It's not hard to identify the best quarterbacks in today's NFL: Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady are among those most feared around the league entering 2021. But what if you sorted each division by QB power? Which divisions offer some of the best QB duels, or are best suited to have multiple MVP candidates at the position? And which divisions are sorely lacking in arm talent?
We're so glad you asked. Here's how we'd rank all eight NFL divisions according to their QBs:
8. NFC East
QBs: Dak Prescott (Cowboys), Ryan Fitzpatrick (Washington), Jalen Hurts (Eagles), Daniel Jones (Giants)
Prescott does everything well as the point guard of Dallas' loaded offense, so long as the Cowboys' banged-up line can keep him upright upon his own return from injury. Fitzpatrick is a clear upgrade on Alex Smith, bringing more pizzazz to Washington's aerial attack, but he's also 38 with an extensive injury and turnover history. Hurts has the legs, the smarts and the poise to capture Philly's heart, but he's still unproven as a long-term passer. Jones, meanwhile, remains physically gifted as a dual threat and now has solid weaponry but has lost the ball -- or control of the game -- too many times early on to be fully trusted.
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7. AFC East
QBs: Josh Allen (Bills), Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins), Zach Wilson (Jets), Cam Newton or Mac Jones (Patriots)
Allen is a bona fide playmaker and arguably a top five QB overall -- gifted enough to be a perennial MVP candidate. But he's the only sure thing of the bunch. Is Tua due for a step up now that he's got more weapons at his disposal (and no Ryan Fitzpatrick lurking in crunch time)? Perhaps. Wilson may be more equipped to handle pressure than Sam Darnold, but that's not a high bar to clear. In New England, meanwhile, Newton figures to be more comfortable with an improved supporting cast, but he's been a mediocre passer for years. If Jones starts instead, he's still an unknown with physical limitations of his own.
6. NFC South
QBs: Tom Brady (Buccaneers), Matt Ryan (Falcons), Sam Darnold (Panthers), Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill (Saints)
At 43, Brady is sharper than he was at the tail end of his 20-year Patriots career. He could easily hit 40 touchdowns for a second year in a row. Ryan, at 36, frankly looks like the elder, with far more good than great outings in recent years, though he's still experienced and savvy, if not poised to improve under Arthur Smith. Darnold can't be much more frenetic than he was in New York, but his ceiling is unclear. In New Orleans, Winston feels like the front-runner as the more prototypical QB, and under Sean Payton, he could easily post gaudy passing marks; the question is whether they'll accompany good decisions.
5. AFC South
QBs: Ryan Tannehill (Titans), Carson Wentz (Colts), Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Deshaun Watson or Tyrod Taylor (Texans)
Tannehill has erased memories of an uneven start to his career with each and every Titans start, serving as the ever-steady hand of a bruising and underrated offense. Wentz stumbled all over himself on a bad Eagles team in 2020, but couple his physical skill set with a comforting change of scenery, and he's bound to be a top 15 QB again. Lawrence has the makeup of a future star, but stuck in a Jacksonville rebuild, he may start slow. The Texans are the chief reason for the South ranking this low: Watson is a top 10 talent but remains intent on being traded regardless of whether his legal matters result in a suspension, so Taylor -- the serviceable but overly conservative insurance plan -- figures to open 2021 under center.
4. NFC North
QBs: Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Kirk Cousins (Vikings), Jared Goff (Lions), Andy Dalton (Bears)
At 37, Rodgers has rarely been more confident in wielding his otherworldly vision and arm talent, rivaling Mahomes as the NFL's most effortless passer. All indications, of course, are that he's unhappy staying in Green Bay, both in 2021 and beyond, but until No. 12 sits out or gets dealt, he single-handedly makes the NFC North must-see TV. Cousins may not be a big-stage star, but he's always capable of keeping Minnesota in the hunt as a play-action standout. Goff wilts under pressure far too often, but given time (a possibility behind Detroit's underrated front), he's solid. Dalton is backup material but has so far been guaranteed No. 1 duties ahead of both Justin Fields, the athletic rookie and Nick Foles, a reserve of similar caliber.
3. AFC North
QBs: Lamar Jackson (Ravens), Baker Mayfield (Browns), Joe Burrow (Bengals), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers)
Jackson is arguably the most electrifying player in the entire league. Critique his deep-ball/big-game passing, but few QBs threaten to change the game every time they touch the ball. He does. Mayfield has successfully adapted to serve as something of a spunky game manager in Kevin Stefanski's smooth offense. Burrow still has plenty to prove but has the moxie and football IQ to put up numbers and survive any forthcoming staff overhauls. Roethlisberger, once the face of the North, is better suited for a Mayfield-type role now that his arm has lost the juice for signature gunslinging, but he's still capable of a playoff bid.
2. NFC West
QBs: Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Kyler Murray (Cardinals), Matthew Stafford (Rams), Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance (49ers)
At this point, we might be taking Wilson's dual-threat steadiness for granted. With or without a scheme that demands he let it loose through the air, he always finds ways to get Seattle to the dance. Murray has to make better decisions as a runner and passer, but like Jackson, he's too elusive to ever count out. Stafford should benefit from the Rams' elite weaponry, going from solid to Pro Bowl-caliber as long as he stays healthy. In San Francisco, Garoppolo is often efficient as the purveyor of Kyle Shanahan's run-heavy scheme when healthy. Lance is very young and raw but projects as a more dynamic starter if/when he debuts.
1. AFC West
QBs: Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Justin Herbert (Chargers), Derek Carr (Raiders), Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater (Broncos)
Mahomes is so automatic in his highlight-reel throws and crunch-time delivery that no one will bat an eye -- or even consider it -- if he throws 40 TDs and wins another Super Bowl this year. He's the closest thing to a video-game cheat code at QB, and thus the chief reason (pun intended!) the AFC West headlines the list. Herbert is off to a historic start, pairing prototypical NFL size and talent with a surprisingly confident debut. MVP candidacy, here we come? Carr fizzles a little too much down the stretch, but he's been solid as a conservative and field-stretching passer. In Denver, Bridgewater raises the floor of the QB room as a cool, if unspectacular, hand. Lock, meanwhile, has the arm and fire to make plays, as long as his own aggression doesn't get in the way, as it already has aplenty.