(h/t to reddit user Scorigami)
In an interesting twist, every single AFC playoff team will have used multiple starting quarterbacks over the course of 2016, as noted by redditor Scorigami. Here is how every team fared.
Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of 2016 and the Patriots turned to back-ups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. Each player started two games apiece, as Garoppolo was hurt roughly a third of the way into his second start. The Patriots went 3-1 with their back-up quarterbacks, with their one loss coming against the Bills in week 4.
Derek Carr suffered a leg injury in week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts and Oakland will turn to back-up Matt McGloin. While there is no evidence of McGloin’s production in 2016, the Raiders let Carr play against the Chiefs with a finger injury in week 14. Carr went 17 of 41 (41.5%) for 117 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The coaching staff must’ve thought McGloin was a worse option.
Ben Roethlisberger suffered a left knee injury in week 6 against the Miami Dolphins and the Steelers turned the keys over to back-up QB Landry Jones against none other than the Patriots. Jones completed 29 of 47 (61.7%) for 281 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception in a 27-16 loss.
Brock Osweiler started the first 14 games of the season and led the Texans to an 8-6 record, but an ugly start in week 15 against the Jacksonville Jaguars opened the door for back-up Tom Savage. Savage is now the starter and has completed 41 of 65 (63.1%) for 436 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions over a game and a half of play. Despite that nondescript statline, Savage is still a better option than Osweiler.
Alex Smith suffered a concussion early against the Indianapolis Colts in week 8. Back-up Nick Foles finished the game and played the subsequent week against the Jaguars. Foles has completed 36 of 55 (65.5%) for 410 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.
Ryan Tannehill suffered a knee injury late in week 14 against the Arizona Cardinals and is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season. There’s a small chance he could return for the playoffs. Over the past two games, the Dolphins have asked back-up Matt Moore to play and he’s been very efficient. Moore has completed 31 of 53 (58.5%) for 516 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. His passer rating of 113.4 is sandwiched between Garoppolo and Brady for 3rd of all quarterbacks with 50+ attempts in 2016.
It’s no surprise that the playoff teams have capable back-up quarterbacks (Raiders pending, and Texans notwithstanding), because teams have to dig deep on their roster to win late in the season on a regular basis.
The Raiders, Texans, and probably the Dolphins will have to rely on their back-ups to win in the playoffs. Every team has to overcome injuries and suspensions, and having a competent back-up like Garoppolo or Foles or Moore is the difference between a contender and a franchise like the Colts.