- Gary Horton, Scouts Inc.
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Last year's Super Bowl MVP, Eli Manning, barely cracks the top five -- but it is tough to argue with putting Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner or Philip Rivers at the top of our ranking of playoff quarterbacks. QB looks to be an equalizer because these three quarterbacks are on teams that are ranked No. 8 (Colts), No. 9 (Rivers) and No. 10 (Cardinals) overall in the Scouts Inc. playoff power rankings of position groups and coaching staffs.
Manning has recently put this team on his back after a slow start. He still reads defenses better than anybody, makes pre-snap reads and gets the ball to all of his weapons. Nobody is better at moving his playmakers around to create favorable matchups, and he is still a master of the little things, such as ball handling and play fakes.
Led by veteran Warner, this is potentially the most prolific pass offense in the playoffs, but it faded badly down the stretch. The Cardinals love their three-receiver sets, and without a dependable run game, this passing game doesn't even try to fool you. Warner will throw on any down off a lot of three- or five-step drops to negate the rush, and when defenses want to come after him, he will read the blitz and get the ball out quickly.
Rivers carried his offense down the stretch and finished the season as one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league. This team has shifted its philosophy and become a pass-first offense led by Rivers, rather than relying on RB LaDainian Tomlinson. He is fiery and tough, plays well under pressure, and can make enough plays to make the Chargers dangerous.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
18hEric D. Williams