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Week 18 is here. Get ready for winner-take-all matchups, win-and-in games, milestones, last chances and backup quarterbacks ... a lot of backup quarterbacks.

How fitting, there's going to be 18 backup quarterbacks starting in Week 18, including names like Trevor Siemian, Bailey Zappe, Taylor Heinicke, Aidan O'Connell, Jarrett Stidham and Easton Stick

The QB carousel is where my 10 QB observations for Week 18 begin:

1. QB carousel hits 66 and counting

Let's welcome five fresh faces to the QB carousel as Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold, Tyler Huntley, Jeff Driskel and Blaine Gabbert will make their first starts of the season in Week 18. 

That moves the QB count up to 66 different starters this season, the second most in NFL history behind 68 in 2022.

If you've learned anything from reading this column in previous weeks, I hope it's an appreciation for the importance of having a good backup QB.

  • This is the third straight season the NFL has seen 60+ different starting QBs. It only happened four times prior to that.
  • Nearly three quarters of the league used multiple starting QBs this year (23 teams out of 32).
  • And who thought we'd be saying the Browns are resting Joe Flacco heading into the playoffs! The Browns are the first playoff team with five starting QBs in a season since the 1984 Bears (one year before they won a Super Bowl). 

For the final time this year, here's a look at every starting QB change in the NFL this year. Kudos to the Vikings, who are still in the playoff hunt despite going from Josh Dobbs to Nick Mullens to Jaren Hall and back to Mullens all in the last five weeks. 

TeamStarting QB Sequence This Season


Deshaun Watson > Dorian Thompson-Robinson > P.J. Walker > Deshaun Watson > P.J. Walker > Deshaun Watson  > Dorian Thompson-Robinson > Joe Flacco > Jeff Driskel


 Jimmy Garoppolo > Aidan O'Connell > Jimmy Garoppolo > Brian Hoyer > Jimmy Garoppolo > Aidan O'Connell


Kirk Cousins > Jaren Hall > Josh Dobbs > Nick Mullens > Jaren Hall > Nick Mullens


Daniel Jones > Tyrod Taylor > Daniel Jones > Tommy DeVito > Tyrod Taylor


Aaron Rodgers > Zach Wilson > Tim Boyle > Zach Wilson > Trevor Siemian


Anthony Richardson > Gardner Minshew > Anthony Richardson > Gardner Minshew


Desmond Ridder > Taylor Heinicke > Desmond Ridder > Taylor Heinicke


Ryan Tannehill > Will Levis > Ryan Tannehill > Will Levis


Matthew Stafford > Brett Rypien > Matthew Stafford > Carson Wentz


Bryce Young > Andy Dalton > Bryce Young


Josh Dobbs > Clayton Tune > Kyler Murray


Kenny Pickett > Mitch Trubisky > Mason Rudolph


Geno Smith > Drew Lock > Geno Smith


C.J. Stroud > Case Keenum > C.J. Stroud


Justin Fields > Tyson Bagent > Justin Fields


Trevor Lawrence > C.J. Beathard > Trevor Lawrence


Joe Burrow > Jake Browning


Mac Jones > Bailey Zappe


Justin Herbert > Easton Stick


Russell Wilson > Jarrett Stidham


Brock Purdy > Sam Darnold


Lamar Jackson > Tyler Huntley


Patrick Mahomes > Blaine Gabbert


Josh Allen


Jared Goff


Jalen Hurts


Dak Prescott


Sam Howell


Derek Carr


Baker Mayfield


Jordan Love


Tua Tagovailoa

2. Rudolph joins backup QB mania

What has gotten into Mason Rudolph?!?! 

Rudolph is the third Steelers QB since 1970 to average 10+ yards per attempt in back-to-back games (min. 20 attempts), along with Terry Bradshaw (1982) and Ben Roethlisberger (2010). You may have heard of them. 

He is the latest backup QB to have his 15 seconds of fame this season. First it was Josh Dobbs, then Tommy DeVito, Jake Browning and Joe Flacco. Now, Rudolph. If we've learned anything, it's that the spotlight (with Flacco as the exception) doesn't last long. 

Chris Trapasso detailed Rudolph's two games so far, where he's actually gotten the ball into the hands of George Pickens

"The Steelers offense has become drastically more balanced now that there's both a serious threat of a deep play and a good chance the right decision will be made in a hurry on short, high-percentage throws," wrote Trapasso. 

We'll see if Rudolph can make it three straight and get Pittsburgh into the playoffs with a win (and help) vs. a Ravens team resting starters. 

3. Carson Wentz vs. Sam Darnold is an NFL first

You can behold the beauty of Week 18 in the Rams-49ers starting QB matchup between Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold, who are both making their only starts of the season. 

SportRadar tells me this is the first QB matchup in NFL history between former first-round picks making their only starts of the year.

Yeah, you usually don't see QBs making just one start, but that's the funky part of Week 18 when team's like these are resting starters. 

It's a truly one-of-a-kind matchup between former top-three picks once viewed as franchise QBs trying to salvage their careers. Maybe one of them still can!

4. Love stock skyrocketing

Jordan Love has played himself into a nice payday this offseason by giving a top-10 QB performance this year despite a slow start and historically young supporting cast. I wrote about this earlier in the week:

  • He is the 10th QB all time with 30 touchdown passes in his first season as a full-time starter.
  • He has 16 pass TD and one interception in his last seven games, while leading the NFL in EPA per dropback in that span.
  • Green Bay can be the 10th team ever to reach the playoffs after a 3-6 start.
  • The Packers would be the youngest playoff team in the last 45 seasons and already have broken records for most receptions, yards and touchdown catches by first- and second-year players.

It all adds up to a payday that should be the $200M-$250M range this offseason. At the very least, it has to exceed Daniel Jones' four-year deal worth over $160M. He put an exclamation point on his season with a win on Sunday vs. the Bears to clinch a playoff spot. 

5. Five-star class: 2020 QBs

With Love's breakout season it's possible the 2020 QB class could be one of the rare draft classes to produce five franchise QBs among Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts.

Money talks and by the end of this offseason when Love and Tagovailoa presumably get new deals all five will be locked up with contracts worth at least $200 million a piece for a collective amount easily in excess of one billion. 

Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts should reach 4,000 pass yards on the season in Week 18, joining Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, who have already done that in their careers. No draft class has ever produced five QBs with a 4,000-yard passing season in their careers. 

Here's a quick look at other QB classes who rolled five deep: 

1957: Len Dawson, Sonny Jurgensen, Jack Kemp, John Brodie, Milt Plum

Two Hall of Famers (Dawson and Jurgensen), an AFL champion (Kemp), an MVP (Brodie) and an NFL starter for a decade (Plum) is pretty good. 

1971: Archie Manning, Ken Anderson, Joe Theismann, Jim Plunkett, Dan Pastorini, Lynn Dickey

The 1971 draft class has a case for six good QBs. Manning, Anderson, Theismann, Pastorini and Dickey all spent around a decade as their team's primary starter and Plunkett won two Super Bowls on his third stop with the Raiders. Anderson and Theismann also won MVPs and started in Super Bowls. 

1983: John Elway, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Ken O'Brien, Tony Eason

Elway, Marino and Kelly are Hall of Famers, Ken O'Brien was the Jets QB for a decade and Tony Eason started a Super Bowl for the Patriots. Eason was only a primary starter for three years, although he did start that Super Bowl in 1985 and get an MVP vote in 1986. 

2012: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins

At one point or another these six all had their moments. Wilson won a Super Bowl, Foles won Super Bowl MVP. Tannehill started an AFC title game. Luck and Cousins enjoyed extended success and RGIII exploded onto the scene, winning offensive Rookie of the Year.

There's no case though where a draft class produced five QBs who all clicked at the same time for an extended period, all with their draft teams. The stars could align for this 2020 class if all are locked up by their teams entering 2024. 

6. Josh Allen's video game numbers vs. the Dolphins

Few QBs have dominated a franchise quite like what Josh Allen has done to the Dolphins. I know no QB has put up video game numbers quite like he has, at least. He is the only QB to average 300 total yards and three touchdowns per game (passing and rushing) vs. one team in NFL history (min. 10 games). He has multiple touchdown passes in all 12 career games vs. Miami, the longest streak vs. one team all time. Miami's defense can literally do nothing to stop him as he has 17 touchdown passes and two picks against them when pressured.

No wonder why Vic Fangio called him John Elway on steroids. It's gonna take some kind of effort from his defense to contain Allen without his best two pass rushers (Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb are out for the year) and Xavien Howard (foot injury). Last week Fangio said Lamar Jackson had only one player like him in the last 50 years (Michael Vick), and we saw what Jackson did to Miami, so perhaps Fangio strikes again here by buttering up Allen.

7. Brock Purdy's NFL record

Brock Purdy will not play in Week 18 since the 49ers clinched the No. 1 seed, meaning his 9.6 yards per attempt this year is now the highest in a season in NFL history (min. 350 attempts), surpassing Matt Ryan (9.3 in 2016 MVP season) and Aaron Rodgers (9.2 in 2011 MVP season) for the top mark. 

Purdy won't win MVP after the disastrous results on "Monday Night Football" vs. the Ravens, but Mr. Irrelevant does have an NFL record under his belt, which I bet nobody ever thought they would ever say. 

He also joined Patrick Mahomes, Kurt Warner and Justin Herbert as the only QBs with 30 touchdown passes and 4,000 pass yards in their first year as a full-time starter (a list Jordan Love can also join). Just an incredible year that deserves its flowers!

8. Stroud will lead the Texans into the playoffs

The Texans and Colts clash on Saturday where the winner makes the playoffs and the loser is out. Houston is the favorite with C.J. Stroud back in the saddle, who will be the first rookie QB to start a winner-take-all game in a regular season finale since Robert Griffin III in 2012. You might remember a hobbled RGIII led Washington to a 28-18 win over Dallas behind 200 rushing yards from fellow rookie Alfred Morris

Stroud can put his own stamp on a historic rookie year where he'll likely become the fifth rookie with 4,000 passing yards in a season. I've been high on Houston as a dark horse to make a playoff run in the AFC so I'm definitely taking the Texans to win this game and potentially upset the Chiefs or the AFC East champion in the wild-card round. 

There's also some cool history Stroud can make that you should know about.

  • Stroud can join Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as the only rookie QBs drafted with a top-two pick to start a playoff game. It's extremely tough for a QB to immediately turn around a franchise in complete rebuild mode but Stroud has done it.
  • He's gotten help from DeMeco Ryans. They can become the fifth rookie QB/coach duo to start a playoff game along with Andrew Luck/Chuck Pagano, Mark Sanchez/Rex Ryan, Joe Flacco/John Harbaugh and Matt Ryan/Mike Smith.
  • Finally, nobody saw Houston playing in a game of this magnitude after it entered this year with 200-1 Super Bowl odds, tied with the Cardinals for the worst in the NFL. Houston can become the fifth team in the last 45 seasons to make the playoffs with odds that long, along with the 1979 Buccaneers, 1981 Giants, 2008 Falcons and 2020 Washington. 

9. Bryce Young and Troy Aikman

Things aren't as promising for this year's No. 1 pick. All the Buccaneers have to do is beat the 2-14 Panthers and Bryce Young to win the NFC South in Week 18.

Easier said than done; all the Colts had to do was beat the 2-14 Jaguars (and Trevor Lawrence in his disastrous rookie year) to make the playoffs in 2021 and they lost.

Young can end the year on a high note after a tough season where he ranks last among qualified QBs in yards per attempt (5.5) and passer rating (73.7).

The only No. 1 overall pick to finish last in both categories since 1970 was Troy Aikman as a rookie in 1989. He turned out okay. 

10. Kyler Murray gets endorsement, now can he get a WR?

Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon said earlier this week "there is no doubt" Kyler Murray is their franchise QB. Perhaps he was still on cloud nine after Murray and Co. beat Gannon's former team. 

Murray carved up Philadelphia's struggling secondary with 13-of-14 completions and three touchdown passes in the second half. He beat them without a wide receiver who can win, and without throwing it deep. I think that says as much about Murray as it does about that secondary. 

This touchdown pass to James Conner reminded me of how good Murray can be with improv. 

Will they actually keep Murray? I'll believe it when I see it. He's been an average QB for four of his five seasons. He has one year with a winning record, no playoff wins and has a massive contract. 

If they do stick with him, a WR like Marvin Harrison Jr. would help, which Trapasso has happening in his most recent mock draft.

Murray has the lowest completion percentage to wide receivers (50%) since making his season debut in Week 10. He is also last in completion rate on passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield (30%) in that span. 

As for Week 18, Kyler can play spoiler again on Sunday by knocking the Seahawks out of the playoffs.