Ranking the 8 quarterbacks still alive in the NFL playoffs

The four best quarterbacks in the AFC are still alive in the playoffs, and in the NFC, well, not so much. (No offense, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton.)
With a rather interesting collection of signal-callers remaining, it's time for them to be ranked. After all, isn't everything ranked and subsequently debated on Twitter these days? 
Before I start, I need to be clear on how these quarterbacks were listed from No. 8 to No. 1. This wasn't a "career achievement" list. If it were, the ranking would, rather simply, be as follows: 
8. Colin Kaepernick
7. Cam Newton
6. Andrew Luck
5. Russell Wilson
4. Philip Rivers
3. Drew Brees 
2. Tom Brady
1. Peyton Manning

Sure, there'd be some arguing over No. 4 through No. 8, but you get the picture. Ranking the quarterbacks in that way would be obvious and boring. More importantly, I'm not sure how much their career achievements will affect their play this weekend, although playoff experience shouldn't be totally ignored. 
This ranking is mainly based on how these quarterbacks have played this season.  It's a present day classification of how good they are right now, with a sprinkle of their past efforts that very well could impact their play in the divisional round. 
I'll be including each signal-caller's Pro Football Focus Accuracy Percentage—nevermind completion percentage, AP is the finest metric for measuring the true accuracy of a quarterback—next to their names because I don't think there's any singular quarterbacking attribute more paramount than accuracy. 
(PFF's "Accuracy Percentage" accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes where the quarterback was hit while they threw the ball – factors that hurt the quarterback's completion percentage but don't help show how accurate they are.)

8. Colin Kaepernick
2013 PFF Accuracy Percentage – 69.3%

An obvious No. 8. Colin Kaepernick has started 23 games as a professional with wildly mixed results. He's set the NFL on fire late in the 2012 regular season and through the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl. 

This year, he regressed. Simple as that. In fairness, the absence of blossoming No. 1 wideout Michael Crabtree almost assuredly disrupted Kaepernick's development. Take away the favorite target of any young quarterback…and, yeah, he'll probably struggle. Kaep is almost unfairly talented, though. He has a rocket arm and runs like deer in the open field. 
But he doesn't have the intricacies of playing the quarterback position down quite yet. If his first read isn't there, typically, he panics. I'm not sure how keen of a coverage-reader he is at this moment, either. Kaep came in near or at the bottom of almost all of the advanced quarterback accuracy statistics. 
The 49ers are clearly in win now mode, but they have quite the intriguing investment in Kaepernick. His "time" will come. 

7. Cam Newton
2013 PFF Accuracy Percentage – 72.4%

Cam Newton is eerily similar to Kaepernick, though the former is even more physically impressive at 6'5' and around 250 pounds. The Carolina Panthers quarterback doesn't have a desirable pass-catching arsenal at his disposal, but he's proven to be a good (not great) passer, despite many naysayers believing he was nowhere near being ready to run an NFL offense when he entered the league in 2011. 
In 2013, his Accuracy Percentage while under pressure was the best of this eight-man group outside of Philip Rivers. Newton is, easily, the most destructive power runner of the remaining quarterbacks, as he's scored 28 rushing touchdowns in his three-year career. 
Like Kaepernick, he still needs to rein in his huge arm on occasion, make better decisions more often and fine-tune his coverage reading. But the former No. 1 overall pick is coming along nicely now that he doesn't feel the need to single-handedly win games for his team. 
Without having to force the issue, Newton's numbers were at a lower volume in 2013, but he was a better overall quarterback.

It'll be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of hosting a divisional round playoff game in his first postseason start. 
6. Andrew Luck
2013 PFF Accuracy Percentage – 70.6%
On paper, Andrew Luck's the quarterback with the most sporadic accuracy of the bunch. His Accuracy Percentage of 70.6 during the 2013 regular season was only better than Kaepernick out of the final eight quarterbacks. 

He wasn't necessarily great down the field or under pressure, either. 

Then again, if we want to talk about a lack of receiving weapons, we must look no further than Indianapolis. After Reggie Wayne went down, man was it bad. Darrius Heyward-Bey? LaVon Brazill? At least Griff Whalen and Coby Fleener played with Luck at Stanford. 
Thankfully Donald Brown had an efficient year, because Trent Richardson was an absolute disaster. Without Brown, the Colts would have had no semblance of a threatening running game whatsoever. 
We love Luck because of the near flawless quarterback prospect he was in 2012. While his interception percentage was under 2.0 this year—which is very good—he does have the tendency to throw some "what the?" interceptions. However, to counter that, Luck's demonstrated amazing amnesia when bouncing back from his mistakes, the most recent example of that came last week against Kansas City. 

5. Tom Brady
2013 PFF Accuracy Percentage – 72.4%
Tom Brady just wasn't himself this year. Was it age? Was it the fact that his top 5 pass-catching options from 2012 weren't on the 2013 roster? What was it? A combination of factors probably played into the Patriots legend having a "down" year, and that's fine. 
His team won five games in the final minutes en route to a ho-hum 12-4 record and another AFC East title. 
Brady was actually an Accuracy Percentage point higher while under pressure in 2013 than he was in 2012, but his 57.6% in that category was 20th out of 26th quarterbacks who took at least 50 percent of their respective team's offensive snaps this season. 
He posted the lowest touchdown percentage of his career—a still respectable 4.0—and the lowest yards-per-attempt average—6.8—since 2006. Yeah, I'd say he missed Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker. 
His playoff experience will help him against the Colts, but those who'll refute Brady's No. 5 ranking by pointing to his three Super Bowl rings will likely omit the following stat line, which represents his last four playoff outings, all of which have been at home: 
103-of-171 (60.2%), 1,179 yards (6.89 YPA), 6 TDs and 5 INTs
Essentially, not great. 
According to PFF, Brady had the third lowest Accuracy Percentage in last year's playoffs (ahead of Kaepernick and Joe Flacco) and the worst under pressure Accuracy Percentage.
4. Russell Wilson
2013 PFF Accuracy Percentage – 71.9%
He's young and has only played in two playoff games in his career, but this is where Russell Wilson belongs. No quarterback was pressured on a higher percentage of dropbacks than Wilson in 2013 (49.3%), and his Accuracy Percentage of 61.9 in that category was higher than Brady, Luck and Kaepernick. 

On deep throws, no quarterback in football (who played at least 50 percent of his respective team's offensive snaps) was more accurate than Wilson. No disrespect to Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, but it's safe to say that Wilson wasn't simply been carried by his receiving contingent this season. 
Oh, and in his two playoff games last year, he completed 62.9% of his passes at 9.22 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and one interception. Don't forget…he led the Seahawks back from a 27-7 third-quarter deficit in Atlanta and took the lead with 31 seconds to play. 
Add in his mobility, and its actually quite easy to see why Wilson's ahead of Brady, Luck, Newton and Kaepernick. 

3. Drew Brees
2013 PFF Accuracy Percentage – 77.9%
Drew Brees isn't as good on the road as he is at home. There's no debating that. In 2013, his completion percentage was a whopping 10 points lower away from the Mercedes Benz Superdome than it was inside it. His yards-per-attempt average was almost—ready?—four yards lower on the road than it was at home. That's astronomical. To put a cherry on top, he tossed 27 touchdowns to only three interceptions in New Orleans and 12 touchdowns to nine interceptions elsewhere. 

Now I'm not ranking these quarterbacks based on how I believe they'll play against their opponents this weekend, but I felt it was necessary to include Brees' away stats seeing as though he'll take the field on the road in the NFL's most raucous stadium.
Through it all, Brees was his usual ultra-efficient self this year. His Accuracy Percentage was third to only Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers, and his under pressure Accuracy Percentage of 63.5 was better than Wilson, Brady, Luck and Kaepernick. 
He completed 66% of his passes for 250 yards in the win over the Philadelphia Eagles, but he did throw only one touchdown to two interceptions. 

2. Philip Rivers
2013 PFF Accuracy Percentage – 78.8%
Philip Rivers had an incredible, resurgent season in 2013. He was Mr. Efficiency, as he led the NFL in completion percentage, overall Accuracy Percentage and under pressure Accuracy Percentage. 
His 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions made for a marvelous and underrated stat line.
Rivers did throw only 16 passes in the win over the Cincinnati Bengals a week ago, but only four of those attempts hit the turf and one went for a touchdown. Also, he does have eight games of postseason experience. 

He rightfully gets the slight nod over Brees. 
1. Peyton Manning

2013 PFF Accuracy Percentage – 77.0%
No argument here. Peyton Manning was the best quarterback in football this season. His Accuracy Percentage tied Brees for 3rd, only Wilson was more accurate down the field, and only Rivers was more accurate under pressure. 
The Denver Broncos signal-caller was undoubtedly aided by, arguably, the most well-rounded receiving corps in football, but he made the most of it. 
Manning broke the single-season passing-yard record and the single-season touchdown record. He attempted a league-high 659 passes, and only 1.5% of them were intercepted. 
While I haven't forgotten about his two-interception effort in last year's division round against the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens, the Sheriff's the best quarterback left in these playoffs. 

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at CBSSports.com, Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.