By Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
In a quarterback-driven league, watching football on Sunday can be a case of watching a maestro conduct a symphony in front of 70,000 people. Other times, watching a quarterback who’s over their head, treading water and just waiting for their lifeline to be pulled. Great quarterback play can lift a team devoid of talent into a contender, and a great quarterback with with the proper supporting cast can have Super Bowl aspirations.
The five quarterbacks listed below fall into one of the two categories mentioned above, and as we reach the quarter mark of the NFL season, some teams will only go so far as their field general will take them.
Matt Ryan: The former No. 3 overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft is performing at a level that the Atlanta Falcons had envisioned since the days of yesteryear when a previous top pick was drafted to lead the franchise. With a 4-0 record, elite skill players across the board and a defense that seems up to the task, “Matty Ice” is ballin’. On Sunday, Ryan put up numbers that are now becoming routine. 369 passing yards and 3 touchdowns versus the Carolina Panthers made plenty of fantasy football owners happy, but what was most impressive was the final drive of the game. Connecting with Roddy White on a long heave with time running out helped the Falcons get in position to kick a game-winning field goal. It showed the confidence that head coach Mike Smith has in his quarterback, and it could be the beginning of a Falcons team that others might start believing in, even for a title run.
Michael Vick: The former Virginia Tech Hokie quarterback weren’t mind-blowing, but it was the number that he didn’t accumulate that reigned supreme on Sunday night. Zero. That was the number of turnovers Vick didn’t commit versus the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. In a nailbiter of a finish, his lack of turnovers and efficient play helped the Philadelphia Eagles sit atop of the NFC East with a 19-17 victory. Vick’s numbers, 241 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, and another 69 yards on the ground, proved to be just enough for the Eagles. Philadelphia will be the NFL’s wildcard team all year, and that lands squarely on Vick’s shoulders. An efficient, heady Vick makes the Eagles dangerous. The turnover prone Vick, leaves the Eagles as innocent bystanders for whatever mayhem happens after the fact.
Tom Brady: Brady must’ve felt like the Buffalo Bills did something to his mother, because what the New England Patriots quarterback did on Sunday seemed like borderline abuse. 340 yards and 3 passing touchdowns was just part of the ransacking that occurred. The Patriots also had two 100-yard rushers in rookies Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden and after giving up 28 points to a previously inconsistent Buffalo offense, the Patriots defense stood up and stoned the Bills attack. Brady’s performance on Sunday, without the services of Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman, was still noteworthy. When the full lineup gets back, can the Pats keep the momentum? Now in a 3-way tie with the Jets and the Bills, getting ahead in the division standings is just the first step in New England rekindling their championship aspirations.
Robert Griffin III: A 26-of-35 passing performance for 323 yards was one thing, rushing for 43 yards and a touchdown was another, yet the fact that when the chips are down and the game was on the line, Griffin plays at a higher level. Rolling right late in the 4th quarter and scrambling to the 34-yard line, thus putting the Washington Redskins in position to win a hard fought 24-22 contest versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road, was typical “RG3.” Heady play, gutsy in action and nerves of steel was just what the doctor ordered. At 2-2, the Redskins might be a playoff contender. Most importantly, what RG3’s doing at the quarterback position is giving Redskins’ fans real hope, not a hope that’s contrived by over-priced signings and big boasts from their owner. Its all a beleagued fan base could hope for.
Peyton Manning: They questioned the man’s arm strength. They questioned if the man was ready to return to the NFL stage. They questioned if John Elway made the right choice. Yet, Peyton Manning stepped into the stadium formerly known as Mile High, old No. 18 buttoned up his helmet and went to work like only he would. 30-for-38 passing, 338 passing yards and 3 touchdowns was a stat line that reminded us of what No. 18 looked like in the blue and white of the Indianapolis Colts. The Broncos ran the ball effectively, the wide receivers ran crisp routes, and the offensive line gave the type of protection that the secret service could appreciate. Is Denver a championship contender? Its probably too soon to judge, but can the Broncos contend for a divisional title? Certainly. If No. 18’s going to play like he did on Sunday, anything’s possible.