The Divisional Round of the 2017 Playoffs is set, and fans of the eight teams still alive are eagerly anticipating their respective matchups. The remaining 2017 playoff quarterbacks heading into the second round of the playoffs are an eclectic bunch. There are the seasoned postseason veterans in Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. There are the fresh-faced youths in Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota. There are unpredictable wild cards in Case Keenum and Nick Foles. There are revenges and legacies at stake with Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. The rankings below are based on each quarterback’s relative performance heading into the playoffs and how they are expected to perform moving forward. These rankings are not reflective of the quarterbacks’ career performances, however long or short.
Ranking the Remaining 2017 Playoff Quarterbacks
8. Nick Foles
There’s a reason that Foles has not played in more than ten games in the last two seasons. A lot of time has passed since Foles threw 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions in a single season, and the sixth-year veteran has not enjoyed nearly the same kind of success since. He’s only played in one postseason game, which puts him on par with Bortles and Mariota. His 49 career games played is actually less than Bortles’ 62.
The fact of the matter is that this is not Foles’ team. Carson Wentz got the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs, and Foles is just the poor guy that has to bear the brunt of Philly’s hatred when they get dropped in the Divisional Round. There was some hope in Philadelphia when Foles dropped four touchdowns and no picks on the New York Giants, but the Giants have been 2017’s biggest surprise flop. Eagles fans are more likely to see a similar stat line to the Dallas Cowboys game when Foles completed only four of 11 attempts and gave the ball away with an interception. He’s a backup quarterback who unfortunately now has to run a gauntlet of the best teams in the country.
The Tennessee Titans are the worst team remaining in the 2017 playoffs. The former Heisman Trophy winner was out-rushed by Blake Bortles during the regular season and tossed two more interceptions than touchdowns to finish the season with a 13-15 touchdown-interception ratio. He had five games under 200 yards and only one game in which he completed more than 70 percent of his passes. The Titans made the playoffs due to an incredibly weak AFC playoff field, not by Mariota’s merit. Titans fans should not expect an upset in Foxborough this weekend.
Bortles is a turnover machine and has spent most of his NFL career making people scratch their heads in incredulity. But Bortles turned it on when he needed to. He had three 300+ yard games in his last six regular-season starts and accounted for nine touchdowns in that span. He had a meager 52.2 percent completion rate against the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round, but the UCF product churned out 88 rushing yards on ten attempts. The Jacksonville Jaguars wound up the number three seed in the playoffs behind an outstanding defense, but Bortles’ contributions can’t be counted out entirely.
5. Case Keenum
Keenum has never played in a playoff game before, so it’s difficult to predict how he’ll fare in the postseason. Frankly, that’s the only reason he isn’t higher on this list. Keenum has been a godsend for the Minnesota Vikings this season. He has been insanely careful with the football in the latter half of the season, throwing only two picks in his last seven starts. His completion percentage for the regular season was 67.6 percent, which is second only to Drew Brees’ record-setting accuracy this year. Believe it or not, he had three games with completion percentages above 80 percent. Marshon Lattimore and the New Orleans Saints defense will test his mettle this week, but his play throughout the year has quieted his perennial doubters and given him the visibility he needed to land a decent starting job in the league.
4. Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan’s performance this year was more representative of the dreaded Super Bowl hangover than coming off a blistering career season. To that point, Ryan’s touchdown-interception ratio in the last five games of the regular season is five to five. The reigning NFL MVP hasn’t thrown more than two touchdowns in a game all season. He shares that statistic with only one other quarterback on this list: Marcus Mariota. Ryan has been relatively consistent but not necessarily positively, completing passes between the mid-50s and low 60s to finish out the year.
He demonstrated that he has the ability to perform when it matters during the Wild Card game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Falcons squeaked into the playoffs, but Ryan made the most of his opportunity. If he can tap into the revenge story that will quickly become the headlining narrative if the Atlanta Falcons move on to the NFC Championship, Ryan will be a fearsome force. His postseason fire and experience gives the Falcons quarterback the edge over Keenum.
Roethlisberger has thrown the same number of picks in his last six games as Drew Brees. He also only trailed Brees in regular-season passing yards by 83 yards. The last time that Big Ben threw fewer than two touchdowns in a game was week eight. In his last six starts, Roethlisberger has two four-touchdown games and one game with more than 500 passing yards. He ended the year on a hot streak, and the first-round bye will certainly not hurt his chances to make the AFC Championship game. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a fantastic receiver duo with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Add Le’Veon Bell to the equation and Roethlisberger’s upside is tremendous. The downside is the Jaguars defense, which intercepted Big Ben five times in Pittsburgh this season. Given how he’s played since that game, it is highly unlikely that the Jags defense has another record day like that in Pittsburgh this weekend.
2. Tom Brady
Did Brady have an MVP-caliber season? Yes. Could Brady be on his way to winning his sixth Super Bowl? It’s possible. Is Brady the greatest of all time? He’s certainly in the conversation. Has Brady looked like himself as of late? No. The veteran signal caller has shown us that he still has the fight and the talent to win, but there have been several games that have fans questioning whether Brady is really an ageless wonder.
Brady’s accuracy in recent games has come under intense scrutiny. He has missed on several throws to reliable pass-catchers that everyone expected Brady to make. Ryan isn’t the only Super Bowl LI quarterback who has an even touchdown-interception ratio in the final five games of the regular season. Brady produced a six to six touchdown-to-interception ratio in the last five games of the season. Regardless, Brady appeared in the top five for completions, completion percentage, yards per attempt, and touchdowns, and led the league in passing yards.
1. Drew Brees
It was hard not to put Brady in this position, but Brees has the much hotter hand going into the Divisional Round. Brees heaved 376 yards and two touchdowns in the Wild Card game against the Carolina Panthers. He hasn’t posted a completion percentage below 72 percent since a November game against the Los Angeles Rams, and even then, he completed 68.8 percent of his passes. Brees hasn’t had a game without a passing touchdown since week 10. Doubters can point to four interceptions in his last five games, but Brees is a lock for the best quarterback still competing in this year’s playoffs. The Saints quarterback leads the league in regular-season completions and even set an all-time NFL record for completion percentage at 72 percent for the season.