Today's question: Rank one through four the starting quarterbacks in the AFC West (assuming Mark Sanchez in Denver) with a sentence or two of explanation on each team.
Jeff Legwold, Denver Broncos reporter: This is really a guy at the top and a three-way tie for second -- or as Ricky Bobby put it, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.’’ Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is at the top of the list, and rank the others at your leisure. Rivers is coming off a career-high 4,792 yards passing with 29 touchdown passes in 2015 despite his team’s obvious lack of consistent offensive line play or a running game. He’s a five-time Pro Bowl selection and has the look of a front-line starter even as parts of the depth chart around him have eroded. Raiders QB Derek Carr is the up-and-comer and in an informal poll of seven personnel executives about the quarterbacks in the division he was the No. 2 guy. Young and strong-armed, Carr also has a composure about him. The executives then put Mark Sanchez, the presumed Broncos starter next on the list -- just barely ahead of the Chiefs’ Alex Smith. The biggest reason? Most think coach Gary Kubiak’s offense will fit Sanchez and the Broncos are expected to run the ball well. Smith had always played low-risk football and limits interceptions, but the personnel executives want to see him make the throws he needs to make when the games are on the line.
Paul Gutierrez, Oakland Raiders reporter: 1. San Diego’s Philip Rivers: Entering his 13th NFL season, his 11th as the Chargers' starter, Rivers is 19 touchdown passes away from 300 for his career and eight victories from No. 100. The five-time Pro Bowler has passed for more than 4,000 yards in seven of his last eight seasons. 2. Oakland’s Derek Carr: OK, we’re going more with potential than accolades at this juncture, even if Carr’s 698 completions are the most by any QB in his first two seasons and his 53 TD passes through two seasons are the second-most by any quarterback in their first two years. Carr, who reminds Michael Crabtree of Brett Favre as a gunslinger, seems primed to take that next step. 3. Kansas City’s Alex Smith: Yes, we’ve all heard the “game-manager” talk and how it’s been used as a slight against him, seemingly since the 49ers used the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft on him. Still, with the Chiefs, his Total QBR has improved from 49.67 to 54.99 to 66.50. 4. Denver’s Mark Sanchez: Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be Colin Kaepernick after the retirement of Peyton Manning and the free-agent departure of Brock Osweiler? Alas, The Sanchize appears to be the man, and while he did play in a pair of AFC title games his first two years with the New York Jets, Sanchez was just 4-6 as a starter the past two years with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Eric D. Williams, San Diego Chargers reporter: With Peyton Manning gone, you have to start with Philip Rivers. He’s made 160 consecutive starts, five Pro Bowls and always gives the Chargers a chance to win. While Alex Smith is not flashy, the Utah product has a 30-16 record as a starter for the Chiefs. Smith can create plays with his legs and doesn’t turn the ball over much. Oakland’s Derek Carr has the most potential, but still has to prove he can carry the Raiders to the postseason. Sanchez brings up the rear in the ultimate role as a game-manager for perhaps the best defense in the NFL in the Broncos.