QUARTERBACKS TAKE CENTER STAGE AS NFL SEASON KICKS OFF
Quarterbacks throughout the NFL find themselves in the spotlight, all hoping to lead their teams to a berth in Super Bowl XLIX on February 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona.
Last season, quarterbacks around the league posted impressive numbers. The league-wide passer rating (86.0) and touchdown pass totals (804) were both all-time highs. Games averaged 471.2 net passing yards per game, the highest in NFL history. There were 24 individual 400-yard passing games in 2013, the most in a season, and seven quarterbacks posted a 100+ passer rating, also the most ever. And 17 of the 32 NFL teams (53.1 percent) started the same quarterback in every game, the third-most of any season since at least 1970.
A team-by-team look at the NFC’s projected starting quarterbacks on Kickoff Weekend:
ARIZONA: CARSON PALMER enters his second season with the Cardinals after passing for 4,274 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. Palmer, the No. 1 overall selection by Cincinnati in 2003, is the only player in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards with three teams (Cincinnati, 2006-07; Oakland, 2012; Arizona, 2013). Entering his 12th season, Palmer has completed 2,930 of 4,682 attempts (62.6 percent) for 33,739 yards with 213 touchdowns and 152 interceptions for an 85.9 passer rating. Over the final nine games of the 2013 season, Palmer led Arizona to a 7-2 record and completed 201 of 306 passes (65.7 percent) for 2,533 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a 96.5 passer rating.
ATLANTA: Seventh-year quarterback MATT RYAN passed for 4,515 yards last season and aims for his fourth consecutive 4,000-yard season. Ryan holds single-season franchise records for attempts (651 in 2013), completions (439 in 2013), completion percentage (68.6 in 2012), yards (4,719 in 2012) and touchdowns (32 in 2012). A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Ryan has posted a 60-34 career record (.638) as the team’s starting quarterback, including a 36-10 mark (.783) at home. Ryan holds the franchise record for the highest career passer rating with a 90.6 mark and his 23,472 passing yards are the most in team history. His 153 career passing touchdowns are one shy of the club record.
CAROLINA: CAM NEWTON, the No. 1 overall selection in 2011, has passed for 11,299 yards and rushed for 2,032 yards in his first three seasons. He is the only player in NFL history to pass for at least 10,000 yards and rush for 2,000 yards in his first three years. Newton’s 13,331 combined passing and rushing yards are the most ever by a player in his first three seasons. Newton, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, is the only player in league history with at least 50 passing touchdowns (64) and 25 rushing touchdowns (28) in his first three seasons. His 92 combined touchdowns are the second-most all-time in a player’s first three seasons, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (100).
CHICAGO: Ninth-year veteran JAY CUTLER will make his sixth consecutive Kickoff Weekend start for the Bears. In five seasons with Chicago, Cutler ranks first in franchise history in career passer rating (83.1), completions (1,258), attempts (2,090), passing yards (14,913) and passing yards per game (222.6) and is second in passing touchdowns (101). He has five career 3,000-yard seasons, including three with the Bears. Cutler is the only player in franchise history with three 3,000-yard seasons (2009, 2010, 2012). In his career (including the playoffs), Cutler’s teams are 28-3 (.903) when he records a passer rating of at least 100.
DALLAS: TONY ROMO begins his 12th NFL season with a career 63-45 (.583) record as the team’s starter. Last year, Romo started 15 games and threw 31 touchdown passes, tied for the second-most in a single season in franchise history. Romo is the only Cowboys quarterback to throw at least 30 touchdown passes in a season and has accomplished the feat three times (2007, 2011, 2013). A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Romo owns the only four 4,000-yard passing seasons in team annals. He has a career 95.8 passer rating, the best in club history and the fifth-highest mark in NFL annals (minimum 1,500 attempts).
DETROIT: MATTHEW STAFFORD, the No.1 overall selection in 2009, will start on Kickoff Weekend for the sixth consecutive season. Last year, Stafford started all 16 games and passed for 4,650 yards. It marked his third consecutive 4,500-yard season and he is the only Lions quarterback to pass for at least 4,500 yards in a single season. Stafford is the only player in NFL history to record three 4,500-yard seasons in his first five years to begin a career. Since 2011, Stafford has passed for 14,655 yards, the second-most in the NFL during that span, trailing only Drew Brees. In just five seasons, Stafford is already the franchise leader in completions (1,485), attempts (2,497) and passing yards (17,457).
GREEN BAY: AARON RODGERS begins his seventh consecutive season as the Packers’ starting quarterback. Last year, he posted a 104.9 passer rating and Rodgers is the only player in NFL history to post a 100+ rating in five consecutive seasons (2009-13). His career 104.9 passer rating is the highest mark in NFL history (minimum 1,500 attempts) and Rodgers also ranks first all-time in career interception percentage (1.76) and TD/INT ratio (3.62). Rodgers, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl in three of the past five years, ranks third in NFL history in career completion percentage (65.8) and yards per attempt (8.19). In 87 career starts, he has posted a 58-29 record (.667).
MINNESOTA: Entering his 10th NFL season, MATT CASSEL will make his first Kickoff Weekend start for the Vikings. Last season, his first with Minnesota, Cassel appeared in nine games, including six starts. In Week 15, Cassel passed for 382 yards with a 116.6 passer rating in a 48-30 win against Philadelphia. In his career, Cassel has posted a passer rating of at least 100 in 20 games and his teams are 15-5 (.750). A seventh-round pick by New England in the 2005 NFL Draft, Cassel has played in 87 games – making 68 starts – with the Patriots (2005-2008), Kansas City Chiefs (2009-2012) and Vikings (2013).
NEW ORLEANS: DREW BREES passed for 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns last year as he earned his eighth career Pro Bowl selection. Entering his ninth year in New Orleans, he has passed for at least 4,000 yards in each of the past eight seasons – the top eight passing totals in club history – and is the only player in NFL history with multiple 5,000-yard seasons (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013) and consecutive such seasons (2011, 2012, 2013). There have been eight 5,000-yard passing performances all-time and Brees owns half of them (four). Over the past four seasons, Brees has passed for 20,435 yards and is the only player in league annals to pass for at least 20,000 yards in a four-year span.
NEW YORK GIANTS: ELI MANNING, the No. 1 overall selection in 2004, has led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories (XLII, XLVI) and is one of only five players in NFL history to win multiple Super Bowl MVP honors. He has started 151 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Last year, Manning passed for 3,818 yards and he is the only player in team history to throw for at least 3,000 yards in nine consecutive seasons. Entering his 11th season, Manning is the franchise career leader in attempts (5,008), completions (2,929), yards (35,345) and touchdowns (229). He ranks second in team annals with 85 wins and has compiled an 85-66 career record (.563).
PHILADELPHIA: Entering his third season, NICK FOLES will start on Kickoff Weekend for the first time in his career. Last year, Foles completed 203 of 317 passes (64.0 percent) for 2,891 yards with 27 touchdowns and two interceptions for a league-best 119.2 passer rating, the third-best in a single season all time. His 13.5 TD/INT ratio is the highest in NFL history. In Week 9, Foles completed 22 of 28 passes (78.6 percent) for 406 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions for a 158.3 passer rating, the highest attainable mark. Foles tied the single-game record with seven TD passes and is the only player in league annals to pass for seven touchdowns and post a 158.3 rating in the same game.
ST. LOUIS: Thirteen-year veteran SHAUN HILL will make his first start since the 2010 season with Detroit (January 2, 2011). In his career, he has appeared in 34 games with 26 starts. He has completed 591 of 954 passes (61.9 percent) for 6,381 yards with 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions for an 85.9 passer rating. In 2010, Hill started a career-high 10 games and completed 257 of 416 passes (61.8 percent) for 2,686 yards with 16 touchdowns. Hill will be making his second career start on Kickoff Weekend. He started the 2009 season opener for San Francisco and led the 49ers to a 20-16 victory over Arizona.
SAN FRANCISCO: As the team’s starting quarterback over the past two years, COLIN KAEPERNICK has posted a 21-8 record (.724), including a 4-2 mark (.667) in the postseason. Last season, Kaepernick started all 16 games and passed for 3,197 yards with 21 touchdowns and rushed for 524 yards with four touchdowns. Kaepernick was one of three quarterbacks last year with at least 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards (Cam Newton, Russell Wilson). In his 29 career starts (including the postseason), Kaepernick has passed for 6,179 yards with 38 touchdowns and rushed for 1,269 yards with 10 touchdowns.
SEATTLE: RUSSELL WILSON led the Seahawks to the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship last year and became the fourth quarterback to win a Super Bowl in his first or second season in the league. Wilson guided Seattle to a 13-3 record in 2013 and his 24 victories are the most by a quarterback in his first two seasons during the Super Bowl era. Wilson, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons, posted a 101.2 passer rating last year and is the only player in NFL history to record a 100+ rating in both his rookie and second season. He threw 26 touchdown passes last year and his 52 career TD passes are tied for the second-most by a player in his first two seasons in NFL annals.
TAMPA BAY: Entering his 12th season, JOSH MC COWN will make his first start as a Buccaneer on Kickoff Weekend. Last year with Chicago, McCown appeared in eight games, including five starts, and completed 149 of 224 passes (66.5 percent) for 1,829 yards with 13 touchdowns and one interception for a career-best 109.0 passer rating. McCown’s interception percentage (.045) is the second-best mark in NFL history. In his five starts last season, he completed 127 of 191 passes (66.5 percent) for 1,543 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception for a 108.2 passer rating. McCown had three 300-yard games in those five starts and posted a passer rating of at least 90 in all five games.
WASHINGTON: ROBERT GRIFFIN III, the 2012 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, has passed for at least 3,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. He will make his third consecutive Kickoff Weekend start for the Redskins. In his first two years, Griffin has completed 532 of 849 passes (62.7 percent) for 6,403 yards with 36 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for a 91.5 passer rating. He has also rushed for 1,304 yards with seven touchdowns. Griffin, who was selected to the Pro Bowl following his rookie season in 2012, is the only NFL player over the past two years with at least 6,000 passing yards, a 90.0 passer rating and 1,300 rushing yards.