In the wake of Peyton Manning's brilliant performance Thursday night, it seems a good time to take a closer look at the four quarterbacks who'll be under center this weekend for the teams in the NFC North.
Manning set the bar high after leading the Broncos to a, 49-27, victory over the Super Bowl-defending Ravens. He threw for 462 yards and an NFL record-tying seven -- count them seven -- touchdowns.
Quarterbacks: Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt; Josh McCown, Sam Houston State
Starter: Jay Cutler
2012 stats: 255 of 434 (58.8), 3,033 yards, 19 TDs, 14 INTs, 81.3 rating
Key stat: Cutler threw for 300-plus yards just one time last year in a Week 1 win vs. Indianapolis
Primary weapons: WR Brandon Marshall, RB Matt Forte, WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Martellus Bennett
Opponent: Cincinnati (No. 7 against the pass in 2012)
Analysis: This is a new offense for Cutler under head coach Marc Trestman and it's predicated on timely throws and quick decisions. For a quarterback who's been sacked 156 times since he joined the Bears in 2009, that has to be a welcomed change. This is the year we find out if Cutler is a quarterback. Can he limit turnovers, move the offense and make the right decisions? In this offense, he doesn't have to do it all, he just has to manage it properly.
Starter: Matthew Stafford
2012 stats: 435 of 727 (59.8), 4,967 yards, 20 TDs, 17 INTs, 79.8 rating
Key stat: Stafford completed 67 passes of 20-plus yards, the most in the NFL last year
Opponent: Minnesota (No. 24 against pass in 2012)
Analysis: Stafford underwent the largest one-year decline in touchdown passes in the NFL last year, when he dropped from 41 in 2011 to 20 last season. The rushing touchdowns were up for the team, but this is a passing offense, and everything runs through Stafford. If the Lions are going to make another run at the playoffs, Stafford's touchdowns need to be in the 30-plus range.
Quarterbacks: Seneca Wallace, Iowa State; Aaron Rodgers, California
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
2012 stats: 371 of 552 (67.2), 4,295 yards, 39 TDs, 8 INTs, 108.0 rating
Key stat: Rodgers had a passer rating of 117.6 inside the opponent's 30-yard line last year. That was the highest percentage in the NFL.
Primary weapons: WR Randall Cobb, WR Jordy Nelson; WR James Jones; TE Jermicheal Finley
Opponent: San Francisco (No. 4 against the pass in 2012)
Analysis: Rodgers is one of the four elite quarterbacks in this league. Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are the other three. Rodgers could be scary good this year if his trio of receivers can stay healthy and the Packers form some semblance of a rushing attack with Eddie Lacy and Co. behind him. If his revamped offensive line can protect him, Rodgers will be in the MVP race.
Quarterbacks: McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Sacramento State; Matt Cassel, Southern California; Christian Ponder, Florida State
Starter: Christian Ponder
2012 stats: 300 of 483 (62.1), 2,935 yards, 18 TDs, 12 INTs, 81.2 rating
Key stat: Ponder led the Vikings' offense to 51 points on opening drives last year. That was tops in the league.
Primary weapons: RB Adrian Peterson, WR Greg Jennings, WR Cordarrelle Patterson; TE Kyle Rudolph
Opponent: Detroit (No. 14 against pass in 2012)
Analysis: This is really a make-or-break year for Ponder. The Vikings don't need a quarterback who has to win them the game. They just need one who won't lose it. They have the best running back on the planet in Adrian Peterson and he gives the passing game so many opportunities. Let Peterson run and take shots downfield when they're there. Ponder does that, and he'll be the quarterback of the future. If he doesn't, the Vikings will look elsewhere.