Quarterback shuffle shakes up conference 

click to enlarge Switching saddles: After spending his entire career with the Colts, Peyton Manning will take his first regular-season snaps for the Broncos on Sept. 9. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Images File Photo
  • Switching saddles: After spending his entire career with the Colts, Peyton Manning will take his first regular-season snaps for the Broncos on Sept. 9.

New prodigy Andrew Luck is in Indianapolis, which forced a banged-up Peyton Manning to Denver, which led to golden child Tim Tebow going to the Big Apple.

It has been quite the offseason for quarterbacks in the AFC. In addition to those three headline-grabbing moves, two AFC rookies are poised to start Week 1 (Ryan Tannehill in Miami and Brandon Weeden in Cleveland), while three first-rounders from last year are in the spotlight (Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert and Tennessee’s Jake Locker).

The value of the position is undeniable. It might be the most pressure-packed in sports. That is why it also sees as much turnover as it does.

There are still a few glory boys:

Tom Brady in New England, Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and Philip Rivers in San Diego, with Baltimore’s Joe Flacco trying to join the club.

Brady’s spot atop the pecking order became clear when Manning was forced to sit out last season with a neck injury and the former Colt would like nothing better than to show that he was booted prematurely. His new set of receivers has potential, Denver likes to run the ball and the defense features rising star Von Miller.

Nothing would be more poetic than to see Brady vs. Manning for a spot in the Super Bowl. Brady will sit and watch from afar as the QB circus plays Broadway, with Mark Sanchez constantly looking over his shoulder to see when Jets fans will get their wish with Tebow in New York’s bid to win the East and live up to the bluster of Rex Ryan.

Roethlisberger’s perch in the Central is quieter. While his Steelers will battle Flacco’s Ravens — and their tenacious defense — Cincinnati, to a lesser extent, and Cleveland still have work to do.

The South is the biggest work in progress. Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans finally fulfilled some promise last season and are the biggest beneficiaries of Manning’s departure from the Colts. Luck, the former Stanford star taken No. 1 overall, will have his hands full for a few years getting the Colts back on track.

In the West, Manning is back in the saddle, but faces a stern test from Rivers and the Chargers and Carson Palmer and the Raiders.

sdrumwright@sfexaminer.com

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Steve Drumwright

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Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014

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