Every week we debate whether quarters are elite or not. We say “these are the top 5 guys,” referring to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Drew Brees, and we forget about an Aaron Rogers or an Eli Manning, and then we fret when someone doesn’t mention Big Ben.
So let’s do it. Here are the top 10 quarters in the NFL right now based on how critical they have been to their team’s success.
1. Peyton Manning
The new Broncos quarterback has helped lift his team to a 6-3 record atop the AFC West. With a win this afternoon over rival San Diego, Denver can take a three game lead in the division. Oh yeah, Manning leads the league in quarterback rating.
2. Aaron Rodgers
Despite the shaky start, the Packers are in the midst of a four-game winning streak, 6-3 and just a game behind the Chicago Bears at the top of the NFC North. In wins, Rodgers has thrown for 1,600 yards, 20 touchdowns and three interceptions.
3. Matt Ryan
No, the Falcons aren’t without flaws. We saw them lose to the Saints, a division rival that always tends to have their number. But that shouldn’t take away from the 8-1 Falcons, who are led by viable MVP candidate Matt Ryan. Matty Ice has thrown for almost 2,800 yards and 20 touchdowns already, and he engineers what has become a pass-heavy offense.
4. Tom Brady
Seriously, Tom Brady has been under-the-radar good this season. He’s thrown 18 touchdowns compared to three picks, and the Patriots are quietly at 6-3 and en route to yet another AFC East title.
5. Drew Brees
The Saints stumbled out of the gates this year, but all of a sudden find themselves at 4-5 and two games back of a wildcard spot. Brees is the Saints’ offense, and he’s accounted for 25 touchdowns, which is more than 75 percent of the team’s total scoring.
6. Andrew Luck
Don’t shoot the messenger. The Colts’ rookie is ranked eighth in the NFL in passing yardage, 10 behind Eli Manning, but he’s changed the culture of Indianapolis and is filling in admirably for a lost MVP. He doesn’t boast great touchdown or interceptions numbers, but he has the Colts at 6-3 and in line for a playoff berth.
7. Eli(te) Manning
Is he or isn’t he? The elite debate ranges on. Quite frankly, I’m sick of it. Manning has the Giants at 6-4 and atop the NFC East. Right now, though, the Giants are hurting during their bye week. They’ve dropped two in a row and look lethargic on offense. Manning has turned the ball over too often again this season, and despite inflated passing statistics he’s struggled of late. Still, there’s no question he’s vital to the G-Men’s success.
8. Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben has not put up gouty numbers this year, just 17 touchdowns and 2,300 yards. Still, Big Ben has adopted a new offensive scheme and been successful despite a rash of injuries to his backs and a mediocre offensive line. The Steelers will struggle without Big Ben under center, demonstrating their need for him.
9. Josh Freeman
Surprised — I thought you might be. Freeman has made tremendous strides this year as a signal-caller, and with the addition of Vincent Jackson opposite of Mike Williams, the quarterback has a newfound confidence. He’s thrown 18 touchdowns compared to five picks, and in wins he’s been nearly perfect. And again, the Bucs are fighting for a playoff spot.
10. Joe Flacco
Flacco, like Manning did last summer, labeled himself elite this year. The Ravens sit atop the AFC North, again, and play Pittsburgh tonight for a chance to increase that lead. Flacco, though, has been wildly inconsistent. His good is very good, though, and for that, the Ravens continue to be among the league’s top quarterbacks.
Join the conversation, Giants fans. I (double) dare ya. Follow me on Twitter @SamSpiegs