Playoff QBs all have strong pedigrees
The Associated Press
The NFL playoffs don’t include any “game managers” or quarterbacks who are still in the hunt solely because they’re surrounded by a great defense or running game.
The eight signal callers still chasing the Super Bowl have strong pedigrees.
Seven of them have either won a Super Bowl or been picked first in the draft, or both. The eighth, Tony Romo, was the league’s top-rated passer this year.
“You look at the eight quarterbacks left and every single one of them can carry you through a game,” said Sean Salisbury, the former NFL quarterback who is now a radio analyst. “There’s no mystery as to why these eight teams are still standing.”
The Elite Eight:
JOE FLACCO, RAVENS
The Stat: During Baltimore’s current five-game playoff winning streak, including the 2013 Super Bowl, Flacco has thrown for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Stakes: Flacco got huge money (six years, $120 million) after the Super Bowl win, and the stats he’s rolling up in the postseason are quickly erasing any doubts about his status as a big-time QB. But he does not always impress in the regular season. Another Super Bowl win this year will solidify him in the upper echelon.
The Quote: “He really understands being in the playoffs. He plays some of his best football as far as taking care of the ball, making great decisions, throwing some really good throws and really taking control of their offense.” —Patriots safety Devin McCourty.
TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS
The Stat: No need to dig too deep: five Super Bowl starts; three rings.
The Stakes: He doesn’t have anything left to prove, though the fact he lost his last two Super Bowls leaves some room for hole-poking. New England hasn’t won a Lombardi Trophy since 2005.
The Quote: “If Brady loses, you can still say, ‘Hey, he’s been to five.’ You can make an excuse for him and pretty much everyone else on this list except for Romo.” —Salisbury.
CAM NEWTON, PANTHERS
The Stat: He got his first playoff win last week. Has thrown for 3,000 and rushed for 500 yards in all four seasons in the league.
The Stakes: It’s pretty much a no-lose for Newton, on the road to play the defending champs with a .500 team. Still, every No. 1 pick needs that definitive moment that proves they were worth all the hype. This would be it.
The Quote: “You have to do a great job staying on top because he can get you and he can get you late in the play. Rhythm, too, which is really the most difficult aspect to defend.” —Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
RUSSELL WILSON, SEAHAWKS
The Stat: Well, he’s got that Super Bowl ring. His 1,877 yards rushing over his first three seasons give him an element the others don’t have.
The Stakes: Because he was a third-round draft pick who was not being called on to lead the franchise, Wilson is playing for relative pennies. He’s averaged about $725,000 over his first three seasons. The bill should go up significantly when it’s time to re-sign — that much more if he’s got two titles.
The Quote: “He’s the reason I hate the ‘eye test.’ I loved him. He got drafted in the third round, I said, ‘Someone’s going to get a steal there.’ I thought he was coming along to be the most poised player in the league last year.” —Salisbury.
TONY ROMO, COWBOYS
The Stat: The only QB on this list who hasn’t been drafted first or won a Super Bowl title, he led the league in completion percentage (69.9), touchdown percentage (7.8) and passer rating (113.2). All this while throwing 435 passes, his fewest as a full-time starter. Thank you DeMarco Murray.
The Stakes: The reputation as a gunslinger who is mistake-prone at the worst moments still lives. A run to the conference title game or Super Bowl can tamp down some of that criticism.
The Quote: “I think his experience obviously helps him. But I think any time you’ve got a run game, the way they’re running the football — nothing helps the quarterback more than being able to do that.” —Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
AARON RODGERS, PACKERS
The Stat: He has 35 touchdowns and no interceptions in Green Bay’s 12 wins; three touchdowns and five interceptions in the four losses.
The Stakes: There are a lot of people who think he should end up with multiple Super Bowl rings before it’s all over. If he loses this week, he could get a pass because of the stomped-on calf.
The Quote: “Usually you’ve got some guys that can throw the deep but the receivers are either adjusting to it or doing this or that to make the catch. With him, it seems like all his deep balls are right in the basket.” —Cowboys safety Barry Church.
ANDREW LUCK, COLTS
The Stat: Two playoff victories over his first three seasons — two more than the quarterback he replaced, Peyton Manning, had at that point.
The Stakes: The top pick of the 2012 draft is more focused on the here and now than any legacy. But what better way to write the opening chapter than by outplaying Manning to get his first playoff road win?
The Quote: “Nobody wants (to face) a great quarterback who can run. But Andrew Luck has elite speed, and then, when you try to tackle him, he may run you over, he may sidestep you.” —Broncos safety Rahim Moore.
PEYTON MANNING, BRONCOS
The Stat: Almost all the key numbers were down from the record-setting effort in 2013, but the more balanced Broncos may have a better chance of winning it all.
The Stakes: He’s the only one on the list with a ring who was also picked first. John Elway built the franchise around Manning to win Super Bowls now. Manning is running out of time to add to his one ring.
The Quote: “Who has the most pressure? I actually think it’s him, considering the pressure he puts on himself.” —Salisbury.
AP Sports Writers Arnie Stapleton in Denver, Genaro Armas in Green Bay, Schuyler Dixon in Dallas, David Ginsburg in Baltimore, Howard Ulman in Foxboro and Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.
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