Quarterback Merry-Go-Round

This has been a very unusual year for quarterbacks in the NFL.  A large rookie class (six quarterbacks in the top 36 picks) is getting a lot of playing time early, and there has been a revolving door in many other cities.  Plus, apparently Week Seven is the NFL’s unofficial Change Your QB Week.  Here’s a quick review of who’s in and who’s out for this weekend, starting with the voluntary changes and then the injuries.

Broncos Tebow, Redskins Beck, Vikings Ponder

The Denver Broncos, after endless chanting from the fans and some ho-hum play by Kyle Orton, have elected to give Tim Tebow the start this week.  Kyle Orton had been ranked 29th in the league in QB efficiency, and was averaging under 200 yards per game.

Tebow has been effective in the limited action he has seen so far this year.  Plus, starting at 0-5 Miami on a night when they are honoring Tebow’s Florida national championship team gives him a big shot in the arm.

Prediction:  Tebow looks good and pulls out the win.

In Washington, after a long, tough quarterback battle in the preseason, Mike Shanahan has flip-flopped liked so many Washington politicians.  He has elected to switch starters this week as well, sitting Rex Grossman in favor of John Beck.  Grossman has been even less effective than Orton in Denver, and is ranked number 32 in QB efficiency.  Beck gets his first start since 2007.

Beck looked solid in the preseason and faces a Carolina team that is 11th against the pass but 31st against the run, giving up over 140 yards per game.  Expect Shanahan to limit Beck’s exposure and grind out as much ground yardage as possible.

Prediction:  Solid game for Beck with some help from the running game.  As long as he avoids any major errors, Washington pull out the win.

In Minnesota, head coach Leslie Frazier has decided it’s time to put his rookie quarterback in the game and sit six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb.  Vikings first round draft pick (12th overall) Christian Ponder will get the start this week against the Green Bay Packers.  Minnesota has the third best rushing attack in the game with Adrian Peterson, but the 31st ranked passing attack.

This is the most inexplicable of the voluntary QB changes for the week.  While the Vikings have been disappointing at 1-5, and the passing attack has failed to produce as expected, this seems like an odd time to make a change.  McNabb has not been performing nearly as poorly as the other QBs who are getting seated this week (he is currently 19th in the league in QB efficiency, just ahead of the Jets’ Mark Sanchez).

Also, if you believe it’s time to get your rookie on the field, starting him against the World Champions in his first game seems like a dangerous spot to put him in.  The Green Bay defense does a good job getting after the quarterback.  They are second in the league in interceptions and tied for 10th in sacks.  They have been giving up 300 yards passing per game, but that is largely because they have been ahead in every game and teams have been forced to throw to try to catch up.

Prediction:  Packers stay undefeated easily, and hopefully Ponder doesn’t get hurt in the process.

In St. Louis, Sam Bradford has not practiced all week and is listed as questionable for this weekend’s game at Dallas.  If Bradford isn’t able to go, A.J. Feeley will get the start in his first game since 2007 as well.

It’s not an enviable job to step into, as Bradford has now passed Jay Cutler for taking the most sacks in the league with 21.  And that’s in one less game, as St. Louis has already had their bye week.  Twenty-one sacks in 5 games is astonishing.  Maybe people should start being a little more concerned about Bradford surviving the season as well.

St. Louis is facing a Dallas defense that is the best in the league at stopping the run and tied for 8th with 16 sacks.

Prediction:  Whether it is Bradford or Feeley, it’s a long afternoon for St. Louis

In Seattle, quarterback Tavaris Jackson is listed as doubtful with a pectoral injury, and while he won’t be out for an extended period, Charlie Whitehurst will get the start this week against the Cleveland Browns.  Incidentally, prior to playing in six games last year, Whitehurst hadn’t played since 2006.  Apparently, a 4 hour hiatus as a backup quarterback is more common than you might think.

Seattle is ranked 26th in rushing and 29th in passing, and faces a Cleveland defense ranked 4th in the league at stopping the pass.  Plus Seattle has been pretty porous up front, Jackson has been sacked 18 times, tied for 3rd in the league.

Prediction:  Tough outing for Whitehurst, and Cleveland sneaks out the win.

Finally, after losing Jason Campbell to a broken collarbone, the Raiders went out and picked up Carson Palmer in a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals.  We know Campbell is out, but there has been no decision yet on whether Palmer will start this week after only 4 days with the team, or if backup Kyle Boller gets the start.

Either way, the 4-2 Raiders have the advantage of their second ranked rushing attack, combined with the fact that they are facing the 2-3 Kansas City Chiefs.

Prediction:  Whether it’s Palmer or Boller, the Raiders get the win on the strength of Darren McFadden’s legs.

That’s a lot of quarterback turmoil for one week.  It seemed to all start with the loss of Peyton Manning to neck surgery in the preseason, breaking his 208 game consecutive start streak.  Perhaps the end of the streak has somehow triggered a cosmic re-alignment at the QB position.  At least Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers seem to be immune to it… at least, so far.

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