What Super Wild Card Weekend lacked in super games, it made up for in super performances.
We have entered the business end of the season, with only eight teams remaining. You don't reach the divisional round without a legitimate quarterback often, and all eight of the teams left have guys of varying degrees of "legit."
The remaining field of quarterbacks is a diverse one, featuring a mix of battle-tested veterans and young guys making their first playoff appearances. The vets know what it takes to win in January and February, and the young guys may just be crazy enough to not care about the pressure.
Seven of the eight QBs left in play were top-nine in passing yards this season, and the other is going to win the MVP.
Let's take a look at the guys left in play and what chance they give their respective teams to win it all. Make sure to pay attention to the Super Bowl MVP odds because as we all know, Vegas knows a thing or two about picking winners.
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NFL Quarterback Power Rankings
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Whichever way you want to rank NFL quarterbacks heading into the divisional round, all lists start with Patrick Mahomes.
The Chiefs' home victory over the Miami Dolphins in the wild card round moved their future Hall of Fame quarterback to 12-3 in the postseason in just his sixth season as a starter. He is now eighth all-time in playoff wins for a QB, having already passed Troy Aikman, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Steve Young.
Within the next few seasons, Mahomes could easily pass Brett Farve and Ben Roethlisberger (13 wins), Peyton Manning, John Elway, and Terry Bradshaw (14 wins), and the great Joe Montana (16 wins).
Only Tom Brady and his otherworldly 35 playoff wins may be too much for Mahomes to surpass, but I am done doubting him at this point.
Wins can be considered a team stat though, regardless of how important quarterback play is. But when you look at Mahomes' postseason stats, his team's two Super Bowl victories start to make a lot of sense. In 15 career playoff starts, Mahomes has a passer rating of 105.7 with 4,346 yards, 36 touchdowns, and seven interceptions.
If you take that rate and add two games to equal the 17-game NFL regular season, Mahomes would be on pace for nearly 5000 passing yards and 40+ passing TDs, comfortably enough to make him this season's MVP favorite.
The Chiefs have entered the Tom Brady-era New England Patriots zone, with fans expecting no less than an AFC Championship appearance year in and year out. That is the result of repeated success from the best quarterback in the league paired with arguably the league's best coach, much like the Patriots had with Brady and Belichick.
And at only 28 years old, Mahomes gives the Chiefs the best chance to win it all this season and for the foreseeable future. Kansas City and their fans wouldn't trade him for the world.
2. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen, along with Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson, has had the misfortune of being an elite quarterback who has been overshadowed by the all-time great Mahomes.
Obviously, it is impossible to eliminate my bias towards Allen as a Bills fan, but there is no one I would want leading my franchise (other than Mahomes) over the sixth-year QB, especially when you factor in Joe Burrow's injury record.
That is not to say that there aren't times when Allen's recklessness causes me to pull my hair out in alarming quantities. The mistakes aren't going anywhere with Allen, who has already turned the ball over 102 times in his career.
Since his second year in the league, Allen's turnovers have gradually increased which is a cause for concern for the remainder of the playoffs and moving forward.
Having said that, it is impossible to separate the Josh Allen who makes plays you won't even see on Madden from the Josh Allen who turned the ball over 22 times this season.
The key for the Bills is not limiting Allen's high-risk plays that make him who he is, but picking spots to be more careful.
In their Wildcard victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bills fans were treated to Madden-cover Allen. He started fast with two first-quarter touchdown passes to his tight ends and put the game out of reach with an insane 52-yard TD run in the second quarter.
The victory moved Allen to 5-4 in his playoff career, which has been underappreciated due to the Bills' lack of championships. Allen now has a passer rating of 101.6 with 2,537 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions to go along with 491 rushing yards, three touchdowns and two fumbles lost in nine career playoff starts.
If Allen can build on his 23-6 TD-Turnover ratio in the playoffs, Bills fans may finally have their reward for decades of suffering.
3. CJ Stroud, Houston Texans
This one is going to ruffle some feathers. I can already hear Baltimore Ravens' fans up in arms about Stroud being ranked above Lamar Jackson following his second MVP season. Let me explain myself.
If there were 100 million CJ Stroud doubters heading into the Texans' Wildcard matchup with the Browns, I was one of them. If there was only one Stroud-doubter on the entire planet, it was me.
In fact, I was so confident in Cleveland's defense along with rookie quarterbacks' records in their first start that I made the fading Stroud and the Texans my biggest bet of the entire weekend. I will not be making that mistake again.
CJ Stroud has shown the world who he is from Day 1. And while there have been some truly stellar seasons from rookie QBs over the last 10+ years (2011 Cam Newton, 2012 Russell Wilson, 2020 Justin Herbert), Stroud's 2023-24 season tops them all for me.
Even with missing two games down the stretch, Stroud threw for over 4000 yards, 23 TDs, and only five interceptions.
And while turnover luck certainly played a role in Stroud's lack of interceptions, there is no denying the merit of his TD-INT ratio.
When you consider the fact that his playoff debut against the Cleveland Browns was the highest rated from a rookie in NFL history, you start to understand that at just 22 years old Stroud is a threat to win it all this year.
In one game, Stroud matched Lamar Jackson's postseason win total and played better than the MVP ever has in an elimination game. We will see how Jackson and the Ravens respond when the Texans arrive in Baltimore on Saturday.
4. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
After my above comments, I feel like I need to start my analysis of this year's MVP with a disclaimer: I love Lamar Jackson. Behind Josh Allen, he is easily my second favorite QB in the entire NFL.
That is the reason I am being so hard on the Ravens' frontman.
Few players changed the play style of their franchise more than Lamar Jackson. John Harbaugh and his staff found a gem in the 2018 NFL Draft and proceeded to build their entire offensive scheme around him.
Since Jackson entered the league, the Ravens have literally been running circles around every other team.
Over the last six seasons, the Ravens have averaged 168.4 rushing yards per game and have 3300 more rushing yards than any other team over that stretch.
It all begins with Jackson, who has averaged over 60 yards per game on the ground and is only 800 yards behind Michael Vick for the most QB rushing yards ever. These are undoubtedly impressive numbers, but the time for admiring stats has passed.
Following the imminent announcement of his second MVP and a 13-4 regular season that saw the Ravens become the No. 1 team in the entire playoffs, expectations (and the pressure that comes with them) are at an all-time high for Jackson and Baltimore.
It is no secret that the Ravens have struggled in the playoffs since No. 8 took over, and they are quickly approaching "now or never" territory.
While Jackson and Stroud are fundamentally different quarterbacks, it is hard to argue with the fact that Stroud equaled Jackson's total playoff passing TDs in just one appearance. Couple that with the fact that Lamar has thrown five INTs while going 1-3 in his postseason career, and questions start to arise.
They are questions that Jackson and the Ravens would certainly rather avoid, and they can do so for now by taking care of business at home against the Texans this weekend.
5. Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers
Jordan Love had the unenviable job of being the first QB not named Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers to start Week 1 for the Packers in over 30 years.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, making the playoffs was far down the list of priorities for the "rebuilding" Packers. But for one of the league's best-run franchises, rebuilding looks a lot different than it does for most teams.
With any rebuild, it all starts with the quarterback and it seems that the Packers have found their guy.
The first nine games of the season were not pretty for the Pack or their quarterback as they fell to 3-6. That stretch included a four-game losing streak that saw Jordan Love throw four TDS and seven INTs, and the Love-haters took advantage, coming out in full force to see Green Bay's four-year quarterback experiment fail. Spoiler: it didn't.
Through 9 games, the Packers had given up 19 sacks to their first-year starter. It was clearly affecting Love, who was struggling with his reads and consistently missing receivers.
Some of it had to do with the inexperience of Green Bay's receivers, but Love certainly left a lot to be desired.
The season started to turn around when the O-Line got it together, and Love was sacked only 11 times over the final eight games of the regular season. Safety in the pocket was a revelation for Love, who was one of the best QBs in the league down the stretch.
His final eight games saw him post a stat line of 2150 passing yards on over 70% completion, with 18 TDs to only one INT.
His passer rating of 112.7 in the final eight games ranked second in the entire league. Even with the defensive struggles, Love's turnaround catapulted the Pack to a 6-2 record down the stretch, securing them the final NFC playoff spot.
Love and the Pack continued their scorching hot run into the playoffs, and the young QB was practically perfect in his first postseason appearance.
Although Stroud snagged most of the headlines of the weekend, Love matched him step for step. Both of the young QBs set a new standard for playoff debuts with their nearly identical performances, completing 16-21 passes and three TDs.
Love only trailed Stroud in passing yards by a whopping two. While there were certainly questions of Love's ability throughout the season, he has answered them all convincingly.
6. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
It takes a special player to be the focal point of a team's best season in 3 decades. Luckily for the Detroit Lions, QB Jared Goff is just that.
While Goff certainly had his ups and downs this season, Lions fans let him know that he was "their guy" against the Los Angeles Rams, constantly showering boos on former QB Matthew Stafford all game.
Goff's 2023 stats are impressive but not jaw-dropping. He had the highest completion percentage of his career at 67.3% and was top five in both passing yards and passing TDs.
He is far from the most flashy QB in the league, but he is certainly one of the most dependable. His quiet confidence was just what the Lions and their young offense needed, and they followed his lead to near perfection. Detroit was the only team in the league with four 10-plus touchdown guys, and a lot of that had to do with Goff trusting his young stars and helping them build the confidence needed to succeed in the NFL.
It is no secret that Goff was cast out by the Rams and coach Sean McVay. He is doing everything in his power to prove his former team wrong and is off to a fantastic start by sending them packing in the wild card round.
While I have Goff ranked below the other guys on this list because of what they can do, I am still extremely confident in what Goff will do.
7. Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers
This may feel like an unfair place for 49ers QB Brock Purdy to end up. While he hasn't done anything wrong to end up this far down the list, I think every single guy I have ranked above him could perform at least to the level that Purdy has with his supporting cast.
Having said that, it is not Purdy's fault he stumbled into one of the best offenses of all time. The only thing in his control is his performances, and there is no doubt that they have been impressive.
Purdy set two NFL records in his second season as both his completion percentage (69.1%) and passer rating (110.5) were the highest ever recorded.
While coach Kyle Shanahan is deserving of the endless praise he receives for his offensive scheme, you still need guys to go out and make plays.
There is no question that Purdy does that, with 6.7% of all of his passes ending in TDs this year, the highest rate the league has seen in 50 years.
For as good as Purdy has been, he has faced very few situations where he has had to go out and win his team a game with their backs against the wall.
Again, you can't punish a guy for his team being a juggernaut, but I simply have not seen enough from Purdy feel confident in his ability with the 49ers season on the line.
On paper, San Francisco is comfortably the best team in the league and anything less than a Super Bowl victory will be a letdown. We will see if Purdy is the man for the job.
8. Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Baker Mayfield would've been lower on this list heading into the playoffs if you added the six QBs that lost in the wild card round. But to be fair to Baker, a couple of "better" QBs (**cough Tua Tagovailoa and Dak Prescott cough**) are sitting on their couches and he is headed to Detroit for a divisional round showdown with the Lions.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' QB has been undervalued his entire career and he has made a living by outperforming lists exactly like this one.
Following his trade to Carolina and his release that followed, there were serious questions about the future of Mayfield's career in the NFL.
Luckily for him, Tampa Bay was in quarterback purgatory following Tom Brady's actual retirement after last season and needed to bring in someone to compete with Kyle Trask.
Unsurprisingly, Mayfield won that QB battle and he proceeded to lead Tampa Bay to its third consecutive NFC South title. That may not sound very impressive on the surface when you consider how bad the division was this year, but the Bucs had twice as long of odds as the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers to win the division at +700.
Unlike Purdy, Mayfield is not surrounded by a world-class offensive cast and a stellar defense. In fact, the defense was legitimately terrible against the pass and the run game was practically nonexistent, ranking last in the entire league in rushing yards.
Make no mistake about it: the Bucs are here because of Baker Mayfield. And while torching the Eagles was more the standard than the exception this season, the Lions need to be hyperaware of the ultra-motivated Mayfield.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.