The NFL must be ecstatic about the two match-ups in the Conference Championships, the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos in the AFC game and the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC. Brady vs. Manning, Wilson vs. Kaepernick, legend vs. legend and rising star vs rising star. Here are my predictions for both games.
AFC Championship: New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos 3:00 PM EST
Reasons Why the Patriots will win:
1.) Belichick and Brady have Peyton’s number: In the 14 times Brady and Manning have squared off (Denver and Indy), the Pats are 10-4. In those 14 games Manning has thrown for 29 TDs and 20 INTs, a rate less than impressive for a quarterback of his stature. Earlier this year the Patriots came back from a 24-0 deficit to win in overtime in Foxborough. After leading three drives that resulted in 17 points in the first half (Von Miller had a fumble return TD), Manning could only muster seven more points in the second half, giving further evidence on why other pundits question Manning’s “clutch gene”. When you are one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, you are graded on the highest curve and your accolades are praised but your mistakes are also highlighted. And truthfully, Manning has work to do if he wants to overcome his reputation as a “regular season quarterback.” A playoff victory over the Pats would help but seems improbable.
2.) Playing with House Money: Another truth about this game is the Pats have less pressure on them then the Broncos do. The Broncos have put up impressive stats, breaking the total points record with 603 and obviously one of, if not the greatest statistical years ever had by a quarterback. Meanwhile, Brady and the Pats have been chugging along losing bodies on both sides of the ball. On offense they lost Gronk for the first six weeks and then lost him for the season with a torn ACL, wide receivers Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and oft injured Danny Amendola have combined to miss 13 games this year. And, of course, they lost Aaron Hernandez because of his arrest for murder. These losses on the offense would make any team less of a threat, but not the Patriots as they turned Julian Edelman, a college quarterback drafted in the 7th round into a 100 catch player. On defense, they lost stud defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to a ruptured achilles, and linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerrod Mayo to other season ending injuries. Did this stop the Pats? No. Players like Jamie Collins and emerging stars like Chandler Jones stepped up and preformed valiantly for their injured teammates. I know the Pats won’t make the excuse but they most definitely have one to fall back on, hence the pressure is off them and on Manning to beat such a depleted Patriots team.
3.) The Run Game: Coming into the season, LaGarrette Blount was considered to be a head case that would never be solved, but now with the Patriots he has emerged as their lead running back. In his lone playoff appearance, Blount rushed for 166 yards and four TDs, incredible numbers for a player as stout as Blount. This hot streak could continue as the Broncos gave up 15 rushing TDs this season. The Patriots also have the advantage in terms of running back depth as Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen provide a balance of both speed and power that should wear down the Broncos defense. With the high altitude in Denver, runners can tire easily and with this litany of quality backs, the Patriots should have no trouble interchanging all three. Although the focus will be on Brady vs. Manning, the running game will have to run down the clock and keep Manning and his potent offense off the field.
Reasons Why the Broncos will win:
1.) Better Weapons: I just mentioned that the Pats have three solid running backs who can carry the load on offense, but the Broncos have a stable (horse joke haha) of receiving and running options that only make Peyton Manning’s job much easier. Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker all had 10 or more TDs this season and Knowshon Moreno had a career year with a combined 1,538 yards and 13 TDs on the ground and through the air. For a secondary that gave up 239 yards per game, the Patriots do not seem equipped to handle all of the Broncos’ targets. If Manning gets going early, it could be a long day for the Patriots.
2.) Peyton is on fire: Peyton Manning will be the MVP and I do not want to hear people make the case for Brady to win it because of the Patriots injuries. He amassed 5,477 yards and 55 TDs with only 10 INTs and a total QBR of 82.1 (0-100). In the playoff game against the Chargers, Manning had a solid game throwing for 230 yards with two TDs and an interception with 91.1 QBR, but the most important moment came in the 4th quarter with San Diego mounting a comeback and Manning complete a first down to Julius Thomas, virtually putting the game away. He made the critical throw and avoided criticism for at least another week. As I mentioned before the Pats defense against the pass is vulnerable and Manning could have a great day if he avoids turnovers.
3.) Revenge is in order: The Broncos should come into this game with a little chip on their shoulders because of the aforementioned regular season defeat at New England earlier this year. This would a perfect opportunity for Peyton to erase the hard memories of Brady defeating him in various playoff games and go on to play in the Super Bowl. Peyton doesn’t have that many more NFL years in him, so if the Broncos want to make a run at a championship, they better win this game.
This game is going to be a high scoring affair with the game probably coming down to who has the ball last. An if they scenario happens, I have more confidence in Brady than I do in Manning. Pats 38- Broncos 35.
NFC Championships: San Francisco 49ners vs Seattle Seahawks 6:30 PM
Reasons why the Niners will win:
1.) They’re on fire: The Niners have a similar feel to the 2011 Green Bay Packers, star quarterback playing at an extremely high level and a defense making key plays. The great thing for the Niners is their defense is better than the Packers’ defense was– to limit star quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton to a combined 30 points is fantastic. Colin Kaepernick has been highly effective, running for clutch 3rd down conversions and throwing strikes to his receivers and most importantly he has been playing safe, game managing style of football, allowing his stout defense to assert their dominance. Hot teams tend to be dominant during the playoffs and the Niners have run through their opponents and now face a struggling Seattle team.
2.) Better receiving core: Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are all hard match-ups for secondary players, even for a talented Seattle team. Anquan plays a physical style and won’t be intimidated by press coverage or the hard hitting Kam Chancellor. Look for CK7 to look for ‘Quan if he gets in trouble inside the pocket. Michael Crabtree has provided a deep-threat presence that allows for other receivers to get open across the middle of the field. He too has a tremendous set of hands as his coach Harbaugh said he would trust Crabtree to catch a ball to save his life. And then finally, Vernon Davis one of the most versatile players in the game, combining speed with power creating a headaches for defensive coordinators everywhere. Davis, like most of the Niners, has struggled against the ‘Hawks hard hitting Legion of Boom as he was held to 41 yards receiving in both games this year. He might play the role of decoy, allowing Anquan and Crabtree to roam down the sidelines.
3.) Better Linebackers: This is a close battle but the edge goes to the Niners as they have the best two inside linebackers in the game in Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman. Both have sideline to sideline speed and will not be afraid to confront Beast Mode head-on. The X-factor will be Ahmad Brooks a combo-linebacker who can rush the passer and play the run game. The linebacking corps also provides the emotional edge for the Niners as their leadership goes unquestioned. Look for the two-headed monster of Willis and Bowman to play well if the Niners want to win this game.
Reasons why the Seahawks will win:
1.) They have a psychological edge at home: The 12th man is more like an outdoor asylum, full of crazy fans who bleed Blue and Green. The Seahawks are 15-1 in the last two years at home and they seem to play with an inherent swagger in the Emerald City. The Seahawks have also demolished the Niners at home the last two years by the scores of 42-13 (2012) and 29-3 (2013). Kaepernick has struggled mightily in Seattle with only 1 TD and 4 INTs and with a quarterback rating of 41.7. The playoffs will be even louder and the crowd will definitely cause problems for the Niners.
2.) Best secondary in all of football: The Legion of Boom is by far the strength of the Seattle Seahawks. Richard Sherman is the best corner (DPOY candidate), Earl Thomas is the best free safety (DPOY front-runner) and Kam Chancellor is the best strong safety (should be DPOY candidate). They hit hard, they talk trash and most importantly they play the ball, turning unadvised throws into costly interceptions. After the suspensions of Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, players like Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane stepped up and played superbly with 17 passes defensed and 4 INTs. The Legion of Boom needs to come to play and they should create at least a turnover.
3.) Beast Mode: Marshawn Lynch is a handful, combining 215 lbs of straight muscle with 4.46 speed means trouble for opposing defenses. Marshawn has had success against a stout 49ers defense rushing for 170 yards and 3Tds in their two meetings this year. He can wear down a defense, collecting extra yards after initial contact and turning first downs into touchdowns. If Seattle wants to take the pressure off of Russell Wilson they need to have Marshawn touch the ball at least 30 times.
The Seahawks are close to invincible at home and until the Niners beat them in Seattle, I am picking the Seahawks. The Niners can’t stop Beast Mode and the Seahawks, supported by their crazed 12th man, wins 28-21.
The Packers and the Lions will be fighting for their playoff lives, when the two teams meet on Turkey Day in Detroit. Lately, the Packers have been dominating the Lions, 15 of the last 16 games and five straight, but the Packers do not have Aaron Rodgers for this contest. Instead of Rodgers, the Pack will be starting Matt Flynn at quarterback. Although Flynn has been horrible with other teams, he has experienced success with the Packers. The Packers have been reeling lately, after they lost Aaron Rodgers with a broken collar bone. Before their game against the Vikings, the Packers have lost three straight games, which has put them in their current position. The Packers were on set to lose another last week, until Flynn replaced Scott Tolzien and led the Packers to a tie. After the Packers replaced Tolzien, Flynn threw for over two hundred yards and one touchdown. After Flynn returned off the bench, the Packers offense totally revitalized and Eddie Lacy returned to his former self. Lacy rushed for over 100 yards for the first time in the last three games because the Vikings could not load the box with Flynn at quarterback. With the offensive support, the Packers’ defense had new life and played great during the second half of the game and overtime. While the Packers look like are improving, the Lions have looked horrible over the last two games. After reaching 6-3, the Lions have been horrible over the last two weeks, losing to the Bucs and the Steelers. The main problems with the Lions have been their defense and knack for committing turnovers. Over the past two games, the Lions have not been able to establish a pass rush, which has allowed them to allow 30 points per game. Along with the porous defense, the Lions have committed 8 turnovers over the past two games and Stafford has thrown 5 interceptions. Although the Lions have been piling up yards, they have found ways to lose games. This rivalry has improved over the past few seasons because the two teams have added talent. This game should be close, but the Lions will probably win the game at the end of the day. The Pack have played well against the Lions, which should give them confidence during the game. The game will be high scoring, if Flynn plays well, because neither have a great defense.
Prediction: Lions win 34-31
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys:
Like every Thanksgivings Day, the Cowboys will be playing at home. The Raiders have been playing horribly as of late and have lost three of their last four games. The Raiders’ offense has been atrocious over the last few games. Since Terrelle Pryor was injured a few games ago, Matt McGloin has been radically inconsistent. Matt McGloin has averaged 171 passing yards and has completed only 55% of his passes over the past few games. Although McGloin has not thrown interceptions like Pryor, he does not have the explosiveness or dual threat ability like Pryor. Although McGloin has not lost games for the Raiders, he does not improve the team. Along with McGloin unable to lead a passing game, the running game has not been effective as well, since the loss of Darren McFadden. The lone bright spot of the Raiders offense has been Rashad Jennings. Over the past four games, Jennings had rushed for 100 yards twice and 410 total yards over the four games. While the offense has been bad, the Raiders defense has been horrendous as well. Since the Oakland defense has been horrible, it is unlikely that they will be able to stop Tony Romo and the Dallas offense. After a huge win against the Giants, the Cowboys have a great chance of making the playoffs. However, Dallas has been open to losing trap games and this game is a trap game. If the Boys are going to win this game, they must not over look the matchup and play as well as they did against the Giants. Tony Romo must not throw interceptions and continue finding his big play receivers and tight end. Along with the Cowboys success on offense, the Cowboys have been great at forcing turnovers on defense. Although the Cowboys can give up lots of yards, they should be able to build off of their strong performance from last game and shut down the Raiders’ offense. The Cowboys will probably be able to force a few turnovers against the Raiders and blow out the Raiders at home. On offense, the Cowboys should be able to score at will because they are fully healthy and the team is finally meshing. The Cowboys should be able to win by double digits in this game on Turkey Day.
Prediction: Cowboys win 31-20
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens:
The Ravens and Steelers will meet again on Thanksgiving and the winner should be in position to make the playoffs as the last wild card position. Although the Steelers started the season 0-4, they have played great since their bye and have won 5 of their last seven games. During their streak, they have won their past three games and are playing like a playoff quality team. The Steelers have won their previous meeting against the Ravens and hope that they can go 2-0 against their rivals. The Steelers have played well because their defense has been playing great and Ben Roethlisberger is playing like the two time Super Bowl Champion. Besides for the Lions 24 point outburst in the second quarter, the Steelers have allowed only 24 points over the past three games, while scoring 87 points. Over the past three games, Ben has thrown for over 800 yards and 7 touchdowns, while only throwing one interceptions. Although the running game has been stuttering over the past few weeks, Antonio Brown has stepped up and has looked like a number one receiver. During the past three weeks , Brown has recorded 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. Along with Brown, Jerricho Cotchery has been great in the red zone and has made great clutch catches on third down. The Steelers hope that Ben Roethlisberger will continue his success against the tough Ravens defense. The Ravens have flipped flopped over the last few games, but played very well last week against the Jets, especially the defense. Although the Ravens offense have not posted great numbers, they have switched their offensive philosophy, which will help their team in the future. The Ravens have started to run the ball more often over the past few games. Although they did not have success running on the Jets, like many teams, the threat of running the ball with Ray Rice enabled the wide receivers to speed past the cornerbacks and catch the ball for big yardage. Last season the Ravens took advantage of Flacco’s huge arm and Rice’s legs. Along with the Ravens offense, the defense has improved over the last few games. Although the Ravens are improving, the Steelers have been playing great football. The defense has improved greatly and will be able to stop the Ravens, like the Jets. On offense, the Steelers will score on the Ravens defense. However, the game should be close and a classic.
Prediction: Steelers win 21-19
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns:
After starting the season 0-8, the Jaguars have won two of their last three games and are playing inspired and quality football the past few weeks. The improvement for the Jaguars has been due to their ability to force turnovers on defense, while limiting the turnovers on offense. Over the past few weeks on offense, the Jaguars have kept their offense simple for Chad Henne at quarterback. The Jaguars offense has been predicated upon Maurice Jones Drew so Chad Henne is not asked to do too much and lead the offense by himself. Over the past three games, MJD has scored a touchdown in each of the past games. Along with the emergence of MJD, Denard Robinson has been given more touches because of his dynamic ability and his ability to change the game offensively. While the offense is improving, the defense has taken great strides. The defense has been able to stop the run, which has made the opponents one dimensional on offense. Since the Jaguars have been playing poor quarterbacks and will be playing another this weekend, their plan to stop the run and force quarterbacks to beat them should lead them to success. While the Jags have been playing better, the Browns have been playing badly since the loss of Brian Hoyer. The Cleveland offense has been horrible and has averaged only 15 points per game over the last two games. Besides Josh Gordon on offense, the Browns have no play makers that can stress the defense and threaten defenses. Brandon Weeden cannot throw four good passes in a row, which makes it difficult for the Browns to sustain a drive. Along with Weeden, the running game for the Browns have been atrocious, which has destructed their team. Although the Browns have one of the worst offenses in the league, their defense is one of the top defenses in the league. Although they have had trouble in recent games, they are ranked top 6 in the league in passing and rushing defense. Although the Browns do not have a great pass rusher, their great secondary has given the rushers more time to reach the quarterback. The Browns have been successful in the secondary because they have Joe Haden. Haden has the ability to be like Darrelle Revis and stop the opposing offense’s best receiving threat. Although Haden can shut down a receiver, the Jags do not have a top wide receiver that they must throw to. The Jags should be the favorite in the game because they have been playing well and are a better road team than home team. MJD will lead the Jags on offense and their defense should be able to stop the Browns and win the game.
Prediction: Jaguars win 24-17
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts:
The Colts and Titans are both fighting for their playoff lives this weekend. Although the Colts have a great chance to make the playoffs, they have not been playing well, especially at the start of games. The Colts should have lost their last four games, but Andrew Luck has been great at returning his team out of a big hole. Last week, the Colts played their worst game of the season at the Cardianls, 40-11 loss. The problem with the Colts has been their defense. Although they played great defense and had a great pass rush at the beginning of the season, they have allowed, on average, 33 points per game during the last four games. The defense has added pressure to Andrew Luck, which has forced him to throw more interceptions. Along with a poor defense, the Colts’ lack of running game has forced Luck to throw a lot of passes. Also, teams have been able to drop multiple men back in coverage and wait for Luck to throw the ball to his wide receivers. To make matters worse, the Colts lost their top receiver and leader Reggie Wayne for the season with an ACL. Without Wayne, the Colts do not have a number one wide receiver and TY Hilton is not a legitimate number one recover in this league. While the Colts have been playing inconsistently, the Titans have been poorly, as well. Since Muhammed Wilkerson wretched Jake Locker in week 4, the Titans have not been the same football team. While the defense has been consistent, the offense cannot score points with regularity. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a good enough quarterback to lead a team to the playoffs. Although Fitzpatrick can play well against poor defenses, Fitzpatrick cannot lead an offense against a quality defense, without throwing numerous interceptions. In the game against the Colts two weeks ago, the Colts won the game 30-27. In the game, Fitzpatrick did not throw a touchdown. Chris Johnson had the best game of the season. The Colts will be looking to stop Johnson, since Ryan Fitzpatrick cannot lead the Titans past the Colts. The Colts had success last time on the ground, which would make the Colts indefeasible. The Colts are playing at home, this game, which should give them added determination to win the game. The game should be close, but the Colts will likely be close. Andrew Luck’s ability to find receivers in close games will be the reason why the Cots win this week.
Prediction: Colts win 31-24
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings:
The Bears are tied for first in the NFC North and hope that they can reach the playoffs for the first time in three years. Although Jay Cutler has missed the past few games with any injury, Josh McCown has been great for the Bears over the past few games. The Bears have been 2-2 since the lost of Cutler, but they are still tied with the Lions in the NFC North. The Bears have been great on offense because McCown has been solid and they have great talent on offense. McCown life has been better because he has Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, and Martellus Bennett. In the past four games he started, Josh has thrown for over 200 yards in each of the games and has only thrown one interception while completing 7 touchdown passes. Along with the wide receivers, Matt Forte is a great running back for McCown because he can run effectively and catch passes out of the backfield, when others are covered. Forte has compiled 1250 total yards from scrimmage this season. While the Bears offense is dynamic, the defense has been struggling of late because they cannot stop the run. Since they have lost many people to injuries, the defensive line and linebacking core is depleted and they do not have the depth maintain decency. Over the past four games, the Bears have allowed at least 145 yards on the ground. This week, the Bears will be in trouble because they are playing the best running back in the league, Adrian Peterson. This season has been an absolute disaster for the Vikings because they have had unstable quarterback performance. The Vikings have found that Christian Ponder is not the quarterback for the future. Along with a horrible quarterback, the Vikings do not have any quality wide receivers to help Ponder grow and improve as a quarterback. The lack of performance in the passing game has made Adrian Peterson’s life incredibly difficult. Although Peterson is a great back and will rush for about 1500 yards this season, the offensive line does not provide holes for Peterson. Along with the lack of holes, Peterson has been hampered by nagging injuries the whole season. In this game, the Bears will need to stop the run, in order to win the game. However, the Bears will make sure that Peterson does not have a huge game and blow the game open. On defense, the Vikings do not have any options for the Bears and they talented play makers. In their previous game in week 2, the Bears exploded for 31 points and the Vikings were unable to stop the Bears passing attack. The game should be close, but the Bears should be able to win.
Prediction: Bears win 24-20
Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles:
Although this game seemed like a bad game int he beginning of the season, the Eagles and Cardinals are two teams over .500 and have chances of making the playoffs. Since Foles over took Michael Vick in the Giants game, he has been great in every game, except against the Cowboys. On the season, Foles has thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions while leading the Eagles back into the NFC East division standings. Although Foles has been good, the offense as a whole has been clicking on all cylinders, since the defeat at the Cowboys. In the past three games, the Eagles are 3-0 and have scored 33 points per game. Much of Foles’ success this season can be attributed to the wide receivers of the Philadelphia Eagles. DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper have played great football and have given Foles open targets deep down the field. Along with the passing game, Shady McCoy has led the number one rushing attack in the NFL. McCoy is great because he can run with power, make people miss, and catch the ball out of the backfield. Along with the offense, the Eagles defense has improved, but they will be tested this weekend against the Cardinals. While the Eagles have been a surprise, the Cardinals are the best kept secret in the league. Although the Cardinals were thought to have another down season, they are currently tied with the 49ers for the 6th place in the NFC. The Cardinals have won four straight games, including a blow out win against the Colts last week. In the past few games, Carson Palmer has played quality football. Over the last two games, Palmer has looked like the quarterback that led the Bengals to the playoffs nearly a decade ago, while throwing for a total of 733 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The development of Malcolm Floyd as a number two wide receiver has given Palmer another option, besides Larry Fitzgerald. In the past few games, the Cardinals’ running game and the combination of Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington have started to strike fear into opponents and have forced defenses to honor the running game. Besides the Cardinals offense, the Cardinals defense has given up 15.5 points per game in their last four games, while they have been scoring 30 points per game. In this game, the Cardinals and Eagles should post a lot of points. However, the Cardinals will likely win the game because they are playing better defense. Although the Eagles should play better at home, they play better on the road so the home field is not really an advantage.
Prediction: Cardinals win 38-31
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers:
The Bucs are heading into Carolina on a three game winning streak. The Bucs are playing their best football of the season and have surprised many during their wins against the Dolphins, Falcons, and Lions. The Bucs have been playing better because Mike Glennon has steadily improved throughout the season. Glennon has found a magic connection with Vincent Jackson, which has enabled them to move down the field and score points with regularity. Along with the improved passing game, the running game has been consistent, although they lost Doug Martin for the season. Although Bobby Rainey did not have a quality game, he drew attention from the Lions’ defense, which enabled Glennon to find his big play receiver. Besides the improved offense, the defense has been great over the past few games. The opponents have allowed 23 points per game during the past three games. The good defense can be attributed to the success of the secondary, which has plenty of star power. The Tampa secondary held Stafford to less than 300 yards, while throwing four interceptions. The Tampa defense, especially Darrelle Revis, when he was playing in the first half, was able to hold Calvin Johnson to only 119 and no touchdowns, which is fantastic, considering current games. While the Bucs are playing well, the Panthers may be the hottest team in the league. The Panthers’ success is due to their great defense. The Panthers” have won seven straight games because the defense has no given up more than 20 points in any game, during the streak. The Panthers have allowed less than 13 points per game this season. Along with the great defense, Cam Newton has provided clutch play, which has vaulted them above other quality teams during their streak. Although Cam is not a game manager, he does not take many chances because he knows that opponents cannot go the whole field against his defense. Newton is the best dual threat quarterback in the league so teams must be ready for his speed and size. Newton’s ability to run sets up open passes to Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. In this game, the score will be low scoring because they both possess ferocious defenses. However, Carolina should be the favorite because they are a better team with more fire power and have been more clutch than the Bucs.
The 2014 NFL Draft will be one of the most stacked quarterback classes in recent memory, with both elite mobile and pocket passers. There are a multitude of teams that need a quarterback to lead their respective franchises, and this draft class will produce five star quarterbacks. Lets look at these future NFLers.
1) Teddy Bridgewater- Louisville Cardinals
Teddy Bridgewater is the real deal. He throws the ball with power and precision, a rarity for college QBs. He possesses the physical and mental toughness that an NFL quarterback needs, evident by how he played with a sprained wrist and ankle to get the Cardinals to the Sugar Bowl. The only drawback that Bridgewater faces during the NFL interviews is the strength of Louisville’s schedule because they don’t play a top 25 team this year. But Bridgewater does not make the schedule, and he had an extremely impressive game against Florida last year, throwing for 266 yards and 2Tds with 1INT. He has the talent to play with anybody.
NFL Comparison: Aaron Rodgers
This comparison is not perfect as Aaron Rodgers learned the QB position behind Brett Favre, making for a smoother learning curve. Bridgewater probably won’t be as lucky, and will need to develop a quick rapport with his receivers and contribute from game 1. Teddy has great accuracy and touch in the red zone, just like Rodgers. Rodgers has a stronger arm, but Bridgewater’s arm strength will improve, and he will be a nightmare for defenses. The other apt comparison is the subtle athleticism. Rodgers is deadly spreading out secondaries and then rushing to gain the first down. Bridgewater has the same ability, to run when least expected, exploiting the seems in the defense. It’s high praise to be compared to Aaron Rodgers, and Mr. Bridgewater deserves the honor.
2.) Johnny Manziel- Texas A&M Aggies
Johnny Football has been all the rage this summer, from offseason partying to the photograph scandal. Don’t be distracted, Manziel is gifted, and other pundits argue Manziel is a top 5 pick. Manziel annihilated the best defense in college football in Alabama, and has excelled on the biggest stages. He has a strong arm with good, not great accuracy, and terrific mobility. The biggest issue for Johnny may be convincing NFL executives that he is ready to lead a franchise. His off-the-field issues may drop his stock with some teams, but Manziel is a unique talent with tremendous upside.
NFL Comparison: Drew Brees
Manziel will not likely land with a team nearly as talented as the Saints, but he has the potential to be the NFL Offensive and Drew Brees is a natural leader, has a big arm and comes hard every game. Manziel mimics Brees’ qualities, including a risk-taking tendency. Brees’ presence is stellar, and Manziel needs to mature so he can command the NFL huddle.
3.) Tajh Boyd- Clemson Tigers
Tajh Boyd is turning heads this year Courtesy of ESPN
Tajh Boyd is a stout presence in the pocket, has good overall quarterback tools and leadership qualities. All positives but his throwing motion has worried NFL executives, and raised questions about whether he will be able to pass over the huge defensive lines. This seems to be a fixable problem according to many QB gurus and could be solved by draft time. Boyd has been impressive this season with 6 TDs and no interceptions and a passer rating of 148. Boyd will be a franchise player with a nice upside if he’s put in the right system.
Pro Comparison: Russell Wilson
The critiques of each quarterback are the same, so it is easy to make the comparison. Tajh probably won’t have the luxury of being selected by a talented team like the Seahawks, but he could have a tremendous impact on any wavering franchise. If Boyd continues on his current pace, he will rise on draft boards and maybe to #2 on my list.
4.) Marcus Mariota-Oregon Ducks
Under the tutelage of Chip Kelly, Marcus Mariota has emerged as an tremendous read-option quarterback with the potential to grow into a dangerous duel-threat quarterback. He has tremendous speed in both the open field and out of the backfield along with a decent arm. Mariota will have to learn how to throw accurately from 3 and 5 step drop backs and adjust to new NFL formations besides the shotgun. He will take some grooming but he has the skills to emerge as a solid to top 10 quarterback in the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Lesser Version of Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick played the spread offense at Nevada similarly to Mariota in Oregon. Kaepernick has all-world physical tools and possibly the strongest arm in NFL. Kaepernick had the opportunity to learn under Alex Smith for a season and figure the important details of being an NFL quarterback and now he has shown his talent. If a team with an older quarterback that has only a couple of years left, Mariota could be stored in a Kaepernick type fashion and then take over in 1-2 years after being drafted.
5.) AJ McCarron- Alabama Crimson Tide
AJ McCarron has two more national titles than all of the aforementioned quarterbacks and has the best team in college football on his side. He has shown he can play in big games but scouts question if he is a product of Nick Saban’s environment or is his true talent really showing. Saban’s mentality for a QB is to not make mistakes and let the stout offensive line wear down opposing defenses and then run the ball. In the NFL, McCarron won’t have the best talent at almost every position, and he will be required to take more risks.
NFL Comparison: Carson Palmer
Palmer played with a talented USC team and shot up draft boards because of his elevated stats. McCarron has the same deal at Alabama with it’s tremendous offensive line and TJ Yeldon is one of the best running backs in college football. AJ McCarron may develop into a good NFL QB, only time and opportunity will tell.