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Predicting All 32 Starting Quarterbacks
When a general manager or a head coach sits down to build a NFL team, the very first position he looks at is the quarterback. In today’s NFL, a team needs a franchise quarterback in order to be taken seriously as a playoff contender, and the proof is in the pudding. It’s been 14 years since a team was able to win the Lombardi Trophy without a franchise quarterback, and that team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had a historically good defense.
Most fans know who will be under center when the season starts, but a handful still have questions.
Here's who I think will be starting during my favorite weekend of the year.
The Indianapolis Colts
This one is a bit obvious. Barring any medical setbacks, the former Stanford standout should be back under center for the Indianapolis Colts. General Manager Ryan Grigson made a point of protecting Luck, drafting four offensive linemen in the draft. There’s nothing more to see here, Luck will be under center as he tries to guide the Colts back to the playoffs.
The Houston Texans
The Houston Texans better hope that Brock Osweiler is under center when they host the Chicago Bears in week one this year. During the off-season, the Texans snaked Osweiler away from the Broncos, giving him a four year, $72 million dollar contract to play for them. That’s a huge investment in a player that was only an adequate starter in Peyton Manning’s place last year.
The Jacksonville Jaguars
After a mediocre rookie season that saw him throw six more interceptions than touchdowns, Jacksonville’s first round pick from 2014 exploded last season, throwing 35 touchdowns. He did manage to throw one interception in his sophomore season than he had as a rookie, but to jump from 11 touchdowns to 35 is pretty exceptional.
The Tennessee Titans
Before his rookie campaign was cut short by injuries, Mariota was proving to be a truly exciting player for the Titans. Assuming there are no lagging physical or mental damages from his injury, he should pick right up where he left off.
The New Orleans Saints
Trade rumors continue to swirl around the two time offensive player of the year, but nobody has pulled the trigger yet. Drew Brees is 37 years old, and while the Saints need to find their next franchise quarterback, the only player with multiple 5,000 yard passing seasons will say in N'awlins.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs made Jameis Winston the first overall pick only one season ago, and barring an injury, there's no reason to think that anyone else could be suiting up for them when the 2016 season kicks off.
The Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan has had at least 21 touchdowns and 4,000 yards in each of the last five seasons, and yet when it comes time to mention the NFL's best quarterbacks, his name is never mentioned. Maybe this is because his team has struggled or because he's fallen apart in big games. Nobody knows, but what we do know is that he'll be starting in Atlanta when the season starts.
The Carolina Panthers
He was the freakin' MVP last season!
Assuming nobody fumbles on the first play, we'll get plenty of Cam Newton when the season starts.
The Green Bay Packers
If Tom Brady is the best quarterback in professional football, Aaron Rodgers is a very, very close second. Rodgers will be taking the snaps when the 2016 season starts, and both he and his Packers will be very dangerous featuring a healthy Jordy Nelson for the first time since 2014.
The Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings made offense a priority in the draft, selecting three wide receivers including fun story, Moritz Boehringer and first round pick, Laquon Treadwell. They wouldn't be drafting all these weapons if they didn't believe Teddy Bridgewater could develop into something more than just the game manger we saw in 2015.
The Detroit Lions
Matt Stafford performed admirably in 2015 despite not having any semblance of a run game or a defense around him. This year he faces a bigger struggle, as he won't have legendary wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, out wide catching his passes. Stafford will start week one, but where the Lions go from there is a mystery.
The Chicago Bears
You ever image-searched Jay Cutler on google?
I know who the other Jay Cutler is, and even I was surprised.
In any event, Cutler is still their guy, if for no other reason than they don't really have anyone else... yet.
The Pittsburgh Steelers
If Roethlisbger, Bell, and Brown can stay healthy, the Steelers can be serious Super Bowl contenders. That's just a very, very, VERY big if.
The Baltimore Ravens
Flacco returns to Baltimore to a completely different team. Steve Smith Sr. should be back, Breshard Perriman should be making his debut, and he'll have a new toy in Mike Wallace. Hopefully Flacco won't be gunshy after his injury last year.
Can we just talk about how Joe Flacco finished a game with a torn ACL?
The Cincinnati Bengals
I almost said A.J. McCarron.
Not on purpose.
I just almost did because I don't think the gap is as big as perceived.
The Cleveland Browns
Robert Griffin III
The Browns almost traded everything to the Rams back in 2012 to grab RG3. They almost sold the whole farm to grab the young exciting passer that would reverse their fortunes.
In 2016, not only did they manage to sign him for nothing, but they were able to get someone else to trade all of their picks to the Browns to draft another quarterback.
What a wild, wild world.
The Oakland Raiders
Oakland's Derek Carr is among the NFL's best young quarterbacks, and despite the Raiders drafting Connor Cook in the fourth round, he'll be the starting quarterback. The Raiders look to make a real push this year, and they'll depend heavily on Derek's arm to get the job done.
The Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are trying to keep their regular season winning streak, the longest in the NFL, going. Kansas City ended the regular season with their tenth straight win, and they'll look to pick up right where they left off. That includes trusting Alex Smith to be the starting quarterback.
The San Diego Chargers
While Rivers and the Chargers seem destined for an ugly divorce, he's far too valuable to be moved, especially this late in the off-season. He'll be trying his damnedest to carry the team yet again in 2016 as San Diego desperately tries to keep up in the wild, wild AFC West.
The Denver Broncos
Poor Mark Sanchez. He just can't escape.
Back when he was the golden child in New York, Rex Ryan went out and got athlete-passer Tim Tebow. When Sanchez struggled, the fans began chanting Tebow's name.
Eventually he escaped, going to Philadelphia to serve as a back-up... only for the Eagles to sign Tebow.
No matter where Mark Sanchez goes, he can't escape Tim Tebow.
So he went to Denver, the only place where he won't be at risk of running from Tebowmania...and the Broncos trade up for another athlete passer. Poor guy.
Paxton Lynch just isn't anywhere near ready to start, and if he has to go up against the pass rushers of the AFC West, he'll get killed before he ever had a chance.
The Seattle Seahawks
Who's picture is this?
This is Russell Wilson's picture.
And who's Gatorade is that?
That's Russell Wilson's Gatorade.
The San Francisco 49ers
Most people are saying that Colin Kaepernick will win this job.
If Chip Kelly and the Niners really wanted to start Kaep, they wouldn't have spent the whole off-season shopping him around. It wasn't the 49ers that backed out of the trade with Denver, it was Kaepernick's refusal to take a pay cut.
Jeff Driskel is an interesting project, and he could see playing time in 2017, but he's far too raw to start right off the bat.
The Arizona Cardinals
Is this Carson Palmer's last year? Who knows, but he had MVP-worthy numbers in 2015 and led the Cardinals to one of the best seasons in franchise history. There's no question that, barring injury, he'll be under center in 2016.
The Los Angeles Rams
I mean... they have to, right?
Considering all that the Rams gave up for Goff, the fact that they're starting a new era in a new city with a new stadium, and... the fact that he's already the best quarterback on the roster... This is a given.
The Philadelphia Eagles
Surprise! Despite the Eagles reportedly planning on benching Wentz for the first year or two of his career, I'm saying he starts week one. As we've seen with Joe Flacco in 2008, Russell Wilson in 2012, and Derek Carr in 2014, teams don't always stay true to their word with young quarterbacks. Especially considering how much the Eagles gave up to acquire Wentz, and the HBO-esque drama being provided by Sam Bradford, I think Wentz has a real shot at starting week one if he has a strong pre-season.
The Dallas Cowboys
It feels like forever since Tony Romo was starting for the Dallas Cowboys, but according to reports, he'll be good to go when the season starts. This is good news for Dallas, who should have a new age version of the triplets featuring Romo, wide receiver Dez Bryant, and first round pick Ezekiel Elliott.
The New York Giants
Big brother might be off making annoying commercials and drinking Bud Light, but Eli is still slingin' passes for those New York Giants. He'll have a few more shots at the Lombardi Trophy, hoping against hope to win his third championship, passing Peyton once and for all.
The Washington Redskins
YOU LIKE THAT?
This will be an interesting year for Cousins and the Redskins. Washington gave Cousins the franchise tag, earning him almost 20 million dollars this season alone. He'll have to prove he's the guy for Washington moving forward.
The New England Patriots
Weird, isn't it?
But thanks to the seemingly endless 'Deflategate' saga, the Patriots will be without Tom Brady for the first four games. So it looks like they'll get to see if Jimmy "Game Day" Garappolo is the heir apparent or just another Ryan Mallett.
The Buffalo Bills
Recently, Bills GM Doug Whaley said that the Bills were in QB purgatory. The teams would do well enough that they aren't drafting high enough to grab a franchise quarterback prospect, but they don't do well enough to be contenders. And that's absolutely right. This also applies directly to Tyrod Taylor. He's not going to lead the Bills to the playoffs, but he hasn't played poorly enough to lose the job yet either.
The Miami Dolphins
How weird is it that the Miami Dolphins are the most settled team in the division at quarterback? No controversy here, Ryan Tannehill is still their guy and he'll be under center when the season starts.
The New York Jets
That's right, I don't believe that Christian Hackenberg or Geno Smith will be under center for the Jets when the season starts. I think the Jets and the man known as Fitzmagic will get a deal done by the time the season rolls around. Fitzpatrick claims he'd rather take the season off than take the money the Jets are offering, but that's just agent speak.
He's 33 years old, and it's not like he's been consistent enough to attract big money from anyone else. He can play businessman all he wants, but when the season starts, he'll be under center for Gang Green.