By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — A quarterback suffering a broken leg is not exactly a common occurrence in the NFL, yet on Christmas Eve, we were forced to watch two promising young signal-callers go down in a span of just a few hours.
First, we lost Marcus Mariota. Though the Titans were losing late in the third quarter when Mariota suffered his broken fibula, the injury essentially guaranteed that the Titans would not be making the playoffs, and that we would all once again be subjected to a Houston Texans postseason game this year. Wahoo.
A few hours later, it was Derek Carr who went down. At first, it did not appear serious, but after a few seconds, the young man was wailing in pain. And just like that, the most promising threat to take down the mighty New England Patriots in the AFC playoffs was carted off the field.
The fact of the matter, from the perspective of someone who enjoys watching football, is that this stinks. Terribly.
Instead of the days when the playoff field might have seen Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Steve McNair, Matt Hasselbeck and a red-hot Jake Delhomme all in the same postseason field, we’re now left to watch Tom Savage and Matt McGloin attempt to run NFL offenses in January.
To be fair, the “good old days” are never as good as they may seem. But still — the quarterback field in this postseason leaves something to be desired, and we may all be in for some ugly football over the next month.
With that in mind, let’s go ahead and count down the quarterbacks who are or may be playing in January, from best to worst.
1. Tom Brady
No explanation necessary.
2. Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben. He’s big. He’s Ben. He’s got the postseason experience. He’s got Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.
3. Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers is probably the best passer in the entire world, but the consistency … where is it? It’s not here, folks! Look, the guy is on a remarkable hot streak (14 touchdowns and zero interceptions since late November), and no opponent will want to face him come playoff time. But the Packers are only 3-5 in the postseason since winning it all back in 2010, and Rodgers has been good-but-not-great along the way.
4. Dak Prescott
Putting a rookie in this spot may seem foolish. But I can’t recall ever seeing a rookie quarterback in such command of a potent offense. Yes, he’s aided by the dominance of the O-line and the excellence of Ezekiel Elliott, but his precision has been astounding, as has been his imperviousness to the pressure of taking over for Tony Romo in Big D. I believe!
5. Russell Wilson
Russ has had a rough year behind a bad O-line. And the stats dictate that he probably shouldn’t be this high on the list. But of all the postseason QBs, the one most capable of pulling off a ridiculous escape/touchdown throw on the run is Wilson. And that’s the type of game-changing play that can shape an entire postseason.
6. Matt Ryan
I’m sorry, Señor Ice, but you and the Falcons having a great postseason game is something I’m going to have to see to believe. I understand that Ryan has been the best quarterback from Weeks 1-16. I get it. He’s been awesome. He deserves the MVP. But he’s got nine touchdowns to seven interceptions in the postseason, with a 1-4 record to go with it. His teams have averaged 20.2 points in those five games, which just doesn’t cut it. So yes, you should be wary of Ryan’s offense in the playoffs, but you shouldn’t be scared.
7. Kirk Cousins
7. Matthew Stafford
7. Eli Manning
Each one of these QBs is certainly capable of having a big, 350-yard, three-touchdown performance. But each is also capable of falling flat on his face in a horrific display of quarterbacking. No opponent of these quarterbacks ever feels totally comfortable, yet the same can be said regarding the fans of these quarterbacks.
10. Alex Smith
For the four of you who have been reading this picks column for years, you know that I’ve made my position very clear on Alex Smith. The guy just is what he is. He makes his safe little passes and can do an adequate job at QB if his defense is playing lights out. Anything other than that, though, and it’s not a recipe for success. He was good enough to help the Chiefs win in the wild-card round last year, when his defense forced five turnovers. He was not nearly good enough to win in the divisional round, when his team forced zero turnovers. He is whatever. Maybe he could win a Super Bowl, but only in a Brad Johnson/Trent Dilfer capacity.
11. Ryan Tannehill/Matt Moore
I don’t know which one is going to play come January, but … am I crazy for thinking it doesn’t matter all that much? I recognize that we’re dealing with a tiny sample of Moore this season, but the large sample of Tannehill doesn’t really tell me that he’s markedly better. And the fact that this can even be debated means the 11 spot is perfect for the Miami duo.
12. Matt McGloin
A walk-on at Penn State, an undrafted free agent in the NFL, we’re not supposed to believe in this man’s abilities. And I have no problem doing just that.
13. Tom Savage
Sadly, the man with the best name on this list also lands the spot as the worst at throwing footballs. The only question is whether he can outperform Brian Hoyer’s legendary four-interception playoff performance from last season. We will all be watching with wonder.
All right then. With that officially settled (for real, it is official, don’t even bother questioning any of it), let’s dive into the picks in Week 17. We’ve made it, folks! We’ve made it to the end!
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
NEW YORK JETS (+3.5) over Buffalo
I don’t know, you guys. I just don’t know. One dead in the water team vs. one team that just fired its head coach and decided to bench its quarterback so as not to be forced to potentially honor a contract. What a disgusting mess of grossness. Bills fans should all agree to drive down to New Jersey just to tailgate in the parking lot and body slam each other through tables and then not go into the stadium for the game. Jets fans could join in. It could be a great moment for humanity. Make it happen, people.
Houston (+3) over TENNESSEE
Granted, Houston has nothing to play for. But neither does Tennessee. The NFL should institute some wacky and wild rules to make this game more watchable. Maybe add some obstacles. Oh! I know — add the temple guards from “Legends Of The Hidden Temple.” A guy could be running alone down the sideline en route to an easy score when WHAM! Temple guard.
As Olmec would say, you’ve got to keep your head on a swivel out there.
Dallas (+4) over PHILADELPHIA
I’m inclined to believe the Cowboys might pack it in, and frankly, Jerry Jones’ bizarre reasoning for keeping Tony Romo on the sidelines in order to keep him healthy (while at the same time playing Dak Prescott in the game) makes my head spin.
But I also kind of think that a team led by someone like Jones is a team that might go for the throat and try to set all sorts of impressive statistical achievements. Maybe they’ll let Dak and Ezekiel Elliott go for the MVP, something frivolous like that.
Also, the Eagles are bad news.
INDIANAPOLIS (-4.5) over Jacksonville
Maybe if the Colts win they can hang a new banner: “Went .500!”
If they lose, perhaps they’ll throw up a banner reading, “Swept by the Jaguars, but tried valiantly!”
PITTSBURGH (-5.5) over Cleveland
Maybe I’m just picking against Cleveland reflexively at this point, but I’m not sure they have the mental fortitude to come back with a strong effort after winning the Super Bowl last week.
Baltimore (+2.5) over CINCINNATI
These games are, frankly, all unpredictable, because for teams like these two squads, the offseason is just moments away. Avoiding injury for the offseason is priority No. 1, 2 and 3 this Sunday.
So without much analysis to be had about the actual games, I do have to share a grave situation regarding this picks column: I screwed up! I messed up! I made an accounting error, and after checking the history this week, I’ve discovered that I had missed a loss on my record back in Week 9. As a result, Instead of entering Week 17 just three games under .500, I enter four games under .500. That one-game difference feels like a monumental road block for me to get back to mediocrity. And the fact that I’ve got these Baltimore-Cincy and Indy-Jacksonville matchups to try to pick makes it all the more difficult.
It’s tough being me, is what I’m trying to say, and you should send sympathy cards.
MIAMI (+10) over New England
The Patriots want to win this game, but the Dolphins also wouldn’t mind testing themselves before the playoffs begin. The Dolphins are good at home (6-1 overall and haven’t lost since Week 5), so 10 points in this situation is too many to pass up.
Chicago (+5) over MINNESOTA
Carolina (+5.5) over TAMPA BAY
Seriously, it’s like a minefield out here this week trying to pick these awful games. What are you really supposed to do?
ATLANTA (-6.5) over New Orleans
Matthew Ice has an MVP Award to procure. The Saints and their 30th-ranked passing defense should be willing to let him earn it.
SAN DIEGO (-5.5) over Kansas City
The final Chargers game in San Diego, perhaps? Some level of redemption after losing a football game to the Cleveland Browns, maybe? MAYBE?!
Arizona (-6) over LOS ANGELES
The Rams are as sad of a football team as I have ever seen before. I’m not sure who’s going to be clamoring to take that head coaching job, but here’s a spoiler alert: He will fail.
New York Giants (+8) over WASHINGTON
There’s no way the Giants provide an easy path for the Redskins to stay alive in the postseason.
SAN FRANCISCO (+10) over Seattle
DENVER (-1) over Oakland
(Allow me to quickly search Google for the shrugging guy text … hang on … OK, here it is) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Green Bay (-3.5) over DETROIT
The Packers are hot right now, folks. They are a-smoking. And while a Washington loss earlier in the day could rob this game of its potential implication, we don’t have that type of prescience at this moment in time. So, assuming this game is a playoff game of sorts for the teams involved, the Packers have made this a very easy choice.
And that’ll put a wrap on this season. Let’s just hope we can collectively get this record over .500. If we all will it to happen, it shall happen.
Last week: 6-10