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The Brandt Report

The best QB in each division: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers reign

League-wide rankings can be fun and even instructive, but at the end of the day, making the playoffs is about playing well in your division. So while it is obviously good to have a quarterback who is better than most of his peers, it can be even more important to have the best signal-caller in your particular football neighborhood.

Of course, this is also no guarantee of success -- just ask the Colts. But it should offer a leg up in the annual chase for postseason glory.

Below, I've listed the best quarterback in each division, in no particular order, along with the heir apparent or runner-up.

AFC EAST: Tom Brady, New England Patriots. The other three teams in the division will throw a party the day Brady retires. His collective career record against them is 76-21 (22-10 against Miami, 26-8 against New York and 28-3 against Buffalo), which makes for an absurdly dominant winning percentage of .784. He's directed the Patriots to an NFL-record 10 straight division crowns, and that streak might be even longer had he not been hurt for most of the 2008 season.

Next in line: Sam Darnold, New York Jets. Darnold is still just a rookie, but I think he's got a chance to be a pretty good quarterback and could step up as the division's alpha when (if?) Brady hangs 'em up.

AFC NORTH: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers. It's hard to imagine now, but people once feared Big Ben would have a relatively short career, given the beating he was taking under center. From 2004 (his rookie year) to 2009 (when he was sacked a league-high 50 times), he absorbed 242 sacks, easily more than anyone else in the NFL in that span. Since then, Big Ben has benefitted from steady line play and an offensive philosophy that emphasizes getting the ball out of his hand quickly. Consider that from 2013 to now, he's taken just 142 sacks, seventh-least among QBs with 50-plus starts in that time frame. He currently leads the NFL in passing yards (2,033) at age 36, and his presence -- combined with the lackluster quarterbacking elsewhere in the division -- is why Pittsburgh has won three of the past four division titles.

Next in line: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns. He's got everything you want in a quarterback: intangibles, arm strength, athletic ability and -- more than anything -- tremendous competitiveness.

AFC SOUTH: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts. I would say Luck hit the ground running in his return to game action after losing all of 2017 to shoulder issues. He's thrown a league-high 288 passes through six games, putting him on pace to breeze past the current regular-season record (727, set by Matthew Stafford in 2012) with 768 attempts. The 1-5 Colts are floundering, but Luck is clearly benefitting from the offensive system installed by new head coach Frank Reich. General manager Chris Ballard has shown he can draft talent, and I think Indy will put the pieces in place for Luck to resume winning at a prolific clip (don't forget, his record in his first three seasons was 33-15) by 2019.

Next in line: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans. He's played pretty well in his return from a torn ACL that abbreviated his rookie season, completing 64.5 percent of his passes and compiling a passer rating of 90.8. But he's also been sacked 25 times, most in the league, underscoring my one concern with him: his ability to stay healthy long-term.

AFC WEST: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers. As (understandably) eager as some are to anoint Patrick Mahomes, Rivers remains the king of the division -- for now. The 36-year-old has thrown 15 touchdown passes in his first six games, tying a career best for his first six games in a season, and he has 76 scoring throws since 2016, more than any other quarterback in the NFL. The Chargers' system is taking full advantage of what Rivers can do. If tight end Hunter Henrymanages to return from injured reserve this year, Rivers -- who loves throwing to tight ends -- will elevate his play even further.

Next in line: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs. Mahomes' promise is obvious, but I think he needs a full season under his belt before he can push Rivers aside. There were times on Sunday when he was fooled by the Pats' D -- tactics that Rivers' veteran experience would have probably helped him see through.

NFC EAST: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles. Based on what we saw on "Thursday Night Football," -- 26 of 36 passing for 278 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 122.2 -- Wentz is really starting to regain the form that made him a frontrunner for MVP before suffering a knee injury last December. In fact, Wentz is currently on pace to finish with 4,172 passing yards, easily more than what he had in 2017 (3,296), and he's maintaining a healthy touchdown percentage of 5.1 while bringing his interception percentage down to a minuscule 0.6. I expect Wentz to continue to improve. The concern (if any) stems from the loss of running back Jay Ajayito injured reserve.

Next in line: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys. Wentz, like Prescott, is just 25, so it's easy to foresee Wentz continuing to be the man in this division for a generation. Should something happen to Wentz, however, Prescott could step into the void, provided he can rediscover the 2016 version of himself -- which would require the Cowboys to find him some receivers.

NFC NORTH: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers. Hands down, Rodgers is the choice here. Though it's been true for nearly a decade, Monday's incredible comeback win over the Niners further reinforced the idea that as Rodgers goes, so go the Packers. Injuries have been a bit of an issue lately, with a knee issue lingering this season. But the 34-year-old is still on pace to record his first 5,000-yard season, and I still expect him to play at a very high level well beyond his 40th birthday.

Next in line: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions. It's unfortunate for Stafford that he's in the same division as Rodgers, because Stafford is very good in his own right. He's only 30 years old now and has a long career still ahead of him; if Rodgers should slow down, Stafford will be there to take up the mantle.

NFC SOUTH: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints. The NFL's all-time leading passer has a good chance to secure his second Super Bowl title with the Saints. If you've become inured to praise of Brees' quarterback play, perhaps you'd like to view his otherworldly performance through this lens: He's got Michael Thomas on pace to finish with 147 catches, which, in addition to setting a new single-season NFL record, would give him 343 on his career -- obliterating the mark for a player's first three NFL seasons (288, set by Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry).

Next in line: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers. Like Rodgers, it's hard to imagine when Brees will begin to backslide -- it appears right now that he could keep playing this way forever. That said, the 29-year-old Newton (who gets the edge here over the 33-year-old Matt Ryan because of age difference) is positioned to play at a high level for years to come.

NFC WEST: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks. Wilson has still not missed a single NFL start in his career, and he continues to position himself to own every major franchise passing record. He also has the most victories (65) for a quarterback in his first six seasons, and he needs just five more wins this season to claim the mark for his first seven. It's hard to believe Wilson was the sixth quarterback taken in the 2012 NFL Draft. Wilson's career winning percentage is .667 -- of the five quarterbacks selected ahead of him (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler), only one (Luck) has started more than 30 games while maintaining a career winning percentage above .500.

Next in line: Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams. Goff is good -- and Sean McVay has made him better. Yes, the man who once failed to clear 160 yards per game as a rookie is on pace to break the 5,000-yard mark in his second season under McVay.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter _@GilBrandt_.

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