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Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Credentials speak for themselves

By Greg Garber
ESPN.com

NFL Hot Read

Here's a breakdown of the Class of 2012's leading quarterbacks:

Andrew Luck

There are scouts around the league who will tell you Luck is already approaching the top 10 among league quarterbacks.

Not only has he led the recently horrible Indianapolis Colts to a 6-4 record, but they have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs.

The Stanford product ranks third this season in Total QBR, ESPN's quarterback rating system. Only venerable Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (seven Super Bowl appearances between them) rate ahead of his 75.6.

Luck, at 6-foot-4, 234 pounds, has a physical, Roethlisberger-like presence in the pocket. Even when he was under siege by the Patriots in Week 11, he kept his eyes on downfield targets.

His average pass has traveled 10.2 yards downfield, the longest distance in the NFL.

Luck has also run for five touchdowns, one fewer than Robert Griffin III and as many as Cam Newton and Michael Vick combined.

Signature win: In his second career start, Luck led the Colts to a dramatic 23-20 victory over Minnesota. With the score tied at 20, he completed back-to-back passes for 20 yards each, then drew the Vikings offside before spiking the ball. Adam Vinatieri hit the winning 53-yard field goal with eight seconds left.


Robert Griffin III

Granted, it was only the Eagles, but the 6-foot-2, 217-pounder from Baylor was very nearly perfect in Sunday's romp. His passer rating was the maximum possible, 158.3, after he completed 14 of 15 passes. With his sprinter's speed, he also rushed 12 times for 84 yards.

"Well," said Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, tongue in cheek, "except for that one incompletion, I thought he was OK."

The 4-6 Redskins aren't out of the NFC East race yet. Griffin has been remarkably efficient, throwing 12 touchdown passes with only three interceptions, five fewer than any of the other leading rookie quarterbacks, and nine fewer than Luck. Among quarterbacks with more than 200 passing attempts this season, Griffin is tied with Tom Brady for fewest interceptions.

Griffin follows Cam Newton and Vince Young as the third rookie to pass for more than 2,000 yards and run for more than 500. He leads this year's rookies with a 67.1 completion percentage and a passer rating of 101.0.

Last week, his teammates voted him a team captain for the rest of the season. Shanahan said it's the first time he has had a rookie with that title.

Signature win: In his first start, Griffin completed 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns as the Redskins beat the Saints 40-32.


Ryan Tannehill

The 6-foot-4, 221-pounder from Texas A&M will soon be the most prolific rookie quarterback in Miami Dolphins history.

This past week, he passed (as it were) Bob Griese's 1967 campaign and now has thrown for 2,120 yards in 10 games. He needs 91 yards against Seattle on Sunday to top Hall of Famer Dan Marino.

Tannehill and the Dolphins started a surprising 4-3 but have hit a bit of a wall in recent weeks. Tannehill looked very much like a rookie last Thursday in Buffalo, throwing two interceptions in the last two minutes with his team down by a score.

Signature win: In his second start, Tannehill completed 18 of 30 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. The Dolphins beat the Raiders 35-13.


Brandon Weeden

With just over a minute left Sunday, the former Oklahoma State quarterback had the lowly Cleveland Browns ahead of the Cowboys.

His 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ben Watson gave the Browns a precarious 20-17 lead at Cowboys Stadium. But it didn't stand; Dallas came back to kick two field goals, and Cleveland fell to 2-8.

Don't blame the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Weeden. He has thrown a respectable 11 touchdown passes, balanced by 12 interceptions, and amassed 2,298 passing yards. He will likely soon pass Tim Couch as the most prolific rookie passer in franchise history.

Signature win: The Browns scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat the Bengals 34-24 in Week 6, ending an 11-game losing streak. Weeden completed 17 of 29 passes, two of them for touchdowns.


Russell Wilson

This was supposed to be Matt Flynn's job.

The former Green Bay backup scalded the Lions in last year's season finale, with six touchdown passes and 480 yards, and became one of the league's most coveted free agents.

The Seattle Seahawks gave Flynn a three-year contract worth $26 million ($10 million of it guaranteed) and seemed to draft Wilson out of Wisconsin almost as an afterthought in the third round.

But it was Wilson who got the Week 1 start after a dazzling preseason, and he has been terrific. He's led Seattle to a 6-4 record, which includes upsets of the Packers and Patriots. Wilson has thrown 15 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. His passer rating of 90.5 is second only to Griffin among the Class of 2012.

Wilson, relatively undersized at 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, is particularly effective at home throwing the ball deep; he has completed 17 of his 29 passes of 15 yards or more, seven for touchdowns and none for interceptions.

Signature win(s): Take your pick of either the controversial 14-12 win over Green Bay in Week 3 or the equally riveting 24-23 victory over New England in Week 6. He threw five touchdowns in those two games -- and, amazingly, zero interceptions.