With simply 5 video games remaining within the 2023-24 common season, a number of groups are getting into crucial stretch of the yr as a handful of outfits in every convention jockey for place with a restricted variety of playoff spots nonetheless up for grabs.
As many as 9 groups may very well be competing for 3 spots within the AFC, with six groups seemingly vying for the ultimate two spots over within the NFC. A few of these golf equipment have comparatively wholesome rosters for this late juncture of the season, however others have needed to depend on the power of their depth chart to hold them.
Right here’s a have a look at the 5 backup quarterbacks who might have the largest affect on potential playoff races:
1. Joe Flacco, Cleveland Browns
Regardless of beginning 4 totally different QBs this season, the Browns are proper there within the thick of the AFC playoff image. The AFC North is arguably one of the best division in soccer proper now, with all 4 groups having a file of .500 or higher and three of them – Baltimore (No. 2 seed), Pittsburgh (No. 5 seed) and Cleveland (No. 6 seed) – occupying one of many seven playoff spots.
At 7-5, the Browns are in a reasonably stable place, however they do have three robust video games left on their schedule towards the Jaguars (8-4), Texans (7-5) and Bengals (6-6). Flacco appeared stable in his first begin of the yr this previous Sunday (254 yards, two touchdowns), however he’s going to should play nearly as good, if not higher, for the subsequent 5 weeks to maintain the Browns within the hunt. With the No. 1-ranked protection within the NFL, Cleveland needs to be in each sport, however the query most are questioning is whether or not Flacco has sufficient left within the tank to experience that protection to the postseason.
2. Jake Browning, Cincinnati Bengals
When Joe Burrow was dominated out for the remainder of the season following a Week 11 loss to the Ravens, many had written the Bengals off as a critical playoff contender. However after Browning’s spectacular 354-yard efficiency in a 34-31 extra time win over the Jaguars final week, Cincy out of the blue has life in a aggressive AFC.
With the weapons the Bengals have (Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon), there’s no scarcity of targets. Whereas he’s not anyplace near being on Burrow’s degree, Browning could be serviceable sufficient to assist the Bengals squeak into the playoffs. Even when Cincy doesn’t make it, Browning has an opportunity to at the very least play spoiler with video games towards Indianapolis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Kansas Metropolis and Cleveland – all of that are battling for playoff seeding – to shut out the season.
3. Joshua Dobbs, Minnesota Vikings
Identical to with Browning, the Vikings’ playoff hopes seemed to be gone when Kirk Cousins was misplaced for the season after Week 8. However Dobbs has stepped in admirably in his absence, main Minnesota to a 2-2 file since taking up because the starter after being acquired on the commerce deadline on Oct. 31.
Although his final two outings haven’t been fairly – three touchdowns to 5 interceptions in a pair of losses – Dobbs’ dual-threat skill seemingly provides Minnesota an opportunity in each sport. Sadly, three of the Vikings last 5 video games are towards the Lions (two) and Packers, so if the Vikings do sneak into the playoffs, they’ll should earn it and Dobbs must be on his sport.
4. Gardner Minshew, Indianapolis Colts
Only one sport separates the Jaguars, Colts and Texans for first place within the AFC South. The Jags are reeling after accidents to Trevor Lawrence and Christian Kirk, opening the door for Indy and Houston to strike. However of the 2, it may be argued the Texans have the simpler path to the playoffs with video games towards the Colts and Browns essentially the most tough ones left on their schedule.
Conversely, the Colts have the Texans, Bengals and Steelers (all preventing for the playoffs), they’re with out operating again Jonathan Taylor in the meanwhile and so they have the much less environment friendly QB. Minshew has completed a stable job filling in for Anthony Richardson, however he’s averaging an interception per sport over his final seven and he’s struggled towards groups with good move defenses.
5. Mitch Trubisky, Pittsburgh Steelers
With Kenny Pickett present process ankle surgical procedure, it’s as much as Trubisky to maintain the ship afloat in his absence. The Steelers are 7-5 and their solely simple matchup left this yr is Thursday’s showdown with the New England Patriots. After that, they’ve Indy, Cincinnati, Seattle and Baltimore.
If Trubisky begins most or all of these video games, the Steelers are going to wish some critical assist from their run sport and protection. Pittsburgh has misplaced all three video games Trubisky has performed on this season and he’s barely finishing 59% of his passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s not the sort of quarterback who will exit and win video games by himself, so Pittsburgh will seemingly be holding its breath till Pickett returns.
Honorable point out
C.J. Beathard, Jacksonville Jaguars: If Lawrence misses a major period of time, Beathard is the subsequent man up. The Jags maintain a one-game lead over the Texans and Colts within the AFC South and with 5 video games remaining, they’ll’t afford to let both staff achieve any floor on them down the stretch.