In the NFL, quarterback is the most important position. Therefore, when looking at the Green Bay Packers schedule, the first question to ask is, what quarterbacks will the team be facing? In the article, I will not only be looking at every starting signal-caller that the Packers will face, but also making an Opposing QB Rankings.
Somebody had to come in last on this list. For now, it’s Gardner Minshew. Yes, he had success last year, but he still has much to prove. For starters, was this all a fluke or can Minshew maintain that level of play? Now that opponents will have extensive game footage on the Jaguars quarterback, will they be able to defend him much more easily?
According to current Vegas projected win totals, Jacksonville is last in the league. With a 4.5 win over/under, expect the team to struggle. If that is the case, then there will be consequences that manifest in Minshew’s play.
Another team with a low-projected win total. At 5.5 over/under for wins in 2020, the Panthers team does not look that much better than the Jaguars. Teddy Bridgewater comes in ahead of Gardner Minshew because he has more of a proven track record. In only his second year in the league, he led his team to a divisional title. Any momentum that Bridgewater carried from that season was erased with a devastating knee injury.
Now, a few years (and three teams) later Bridgewater appears to be fully healed. He also lands with an organization that has talented weapons to pass to. Now, he just needs to prove he can win games, without the elite-level defense that he had in 2015.
Nick Foles / Mitch Trubisky
These teammates conclude what I call the unproven tier of quarterbacks. After making progress in his sophomore season, Mitch Trubisky took a step back in 2019. So much so that the Bears acquired Nick Foles via trade. This ultimately clouds the quarterback situation, as it is unclear who is the favorite to be the week 1 starter.
Both have a lot to prove. Foles has won a Super Bowl, but that was as a backup taking over late in the season. He needs to show that he can have success over the course of a full season. Meanwhile, Trubisky has to prove that his 2018 success when he led Chicago to the playoffs, was not just a fluke.
Unlike the quarterbacks that were just mentioned, Philip Rivers has demonstrated consistency over a long period of time. However, he did suffer a decline in play last year. Packers fan may disagree, as Rivers produced his second-best completion percentage mark of 2020 in that matchup against Green Bay. However, on the season as a whole, Rivers saw a career-low 3.9% touchdown rate, as well as the second-worst interception rate (3.4%) of his time in the NFL.
There is also the question of Rivers changing teams. One the one hand, the Colts offer him arguably the best offensive line he has ever played behind. However, he will have a completely new receiving corps to work with. Will he be able to establish chemistry with those new weapons in time? Until we know the answer to that question, I cannot place Rivers higher than tenth on this list.
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If I was ranking which quarterbacks are most likely to beat the Packers, Jimmy Garoppolo may skyrocket all the way to the top of the list. But we are not here to examine a team’s defense or coaching staff. This exercise is meant to look strictly at quarterback play. In that regard, Garoppolo does leave something to be desired.
There were several matches where the defense and the run game won the day for the 49ers. Yes, Garoppolo had a pair of excellent passing performances against the Cardinals in 2019, but not much more outside of that contest. To his credit, he did lead San Francisco to victory in the dome in New Orleans. But really, the true hero is George Kittle and his impressive ability after the catch. Furthermore, neither of the playoff victories were won primarily on his arm. And when he was needed in the Super Bowl, Garoppolo could not bring his team ahead. In my eyes, he still has a lot to prove.
Another quarterback to make it to the Championship Round last season. There is one thing that Ryan Tannehill does better than Jimmy Garoppolo. That is, using his legs as a weapon. The Packers have a notoriously difficult time defending mobile quarterbacks. Tannehill’s tendency to know when to run could allow him to exploit Green Bay’s pass rush.
As the Titans thrower, Tannehill was ridiculously efficient. He led the league in with 9.6 yards per attempt while maintaining a 70.3 completion percentage and a 7.7% touchdown rate. Now, he did this after taking over the starting job partway through the season. It is doubtful that Tannehill could sustain those loft numbers on more than 286 passing attempts. He will, however, get the benefit of being the unquestioned starter in order to connect even further with the receivers he worked with last year.
This ranking has a big wild-card of health. Carson Wentz had demonstrated excellent play throughout his young career. However, he has also missed playing time every year except for his rookie season. When on the field, Wentz can make all the throws and has a great habit of protecting the football. Also, in each of the past 3 seasons, his interception rate has been 1.7% or better, including a mark of 1.2% in 2019.
Wentz is one of only four players on this list who has won a Super Bowl. But he is also one of nine players that has not played in the Super Bowl. When the Eagles won the big game, Wentz was on the bench recovering from an ACL tear that occurred earlier that season. While Wentz did not participate in that post-season, he was still instrumental in getting home-field advantage for the Eagles throughout that playoff run.
Similarly to Carson Wentz, Matthew Stafford has his own injury concerns. Back problems began to arise two years ago. While he did not miss any games in 2018, his 2019 campaign was cut short. At this point, health is the only question regarding Stafford. He has proven to be the perfect leader on and off the field for the Lions.
One thing that cannot be overstated is just how well Stafford has played throughout his career. As a young quarterback, he put up sensational passing totals on a team with a losing record. Eventually, he learned how to win games and became what one could describe as clutch. In 2016, Stafford set a single-season NFL record with 8 4th-quarter comebacks. It should be expected that he will lead the Lions once again with some impressive performances.
Talk about clutch, Kirk Cousins was viewed as the exact opposite even half a year ago. But in January, Cousins accomplished something that Mathew Stafford has yet to do: win a playoff game. And what a game it was for Cousins. Traveling to New Orleans, he not only held his own but out-dueled Drew Brees. And when it came down to crunch time, Cousins responded with arguably the best throw of his career to set up the Vikings on the goal-line in overtime. A few plays later, he threw the game-winning touchdown and erased any notions that he could not step up in the big game.
Now that we have that out the way, we can look at Cousins’ numbers with context. Throughout his time as a starting quarterback, he has held a pretty consistent touchdown rate, only dipping below 5.0% once. Furthermore, his interception rate has been no higher than 2.0% in only one instance. Cousins did all this while maintaining better than 7.0 a yards per attempt.
Matt Ryan has reaching heights beyond most of the quarterbacks on this list. While not a champion, he has led his team to the Big Game and won an NFL MVP award. Only one other player on this list can make the same claim and he is the primary reason why Ryan does not have a Super Bowl ring.
The only thing more consistent than Ryan’s play is the change in offensive coordinator that he has lived through throughout his career. For the 2020 season, he will once again have Dirk Koetter calling plays, who held the role last season. In addition, Koetter also had a stint as Flacons offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014. Needless to say, Ryan will be working with a coaching staff that he knows well, and can help maximize his play.
Drew Brees is a locked-in top-3 player on this list. Arguably, the biggest drop from one position to another occurs between #3 Brees and #4 Matt Ryan. A lot of that has to do with what Brees has accomplished in his storied career. At this point, he has mastered this Saints offense for over a decade.
Brees is often considered to be the most accurate quarterback in the league because of his astounding completion percentage. In fact, he broke the single-season completion percentage mark in two recent consecutive years. Brees is one of the best at finding the open receiver and quickly placing the ball where it needs to be. The only on-field criticism that one could think of with Brees is that he has a tendency to tail off near the end of campaigns. At least recent history suggests as much. That will not be a concern here, as the Packers will play the Saints before their week 5 bye.
Deshaun Watson gets the edge over Drew Brees for one simple fact: mobility. As referenced earlier, Green Bay’s defense always has a hard time containing a quarterback that can scramble and gain yards on the ground. Watson is excellent in that regard, maybe even gaining on Aaron Rodgers level as a scrambler. Watson certainly has speed and athletic talent on his side. However, his game is much more complex than simply labeling him a mobile quarterback. Watson throws with great timing and velocity. Like Rodgers, he is willing to throw into tight windows. Watson’s accuracy allows those plays to be completed more often than not.
One aspect working in Watson’s favor is the fact the Packers have never faced him on the football field. Yes, the team has access to game tape and can scout Watson as best as possible. However, it is a completely different animal once the ball is snapped. Watson can make quick and decisive throws, but he is also excellent at making off-script plays. It will be incredibly difficult for Green Bay to defend Watson.
Who else but the greatest of all time could top this list of quarterbacks? Some will point to a statistical decline last year as proof that Tom Brady is washed. Not coincidentally, his 2019 receiver corps was arguably one of the worst that Brady has had throughout his storied career. Coming to Tampa Bay, one thing that is apparent is that Brady will have access to several talented receivers.
He is only 16 months removed from a Super Bowl victory. At this point, the only thing left for Brady to prove is that he can handle Bruce Arians‘ offensive system. (Spoiler alert, I’m pretty sure he can easily handle it.) I still believe that he is a top 5 (maybe top 3) quarterback in the league. In week 6, Brady will square off against another top 5 signal-caller in Aaron Rodgers. The two have not met often throughout their careers. While difficult, this matchup will also be a treat for all NFL fans. Brady vs Rodgers. Are you ready for that again?
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