History tells us that quarterback play will decide the playoffs and the eventual Super Bowl champion.

It's rare when it's a dominant defense with a manage-the-game quarterback that wins it all. It's happened with the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and others but, for the most part, you need great quarterback play in the postseason to run the table.

So to get you ready for this year's playoffs, here's a ranking of all 12 starting quarterbacks heading into this weekend.

Here's a good bet: The team that hoists the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 4 will be led by a quarterback who got them there.

That's why Tom Brady, and his five rings and likely MVP award this season, is clearly No. 1. At 40, he's still playing at a high level, and we know how much he likes the postseason. But let's count down to the Patriots legend.

tyrod-taylor-buffalo.jpg
Good luck if Taylor escapes the pocket. USATSI

12. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills

The Bills enter the playoffs for the first time since 1999 with a quarterback they aren't even sure they want.

Taylor was even benched this season for rookie Nathan Peterman, which proved to be a disaster. Taylor got his job back after a week and the Bills won three of five to make the playoffs.

For the season, Taylor has 14 touchdown passes and four interceptions, while rushing for 427 yards. His ability to escape the pass rush can put a lot of pressure on a defense.

He isn't great within the confines of the pocket, and can struggle in a big way there, but he can change a game with his ability to escape pressure and make plays with his legs and his arm.

Taylor is the fourth-ranked playoff quarterback on third down, so he has had some success there. He has six touchdown passes and three interceptions on third down.

nick-foles-1400.jpg
Foles has big shoes to fill in January. USATSI

11. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

Since taking over for the injured Carson Wentz, Foles has turned the Eagles' Super Bowl chances, which were good, into long odds. He just isn't good enough.

He had a good first start this season against the Giants in Week 15, throwing four touchdown passes, but in the two games since he completed 23 of 49 passes with one touchdown and one interception for just 202 yards --- and it looked even worse than that.

The Eagles have to hope to get something in between the Giants game and the other two to have a chance to make the Super Bowl. You can't expect him to throw four touchdown passes against playoff-caliber defenses.

That 2013 season, when he threw 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions for the Eagles, seems like a long time ago.

marcus-mariota.jpg
Mariota can change his 2017 narrative with a big postseason. USATSI

10. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Mariota's supposed breakout season never happened. He has to be considered one of the more disappointing players this year.

After an impressive 2016 season, he regressed this season. Mariota had 13 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions with a rating of 79.3, the lowest for any of the postseason starters.

He never looked like himself this season. Maybe the broken leg from a year ago never truly healed, because he hasn't been the same player.

Mariota was terrible on third down, completing 54.7 percent of his passes. That has to go up in the playoffs.

When he's at his best, he's making plays on the move and running for first downs. His best rushing game of the season came last week against Jacksonville – he ran 10 times for 60 yards -- which could be a good sign for him this week against the Chiefs.

NFL: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Bortles was hot and cold at the end of the season. USATSI

9. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

He might be the most beat-up quarterback in terms of perception on this list. Few think he's capable of doing much in the playoffs.

But Bortles has been better than he was a year ago. His mechanics have improved, and he hasn't turned the ball over as much. He finished with 21 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions and threw for 3,687 yards. He had a three-game stretch to open December where he threw eight touchdown passes and no interceptions. Then he threw two touchdown passes and five interceptions the past two weeks, opening up the vintage Bortles talk.

He's much better when the Jaguars allow him to throw on early downs. Keep an eye on that in the postseason. If he goes bad early, he has a tendency to go really bad, which is why when he throws on early downs he seems to gain confidence and play better.

Third down has not been good to him this season. He finished ranked 26th in the league in third-down passing with a rating of 67.7. He has to throw on early downs if the Jaguars are truly going to make a playoff run.

keenum.png
Will Keenum's storybook season have a happy ending? USATSI

8. Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings

His story is the best of the playoff quarterbacks. He was penciled in to be the team's backup this year, but when Sam Bradford got hurt Keenum ended up starting 14 games.

All he did was lead the Vikings to the second seed and a first-round bye by throwing 22 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions.

For most of the season, the Keenum doubters kept waiting for him to fail. It never happened, and his confidence has grown every week. He does a great job of getting outside the pocket and keeping his head up to make plays.

He's never started a playoff game, so his first one next week will be an interesting test. But if this season is an indicator, the Vikings need not worry.

alex-smith.jpg
Smith is looking to break through and finally reach the Super Bowl. USATSI

7. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

Smith went from an early MVP candidate, to a guy some wanted benched, to a player who bounced back in a big way down the stretch.

His final numbers were impressive, finishing as the highest-rated passer in the league, third in completion percentage and second in yards per attempt at 8.0, just behind Brees.

He had 26 touchdown passes against five interceptions, which is impressive. The Chiefs did a nice job of scheming plays open to help him in their offense. When the Chiefs lost six of seven games in the middle part of the season, Smith took the blame even though he threw 14 touchdown passes and four picks in that span. Smith can also hurt a defense with his legs and even had a 70-yard touchdown run against the Jets.

This can be the postseason where Smith, who might not be back with the Chiefs next year because of Patrick Mahomes, could show he's much more than just a game manager.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Cam will hope to get things turned around in the playoffs. USATSI

6. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

This might seem high for Newton based on the season he had, but he remains a dangerous threat -- both running it and throwing it, even if the passing numbers weren't good this season.

Newton's struggled mightily throwing it in 2017, but he had limited help from his weapons, especially with tight end Greg Olsen missing most of the season. Newton completed 59.1 percent of his passes with 16 picks against 22 touchdown passes. That's not good enough.

He ran for 754 yards, the highest total of his career. I think he plays better when he gets moving and running early. He seems to feed off that, so keep an eye on his mobility this week against the Saints.

The accuracy numbers are concerning, and he struggled in a big way on third down. He was the 28th-rated passer on third down in the league, completing just 53.1 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Panthers need to try and limit his third-and-long plays, which would mean running him even more.

goff-1400.jpg
Will Goff rise to the challenge in his first playoff opportunity? USATSI

5. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

The improvement Goff showed from his rookie season in 2016 was impressive. There were some who were labeling him a bust after his rookie year, which was way off base.

He didn't have a shot last year with his mediocre weapons, bad line in front of him and bad system. Bring in coach Sean McVay this season and add help around him, and Goff has become a much better player.

He threw 28 touchdown passes and seven interceptions, with his completion percentage going from 54.6 last season to 62.1. His rating went from 63.6 to 100.5. He was good on third down, ranking third in the league at 106.9 with 11 touchdown passes and two interceptions.

He wasn't great in the fourth quarter, which could be something to watch in the postseason. He completed 57.1 percent of his passes in the fourth quarter and his rating was just 75.9.

matt-ryan.jpg
Ryan is trying to make a second straight Super Bowl. USATSI

4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Ryan didn't come close to replicating his 2016 MVP year this season, but that doesn't mean he isn't capable of getting on a roll and running through the NFC playoffs.

Ryan had way too many turnovers this season, throwing 12 interceptions. The offense as a whole struggled with new coordinator Steve Sarkisian, but they finished ranked eighth in total offense and third in the NFL in passing net yards per play. That shows that the passing game and Ryan are more than capable.

One thing that stood out about Ryan's season: He was markedly better in the fourth quarter. His rating was 102.4 with nine scores and three interceptions in the fourth quarter. That means he had 11 touchdown passes and nine picks in the other three quarters. His rating for the season was 91.4.

That's in part because I think Ryan is at his best when he plays fast at the line of scrimmage and gets more freedom. That will be something to watch in the postseason.

roethlisberger.jpg
Big Ben turned things around after an early-season stumble. USATSI

3. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Remember that talk from him after his five-interception game against Jacksonville in Week 5 that he might not be able to get it done anymore? He didn't really say it that way anyway, but even so he later backtracked from it because he knew what was coming: another successful season.

Roethlisberger threw nine interceptions in the other 15 games and he finished with 28 touchdown passes. He also finished with 4,252 passing yards.

In the final six games, he had 16 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Like he's been in his career, Roethlisberger was good outside the pocket with his ability to keep plays alive and turn them into big gains.

Were it not for his end-zone interception against the Patriots -- on a botched fake-spike play -- the Steelers could be the top seed in the AFC. If there is one thing that Roethlisberger does that teams can take advantage of, it's his holding onto the ball too long at times.

But he's won the Super Bowl twice, which makes him a playoff-savvy quarterback. One big hurdle: taking better care of the ball in the playoffs. He has 23 picks in his 20 postseason games.

drew-brees.jpg
Will Brees add a second Lombardi Trophy to the case? USATSI

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

His gaudy numbers weren't as needed this year as they were in the past because of the improved run game with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. But don't doubt that Brees can get it done if needed in the playoffs.

He's done it in the past and he's capable of winning a shootout. His numbers were down because the volume was down. He finished ranked first in completion percentage and first in average yards per pass play. He also was second in rating.

Brees was more efficient. He attempted 137 fewer this season than a year ago, but his completion percentage was a career-best 72 percent. Brees still owns one of the best weapons in the NFL: his mind. When it comes to playoff time, that will give him a big edge over many of the others on this list.

tom-brady.jpg
Brady's playoff resume is untouchable. USATSI

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Some will look at Brady's play in the last six games, where he's thrown 10 touchdown passes against six picks, and try to say he's on the decline. That would be foolish.

Yes, he had a few games where he didn't look like the Tom Brady of early in the season, but injuries and the suspension of Rob Gronkowski for a game impacted his play.

Brady still finished ranked third in touchdown passes (31) and rating and was first in yards and fifth in completion percentage. The one concern is third-down passing, where he ranked 16th in the league with six of his interceptions on the season coming on the money down.

But the talk of age suddenly becoming a factor is absurd. Just watch in the playoffs.