- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Which quarterback would you prefer leading your team in the postseason?
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's one-and-done exit from the playoffs leaves a huge gap between the remaining playoff quarterbacks in the AFC. The field is pretty much Brady, who has three rings, and everyone else.
Tebow, Flacco and Yates have all been inconsistent this season. Brady is the only Pro Bowler of the group and proven commodity who has played well deep into the playoffs.
Here is our ranking of the four remaining AFC playoff quarterbacks:
1. Tom Brady, Patriots
2011 stats: 5,235 yards, 39 TDs, 12 INTs
Analysis: Brady is elite, and he's far and away the best quarterback remaining in the AFC playoffs. New England relies on Brady more than ever, and he produced the second most passing yards in NFL history this season. The only two quarterbacks in Brady's class are in the NFC: Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. The chances of Tebow, Yates or Flacco outperforming Brady in the playoffs are slim -- and that is a huge advantage for New England. Last month we predicted the Patriots would win the AFC and advance to Super Bowl in Indianapolis. The Brady factor is the biggest reason. As long as Brady performs well, New England will be tough to beat, especially at Gillette Stadium.
2. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
2011 stats: 3,610, 20 TDs, 12 INTs
Analysis: Flacco is notorious for not playing well in the playoffs. He has a chance to buck that trend with second-seeded Baltimore this season. Flacco's natural ability puts him at No. 2 on our list of remaining starting quarterbacks in the AFC. He can make all the throws. Flacco just hasn't done it in the playoffs. This has been somewhat of a strange season for Flacco. In some ways he's taken a step back. His passer rating, completion percentage, yards and touchdowns all dropped from the previous year. But Baltimore is winning and needs Flacco to step up his game in the playoffs.
3. Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos
2011 stats: 1,729 yards, 12 TDs, six INTs
Analysis: Was Tebow's passing performance against Pittsburgh a fluke, or has he turned the corner? Tebow made some big throws in the playoffs and finished with a career-high 316 yards and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh showed no respect for Tebow's arm and paid for it. Statistically it was a sound strategy, considering Tebow's 46.5 completion percentage this season. But Tebow has proven he can win games, despite his QBR being ranked 32nd out of 34 quarterbacks. But Tebow is still playing when a lot of quarterbacks with better numbers are sitting at home.
4. T.J. Yates, Houston Texans
2011 stats: 949 yards, three TDs, three INTs
Analysis: Yates, a rookie fifth-round pick, is ranked last of the remaining AFC playoff quarterbacks. He only has six starts under his belt and is 3-3 in those games. Fortunately for the Texans, they have a great running game that can protect Yates. That is paramount against Baltimore, because Yates most likely will not win with his arm. The best strategy for Houston is to try to run the ball well and hope Yates can make a few big plays through the air. Houston Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson is a tough matchup for Baltimore if Yates can get him the football. The Yates-to-Johnson combo worked great last week in eliminating the Cincinnati Bengals.