Heading into the 2013 NFL campaign, there are several quarterbacks in the AFC entering the twilight of their careers, as well as several expected to take the next step and become premiere passers in the AFC. Below, I rank the seven best quarterbacks in the AFC, and it’s safe to assume six of these guys will be quarterbacking playoff teams in 2013.
7. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
The Red Rifle has led the Bengals to back to back playoff appearances, and improved in nearly every area in 2012, including yards, touchdowns, and wins. He is making the progress the Bengals expected when drafting him in 2011, but he still needs to avoid making costly mistakes and prove he can win a game without A.J. Green bailing him out.
6. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
I’ve heard some people refer to Schaub as Matt “Fraud”, as the Texans haven’t been able to get over the playoff hump and get to an AFC Championship. Houston is a team on the verge of breaking through, and although Schaub has put up admirable stats he seems to struggle making the clutch plays. He’s led the Texans to Divisional Round of the playoffs two years in a row, and he will have to come into his own if this team will ever get further.
5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck proved he was every bit worth the hype in his rookie season, leading the Colts to the playoffs after an abysmal two-win season in 2011. This kid is the truth. He’s mobile, can make all the throws, is a great leader, and has the smarts. Luck will be one of the next great ones and will keep the Colts relevant for years to come. Kudos to Indy’s management for being the best franchise QB drafters in recent memory.
4. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Ahh, Joe Cool. The $120 million dollar man. No, he isn’t the best quarterback in the league, nor is he the best QB in his conference, nor is he the best QB in his division. But, Flacco proved he has what it takes to get the job done. He’s been nothing but successful since entering the NFL, capping it with a Super Bowl in 2012. Flacco may move to the top of this list if he can string together another big playoff run in 2013, but one season doesn’t cement him #1, overpaid or not.
3. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Before being injured in 2012, Big Ben was on his way to the Pro Bowl. Although the Steelers finished 8-8 in an up and down season, Roethlisberger still tossed 26 touchdowns missing 3.5 games. He’s been one of the best of this generation, winning two Super Bowls and appearing in a third. Based off his play last season, it looks like Big Ben is hitting his prime and is geared up to play some great football. Joe Flacco hasn’t surpassed him yet.
2. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning is arguably the best pure passer the league has ever seen. He signed with the Broncos last season and led them to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, a game in which the Broncos had won and then let it slip away against Baltimore. Manning seems to be ageless, and will have Denver right back in the mix in 2013.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Every QB list involving the AFC always has Brady or Manning on top. Tom Brady has been the golden boy of this decade, and like Manning, seems to be ageless. The Patriots have won ten games or more ten straight seasons, nine of which were under Brady’s command. The Patriots came up short in the AFC Championship in 2012, but something tells me Brady is far from finished.
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