Ranking divisions by quarterback: NFC North, NFC West top list

You know what they say: It's all about the quarterback. And "they" are right.

But which division will boast the best collection of quarterbacks in 2018? The worst? Let's rank 'em!

NOTE: Quarterbacks listings within each division are presented alphabetically by team. And as you can see, I didn't necessarily pick the projected Week 1 starter in each situation, but rather the guy who will make the biggest mark on the season.


Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky
Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins

This is a significant jump up from last year's rankings, but I am very comfortable with it. Rodgers is the most talented quarterback in NFL history. I love Green Bay bringing in Jimmy Graham to help in the red zone. Stafford has been fantastic the last few seasons, a true maestro in the clutch. And Detroit improved the offensive line and run game this offseason -- that will provide the 30-year-old quarterback with some needed protection and balance. I think Trubisky will be this year's Jared Goff, taking a major leap forward in Year 2 with a new head coach and more talent around him. Lastly, Cousins swings the pendulum in favor of this division. He's the answer to the franchise-quarterback question for the Vikings.


Arizona Cardinals: Josh Rosen
Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff
San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson

From the bottom to the top: This is what happens when Sean McVay enters the picture for Goff -- the QB goes from rookie disaster to sophomore Pro Bowler. And Year 3 will be even better than Goff's terrific second season. Similarly, it's going to be a special ride for the 49ers faithful, with a full season of Jimmy G and Kyle Shanahan. Garoppolo can carry San Fran to the playoffs. Josh Rosen is my pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He's a sensational talent and quick study, with solid weapons and defense flanking him in the desert. And of course, Russ is carving out a Hall of Fame-caliber career out in the Pacific Northwest. This guy's magical, with or without an offensive line.


Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston

I still love the quarterbacks in the NFC South, the division which topped this list last year. I'm not worried about Ryan and Newton taking minor steps backward last season. They are former MVPs. Ryan is elite and got paid for it. And last year was attributable to breaking in a new offensive coordinator. In Ryan's second season under Steve Sarkisian, I firmly expect he'll be top-tier MVP candidate directing a top-five offense. Cam Newton is Cam Newton, meaning he's a special talent. And will be an even better version of himself with Norv Turner running the offense. Brees received great balance from the run game last year. Inherently, he broke the NFL record for single-season completion rate, connecting on an absurd 72 percent of his throws. At age 39, Brees remains the model of efficiency. Winston's suspension is problematic -- another off-field strike on his record. And on the field, he has yet to break through in a major way. I still believe in him as a player, but the three-game ban obviously starts off Year 4 on a horrible note.


Denver Broncos: Case Keenum
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
Los Angeles Chargers: Philip Rivers
Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr

Don't sleep on the AFC West quarterbacks. I think Mahomes is going to blossom into an instant star under Andy Reid. I can't wait to watch the spectacularly gifted signal-caller heave it all over the field to his fine collection of weapons in Kansas City. Rivers is still playing at a Hall of Fame level, having just posted his lowest interception total since 2009. Jon Gruden will swiftly help Carr get back to his MVP form -- as will a clean bill of health for the 27-year-old QB. And while I am skeptical Keenum can ever repeat his magical 2017 campaign, he's still a major upgrade on Denver's QB play from last season.


Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott
New York Giants: Eli Manning
Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz
Washington Redskins: Alex Smith

This is the toughest division to place. I love Alex Smith -- I've long defended Alex Smith -- but he's a downgrade from Kirk Cousins. Manning got benched last year. Admittedly, that was handled in horrific fashion by the Giants' Powers That Be, he let's be honest: Eli wasn't playing like an NFL starting quarterback. Now, Nate Solder, Saquon Barkley and a healthy Odell Beckham Jr will mean the world. But how much is left in the tank at age 37? Prescott experienced a sophomore slump. I choose to always believe Ezekiel Elliott makes Dak, so 16 games with the running back would work wonders for the QB's play. And jettisoning Dez Bryant was addition by subtraction. Carson Wentz is a star. He was going to get my Associated Press MVP vote before the season-ending injury in Week 14. I'm going to assume he'll be healthy in 2018, with all signs pointing that way, and I can't wait to watch him again. He's special.


Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
New York Jets: Sam Darnold

For the sake of this exercise, I'm going to lift up the division by projecting that Allen and Darnold will play sooner than later. In fact, I give both a chance to start in Week 1. Especially Allen. I don't want to hear about AJ McCarron. And spare me the Nathan Peterman nonsense. The Bills smartly traded up for Allen because he's the next Carson Wentz and oozes talent. I believe in Darnold, too. I hope he wins the Jets' job. Meanwhile, Tom Brady is the greatest of all time. And Tannehill is a guy.


Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck
Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles
Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota

I really want to prop this division up, but there's just way too much uncertainty. Watson was absolutely dynamic last season ... before tearing his ACL. Will he be 100 percent in 2018? I believe Mariota will even out his play this year -- and cut down on the picks -- with a new coaching staff. But we have to see it. And we have to see Andrew Luck actually throwing an NFL football again. That's kind of a huge deal/question mark. Blake Bortles, on the other hand, is something we have seen. And it's not good.


Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco
Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton
Cleveland Browns: Tyrod Taylor
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben is a future Hall of Famer -- and he's still playing great in the present. I am a big Tyrod Taylor fan, too -- the 28-year-old never gets the credit he deserves as an efficient playmaker from the pocket. But Flacco is on the way out. And somehow, against all rational judgment, The Marv and Andy Show got picked up for another season.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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