Breaking Down the AFC West Quarterbacks


Dec 2, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; A Kansas City Chiefs helmet on the sidelines against the Carolina Panthers in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won the game 27-21. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

We have reached the halftime break of the NFL preseason, and all eyes (at least around these parts) are on the AFC West. Earlier this week, Nick here are AA wrote a great article detailing how the Chiefs stack up against the rest of the AFC West, based off the first two weeks of preseason action. I wanted to take that analysis further and detail how I feel the starting QBs stack up in the AFC. All four QBs played one series in the first game of the preseason and most, if not all, of the first half of the second. I’ve compiled their stats thus far.


















Peyton Manning

















Alex Smith

















Philip Rivers

















Matt Flynn

















Here are the AFC West signal callers working from West to East on the map.

Aug 8, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jody Gomez-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Chargers – QB: Phillip Rivers

Stat that Stands Out: 1 INT

Best Play: 22 yard strike to Antonio Gates, Week 2

Oh, Phillip. How Chiefs fans loathe you in KC. Or love you. Especially when you fumble the ball on Halloween and turn a for sure Chiefs loss into a come-from-behind victory in Arrowhead. But, that’s all in the past. How is old “Cry Me a Rivers” playing this season? Not well. Before Manning arrived in the West, Rivers got all the attention. He definitely isn’t showing he’s turned the corner under new leadership.

Thus far this preseason, he’s the worst QB in the AFC West in pretty much every statistical category. He’s only thrown 15 passes and completed 10. In just over a half’s worth of playing time, he’s only garnered 95 yards for the San Diego offense. Add to that his three sacks and interception and he’s got the lowest QB rating of the four starting signal callers in the AFC West at 56.2.

I’ve been saying for awhile that Rivers isn’t all that. The national news media seems to think he is and the leadership in San Diego has always been high on him. This is the “make or break” season for Phillip. I don’t think he can survive another poor to mediocre season with Chargers.

Aug 16, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn (15) passes the ball against the New Orleans Saints in the first half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders – QB: Matt Flynn

Stat that Stands Out: 113.4 QB Rating

Best Play: 18 yard TD Pass to Denarius Moore, Week 2

Matt Flynn is a bit of enigma. The “other” quarterback in the AFC West who is a first time starter for his team, Flynn got his rise to fame on the heels of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. He’s kind of a Matt Cassel v2.0 in that he was touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread all based off of one great performance in Week 17 of the 2011 season. Of course he signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent amid decreased fanfare and then lost the starting job to the third round sensation, Russell Wilson.

So far in the preseason with Raiders (who picked up Flynn in a trade with the Seahawks) he hasn’t been too bad. He’s learning a new offense with substandard players and not doing too badly, considering he’s been running for his life. In what amounts to about one half of a game’s worth of playing time, Flynn has been sacked six times. Still, he’s managed to throw for 161 yards and a 76 percent completion rate. He even added a passing TD to his numbers against the Saints this past weekend. All said and done, he has the highest QB rating of the AFC West QBs at 113.4.

Aug 16, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws a pass as San Francisco 49ers linebacker Michael Wilhoite (57) defends during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. San Francisco won 15-13. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs – QB: Alex Smith

Stat that Stands Out: 58 percent completion percentage

Best Play: 17 yard strike to Dexter McCluster, Week 1

Alex Smith was brought in to be the quarterback and leader of the Kansas City Chiefs under the new Andy Reid/John Dorsey regime. Unhappy with any signal callers on the roster they inherited from Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli, R&D sought out a trade with the San Francisco 49ers and brought the oft maligned Smith to KC. It was to be a new start in a new city for the quarterback who was the center of one of the craziest mid-season QB controversies in recent memory.

After one game, half of the fan base in the “City of Fountains” were hailing Smith as the second coming of Len Dawson (the only Superbowl winning QB in franchise history.) The other half were calling him “Captain Checkdown” and saying he was no better than Matt Cassel, the guy he replaced. After playing the entire first half of the second game of preseason, the numbers and stats seemed to favor the detractors, more than the supporters.

Smith has taken the most attempts of any QB in the division at 24. He’s completed the second most passes at 14. (Flynn was the highest at 16.) His normally high completion percentage (70 percent last season) is the lowest in the preseason against AFC West teams at 58 percent as is his average yards per attempt at 5.4. He has yet to complete a passing play longer than 20 yards or even a completion to a Chiefs wide receiver not named Dexter McCluster.

Smith has a long way to go to win over his doubters. Dubbed #ASHaters by one Addict commenter, they will continue to #ASHate until #AS11 proves he was worth the juice R&D used to bring him to KC.

Aug 17, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) stands on the sidelines during the second half against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos – QB: Peyton Manning

Stat that Stands Out: 176 yards passing

Best Play: 12 yard TD pass to Wes Welker, Week 2

Peyton Manning is hitting his stride already in the preseason, which doesn’t bode well for Chiefs fans. If there is any way the Chiefs hope to compete in the AFC West, it would require stopping, or at least slowing down, #18.

While the signs of his age sometimes shine through (see a couple of the wobbly passes he threw in the loss against Seattle) the fact remains that he is, perhaps, one of the smartest and most proficient QBs to ever play the game. If you combine that with the exceptional receiver corps that John Elway has put around him, it’s tough to find a chink in the armor that is Peyton Manning.

He leads the AFC West in total yards (176), yards per game (88) and plays over 20 yards (3). Also, despite the catastrophic injuries that have befallen his offensive line during the offseason/preseason, he is the only AFC West QB who hasn’t tasted the ground yet, as he hasn’t been sacked. It’s been proven time and time again, the only way to stop the machine that is #18 is to get pressure in his face, but thus far against two exceptional defenses in Seattle and San Francisco that has proven impossible. The rest of the division has their work cut out for them if they truly want to dethrone Manning in the Mile High City.

I have watched every series played thus far in the preseason by all of these quarterbacks, thanks to the NFL Preseason app, and the “condensed game” feature. Taking this into account, as well as the intangibles, I would have to grade the AFC West quarterbacks as follows:

#1: Peyton Manning

#2: Matt Flynn

#3: Alex Smith

#4: Phillip Rivers

Many people from the talking heads on NFLAM to that guy at the water cooler at work who won’t shut up (even thought he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—you know who he is) are picking the Denver Broncos to not only with the AFC West this season, but to represent the AFC in the Superbowl. This, of course, all boils down to the guy wearing #18 for the Broncos, Peyton Manning.

Peyton is good. As much as I don’t want to even say this because it makes my mouth feel funny, I like Peyton Manning.


I need to eat a week’s worth of barbeque to wash that taste out of my mouth. Moving on.

While it gives me great pride and happiness to put Rivers at the bottom of any list, and there was no doubt that Manning would be #1, I really would like to see Smith and Flynn switch places. Those of you who know me, know that I’m an #ASHomer not an #ASHater so you can imagine how difficult this list is. I just hope #AS11 can turn the corner – and get the help he needs in the receiving game as well as pass protection – to make the trade that brought him to KC worth it.

The bottom line is I’m making these assessments and observations based off of one half of football. I’ve seen guys have a bad half to come back and throw four touchdowns in the second half and win the game. We’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to beat the drum. This is preseason, Addicts. It will all be okay. I promise.