The heck with power rankings which assess the strength of each team. The NFL is all about quarterbacks, and coaches and general managers often owe their liveilhood to the ability or inability to pick the right one.
So power rankings this year will be a subjective assessment of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL, Nos. 1 through 32, and it should come as no surprise that the teams with the best quarterbacks will in most cases be near or at the top of their respective divisions.
A look at how they stack up going into Week 1, which starts Thursday night in Tampa Bay:
(Quarterback, team, opponent)
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (vs. Cleveland)
Took his team to the Super Bowl with a nasty case of turf toe, which has been surgically repaired. The most creative quarterback of all time matched with the perfect coach in Andy Reid.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (at New Orleans)
Gearing up for a huge year and then no doubt another offseason of cryptic comments and drama. That’s OK. He’s Aaron Rodgers. You put wins in the bank and live with it.
3. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay (vs. Dallas)
He’s 44 years old. Remember what George Blanda looked like at 43 when he was coming off the bench for the Raiders? It just doesn’t seem possible. Yet here we are.
4. Russell Wilson, Seattle (at Indianapolis)
Still on board with Wilson as a proven winner. But let’s see if floating the story of being dissatisfied with his blocking has any effect on . . . well, you know, his blocking.
5. Josh Allen, Buffalo (vs. Pittsburgh)
Bills have done an incredible job utilizing Allen’s skillset and putting him in position to make the throws of which he is capable. Next step is taking that system and making it his own.
6. Matt Stafford, LA Rams (vs. Chicago)
This could be a reach, given it’s a new team and system. But going from the Lions to a team coached by Sean McVay will prove whether Stafford is just a big arm talent or a winning player.
7. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee (vs. Arizona)
So he’s already got Derrick Henry and a solid offensive line. Now make way for Julio Jones. His new offensive coordinator is Todd Downing, getting another chance after a Raiders flop.
8. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (at Las Vegas)
You’ve got the ball on the 20-yard line with two minutes to play. Can Jackson lead the Ravens downfield strictly with his arm? Most of the time, it doesn’t get to that point. But we still don’t know.
9. Dak Prescott, Dallas (at Tampa Bay)
Still wondering whether he’s a big stat guy or something more. Had a 10-11 record over the last two seasons and is coming off a bad knee injury. Weapons galore, though.
10. Derek Carr, Las Vegas (vs. Baltimore)
Half of Raider Nation is booing. The other half is cheering. Has gotten steadily better in Jon Gruden’s offense. If not adequately protected, turnovers ensue and he drops into the 20s.
11. Kyler Murray, Arizona (at Tennessee)
Still can’t decide if he can lead a team to a championship or if he’s an entertaining gnat in a gimmick offense. I’m going with the former until further notice.
12. Justin Herbert, LA Chargers (at Washington)
Was his rookie season real or a mirage? Herbert exceeded all expectations. Wondering if changing systems in his second season will stall the progress of an extraordinary talent.
13. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland (at Kansas City)
Not everyone’s cup of tea, but personally, I think he’s an exceptional anticipatory passer and has the kind of swagger that can rally a team. Big money coming his way if I’m right.
14. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (at Buffalo)
It will go well for Roethlisberger if the Steelers truly commit to running the ball with Najee Harris. Still needs to prove he can throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield.
15. Matt Ryan, Atlanta (vs. Philadelphia)
An 18-29 record over the last three years has a lot to do with his supporting cast. But quarterback play in general has a lot to do with the supporting cast.
16. JIMMY GAROPPOLO, 49ERS (at Detroit)
Yes, Trey Lance will take some of his snaps. But it says here Garoppolo will be the better for it. Has a quarterback with a .750 winning percentage (24-8) ever been more maligned?
17. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville (at Houston)
Talk about a soft landing. The best talent at the position since Andrew Luck gets to open against the worst team in football. So he’d better be good. Immediately.
18. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati (vs. Minnesota)
Showed a lot until a knee injury ended his rookie season, but it’s tough being the Bengals’ quarterback. Tom Brady couldn’t win with this organization.
19. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (at Cincinnati)
It’s hard to get around the fact that Cousins’ record against teams that finished the season with winning records is 7-35. Don’t see 2021 as any different.
20. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington (vs. LA Chargers)
Probably best suited to be the stir-it-up backup to jump-start a sagging offense, but considering Washington’s defensive prowess, this could work.
21. Jameis Winston, New Orleans (vs. Green Bay)
If coach Sean Payton can smooth out the rough edges and Winston can even approach the efficiency of predecessor Drew Brees, this bears watching.
22. Sam Darnold, Carolina (vs. NY Jets)
I’m in the minority here, but getting to play in an offense under O-coordinator Joe Brady could be the jump-start Darnold needs after the Jets experience. And look who’s up first.
23. Jared Goff, Detroit (vs. 49ers)
Hard to believe Goff took a team to the Super Bowl and has since been discarded. First impressions are the Dan Campbell hire will be a disaster.
24. Zach Wilson, NY Jets (at Carolina)
More so than winning games, the Jets’ mission in Year 1 is to keep Wilson from taking a physical beating and keeping him as efficient as possible with an inferior team.
25. Tua Tagovaiola, Miami (at New England)
Maybe there is more than meets the eye, but never looked the part of the No. 5 overall pick. His admission that he didn’t fully know the playbook was not encouraging.
26. Mac Jones, New England (vs. Miami)
The thing that worries me about Alabama quarterbacks is their college teams were so stacked with talent it’s hard to know how good they really are.
27. Andy Dalton, Chicago (at LA Rams)
The placeholder for Justin Fields didn’t exactly seize his opportunity in Dallas. The guess is Fields takes over before Week 5.
28. Carson Wentz, Indianapolis (vs. Seattle)
A good landing spot but an early foot injury is not a good sign. Looked broken in every way in Philadelphia and has a lot to prove before a Jim Plunkett-like resurrection.
29. Teddy Bridgewater, Denver (at NY Giants)
I actually like what Bridgewater brings in terms of efficiency and leadership but why do I get the impression Denver is waiting for Deshaun Watson’s legal issues to get cleared up?
30. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia (at Atlanta)
The acquisition of Gardner Minshew from Jacksonville is an indication the Eagles aren’t sold Hurts can deliver the goods in the passing game.
31. Daniel Jones, NY Giants (vs. Denver)
Has done nothing to dispel the notion he was a major reach with the No. 6 overall pick in 2019. Could bring down both GM Dave Gettleman and coach Joe Judge.
32. Tyrod Taylor, Houston (vs. Jacksonville)
Taylor has some decent traits to be a solid backup who can deliver in a spot start, but this organization is a mess from top to bottom.
Contributed by local news sources