Instant Debate

Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers among QBs in their 30s poised to finally win big

When Sergio Garcia won the Masters, it marked his first major victory -- at age 37.

Among the ranks of NFL quarterbacks, four veterans stand out for sharing the "close but no cigar" label Garcia held until Sunday. Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers are all over 30, and all have reached the doorstep of achieving the NFL's ultimate goal, only to fall agonizingly short. Here are the following career high-water marks for each QB, along with what their ages will be on Feb. 4, 2018, when Super Bowl LII is set to be played:

Palmer, 38, Cardinals: Lost in the 2015 NFC title game.

Rivers, 36, Chargers: Lost in the 2007 AFC title game.

Smith, 33, Chiefs: Lost in the 2011 NFC title game (with the 49ers).

Ryan, 32, Falcons: Lost in Super Bowl LI.

With Garcia breaking through after recording 22 previous top-10 major finishes in his career, which NFL quarterback is most likely to follow suit and finally claim a Super Bowl ring?

Looking at the production of all these guys, Matt Ryan is at the top. He is playing at an MVP level and his 2016 performance showed he still has so much more left in the tank. He has a running game, receivers who can make unbelievable plays and an improving defense, all of which will help him reach the pinnacle of the sport. After losing a tough one in February, Ryan, coach Dan Quinn and the rest of the Falcons will be committed to putting themselves in position to win a championship for the next few seasons. Even though the Falcons fell just short of Super Bowl glory this past season, for me, the best answer here is Philip Rivers. He had the Chargers in playoff contention (loosely) at the start of December last season despite his team suffering an apocalyptic level of serious injuries to top players. With those playmakers returning to health, Rivers will be suiting up in 2017 with one of the best offenses of his career and a defense on the cusp of being a truly dominant unit, thanks to the influx of new talent like Joey Bosa and Casey Hayward. If everything breaks right for this unit a year after everything went wrong, the Chargers' return to Los Angeles could be magical. I'm sure Matt Ryan will be the trendy choice, since he was less than a quarter away from hoisting a Lombardi Trophy last season. But let's not count out Carson Palmer (and Larry Fitzgerald) as his career winds down. The Cardinals are blessed with a truly singular offensive force in David Johnson, and despite defensive losses in free agency, Arizona still has playmakers in Markus Golden, Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson. Let's all believe that last year was a hiccup and not the beginning of the end. In the former scenario, this team is ripe to again compete for a championship. Matt Ryan came so close last season. As the reigning league MVP, Ryan is going to rally his team and come back even stronger. Of these four players, Ryan has the best team around him, and that gives him the best shot to win the big game. Matt Ryan wouldn't even be on this list if the Falcons had been able to hold on to a 25-point lead in Super Bowl LI. Instead, the Patriots pulled off a miraculous comeback, and he's still attached to an unfortunate group that includes Carson Palmer, Alex Smith and Philip Rivers. There's little doubt Ryan has the best chance of that bunch to win a title. The Falcons are young, talented and destined to only improve under head coach Dan Quinn. Last season ended bitterly for Ryan. Turning 32 next month, he's still young enough to hoist a Lombardi Trophy someday. Which NFL player is most like Sergio Garcia? Someone who's talented, embattled and has folded when it matters the most? Well, the guy who best fits that description is Tony Romo. I mean, seriously -- I bet CBS kicked themselves on Sunday for not having Romo on the Masters telecast. And it should be noted, Sergio still kind of fell apart. If Justin Rose doesn't miss that putt, then Sergio would have missed his, and we'd all have had a good laugh. On second thought, maybe the answer is Peyton Manning, with Rose's missed putt playing the role of Dom Rhodes, and Rose's shank on the 18th in the playoff being Rex "Baby Hands" Grossman.

But I fear I've ventured far off the point. Give me Carson Palmer. The Cardinals are still a very talented team, having fallen one win short of reaching Super Bowl 50. The Birds are certainly not as bad as they were in 2016. The NFC West gives them two games each against the 49ers and Rams. So they will very much be in the playoff hunt again. And the Cardinals could be the most talented team in the NFC if they nail the 2017 NFL Draft.

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