Tuesday, September 23, 2008

AFC QB's Struggling, NFC QB's On the Rise

Did you ever see the movie Space Jam? You know, the one where these aliens steal the NBA stars’ talent and suddenly they are completely inept at basketball? I am just young enough to have enjoyed that movie (perhaps a little too much) when it came out and looking out at AFC quarterbacks this year I think they might be doing a sequel.

The easiest one to point out is Tom Brady, who is out for the season so I will give him a mulligan on that. Peyton Manning, after 3 full regular season games, is still out of sync with his receivers, particularly Marvin Harrison. Manning is completing 6% fewer passes than last season, with a passer rating of only 73.1! His Colts are only 1-2 this season, with losses to Chicago and *gasp* Jacksonville! Does this mean Jacksonville is ready to take over the AFC South? Not so fast my friend, because David Garrard, after going the first 10 weeks of the season last year without throwing an interception has already thrown 4 this season, to sport an embarrassing 63.1 passer rating. As of today, Kerry Collins might be the best quarterback in the division. Ouch.

But there are other reasons quarterbacks are struggling- just look at Ben Roethlisberger and Derek Anderson. Roethlisberger was sacked 8 times last week against the Eagles, and it seems as though the loss of Alan Faneca has hurt the Steelers far more than we may have otherwise anticipated. We will see whether Roethlisberger’s line will continue to struggle against Baltimore this week. Derek Anderson is a much more severe case. His receivers have dropped everything thrown their way, and after being sacked only 14 times all of last season Anderson has already been sacked 8 times through the first three games. Jamal Lewis has been ineffective and a porous defense has consistently put the offense in unattractive situations. His 43.5 rating is down almost 40 points from last year, but his team is not helping him out. Do they make the switch to Brady Quinn? They might eventually, but it wouldn’t do much good.

Of course not all the top AFC quarterbacks are struggling (Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers happen to be playing out of their minds). However, by and large the stars we are accustomed to having success have fallen on hard times. Manning and Roethlisberger have a history of success and may be able to shake things out- Anderson and Garrard have had one year of great play and may have been flashes in the pan. Give me until week 7 or 8, but these quarterbacks are definitely to be watched.

The traditional quarterback dominance of the AFC has kept them as the far and away better conference. With AFC quarterbacks falling on hard times, the NFC may have taken a step forward. The NFC has been able to rely on Tony Romo, Donovan McNabb and Drew Brees in recent years, and this year has been no exception. However, this year some new quarterbacks have been emerging, and others have been returning to old form.

I have always been a Kurt Warner fan, but this year his 6 TDs to only 1 interception have been bringing back memories of his MVP days with St. Louis. The way Warner plays, you get the feeling he could play for a few more years to come. People keep writing him off, but this quarterback is on his way to a third consecutive season with a passer rating of 89 or higher after entering the offseason as the underdog. Matt Leinart has been an embarrassment on and off the field- let the veteran play, especially when the veteran is playing like he’s ten years younger.

J.T. O’Sullivan. Rarely before have we seen a quarterback adjust to Mike Martz’s offense as fast as this San Francisco quarterback has. However, this player is not entirely anonymous. Back in 2004 he was a necessary part of the deal that sent Mike McKenzie to New Orleans from Green Bay. This quarterback been waiting a long time to start and has always been considered a valuable backup/potential starter in the NFL. He has not yet gotten that opportunity before this year, but his rise this year was not a surprise within NFL front offices. Will this hot start continue? With that supporting cast I doubt it- but in the meantime, it is certainly fun to watch the 49ers score some points.

Does Aaron Rodgers count here? Did anyone think he wouldn’t be good? He is not Brett Favre just yet, but I said he would be much better than Alex Smith at the draft and might finally be proven right. Mel Kiper, eat your heart out. Either way, Rodgers has risen to the occasion- even after a loss to the Cowboys he still has yet to throw an interception this season. Is the NFC better than the AFC? I don’t know, and I am not sure I care. However, while it may seem that some of the stars of the NFL are playing under expectations, there are plenty of up and coming signal callers to watch.

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