Week 6 Thursday Night Picks & A Look at the QB Situation Across the League

Andrew Luck

Image courtesy of Bleacher Report

Jim Armstrong

Remember a year and a half ago when the Texans were coming off a divisional loss to the New England Patriots and a dominating 12-win season? The Texans were bringing back their core guys and were poised to dominate the AFC and take the next step in their journey from expansion franchise in 2002 to Super Bowl victory. Unfortunately for the Texans, they proceeded to lose 14 straight games after opening the season 2-0 last year and consequently landed the #1 pick in the draft. They used this pick to select Jadeveon Clowney who exited the team’s week 1 win with an MCL injury.

The Texans are a resilient group this year…a bunch that does not give up easily and I believe this stems from their head coach Bill O’Brien and their unflappable (ok I’m giving him too much credit) quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick to me is the everyone’s QB. If 100 people saw him in a bar in Houston, I doubt that 35 of them would recognize him as their team’s starting quarterback. The Texans grabbed Fitzpatrick off the scrap heap and inserted him into the starting lineup this year and he has responded by being a big part of why the Texans are 3-2 heading into this divisional game against Indy.

The NFL is such a cruel league. For years, Andre Johnson bided his time, improving each season and waiting patiently until the pieces around him coalesced through shrewd draft picks (Cushing, Brian & Watt, J.J.) and free agent acquisitions (Joseph, Jonathan). He also waited until the 2011 season when Peyton Manning failed to suit up for the Colts for the first time since the 1997 season. Now Johnson at 33 is still at (or nearing) the end of his prime years and a new QB is in town, one that will rule the division for the next 10+ years. No his name is not Ryan Fitzpatrick, his name is Andrew Luck.

Watching a guy like Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson play and then watching a guy like Fitzpatrick play is just night and day. It’s two different leagues. For as incredible a sport as football is, it continues to amaze me how many NFL teams have no short and long term solution at the most important position in football.

The Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings have been searching for the last 5 years to find a solution at that position. To a lesser extent, so too have the Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins and Saint Louis Rams. The NFL is a cruel game and what’s even crueler is that the chasm between elite quarterbacks and everyone else at that position is the widest gap in sports.

I want to illustrate this point in another form. Think about it this way: what if the elite power forwards in the NBA consisted of guys such as LaMarcus Alridge, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin? And then the majority of the other power forwards were guys such as DeJuan Blair, Reggie Evans and Derrick Favors. What if there was no middle ground, with guys such as Paul Millsap and Nene?

The NFL QB strata is split for the most part into the elite/winning/long term solutions guys at QB, the unknown guys who franchises have been paying for years and waiting and then the guys who just aren’t a short-term plug-in until another guy comes along.

Here’s my breakdown:

Winning/Long Term Guys

  • Peyton Manning
  • Tom Brady
  • Drew Brees
  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Philip Rivers
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Joe Flacco
  • Tony Romo (talented QB on mediocre teams but due to gaudy stats and 21 career 4th quarter comebacks, he deserves to be included in this group)
  • Russell Wilson
  • Andrew Luck
  • Eli Manning
  • Colin Kaepernick (toggled between him between this list and the ‘Solid guys’ list but ultimately settled on this list due to 3 straight NFC championship game appearances and one Super Bowl appearance)
  • Matthew Stafford (wavered on this a bit as well)
  • Matt Ryan

Unknown Guys

  • Sam Bradford
  • Robert Griffin III
  • Blake Bortles
  • Jake Locker
  • Derek Carr
  • Brian Hoyer (starting to play his way out of this group)
  • Teddy Bridgewater (although I liked his debut, too early to judge)
  • Mike Glennon (playing his way out of this group)

Short Term Plug-in

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Carson Palmer/Drew Stanton/Logan Thomas (any Cards QB from last 5 years)
  • Geno Smith/Kyle Orton/J.P. Losman (kidding) – any Bills QB from last 5 years)
  • Matt Cassell/Christian Ponder/Brett Favre’s 41-year old 2010 season (any Vikings QB from last 5 years)
  • Josh McCown
  • Matt Schaub/Matt McGloin 

Solid Guys

  • Jay Cutler (pains me to put him in here but he’s on the cusp – if he puts it all together for a full season, the argument could be made that he should be moved into the ‘Long Term’ group)
  • Ryan Tannenhill
  • Nick Foles (playing his way into the long term list – still early though)
  • Cam Newton
  • Andy Dalton (torn with this one, jury is still out)
  • Alex Smith – definition of a solid QB. He’s the benchmark for this group.

Notice how 14 teams have a legitimate franchise QB/long term solution at that position while for the most part, the other 18 teams continue to make due with a ‘solid’ guy, a ‘short term plug in guy’ or an ‘Unknown’ guy. The NFL is the league of the have’s and the have-nots and nowhere is this more apparent than at the QB position.

Oh and for tonight’s game, the Colts beat the Texans 31-20.

 

Rory Goulding

Well, seeing Jim put Colin Kaepernick in the elite category has certainly made my mood exponentially better for this Thursday post. Maybe I’ll have to throw in some GIFs at the end of this post.

Alright let’s talk about tonight.

So far this season, Thursday night’s in the NFL have been a mess. With the average margin of victory at 29 points, you’re tuning out at halftime unless someone on your fantasy team is playing. Hopefully tonight will be different, but I wouldn’t count on it.

If you’re a Texans fan – you’re liking that Indianapolis will most likely be without both of their starting guards, which is never a good thing when you’re facing the superhuman (and never-ending highlight reel), J.J. Watt. Your starting running back Arian Foster most likely will play, and even though he isn’t the biggest fan of Thursday Night Football, that shouldn’t stop him from building on his 157-yard, two-touchdown performance last week against the Cowboys. You also like that, in two Thursday games, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has yet to throw a touchdown pass.1

If you’re a Colts fan – you’re liking that you have Luck and that your opponent has Ryan Fitzpatrick.2 That whole closing-your-eyes-and-hoping-for-the-best thing is fine for backyard football and taking shots of Jaeger, but in the NFL that kind of stuff catches up to you.

Stats of the Week: Indianapolis has won three straight vs. Houston and is 20-4 all-time against their divisional foes. The Colts are also a staggering 11-1 in Thursday games, the best winning percentage in NFL history.

In addtion, the fact that, again, Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing quarterback for the Texans, leads me to believe tonight will be all Indy. Oh, and count on Andrew Luck throwing his first Thursday Night NFL touchdown.

Colts 37, Texans 17.

P.S. Here are a few celebration GIFs of Colts punter Pat McAfee to get your NFL week started off on the right foot.3

Pat McAfee Celebration 1

Pat McAfee Celebration 2

 

 

Comments

  1. Not sure you can call 14 qbs (almost half the league) “elite.” Elite should be a much smaller number.

    • You make a good point. I removed the ‘Elite’ label and placed more emphasis on ‘winning’ and ‘long term.’ I likely should have broken this group of 14 QB’s into 2-3 different sub tiers but instead just lumped them all into the ‘winning’ category. Good point though, I agree with you.

  2. Pat Maloney says:

    Everyone loves a good list and the shout out to a punter is always different and fun. Be sure you check out the story of McAfee swimming in a river in Indianapolis naked and drunk, definitely my 2nd favorite punter in the league behind Weatherford.

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