talent standpoint, this one is a no-brainer. Peyton Manning is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. The big mystery here is whether his surgically repaired neck will stand up and if it will allow him to play at or near 100%. But without factoring in the unforeseeable, Manning is the best quarterback in this division. Through much of his career, the backup was doomed to walk the sideline. If Manning does go down, his replacement will either be Hanie or Osweiler, depending on how they perform in camp and preseason. Hanie has at least started some games in his career although, he didn't look too good. In four starts last season, he was 0-4 with 3 touchdowns to 9 interceptions and a QB rating of 41.8. Osweiler is a rookie with big potential but he is not near ready to be thrown on the field as the starter. This team will live and die by Manning. But what else is new for a Manning led team.
Rivers threw for an awesome 4624 a year after he had thrown for 4710 yards. In fact, he has thrown for over 4000 yards each of the past four seasons. And up until last season, he had a QB rating over 100 each of those seasons as well (it dipped to 88.7 last season which is still not bad). His 27 touchdown passes were his worst in four seasons and his 20 interceptions were a career worst. But that had a lot to do with how bad the defense was. He was having to force a lot of throws to try and make something happen. Whitehurst returns to the Chargers after a failed attempt by the Seahawks to see if he could be a starter. He has played quite well for the Chargers in years past as a fill in. He is one of the better backups in the AFC West.
Palmer threw for more interceptions than touchdowns last season (13-16) in 10 games with the Raiders. But six of those interceptions came in his first two games off the couch for the team. If you consider that, his numbers don't seem quite as bad. If you remove those first two contests, he had a QB rating of over 89 for the remaining eight games of the season. The Raiders will be switching to a West Coast offense in 2012. He has never played in that system in the pros but in college at USC he won a Heisman Trophy out of that offense. He will be backed by another former USC Heisman trophy winning quarterback, Matt Leinart. Leinart has yet to really be able to show himself. He was not given much of a chance in Arizona before they gave up on him and he was trapped behind Matt Schaub in Houston and then went out injured the moment he had his shot.
Cassel has never been all that good. Since joining the Chiefs on a big free agent deal, he has only thrown over 3000 yards once (3116 in 2010) and averages about 20 touchdown passes per season. He was on pace for another mediocre season in 2011 before being lost for the season after nine games. His backup is a lot like Leinart in that he has never really been given much of a shot to show if he can succeed. But Quinn was beaten out by Derek Anderson in Cleveland and Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton in Denver. It seems if there were any hidden talent, he could have beaten out one of those guys.