Who is the best AFC North quarterback?
By: Andy Davies
The AFC West is now considered the best division in the NFL, but the AFC North should not be forgotten about.
Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals made the most recent postseason, with the latter making it all the way to Super Bowl 56. The Baltimore Ravens would have most likely made the playoffs had the injury crisis not hit them.
The four teams are expected to contend for the playoffs once again in 2022, but who has the best quarterback?
Here is a ranking of the best to worst QB in the division.
1. Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals)
The decision to decide who made it to number one was very hard as the top three quarterbacks on this list all have genuine reasons to be number one.
However, the league is often known as a ‘What have you done for me lately’ league and Burrow is the most recent quarterback and in fact the only one to play in a Super Bowl.
They may have lost but Burrow had a truly fantastic season, one of the greatest sophomore campaigns in NFL history.
Part of arguably the greatest ever college football team, Burrow was picked number one overall and his statistics since coming into the league are astounding. He has recorded 7,299 yards, 47 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in 26 career games. This works out as an average of 281 yards and 1.8 touchdowns per game.
He showed great potential during his rookie season before the ACL injury cut it short. Fears surrounded Burrow as to whether he could come back the same player. He soon showed the entire league that the concerns were a waste of time.
As the Bengals secured their first AFC North since 2015, Burrow was a demon to fellow division rivals Baltimore as he threw for a combined total of 941 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception.
Weeks 17 and 18 in the 2021 season saw Burrow put up astronomical numbers, with the second most passing yards in a two-game stretch (971), just three yards behind record holder Dak Prescott (974). This was also with a 78.8 completion percentage and zero picks.
And he did all this with a bad offensive line. The Ravens are the one team that could argue to have as bad an offensive line as the Bengals in 2021, but this was without an injured Ronnie Stanley.
Burrow’s 4,611 passing yards was the sixth best in the league in 2021, which is 1,729 more than any other AFC quarterback. He was also eighth for passing touchdowns (34), which is 18 more than Jackson. He did all this despite being the league’s most sacked quarterback.
Burrow has shown throughout his time in Cincinnati that he never gives up. He has overcome so much in his short career, from injury to bad o-line. He broke the record for the most sacked QB in postseason history, including nine times against the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round yet the Bengals made it to the Super Bowl. He also tied the record for most sacks in a Super Bowl (7), yet the team lost by seven points.
It should be noted that Trubisky was Josh Allen’s backup at the Buffalo Bills in 2021, Jackson only played 12 games due to injury and Deshaun Watson missed the entire season due to legal issues. Despite this, Burrow has been the most productive of late and this is the reason why he has taken up the number one spot.
2. Deshaun Watson (Cleveland Browns)
The aforementioned missed season for Watson means no one knows if he will come back the same player but on paper, he should be able to carry on from where he left off. Firstly, it should be noted that even though there will be no criminal charges, he may still face punishment from the league.
If he does play all sixteen games, then the Browns should be in the conversation for Super Bowl runs. Watson is an extremely talented quarterback. With 4,823 yards in 2020, he was the NFL passing yards leader despite the team going 4-12. He also racked up 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He did this despite losing Deandre Hopkins in the offseason. Imagine what he could have done with the three-time All-Pro to throw to.
Watson can make any receiver look good and this will be a source of encouragement for Browns fans, with Amari Cooper the only reliable receiver on the depth chart in Cleveland.
He has 14,539 career passing yards and 104 career passing touchdowns in 54 games along with 1,677 career rushing yards and 17 NFL rushing touchdowns. Purely the fact that no one knows his status in the league even after his move to Cleveland means he can be nothing higher than second.
3. Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)
Burrow may have earned the ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ award, but Jackson is the only quarterback on this list to have won MVP.
Behind a bad offensive line, Jackson’s was at one point considered an MVP contender in the 2021 campaign but yet still had three more touchdowns than he did interceptions.
Lamar is an excellent quarterback when using his feet, by far the best at doing so not only in this division but also the entire NFL. However, his passing is still yet to convince the majority.
He has never had a 4,000-yard season, with the most yards of his career 3,127 back in 2019. There is no doubt that Jackson would have beaten these numbers in 2021 had injury not occurred, a campaign that finally saw him get the better of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
This does not even make the top 250 for passing yards in a single season. In fact, 250th placed Jake Delhomme recorded 3,886 yards in 2004 with the Carolina Panthers. This is 759 more than than Lamar’s best ever passing season (2019).
The fact that his best passing yards total in a season, which was his MVP campaign, is 759 behind the 250th best ever passing yards total in a season shows the limitations of Lamar when throwing the ball.
Lamar is a quarterback that is fun to watch, arguably in the top three most aesthetically pleasing to watch in the NFL at the position. However, his passing is yet to convince and even though he is great at the ground game, his all-round game is behind Burrow and Watson.
4. Mitchell Trubisky (Pittsburgh Steelers)
The easiest choice on this list. Whilst it would be hard to argue against any of the other three quarterbacks being ranked number one, Trubisky is by far the worst of the four.
He is a great candidate for Comeback Player of the Year considering that he now is working under a brilliant head coach in Mike Tomlin. He spent most of his time with the Chicago Bears coached by Matt Nagy and Mike Tomlin coached the Steelers to 8-8 with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges as their starting QBs.
We should be set for a much-improved Trubisky, who could play his best football of his career, just like Jameis Winston did under Sean Payton last season before his injury. However, due to the sheer talent of the other three players in this list, Trubisky is bottom of this list.