The QB position may be about to face its biggest shake-up around the league in years, as starting veterans retire or move elsewhere, new faces are drafted in and long-serving backups finally achieve the promotion they so desire. Here is my view on the week 1 starting QBs in the AFC North in September 2021 from most certain to least…
The Baltimore Ravens: Home-run here, despite the mid-season team slump, Lamar Jackson has continued to be a revelation at QB for the Ravens. Statistically he’s not as good as 2019, but the team as a whole hasn’t be quite as dependable around him. He’s still averaging 65 rushing yards per game, rarely turns the ball over and has a healthy 64% completion on passes. Further to the point, hes won 29 of 36 regular season starts since 2018 (80.5%) bettered only by Mahomes in the same stretch (82.61%). Build around his strengths and enjoy the success thats bound to come.
The Cleveland Browns: Will they end the longest post-season drought since time began? Can Baker and co. do enough to finally lay the playoff ghost to rest? Who knows (you may actually know by the time you read this), what we can say for sure is Baker Mayfield has answered his critics. He’s posted 22+ TDs in each of his three season, has cut his INTs by half since ’18 and appears to have greatly matured along the way. I like the fact he takes responsibility when the team fails to produce the results they ought to, I like that he seems happy to let Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt take a chunk of the limelight on offense and I like the direction that he and the team are taking under Kevin Stefanski. Well done Baker, you’ve made Cleveland QBs respectable again.
Cincinnati Bengals: Ok, Ok, Joe Burrow is the Future under centre for the oft-beleaguered Bengals, but he wont be starting week 1 next season due to injury. The Bengals have career-backup Brandon Allen filling in the role for now (69% pass comp, 5TDs 2INTs in 4 games) and have also started former 4th rd pick Ryan Finley (53% 1TD 2INTs). Neither of these players scream “winner” but Allen at least seems able to utilise the offense and hold the fort. The issue here is he isn’t under contact for 2021, but for a veteran minimum (or there abouts) he could find himself starting 8-10 games next season in a show-case scenario. So, come on Bengals, do the sensible thing. For once. Please..! Keeping Finley as insurance makes sense as he’s also cheap and at least knows the offense. This way the Bengals can concentrate their draft and financial capital on the other 46 holes they have on the roster whilst waiting for the prodigal son to return to fitness. Sorry Bengals fans, you may have to write- off 2021 before it starts.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The reason the Steelers are last here is because nobody knows whether Big Ben will want to return for 2021, or indeed whether he should. There are questions around his fitness (always) his motivation (often) and the structure of his contract ($41 million against the cap in 2021). Each of these could be enough to think the team has to look elsewhere for next year, but neither of the backups, Mason Rudolph/Joshua Dobbs, are the answer and the Steelers project to pick around 28th, so instant QB success isn’t predictable from the draft either. IF Ben wants to return then the calculators and negotiators best start talking in an attempt to make it viable. Right now I’ll pick Roethlisberger as the starter but this isn’t much of a lock. It wouldn’t take much to see this get ugly, descending into a fight over money, legacy and control. Just a hunch.