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The NFL season has been narrowed down to just eight teams, and a lot of what happens over the next few weeks will be decided by the quarterbacks.
The list of quarterbacks still standing in the playoffs includes the best in the game. It consists of quarterbacks who have combined to win eight Super Bowls, 12 conference championships, and four MVP awards. It also includes a rookie and a signal caller who lost his job just four weeks ago.
Here is a look at the quarterbacks and where they stand heading into the divisional-playoff round.
9. Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans
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One thing to know: Osweiler started just 14 games after signing a $72 million contract as a free agent before being benched by the Texans. He returned to the starting lineup when Tom Savage suffered a concussion in the final game of the regular season. But while he helped the Texans beat the Raiders in the Wild Card round, Osweiler, who threw 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in the regular season, and ranked last in yards per attempt (5.8), now gets to face the Patriots in Foxborough. The Texans are a 15.5-point underdog.
Playoff record as a starter: 1-0; threw for 168 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions in Houston’s Wild Card win over the Raiders a week ago.
Team’s chances to win Super Bowl (via FiveThirtyEight): 2%
8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
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One thing to know: No team has ever won a playoff game with a rookie starting quarterback and a leading rusher who was also a rookie. Romo isn’t expected to play, but you can expect him to be mentioned often during the broadcasts. And if the Cowboys do find themselves down big, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Romo will be called upon to try and lead the Cowboys back.
Playoff record as a starter: 2-4; The Cowboys went to the playoffs just once in the last six season, losing to the Packers in the divisional round in 2014. That was the game that was effectively ended with the infamous Dez Bryant catch near the goal line on fourth down that was overturned on replay and ruled incomplete.
7. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
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One thing to know: Smith threw a pedestrian 15 touchdowns and 8 interceptions this season in 15 games and ranked just 20th in the NFL in adjusted yards per attempt (adjusted for interceptions).
Playoff record as a starter: 2-3; This is the fourth time Smith has led a team into the playoffs, including three of the last four seasons. He nearly led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2011, losing to the Giants in overtime in the NFC championship game. He has thrown 11 touchdowns and just 1 interception in five career playoff games.
6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
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One thing to know: If the Seahawks offense is going to outscore the Falcons in the divisional round, they will have to do it with Wilson’s arm. He rushed for just 259 yards this season after averaging 608 yards per season his first four years. And in their win over the Lions in Round 1, he had 3 rushes for -3 yards. Meanwhile, he has been erratic throwing the ball this season, throwing for a career-high 11 interceptions and his second-lowest touchdown total (21). Nine of those interceptions came in one four-week stretch late in the season.
Playoff record as a starter: 8-3; Wilson has led the Seahawks to the playoffs in all five of his seasons, including a win in Super Bowl XLVIII over the Broncos and to within one running play of a second in Super Bowl XLIX against the Patriots.
5. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
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One thing to know: Roethlisberger injured his ankle late in the Steelers’ first-round win over the Dolphins. He was in a walking boot after the game and could be limited against the Chiefs.
Playoff record as a starter: 12-6; The Steelers have been to the playoffs nine times in Roethlisberger’s 13 seasons. He is 2-1 in the Super Bowl with his last win coming after the 2008 season.
4. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
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One thing to know: There is an argument to be made for having either Ben Roethlisberger or Russell Wilson in this spot. But at the end of the day, Wilson has been shaky recently and Big Ben is hurt. More importantly, Prescott, despite all the accolades being given to his running back and his offensive line, has quietly gotten even better late in the season. Over the final nine games, Prescott threw 14 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions, both of which came in the same game. He also ranked third this season in adjusted yards per attempt (8.60), behind only Matt Ryan and Tom Brady.
Playoff record as a starter: Has never started a playoff game.
3. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
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One thing to know: Ryan set career highs this season in touchdowns (38), completion percentage (69.9%), yards (4,944), and yard per attempt (9.3), along with a career low 7 interceptions. He is also the heavy favorite to be named the NFL’s MVP as the Falcons scored 540 points this season, 71 more than any other team.
Playoff record as a starter: 1-4; Ryan has 9 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in five career playoffs games, throwing multiple interceptions in three of those games. Their last playoff game was the 2012 NFC championship game loss to the 49ers.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
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One thing to know: Brady returned from his four-game Deflategate suspension and had one of his best seasons yet, throwing for 28 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. Oh yeah, and he is 39 years old. But maybe the best thing going for Brady right now is the schedule. The Patriots lucked out a little bit in getting the Texans in the first playoff game. That means they would only have to beat the Chiefs or the Steelers to get to the Super Bowl and not both.
Playoff record as a starter: 22-9; The Patriots are 4-2 in the Super Bowl with Brady as their quarterback. He also has 56 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in 31 career playoff games.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
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One thing to know: No quarterback in the world is hotter right now than Rodgers. After the Packers started the season 4-6 and looking like they would miss the playoffs, they have now won seven in a row, including a Wild Card win over the Giants. Over his last eight games, Rodgers has thrown 22 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He is also averaging 8.5 yards per attempt during that stretch. Only Ryan had a better yards per attempt this season. Also, Rodgers may be the most frustrating quarterback to face, just ask Ryan Clark.
Playoff record as a starter: 8-6; Rodgers has 31 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in 14 career playoff games. He also led the Packers to a win in Super Bowl XLV.
Now check out which young quarterbacks could be next.
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