That moment when you realize the NFL Playoffs start tomorrow:
This year’s crop of teams features the usual suspects, like the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, and some surprises, like the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins. But among the 12 starting quarterbacks there are some names that might shock you.
Here’s a ranking of the signal-callers hoping to lead their teams to a Super Bowl:
12. A.J. McCarron, Cincinnati Bengals
Wait, Mr. Katherine Webb is starting a playoff game? That is correct. Thanks to an untimely broken thumb by Bengals starter Andy Dalton, McCarron is saddled with the task of making everyone forget about Cincinnati’s past postseason failures. Despite how strong of a team they were this season, going 12-4 and winning the AFC North, it was still hard to believe in the notorious postseason choke-artist Bengals. Now, with the least experienced quarterback of any team in the playoffs, it’s damn near impossible.
11. Brian Hoyer, Houston Texans
Ryan Mallett. T.J. Yates. Brandon Weeden. Bueller? The Texans have had four different starting quarterbacks throughout this season, and now in the biggest game of the year they are putting the ball in the hands of Brian Hoyer. It’s hard to believe Houston didn’t make a run at Hoyer’s old pal Johnny Manziel, a Texas-native. Oh yeah, no one can find Johnny Football.
Hoyer is coming off a concussion, but he has had a solid year with 19 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Luckily for him, he has a stud wide receiver on the outside in DeAndre Hopkins.
10. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings
Bridgewater has had a solid year. Nothing spectacular, but solid, which is about as good as you can hope for from a 23-year-old quarterback. The second-year signal-caller helped the Vikings win the NFC North by playing efficiently, completing 65 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns to nine interceptions. In his first-career playoff start, Bridgewater will be facing the Seattle Seahawks and the dreaded Legion of Boom. Good luck, young man, you’re going to need it.
9. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Smith is finally thriving under Andy Reid’s offense, throwing for 3,486 yards and 20 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 65.3. Thanks to weapons like Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce, Smith looks to have shed the “game-manager” moniker, leading the Chiefs to 10 straight wins heading into the playoffs. Still, the truth is he’s not that far above a mediocre quarterback. But he’s on the hottest team in the postseason, so he doesn’t have too much to worry about.
8. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Manning is in this spot on name alone, because he was limited to just nine games thanks to a foot injury and he was terrible with nine touchdowns to 17 (!!!) interceptions. He subbed in for Brock Osweiler, who went 5-2 in his absence, in the final game of the season and completed five-of-nine passes for 69 yards. Manning’s postseason struggles have been well-documented, being eliminated after one game nine times in his career. With age catching up to him, it’s hard to imagine Manning getting his groove back to lead Denver to the promised land.
7. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Remember RGIII? Does anyone remember Robert Griffin III? The player who supposedly revolutionized the quarterback position with his mastery of the read-option? Yeah, we don’t remember him either. Kirk Cousins made everyone forget by leading the Redskins to the NFC East division crown. Even though the NFC East is arguably the worst division in the league, but we digress. Cousins was excellent down the stretch, throwing for over 300 yards and at least three touchdowns in three out of the last four games of the season. You like that?!
6. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
If only Jordy Nelson was on the field. If only the Packers offensive line wasn’t held together by gum and scotch tape. Rodgers has been the best quarterback in the NFL for the past few years, but injuries to key players have forced Rodgers to rely on a band of misfit toys and the results have been as bad as you’d expect. If only someone Discount Double-Checked the Green Bay roster. Rodgers might see an early exit from the playoffs, but it’s alright. He’ll have more time to work on his sword fighting skills with his girlfriend Olivia Munn.
5. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger benefits from the connection he shares with star wideout Antonio Brown and the production of secondary options Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton, giving Pittsburgh arguably the strongest wide receiver corps in the postseason. Big Ben is also injury-free and when he’s healthy, he simply doesn’t fall down. He’s the fastest slow quarterback in the league.
4. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Did anyone predict Carson Palmer would lead the Cardinals to a number-two seed in the playoffs? If you answered “yes,” you’re lying to us (and to yourself). Palmer has thrown for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns in his 13th season in the league. He has the Cardinals primed for a deep run into the playoffs and he’s been mowing down secondaries like this adorable bunny noms down a nanner.
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Tom Terrific has also had to deal with injuries to key skill players and a makeshift offensive line, but he’s handled it better than Rodgers has to the tune of 4,770 yards, 36 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. No matter the Mickey Mouse-establishment wide receiver group, Brady’s top target Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL. To be honest, Gronk is really all he needs.
2. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson has been absolutely on-fire lately, completing at least 60 percent of his passes in each of the last seven games and throwing three or more touchdowns in six of them. He led the league with a quarterback rating of 110.1 and has Seattle peaking at the right time after a 2-4 start. With the added motivation to make everyone forget about last year’s colossal Super Bowl blunder, ‘DangeRuss’ is as dangerous as ever.
1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Newton hit his stride in his fifth year, throwing for a career-best 35 touchdowns and rushing for 10 more, becoming the first quarterback ever to throw 30 or more touchdowns while rushing for 10 or more. He led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and had a ton of fun doing so, living up to his ‘Superman’ nickname and turning dabbing into a phenomenon. Don’t stop dancing, Cam, you deserve it.