A quick glance at the NFL's likely starting quarterbacks for Week 1

September 9, 2015

With a berth to Super Bowl 50 on the line, and with the top two picks in the 2015 Draft hailing from the same position, quarterbacks throughout the NFL find themselves in the spotlight as Kickoff Weekend approaches.

Last season, quarterbacks around the league posted impressive numbers, as the league-wide passer rating (88.9), completion percentage (62.6), and touchdown pass totals (807) were all all-time highs.

In addition, games averaged 473.6 net passing yards per game, the highest in NFL history. The league-wide interception percentage of 2.52 percent was the lowest of any season in league history.

Nine quarterbacks had at least 30 touchdown passes in 2014, the most in a season, and 11 quarterbacks reached the 4,000-yard passing mark, tied for the most of any season in NFL history (2012). Over the past three seasons, 53 teams (20 in 2012, 17 in 2013, 16 in 2014) started the same quarterback in every game, the most ever in any three-year span.

A team-by-team look at the NFL’s Week 1 projected starting quarterbacks:


ARIZONA: Carson Palmer enters his third season with the Cardinals, but is coming off a major injury. Last year, Palmer won all six of his starts, completing 141 of 224 attempts (62.9 percent) for 1,626 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions for a 95.6 passer rating. In his first two seasons with Arizona, he has posted a 16-6 (.727) record as the team’s starting quarterback.

Palmer has led the Cardinals to wins in 13 of his past 15 starts and he has recorded a 90+ passer rating in 11 of those 15 games. Entering his 13th NFL season, Palmer is the only player in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards with three different teams (Cincinnati, 2006-07; Oakland, 2012; Arizona, 2013).

ATLANTA: Eighth-year quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 4,694 yards last season – his fourth consecutive 4,000-yard season – and was named to his third Pro Bowl team. Ryan owns the top four passing yardage seasons in franchise history and his 2014 total ranks second (4,719 in 2012). He holds single-season Falcons passing records for attempts (651 in 2013), completions (439 in 2013), completion percentage (68.6 in 2012), yards (4,719 in 2012) and touchdowns (32 in 2012). Ryan is the franchise career passing leader in attempts (3,916), completions (2,508), completion percentage (64.0), yards (28,166), touchdowns (181) and passer rating (91.1).

CAROLINA: Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall selection in 2011, has passed for 14,426 yards and rushed for 2,571 yards in his first four seasons. He is the only player in NFL history to pass for at least 14,000 yards and rush for 2,500 yards in his first four years. Newton’s 16,997 combined passing and rushing yards are the most ever by a player in his first four seasons.

Last year, Newton had 3,127 passing yards and 539 rushing yards and is the only player in NFL history to start a career with four consecutive seasons with at least 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards. Newton is the only player in league history with at least 75 passing touchdowns (82) and 30 rushing touchdowns (33) in his first four seasons.

CHICAGO: Tenth-year veteran Jay Cutler will make his seventh consecutive Kickoff Weekend start for the Bears. In six seasons with Chicago, the enigmatic Cutler ranks first in franchise history in career passer rating (84.3), completions (1,628), attempts (2,651) and passing yards (18,725) and is second in passing touchdowns (129). He needs nine passing touchdowns to pass Pro Football Hall of Famer Sid Luckman (137) for the most by a Bear.

Last year, Cutler passed for 3,812 yards, his sixth career 3,000-yard season and fourth with Chicago. Cutler is the only player in franchise history with four 3,000-yard seasons (2009, 2010, 2012, 2014).

DALLAS: Tony Romo begins his 13th NFL season with a career 75-48 (.610) record as the team’s starter. Last year, Romo led the NFL with a franchise-record 113.2 passer rating and has two of the three 100+ passer rating seasons in team history. He was named to his fourth Pro Bowl and finished the season completing 304 of 435 passes (69.9 percent) for 3,705 yards with 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions.  Part of the reason for that success was a revamped offensive line and an outstanding running attack that eased the burden on Romo.  With DeMarco Murray now with the Eagles, Romo might have to once again take on a bigger role in the Dallas offense.

Romo is the only Cowboys quarterback to throw at least 30 touchdown passes in a season and has accomplished the feat four times (2007, 2011, 2013, 2014). He has a career 97.6 passer rating, the second-highest mark in NFL annals (minimum 1,500 attempts).

DETROIT: Matthew Stafford, the No.1 overall selection in 2009, will start on Kickoff Weekend for the seventh consecutive season. Last year, Stafford passed for 4,257 yards – his fourth consecutive 4,000-yard season – and he owns four of the top five passing seasons in team history. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season and was named the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player.

Since 2011, Stafford has passed for 18,912 yards, the second most in the NFL. In just six seasons, he is already the franchise career passing leader in attempts (3,099), completions (1,848), completion percentage (59.6), yards (21,714) and passer rating (83.6).

GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers begins his eighth consecutive season as the Packers’ starting quarterback. He was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player last year, the second time in his career he has won the award (2011). Rodgers posted a 112.2 passer rating in 2014 and is the only quarterback in NFL history to post a rating of at least 100 in six consecutive seasons (2009-14).

Rodgers, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl in four of the past six years, has the highest career passer rating in NFL history (minimum 1,500 attempts) with a 106.0 mark. He also ranks first all-time in league annals in career interception percentage (1.6) and touchdown-interception ratio (3.96), but will have to get things done this season without injured star wideout Jordy Nelson.

MINNESOTA: Second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater started 12 games for the Vikings as a rookie and will make his first career Kickoff Weekend start this year. Bridgewater, who was drafted by Minnesota in the first round (No. 32 overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft, played in 13 games last season and completed 259 of 402 passes (64.4 percent) for 2,919 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a 85.2 passer rating. He won his first career start in Week 4, passing for 317 yards and a 98.9 passer rating against Atlanta.

Bridgewater had a 103.0 passer rating over the final five games of the 2014 season, completing 72.1 percent of his passes (101 of 140).  More importantly, he will now have star running back Adrian Peterson in the backfield to help carry the offensive load.

NEW ORLEANS: Drew Brees passed for 4,952 yards and 33 touchdowns last year as he earned his ninth career Pro Bowl selection. Entering his 10th year in New Orleans, he has passed for at least 4,000 yards in each of the past nine seasons – the top nine passing totals in club history. Brees tied for the league lead in passing yards in 2014, the fifth time in his career leading the NFL, tied for the most all-time with Pro Football Hall of Famers Sonny Jurgensen and Dan Marino.

Brees has 56,033 passing yards in his career, the fourth-most in NFL history. He has 43,685 passing yards since joining New Orleans in 2006, the most in the NFL during that span.

NEW YORK GIANTS: Eli Manning, the No. 1 overall selection in 2004, has led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories (XLII, XLVI) and is one of only five players in NFL history to win multiple Super Bowl MVP honors. He has started 167 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Last year, Manning passed for 4,410 yards, but also had his struggles. He threw 30 touchdown passes in 2014 and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle as the only Giants quarterbacks with multiple 30-TD pass seasons (2010, 2014). Entering his 12th season, Manning is the franchise career passing leader in attempts (5,609), completions (3,308), completion percentage (59.0), yards (39,755) and touchdowns (259).

PHILADELPHIA: Oft-injured, sixth-year veteran Sam Bradford will make his Eagles debut on Kickoff Weekend. Bradford, the No. 1 overall selection by St. Louis in 2010, will start a season opener for the fifth time in his career.

Acquired in a trade with the Rams this offseason, Bradford enters the 2015 season with 49 career starts, completing 1,032 of 1,760 passes (58.6 percent) for 11,065 yards with 59 touchdowns and 38 interceptions. He has passed for at least 3,000 yards two times (2010, 2012) and posted a career-best 90.9 passer rating in 2013. Bradford was the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and won the 2008 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma.

ST. LOUIS: Entering his fourth season, Nick Foles will start on Kickoff Weekend for the second time in his career and first with the Rams. Acquired in a trade with Philadelphia this offseason, Foles has a career 94.2 passer rating with 46 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 28 career games (24 starts).

In 2013, he completed 203 of 317 passes (64 percent) for 2,891 yards with 27 touchdowns and two interceptions for a league-best 119.2 passer rating, the third-best in a single season all-time. His 13.5 TD/INT ratio that season ranks as the highest in NFL history. Foles was selected to the Pro Bowl that season and was named the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player.

SAN FRANCISCO: As the team’s starter over the past three years, Colin Kaepernick has posted a 29-16 record (.644), including a 4-2 mark (.667) in the postseason. Last season, he passed for 3,369 yards with 19 touchdowns and rushed for 639 yards with one score. Kaepernick, who had 3,197 passing yards and 524 rushing yards in 2013, is one of five quarterbacks in NFL history to have at least 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons.

Over the past three seasons, Kaepernick has 8,380 passing yards and 1,578 rushing yards and is one of three quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Russell Wilson) during that span with at least 8,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards.

SEATTLE: Russell Wilson has guided the Seahawks to the past two Super Bowls – including a win in Super Bowl XLVIII – in his first three seasons, the only quarterback ever to accomplish the feat. Wilson, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons, has 36 regular-season wins, six playoff victories and 42 total wins – all are the most by a starting quarterback in his first three NFL seasons during the Super Bowl era.

In each of his first three seasons, Wilson has passed for at least 3,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and posted a 95+ passer rating. The Seahawks have won at least 10 games and advanced to the postseason – including two division titles – in all three seasons. 

TAMPA BAY: The Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. Winston started 27 career games at Florida State, setting an NCAA Division I record by winning his first 26 starts and finishing with a 26-1 record (.963). In 2013, he won the Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to a National Championship where he was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

In two seasons as Florida State’s starter, Winston guided the team to two undefeated regular seasons and back-to-back ACC Championships. He finished his college career completing 562 of 851 passes (66.0 percent) for 7,964 yards with 65 touchdowns and 28 interceptions, but also had his share of off-the-field issues.

WASHINGTON: In the ongoing circus in Washington, Kirk Cousins will make his first career Kickoff Weekend start over former first round pick Robert Griffin III.

Entering his fourth season, Cousins, who was drafted by the Redskins in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft (No. 102 overall), has started nine games in his career. He has appeared in 14 games, completing 59 percent of his passes (240 of 407) for 3,030 yards and 18 touchdowns. Last season, Cousins set career-highs in games (six), starts (five), attempts (204), completions (126), passing yards (1,710) and passing touchdowns (10).


BALTIMORE: Joe Flacco enters his eighth season as the Ravens’ starter. Flacco is 72-40 (.643) as a regular-season starter and holds the franchise career passing records for completions (2,213), yards (25,531) and touchdowns (148). His 72 regular-season wins are the most by a starting quarterback in the first seven seasons of a career. Since entering the NFL in 2008, Flacco has more wins (82, including playoffs) than any other starting quarterback.

Flacco has started 112 consecutive regular-season games, the third-longest streak among active QBs. Seven of Flacco’s 10 career playoff wins have come on the road, the most road victories by any starting quarterback in postseason history.

BUFFALO: Entering his first season with the Bills and fifth year in the NFL, Tyrod Taylor is poised to make his first NFL start on Kickoff Weekend. Taylor, who was originally selected by Baltimore in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft (No. 180 overall) out of Virginia Tech, spent four seasons with the Ravens as a backup to Joe Flacco. He passed for 199 yards and rushed for 136 yards and one touchdown in 14 games.

Taylor, who was signed as a free agent by Buffalo during the offseason, was a member of the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII championship team.

CINCINNATI: Andy Dalton, who enters his fifth season, has led the Bengals to the playoffs in four consecutive seasons for first time in club history. Dalton has a 40-23-1 (.633) career regular-season record, the highest winning percentage of any Bengals quarterback (minimum 20 starts). In 2014, Dalton joined Peyton Manning and Cam Newton as the only players in NFL history to pass for at least 3,000 yards in each of their first four seasons to begin an NFL career.

Dalton, Joe Flacco (five) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Otto Graham (four) are the only quarterbacks to lead a team to the playoffs in each of his first four NFL seasons.

CLEVELAND: Thirteen-year veteran Josh McCown enters the season as the starting quarterback in his first year with Cleveland. Signed as a free agent in March, McCown has started 49 of his 69 career games, passing for 11,033 yards and 61 touchdowns.

Originally drafted by the Cardinals in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft (No. 81 overall), McCown started 11 games last season for the Buccaneers and passed for 2,206 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2013, McCown excelled as a starter for the Bears in relief of Jay Cutler late in the season, as he posted single-season career-highs in touchdown passes (13) and rating (109).

DENVER: Entering his fourth season with the Broncos, Peyton Manning led Denver to a 12-4 record and an AFC West title in 2014, passing for 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns. Manning, a five-time NFL MVP who is entering his 18th season, is the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (530) and ranks second in career passing yards (69,691) and completions (5,927).  The real question is, how much does he have left in the tank?

Manning needs 2,148 yards and 374 completions in 2015 to surpass Brett Favre (71,838 yards; 6,300 completions) as the all-time leader in both categories. Manning’s 11 division titles are the second-most of any starting quarterback in NFL history (Tom Brady, 12).

HOUSTON: Acquired via trade from Cleveland in the offseason, Brian Hoyer was named the starter by head coach Bill O’Brien after a standout performance during training camp and the preseason. Hoyer, who served as a backup to Tom Brady for three seasons in New England and spent time with Arizona in 2012, started 13 of the 14 games in which he played for the Browns in 2014, passing for a career-best 3,326 yards and 12 touchdowns.

In an October 5 road game at Tennessee last season, Hoyer helped Cleveland overcome a 25-point deficit to win 29-28 in the largest comeback victory by a road team in NFL history.

INDIANAPOLIS: A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Andrew Luck enters his fourth season with the Colts, and is already a bona fide star. In 2014, He led Indianapolis to the playoffs for the third consecutive season, becoming the first quarterback chosen No. 1 overall to start a playoff game in each of his first three seasons.

Luck, who led the NFL with 40 TD passes in 2014, has passed for more yards (12,957) than any other player in his first three NFL seasons. He also joined Peyton Manning and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino as the only players in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards in two of his first three seasons. Luck’s 86 career touchdown passes rank second only to Marino (98) for the most in a player’s first three years.

JACKSONVILLE: Second-year veteran Blake Bortles, who was drafted third overall by Jacksonville in 2014, enters the season as the Jaguars’ Kickoff Weekend starter for the first time. Bortles, who took over as the Jaguars’ starter in Week 4 of last season and started the final 13 games, set franchise rookie records for passing yards (2,908) and completions (280) while posting 11 touchdown passes. He also proved to be effective out of the pocket, leading all NFL quarterbacks with a 7.5 rushing average (419 yards, 56 attempts).

Against the Giants in Week 13, Bortles helped the Jaguars overcome a 21-point deficit to win, the largest comeback victory in franchise history.

KANSAS CITY: Since being acquired via trade by the Chiefs prior to the 2013 season, Alex Smith has led Kansas City to a 19-11 record (.633) as a starter, the most wins by a quarterback in his first two seasons with the club. In 2014, Smith passed for 3,265 yards and 18 touchdowns for a 93.4 rating, marking his third 3,000-yard season in the past four years. He was originally drafted No. 1 overall by the 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Since 2011, which includes his final two seasons in San Francisco, Smith is 38-16-1 (.700) as a starter and has passed for 11,453 yards and 71 touchdowns versus 23 interceptions with a 92.7 passer rating during that span.

MIAMI: Ryan Tannehill, who was selected eighth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, is the only Dolphins quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in each of his first three seasons. Tannehill, who posted career highs in passing yards (4,045) and touchdowns (27) in 2014, joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino as the only players in Dolphins history to pass for 3,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. His 66.4 completion percentage in 2014 was the second-highest single-season mark in franchise history, trailing only Chad Pennington (67.4 percent in 2008).

NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady, a two-time NFL MVP, enters his 16th year with a 160-47 (.773) record – the best winning percentage of any NFL quarterback in the Super Bowl era with at least 100 starts. Lately, however, the scrutiny on Brady has been less on his performance and more on his role in the "Deflate-gate" scandal.

Brady’s 160 career regular-season wins rank third among starting quarterbacks in NFL history, trailing only Brett Favre (186) and Peyton Manning (179). In 2014, Brady guided the Patriots to the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl title in the past 14 years and became the first starting quarterback in NFL history to win 12 division championships. He also joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana as the only players to win three Super Bowl MVP Awards.

NEW YORK JETS: Eleven-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was acquired via trade from Houston this offseason and will start on Kickoff Weekend for the Jets. Originally a seventh-round draft choice by the St. Louis Rams in 2005 after a standout career at Harvard, Fitzpatrick has started 89 of his 97 career games for the Rams, Bengals, Bills, Titans and Texans, passing for 19,273 yards and 123 touchdowns.

Last season, Fitzpatrick started 12 games for the Texans and passed for 2,483 yards and 17 touchdowns with a career-best 95.3 passer rating. On November 30 last year against Tennessee, Fitzpatrick passed for 358 yards and a career-high six touchdowns.

OAKLAND: Derek Carr enters his second season as the Raiders’ starter after a prolific rookie campaign. Last season, he became the first rookie quarterback to start on Kickoff Weekend in Raiders history and went on to start all 16 games for Oakland.

Selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft (No. 36 overall), Carr led NFL rookies in pass attempts (599), completions (348), passing yards (3,270) and passing touchdowns (21), all of which were franchise rookie records. Carr’s 348 completions were also the second most of any rookie in NFL history (Sam Bradford, 354 in 2010), while his 21 touchdown passes were tied for the fifth most among rookies in NFL annals.

PITTSBURGH: Ben Roethlisberger owns a 106-52 regular-season record (.671) as a starter and is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to win at least 100 of his first 150 starts. Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to five division titles, three AFC Championships and two Super Bowl victories.

In 2014, he passed for a single-season franchise best 4,952 yards and 32 touchdowns, which equaled his own club record originally set in 2007. Entering his 12th NFL season, the Steelers’ offensive captain is the franchise all-time leader in passing yards (39,057), touchdown passes (251), completions (3,157) and passer rating (93.9).

SAN DIEGO: Philip Rivers enters his 12th season and his third under the direction of head coach Mike McCoy. Since becoming the Chargers’ starting quarterback in 2006, Rivers has led the club to four AFC West titles and ranks second in the NFL with 36,507 passing yards during that span (Drew Brees, 43,685).

Last season, Rivers (4,286) became the first Charger to pass for 4,000 yards in six different seasons, earning him a nice contract extension this offseason. His 36,655 career passing yards trail only Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Fouts (43,040) in team annals. The durable QB has started 145 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak of any NFL quarterback (Eli Manning, 167).

TENNESSEE: The Titans chose Marcus Mariota with the second overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. He is slated to become the first rookie in franchise history to start at quarterback on Kickoff Weekend. Mariota posted a 36-5 record as a starter at Oregon, where he became one of four players in NCAA-FBS history to pass for more than 10,000 yards and rush for at least 2,000 yards in a career.

In 2014, Mariota was awarded the Heisman Trophy, marking the first winner in Oregon history as well as the first player born in Hawaii to receive the honor. He is the first quarterback in Pac-12 history to be named first-team All-Conference in three different seasons.

By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services

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