Ranking quarterbacks from teams that have qualified for the playoffs isn't an easy task. Obviously, all twelve quarterbacks deserve respect based on the fact that they've contributed to the success that has helped propel their respective teams into the playoffs.
But there are a few quarterbacks who are heading into the playoffs with a demonstrated higher level of performance than the others. Most of the rest are fairly comparable to each other in overall talent and execution, but a few are simply fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong rushing attacks and stout defenses.
To rank these talented players, I developed a weighted formula that includes factors such as completion average, touchdowns, interceptions, percent of passes that result in a first down, passing yards per game, and more. Playoff experience and the quarterbacks' recent performances were also reviewed to determine their placement among the elite 12 who will have a shot at lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
Once you've reviewed my list, you can debate these rankings with other NFL fans by starting a thread in one of our Scout.com NFL Team Forums.
|1. Peyton Manning, Colts
YPG: 250.1 PR: 95.0 TD: 27
Comp: 66.8 1st: 37.8 INT: 12
Manning's in the top three among playoff quarterbacks in TDs, YPG, completion and first down percent. He's hot right now with a 70-plus completion rate in his last four full starts. And he didn't throw a single interception in the month of December.
|2. Philip Rivers, Chargers
YPG: 250.6 PR: 105.5 TD: 34
Comp: 65.3 1st: 40.0 INT: 11
Rivers finished the year tops in the league in TDs, first-down percentage and passer rating. Among playoff QBs, he's second in YPG. He's been hot the past three weeks, but struggled in two games prior to that. He's only thrown one pick in the last six games.
|3. Kurt Warner, Cardinals
YPG: 286.4 PR: 96.9 TD: 30
Comp: 67.1 1st: 36.8 INT: 14
Warner hasn't been as sharp recently, but he's still tops among this group in YPG and first-down percent, and second in TDs and completion percent. However, he's also thrown the second-most INTs. And he hasn't thrown for 300 yards since Nov. 23rd.
|4. Chad Pennington, Dolphins
YPG: 228.3 PR: 97.4 TD: 19
Comp: 67.4 1st: 37.8 INT: 7
He's the best in completion percent and rarely throws an INT. Pennington's posted a 100-plus passer rating in his last four games, but he's only thrown for more than 200 yards twice in his last seven games. He's tied for second in first-down percentage among this group.
|5. Donovan McNabb, Eagles
YPG: 244.8 PR: 86.4 TD: 23
Comp: 60.4 1st: 34.3 INT: 11
McNabb ranks fourth in YPG and TDs among playoff QBs. But he's the fourth-lowest in moving the chains. While he's only thrown for 230 yards or less in three of his last four games, he's tossed just one INT during that stretch. He's displaying a lot of confidence right now.
|6. Eli Manning, Giants
YPG: 202.4 PR: 86.4 TD: 21
Comp: 60.3 1st: 35.3 INT: 10
Manning finished the year 10th in the league in TDs and first-down percentage. Until recently, he hadn't thrown many INTs. But over the past five games, he's thrown as many INTs as TDs (3). Among this group of QBs, he has the fourth-lowest YPG mark. Can he get back on track for the playoffs?
|7. Matt Ryan, Falcons
YPG: 215.0 PR: 87.7 TD: 16
Comp: 61.1 1st: 36.2 INT: 11
He distinguished himself with an eighth-place finish in first-down percentage and 11th-place in passer rating in the NFL as a rookie. Ryan's completed at least 60-percent of his throws in seven of his last nine games to help his team, but he's also tossed five INTs in his last four games.
|8. Jake Delhomme, Panthers
YPG: 205.5 PR: 84.7 TD: 15
Comp: 59.4 1st: 36.7 INT: 12
Out of all NFL starters, Delhomme finished better than 17th in just one significant passing category (first-down percentage). He has the third-lowest completion rate and fourth-lowest TD count out of the 12 playoff QBs. But he's a gutsy QB who doesn't quit.
|9. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
YPG: 206.3 PR: 80.1 TD: 17
Comp: 59.9 1st: 34.5 INT: 15
Inconsistency has plagued Roethlisberger, and a recent concussion may not help. He's thrown more INTs than any of these playoff QBs. While his best NFL ranking was a 14th-place finish in first-down percentage, his playoff experience will be an asset.
|10. Joe Flacco, Ravens
YPG: 185.7 PR: 80.3 TD: 14
Comp: 60.0 1st: 33.4 INT: 12
The rookie has the second-lowest YPG, the third-lowest first-down percentage and the third-lowest number of TD passes. But he's completed at least 68 percent of his passes the last two weeks, and he possesses a calm field presence and a strong arm.
|11. Kerry Collins, Titans
YPG: 167.2 PR: 80.2 TD: 12
Comp: 58.3 1st: 32.0 INT: 7
Collins doesn't make many mistakes, but he's not a high-impact QB. He's thrown just 12 TDs and has the lowest YPG, completion rate and first-down percentage out of this group. Three of his seven INTs have been thrown during his last three full games.
YPG (Starts): 188.6 PR: 95.4 TD: 9
Comp: 59.1 1st: 32.2 INT: 2
While his 61-percent completion rate, seven TDs and one INT during his last three starts have been impressive, he has the second-lowest completion and first-down rates out of the 12 playoff QBs. And even if you only count his starts, his YPG is the third-lowest.
All photos in this feature were shot by Getty Images photographers.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.