The old guard at quarterback is not going away quietly. After a 2012 highlighted by the best rookie class in memory, quarterback royalty in 2013 looked remarkably similar to the top guns back in 2009.
It was the year of Peyton Manning, like so many before. But right behind him was a Philip Rivers revival worthy of his best seasons. (This is a guy who once led the league in yards-per-attempt (YPA) for three straight seasons. Drew Brees hasn't gone anywhere. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisbeårger started the season slow, but try naming five better quarterbacks than them in the second half.
The next generation is coming. Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Ryan Tannehill all progressed. Cam Newton "matured," which is media translation for his defense getting better (Newton was never exactly a problem). Nick Foles came out of nowhere to bolster the 2012 rookie class.
The young guys will have their day on top. Perhaps it will come in these playoffs. For now, it's the same old bosses running the NFL.
This is the Quarterback Index. Every four weeks, I rank all 32 starters, top-to-bottom. This is one of those weeks. The rankings are based on 2013 play alone. I've included everyone's preseason rank next to them in parenthesis.
Alone at the top
1. Peyton Manning (3)
Manning is about to win his fifth MVP award, which is more than Joe Montana and Tom Brady combined. Only three players have ever won it more than twice. Manning will win the award at age 37, matching Rich Gannon as the oldest player to win MVP. Manning and the 36-year-old Brady are rewriting our expectations for how quarterbacks age. Manning surprisingly threw the ball deep more as the weather turned cold.
2. Philip Rivers (19)
3. Drew Brees (4)
4. Tom Brady (2)
Rivers and Mike McCoy made the Chargers offense fun to watch, something that rarely happened in the Norv Turner era. ... Brees' excellent season was remarkably similar to the last two years, although he was hit a lot more. ... Brady's rough first half wasn't all on his lack of weapons, but he'd have my vote for second-half MVP. (Note: That's not a real award.)
5. Ben Roethlisberger (6)
6. Russell Wilson (#)
7. Andrew Luck (6)
8. Cam Newton (14)
9. Nick Foles (N/A)
10. Bears quarterback (15)
11. Matt Ryan (7)
12. Tony Romo (13)
Roethlisberger is throwing more than ever without losing any efficiency. He's also going to play 16 games for the first time since 2008. Why is offensive coordinator Todd Haley on the way out again? ... Russell Wilson overcame a lot more this year than people realize, from his offensive line to a shaky receiver group. ... Luck has also dealt with a weak supporting cast, reducing his errant throws over the last month.
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