CBS Sports illustration (Keytron Jordan)

Nothing steers NFL teams quite like quarterbacks. It's possible, not probable, to win in spite of them. It's preferable, not easy, to land the best of them. They are, more than anyone else, the ones who shape the football landscape, week in and week out.

That's why we've ranked all 32 starting signal-callers throughout the 2022 season: to take stock of the most important players in the game, sorting everyone from the bona fide superstars to the QBs who might be worth replacing.

While these rankings don't necessarily reflect which QBs we'd rather have for the remainder of the year (or their career), they are designed to showcase which ones are performing and positioned best at this moment -- which ones we'd rather trust with everything on the line.

Now, without further ado, our first pecking order for the playoffs:

Playoff QB Power Rankings
Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs QB
We know the Bengals can beat him, but anyone betting against this man going into the postseason needs to check themselves. All year, we've been saying the same thing: he sets the standard at QB. How else do you explain a 45-TD season registering so quietly? All four years he's been Andy Reid's starter, the Chiefs have advanced to the AFC Championship, and the two times they didn't make the Super Bowl, they took the conference title game to overtime. He's fun. He plays free. He makes last-second adjustments few others can. And he does all of it when it matters most.
Josh Allen Buffalo Bills QB
Even compared to a trick-shot artist like Mahomes, Allen's game involves a lot of risk: his cannon of an arm leads to shots others wouldn't dare, and his bulldozing frame lends itself to open-field contact. He'll give you a chance at the ball. With the risk, however, comes the reward: only Mahomes can match his ability to change a game in one throw. The guy is a bona fide play-maker, and his chemistry with Stefon Diggs downfield means Buffalo is never, ever out of a contest.
Joe Burrow Cincinnati Bengals QB
What Burrow lacks in Allen's imposing rushing ability, he makes up for with some of the game's prettiest precision passing -- an ability to lace touch throws much like Aaron Rodgers in his prime. That doesn't mean he's a conservative QB, either, seizing on opportunities to feed the speed of Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Burrow is simply the total package in the pocket, combining crisp delivery with unfazed confidence. Issues only tend to arise if said pocket is unnavigable.
Jalen Hurts Philadelphia Eagles QB
We're probably still not giving him enough credit for the strides he's taken since 2021, pairing previous strengths (running-back vision and toughness, unshakeable poise) with improved arm strength and confidence as a downfield attacker. When healthy, Hurts has won at every level, in every role imaginable, this year. The X-factor, then, is his health: after his bruising work as a designed runner led to a shoulder injury, the Eagles need him at close to full strength to dominate.
Justin Herbert Los Angeles Chargers QB
Making his playoff debut, Herbert has just as many, if not more, physical tools than each of his peers above. He's a prototypical pocket passer but far from immobile; when you've got such an eye and laser of an arm to zip tight throws, you don't need to run. The concerns lie mostly in experience and setup: for all his impressive traits and production, this will be a new stage for him, and the banged-up Chargers already tend to make things harder than they need to be.
Tom Brady Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
No QB gets a bigger boost in the rankings simply by virtue of entering the postseason. Still ageless in terms of NFL-caliber arm strength, Brady mostly coasted through 2022 as he and an uninspired staff took turns dragging a sluggish, erratic offense. But he remains almost unrivaled in crunch-time willpower, and proved late in the year he's still capable of airing it out to Mike Evans. The Bucs' conservative tendencies are concerning, but their QB can never be counted out.
Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens QB
The biggest mystery on the list, Jackson was already a tough assessment before suffering his second sizable injury in as many seasons, having struggled to do damage through the air in four previous playoff games. Now, after a month away, who knows if he'll be ready, and in what condition. But -- and it's a big "but" -- if he's on the field, functioning normally, the electricity he offers as a scrambler and effortless deep-ball flicker will make the Ravens a tough out.
Brock Purdy San Francisco 49ers QB
Purdy may be a rookie with just five career starts, but none of the veterans beneath him here have accomplished anything meaningful as playoff QBs. As Jimmy Garoppolo's emergency replacement, he's simply done his job smoothly and confidently, allowing Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers' other toys, as well as their defense, to do the rest. Call him a fresher, spryer version of Jimmy G. The only reason he isn't higher is because, again, this is all so new to him.
Trevor Lawrence Jacksonville Jaguars QB
It's fitting that his first career playoff game will come against Justin Herbert, because the two are comparable physically as athletic, laser-armed pocket QBs. He can make every throw, and his crunch-time decision-making has vastly improved since his forgettable rookie year. You just wonder if the Jaguars' ascending supporting cast is still a year away.
Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings QB
Everyone rags on Cousins for his lack of prime-time and playoff success, which is fair to an extent. But he's had an unusually encouraging run under Kevin O'Connell; the numbers are less efficient than usual by his standards, yet he's been especially gutsy, resilient and accurate in tight games. The issue: when his go-to target, the effortless play-maker Justin Jefferson, has an off day, Cousins has tended to stack forced throws, resulting in especially ugly defeats.
Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys QB
Prescott's career resume suggests he belongs closer to the top five. Typically, he does all the little things well, keeping Dallas in the annual mix. But the veteran has been uncharacteristically boom-or-bust since a late-October return from injury, either lighting teams up while feeding CeeDee Lamb or telegraphing tight throws to the tune of multiple picks. More concerning is the fact that, similar to his Cowboys, he's long been searching for a defining big-game victory.
Daniel Jones New York Giants QB
This feels too low considering the remarkable progress Jones has made as a decision-maker, going from turnover machine to understated dual threat under Brian Daboll. And his ball control really is impressive, seeing as New York has often leaned on a makeshift receiving corps. But his game has centered mostly on scrambles, designed runs and short-area completions, and when you get to the big stage, with shootouts potentially required, that could be a challenge.
Geno Smith Seattle Seahawks QB
For a while this year, Smith looked like a long-shot MVP candidate, operating an unexpectedly explosive aerial attack with decisiveness. He can definitely still sling it, as evidenced by his Week 18 TD strike to help Seattle reach the playoffs. And he's surely earned a QB1 gig in 2023. But with 11 turnovers in his last nine games, playing gunslinger in an effort to maximize a splashy receiving duo, it's hard to fully trust the trajectory going into his first playoff game at age 32.
Skylar Thompson Miami Dolphins QB
Tua Tagovailoa is still recovering from his latest concussion, and veteran No. 2 Teddy Bridgewater is also banged up. It's possible either of those two could still play, but in that case, Miami is going to be leaning on a QB who's never consistently thrown it downfield with accuracy. Thompson, meanwhile, has stood tall despite the dire circumstances, but he's been predictably scattershot trying to operate Mike McDaniels' attack.