Three quarterbacks to watch in this NFL season


Aaron Rodgers with the Jets

The NFL is a quarterback league, so any meaningful analysis of an NFL team begins with the quarterback. The AFC is loaded with excellent quarterbacks, starting with Patrick Mahomes, Jow Burrow and Josh Allen, and the Chiefs, Bengals and Bills are favored to get back to the playoffs.

We can all be fairly confident of what those three players can deliver this season, but there’s another group of quarterbacks in the AFC that may help determine how this NFL season plays out.

In the cases discussed below, the quarterbacks have elite talent, but there are significant question marks as to whether they can perform at an elite level this season. If one or more of them can play at that level, their respective teams will have a good chance of advancing far in the AFC playoffs.

Aaron Rodgers

Nobody will question his talent, and the hype around the New York Jets has been intense since they traded for Rodgers. He’s a four-time league MVP, winning the award for the 2011, 2014, 2020, and 2021 NFL seasons. Rodgers is regarded as one of the all-time best to play the position.

When he’s on his game, few can play quarterback better than Aaron Rodgers. Despite that, he’s 39 years old, and there are legitimate questions around his commitment to the game. He had also been known to be a dedicated player, always putting in the work to maximize his talent.

But things seemed to change in the past couple of years. Rodgers has been making headlines for strange comments as opposed to on-field accomplishments. He flirted with retirement, fought with Packers management, and then forced a trade to the Jets.

He’s saying the right things now, but can we believe him? He signed an extension with the Jets, so he’s doing more than just saying the right things, but can he match the dedication we saw from Tom Brady late in his career? Rodgers has elite talent, but age catches up to you fast. What happens as the nagging injuries pile up and Rodgers faces the inevitable challenges of a first year with a new team and new receivers. Will he flake out?

The AFC East is a loaded division, so the play of Aaron Rodgers will have a huge impact on the results of that division and the entire AFC.

Lamar Alexander

Lamar may be the best athlete in the NFL. He’s probably the best improviser in NFL history at the quarterback position with his spectacular athleticism and rocket arm. His highlight reel can match most quarterbacks in NFL history.

Yet despite that tremendous physical ability and improvisational skills, he often struggles in the pocket. NFL defenses have completely shut him down at times. He’s also struggled in the playoffs, so he still needs to prove he can elevate a team to an elite level.

He generated plenty of drama this offseason with his contract situation, but things have quieted down this preseason.

The big question now is how will Jackson perform in Todd Monken’s new offense in Baltimore. In many ways, Jackson thrived in Greg Roman’s run-heavy offense, though he never developed into an elite passer in that system. Now he’ll have the chance to show he can thrive in a more wide-open passing game, but does that really fit his skill set? Many are just assuming Jackson will return to his MVP form and perhaps surpass it with this new offense, but it’s just as likely that he continues to struggle with a structured passing game. As a result, we could see a wide variety of outcomes for the Ravens in this 2023 NFL season.

Deshaun Watson

Watson might end up having the most impact of any quarterback this season. The Browns are loaded. Yes, you read that correctly. When analyzing NFL teams you need to get past the stereotypes in your head about different teams. Many people give the Ravens the benefit of the doubt, but assume the worst with the Browns. That could change this season.

Watson is as talented as any quarterback in the NFL, and he showed he can play at an elite level in this league. Yet he almost destroyed his career with idiotic off-field decisions.

Last year he served a well-deserved suspension and then returned for the last six games of the season with the Browns. It was a new team and a new system, and Watson looked pretty bad. He flashed some talent at times, but overall he looked like a player who hadn’t played for two seasons.

Now he’s had a full offseason with the Browns, and Kevin Stefanski has overhauled the offense to suit Watson’s talents. The Browns also brought in more weapons like Elijah Moore and spent big money on fixing the defense. If Watson returns to his old form, the Browns will do some serious damage in the AFC. Vegas seems to understand this with the Browns win total at 9.5 games.

2023 is shaping up to be another fun and unpredictable NFL season. Let’s see which teams emerge to be real contenders, and these three quarterbacks will ultimately have a lot to say about that.


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