Ranking divisions by quarterback: NFC South reigns supreme

They say the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. And "they" are right.

So, which division is driven by the best quarterbacks? That's a fine question. Allow me to provide a divisional hierarchy through the prism of the game's most important position. Which division boasts the finest collection of quarterbacks? The least inspiring? See below!

NOTE: Quarterbacks listings within each division are presented alphabetically by team.

1) NFC South

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

No debate in the No. 1 spot: The NFC South's QB quartet is in a league of its own right now. Ryan is fresh off a sensational MVP season and is set up for greatness again in 2017. Newton took home the hardware the year before and boasts one of the rarest skill sets in the NFL today. Brees has more 5,000-yard seasons (five) than every other quarterback in NFL history combined (Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Peyton Manning each have one). He's Canton bound ... yet still terrorizing defenses in his late 30s. And with the weapons Tampa Bay added this offseason, Winston is poised for a true breakout as he guides the Bucs back to the postseason. It's not hard to imagine any of these four QBs making an MVP push in 2017.

2) NFC East

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

You could start a riot debating the individual rankings of these four signal callers, which speaks volumes about the division. Dak was absolutely fantastic in Year 1, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and guiding Dallas to the playoffs. And the best is yet to come. I still think Wentz is going to be a star. Last year was about a learning curve. Now, with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the fold, Wentz's development will really kick into gear. Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The two-time Super Bowl MVP is tough and clutch and still great. And Cousins has become a big-time, reliable starter in Washington. I've argued for years that the former fourth-round pick deserves a new contract and should be treated like a franchise quarterback.

3) AFC West

Denver Broncos: Trevor Siemian/Paxton Lynch
Kansas City Chiefs:Alex Smith
Los Angeles Chargers:Philip Rivers
Oakland Raiders:Derek Carr

Carr received my Associated Press vote for MVP last season. He's a bona fide star who is only going to get better. That $125 million extension was a no-brainer. I think Carr will guide the Raiders to a home playoff game in Oakland this season. Rivers remains elite, and the future Hall of Famer finally got help from his organization this offseason, with the Bolts boosting the receiver position and offensive line. I love Alex Smith. I know the limitations and playoff record. I also know I'm winning 10 games with him. Denver's the wild card, but I think Lynch -- a former first-round pick -- should start. Siemian was solid last year, but Lynch can provide Denver with the upside and talent it needs at quarterback.

4) NFC North

Chicago Bears: Mike Glennon/Mitchell Trubisky
Detroit Lions:Matthew Stafford
Green Bay Packers:Aaron Rodgers
Minnesota Vikings:Sam Bradford

Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL today. And Stafford was a true MVP candidate for most of last season. In my opinion, Stafford enjoyed his finest pro campaign by rocking steady and displaying quite the clutch gene in his first year without Calvin Johnson. While injuries are always a question with Bradford, he deserves so much credit for being a really good player (SEE: NFL-leading 71.6 percent completion rate) and quick study last year after Minnesota picked him up on Labor Day weekend from Philly. I like Mike Glennon more than most. And while I loathed the Trubisky trade-up, the rookie has talent.

5) AFC East

Buffalo Bills:Tyrod Taylor
Miami Dolphins:Ryan Tannehill
New England Patriots:Tom Brady
New York Jets: ???

The Jets' QB question must be answered by either Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty. Translation: The Jets have the worst quarterback situation in the NFL. On the flip side, Brady is the G.O.A.T. I like Taylor and always have -- and the Bills will function like an actual football team with a new head coach. I'm excited to watch Taylor this year. Adam Gase is a quarterback whisperer in Miami -- and a now healthy Tannehill is understandably excited about the team's weapons and upside in 2017. Gase will continue to bring the best out of his 28-year-old field general.

6) AFC North

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

Big Ben is a Hall of Famer with a loaded offense -- and yes, he's still at the top of his game. Cleveland, on the other hand, is best served turning to Brock Osweiler -- which says something about something. I do think DeShone Kizer can play -- eventually. Hue Jackson can help both, and so can a vastly improved offensive line. Flacco needs some help at running back and will have a new cast of characters at receiver. I believe Jeremy Maclin can provide a boost. And you trust Flacco in big spots. Dalton always puts up numbers in the regular season. Prime-time Andy is a different story. And over the past few offseasons, Cincy has lost a bunch of talent at receiver and along the offensive line.

7) AFC South

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

In theory, this group could end up in the No. 8 spot. I love Luck, Mariota and Watson. But Luck currently can't throw a football. That's a problem. Bortles can't throw a football -- and he's completely healthy. Also a problem. I'm not even messing around with Tom Savage here. Watson was rightly drafted to start. And he should. I love the fit. But he's still a rookie. Assuming Mariota's healthy, I anticipate another strong year from the Titans signal caller.

8) NFC West

Arizona Cardinals:Carson Palmer
Los Angeles Rams:Jared Goff
San Francisco 49ers:Brian Hoyer
Seattle Seahawks:Russell Wilson

Hoyer is a nice guy -- but a backup. Yes, he's very familiar with Kyle Shanahan's offense, but he's just not a legit NFL starting quarterback. Goff was dreadful last season. I think Sean McVay can maximize him, but it's a work in progress. Palmer could be close to retirement. And while the Cardinals QB has enjoyed some fine regular seasons in his career, do you trust him in playoff games? Not even Wilson can save this group. Heck, Russ is coming off a down season, at least by his lofty standard. Part of that was injuries and another part was shoddy O-line play, but Wilson posted the worst passer rating (92.6) of his NFL career. He needs the offensive line and run game to step up in 2017.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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