5. AFC West
I can’t say enough positive things about Derek Carr this season. The Raiders QB slipped into the second round of the NFL draft in 2014 simply because he shares a last name with his brother, Derek, who has (unfairly) gone down in history as one of the league's biggest busts. Yet despite all that, Carr has proven this season that he’s this league’s next star QB. His 13 game-tying or go-ahead TD passes in the fourth quarter or overtime in the last two seasons are six more TDs than the QB who places second on that list. In the fourth quarter of games this year, he’s completing 67.8% of his passes, with 10 TDs and 1 INT (122.5 QB rating). He’s the real deal—I wont even hold it against him that his dislocated pinky made me queasy for days.
What brings this division down is not Carr, obviously, but rather the three other QBs who are having average to below average seasons. Alex Smith has had an amazingly confusing career. He somehow just keeps winning. I truly don’t understand it. Sure, he’s very accurate and doesn’t turn the ball over much. But his average pass attempt this year has gone 6.64 yards and when he throws a touchdown we are all genuinely surprised. I appreciate Smith’s career, from a pure improbability standpoint, but I’m not sure if his teams win because of him or in spite of him. Philip Rivers, on the other hand, has had a very under-appreciated career due to almost always being on bad Chargers teams. But this has not been his finest campaign: his completion percentage is down this year and his interception rate is up. And he’s had a sharp decline over his last five games (nine interceptions, QBR of 81.6). And Trevor Siemian, well, I don’t even know what to say about Trevor Siemian. After I Googled who he was at the beginning of the year, I expected him to crash and burn this season, and he hasn’t done exactly that. He also hasn’t been exactly good. Actually, he hasn’t even been very close to average. But he’s been good enough in many games to keep the Broncos in the playoff hunt. But one great quarterback, with three average to below-average quarterbacks gets you fifth place in my book.