Twelve teams reached the NFL postseason. Four will have byes this weekend. Of those 12 teams, the accomplishment and skill level of the most important position - quarterback - varies in a large way.
The spectrum ranges from a guy considered by many the greatest to ever play the position to someone who was benched this year for Nathan Peterman. This is a wide breadth we're talking here.
Where does Nick Foles check in among the field, and where would a healthy Carson Wentz have landed? Here are my rankings of the 12 QBs in the playoffs. The order chosen was not based on one set metric, age or necessarily past accomplishments (although they do help quite a bit). This is also not about how they will be looked at once their careers are over. Their play this season and supporting cast is a consideration, and some is just a gut feeling of how they'll perform under the much warmer lights of the postseason.
1. Tom Brady
This one does not need much explanation. Brady has won five Super Bowls and been to seven. He is also a four-time MVP of the big game. And even at 39, he led the Patriots back to win from a 28-3 deficit in the second half of last year's Super Bowl.
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2. Ben Roethlisberger
He's the only QB on the list other than Brady with multiple rings. Roethlisberger has won two. He also plays in an offense with a cadre of weapons, including the one-two punch of Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown (if healthy). He's participated in and won a ton of big postseason games.
3. Drew Brees
Unlike years past, the Saints' offense is not solely dependent on Brees' right arm. New Orleans has the best tandem running attack in football with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. However, Brees still threw for more than 4,000 yards and a 103.9 passer rating at the age of 39. Second-year wideout Michael Thomas is one of the more underrated players in the league, posting more than 1,100 receiving yards in both seasons. Brees is the last player in our ranking that has won a Super Bowl.
4. Matt Ryan
This is where things tighten up a bit. Ryan's play and numbers have dipped from his 2016 MVP campaign. Kyle Shanahan's departure as the Falcons' offensive coordinator has had a major impact. But Ryan still has Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and the experience of getting to the big game last year. The big question is are the Falcons and Ryan still suffering from the hangover of that bitter collapse to the Patriots?
5. Cam Newton
Newton's pass-run ability is second to none among the remaining QBs. I put him behind Ryan because of the inconsistency of Carolina's passing game. Newton can look like a world-beater at times with his arm, but too many times his mechanics are off and his decision-making is poor, as evidenced by his 22-16 touchdown-interception ratio. But when he is in a zone, he is brutal to contain.
6. Alex Smith
I know what you're thinking. "This guy is a game manager who hasn't won any big ones." Smith threw for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. He also has 12 TDs to just two interceptions in six postseason games. He's better than people give him credit for.
7. Jared Goff
Goff has no playoff experience. However, under the tutelage of first-year head coach Sean McVay, the second-year QB came into his own and proved worthy of being the first overall pick. The Rams will lean heavily on all-world running back Todd Gurley, which will make Goff's first exposure to the postseason much smoother.
8. Case Keenum
Keenum had shuttled between the bench and starting in his previous four seasons in the NFL. But when given a chance this year, he's played extremely well and done more than play not to lose. He also has an excellent trio of receivers in Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and TE Kyle Rudolph. People all season have been trying to write Keenum off or send him to the bench when Teddy Bridgewater returned from IR, but all Keenum did was win.
9. Marcus Mariota
The man many Eagles fans wanted during the Chip Kelly era has not quite lived up to the hype. Injuries and inconsistent play have defined Mariota's early career. He threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13) this year but is still a threat with his legs.
10. Nick Foles
Tenth out of 12 does not exactly inspire hope for Eagles fans. I am a firm believer Foles should be the starter in the Eagles' divisional round game and barring injury, we should not see Nate Sudfeld. But there is no other way to spin this: Foles has been terrible since taking the reins from Wentz. He looks scared and hesitant in the pocket and his decision-making has been bad. However, he has started and played well in a playoff game, which should count for something. (I'm trying here.)
11. Tyrod Taylor
I'm not a big fan of either of these last two guys. That said, Taylor has done a decent job this season. He too can make plays with his legs to either move the chains or keep plays alive. The Bills hope to lean heavily on LeSean McCoy, who sprained his ankle in the season finale and is a game-time decision. Any kind of big deficit and the Bills are done.
12. Blake Bortles
The Jaguars' defense is why they are in the postseason. Bortles has been better than he was in years past but that's not saying much. Leonard Fournette and that ferocious defense are the combo-plate for the Jags to advance.
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As for where Wentz would have ranked had he not gotten injured ...
Measuring his level of play this season, the fact I truly believe he would have won MVP, and never having started a playoff game, I would have placed him third behind Brady and Roethlisberger. Wentz doesn't strike me as the type who would have been swallowed up by postseason hype. His command of the Eagles' offense and feel for the NFL lead me to believe he would have thrived in that type of environment. Oh, what could have been.