Chargers Position Groups vs AFC West: Volume 2 – Quarterbacks

The AFC West boasts one of the most exciting crops of quarterbacks in the NFL. They have QBs of all kinds, from a league MVP to aging veterans. Where do the Chargers stand in the mix?

To read volume 1 of this series, comparing the Offensive Lines, you can go HERE!

4. Denver Broncos – Joe Flacco

The Broncos entered the offseason with a quarterback situation in turmoil. They had signed Case Keenum the previous year but he had a subpar season with few options to choose from in the Broncos offense. Keenum was dealt to the Redskins and Denver traded for the Baltimore Ravens former franchise quarterback Joe Flacco.

Throughout his career, Flacco has consistently led his team to the playoffs yet he has never made the Pro Bowl. Despite his lack of personal accolades, he did win the Super Bowl in 2012 and earned the game’s MVP. During that postseason, he tied Joe Montana’s record of 11 touchdown passes to no interceptions.

His best season was 2016 when he threw for 4,327 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. He is known for being a terrific deep ball, back shoulder passer. In 2018, he threw a modest 6.5 yards per attempt. During his Super Bowl season, surrounded by veteran receivers, he threw an exceptional 7.2 yards per attempt. While Philip Rivers has a higher career mark for yards per attempt with 7.8, Flacco (6.7 Y/A) has used the deep, back shoulder pass to win a Super Bowl. When the game is on the line in the deepest parts of the playoffs, Flacco has proven himself more than Rivers in that regard.

In the past, he has thrown to players such as Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Smith among others. Denver is lacking in receivers of that caliber. The only receivers of note are Emmanuel Sanders, who won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015, and Courtland Sutton who recorded 704 yards and three touchdowns last year as a rookie. The Broncos do have running back Philip Lindsey who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last year.

So much is unknown about Flacco in this new environment. The Ravens were a good fit for him as they prided themselves on building a dominant defense and running game to support Flacco. While Denver has some pieces in place on defense and a surprisingly good running game, they are still a bit unknown at the receiver position to haul in Flacco’s deep passes. Can Flacco build upon his legacy in Denver or will it suffocate in the thin air of Mile High Stadium?

3. Oakland Raiders – Derek Carr

The Raiders have had Derek Carr as their franchise quarterback since 2014. Since being drafted he has been to three Pro Bowls and has led his team to the playoffs once.

Last season was a rough one as the Raiders parted ways with both of his top receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. This season may be better as they traded for Antonio Brown who is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Last season, Brown recorded 1,297 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.

Carr’s best season was 2016 when he threw for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. Without his favorite receivers last year he completed a career-high 68.9% of his passes. However, he was widely derided for constantly throwing short passes compared to the bombs he was known for. Surprisingly, despite the criticism, he was able to throw a career-high 7.3 yards per attempt.

With the additions of right tackle Trent Brown and guard Richie Incognito along with a running game which found its rhythm late last season it appears the workload may be lightening for Carr. However, the story of his 2019 season will not be on the ground but rather in the air and his relationship with Brown will be scrutinized from the very first preseason game.

2. Los Angeles Chargers – Philip Rivers

Philip Rivers has been the Chargers franchise quarterback since 2006. Since then he has been to eight Pro Bowls and has led the Chargers to the playoffs six times. Last year he enjoyed the company of receivers Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, and Mike Williams. He also found tight end Antonio Gates and running back Melvin Gordon to be reliable too.

Last year, Rivers threw for 4,308 yards and 32 touchdowns while completing 68.3% of his passes. He tied a personal record of a 105.5 quarterback rating in a full season of play.

Over the course of his career, he has attempted 7,000 passes. Of those passes, he has completed 64.5% for 54,656 yards and 374 touchdowns. He is currently eighth in NFL history for yards thrown and sixth in touchdown passes.

While Rivers is aging, he is still playing some of his best football and has the Chargers playing as one of the top teams in the NFL. While he may not be the best quarterback in his division heading into 2019, if he has no major regression, he is still one of the top QBs in the NFL.

1. Kansas City Chiefs – Patrick Mahomes

Before the 2018 season, there were a lot of skeptics who doubted Patrick Mahomes. He proved the doubters wrong and was voted NFL MVP while throwing for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. He put up those numbers with a collection of great receivers such as Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill.  

The Chiefs went through some changes last season by releasing running back Kareem Hunt after a disturbing domestic violence video emerged. Even though they reached the AFC Championship Game, they are still hurting from the loss of rare talent. They also may be without Hill for a spell in 2019 as he is dealing with domestic violence allegations as well.

The Chiefs bolstered their offense by signing running back Carlos Hyde who has recorded 5.6 yards per reception for his career. The 2019 season may end up being a regression year (really hard to go up from 2018!) for Mahomes but he showed enough poise in tough situations last year to cement his status as the AFC West’s best quarterback.

Final Thoughts

There is so much unknown about the 2019 season. Much has changed within the division to affect the quarterback play tremendously. What is known is that Mahomes was named league MVP for using the tools he was given and Rivers still has life left in his right arm.

The Raiders made many dramatic moves in the offseason to suggest a resurgence in 2019 but offseason predictions are rarely accurate for quarterback/receiver relationships. Brown had a lot of conflict with Ben Roethlisberger for a reason and there is no telling how his relationships will stand with coach Jon Gruden and Derek Carr when the Raiders are in the thick of the season.

The Broncos have been fruitlessly trying to find the franchise quarterback they crave since winning the Super Bowl in 2015. Flacco is on the wrong side of 30 and appears to be on the decline. That combined with the lack of receivers in Denver spells doom for his stay in the Mile High City. The future may be bright with 2nd-round pick Drew Lock waiting in the wings, but his time won’t likely come for at least one full season.

After one tremendous season, Mahomes is the new face of the NFL. While Rivers has been a mainstay and the model of consistency, the AFC West is led by the signal-caller in Kansas City.

David Hegler

Author David Hegler

BS in Business Management from Azusa Pacific University. Fanatical 49er fan. Avid fan of all Bay Area sports teams.

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