NFL

A Pick 6 of obscure starters includes Palko, Yates

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(Eds: With AP Photos.)By RICHARD ROSENBLATTAP Sports Writer

With a quarter of the NFL season left, it seems like a good time to talk quarterbacks.

There's plenty to discuss, too.

It's been a season full of ineptitude and injuries at the most glamorous position in the game, punctuated by the Colts playing without Peyton Manning (neck surgery) and now down to their third starter as they look to avoid a winless season.

The Colts aren't alone with a starting QB trifecta. The Raiders and Texans are on their third quarterbacks, too, but at least they're in the thick of the playoff race, not to mention in position to win a division title.

Through 12 games, the league's 32 teams have sent in a total of 71 quarterbacks to take at least one snap, with 50 having started at least one game, according to STATS LLC.

Breaking down the numbers further, 17 teams have started the same quarterback every week (15 have not), and only two QBs - Cam Newton of the Panthers and Eli Manning of the Giants - have lined up under center for every snap, according to STATS LLC.

While durability is an asset, obscurity isn't. And there sure have been a lot of little-known QBs barking out signals, and perhaps another will show up Monday night when the Rams (can you say Tom Brandstater?) play the Seahawks.

Herewith, our Pick Six of obscure QBs, mostly starters, though we would be remiss if the following mostly mop-up guys weren't mentioned: Richard Bartel (Cardinals), Tyrod Taylor (Ravens), Rudy Carpenter (Bucs) and Bryan Hoyer (Patriots).

- Dan Orlovsky, Colts: Thanks, but no thanks? The seventh-year pro from UConn already has the dubious distinction of being the starting QB when the Lions capped off their winless season in 2008. Now he's got a chance to go through it again in Indy. Coach Jim Caldwell benched Curtis Painter (0-7) - who replaced concussed Kerry Collins, who unretired to take over for Manning - in favor of sending Orlovsky out against the Patriots last week. He went 30 of 37 for 353 yards, two TDs and an interception in a 31-24 loss. Next up, Orlovsky vs. the Ravens. Ugh.

- T.J. Yates, Texans: One start, one win for the fifth-round draft pick from North Carolina. Thrown into the lineup after backup Matt Leinart - replacing Matt Schaub (broken Lisfranc joint in right foot) - broke his collarbone against the Jaguars, the rookie started last week and threw a TD pass in a 17-10 win over Atlanta. Now he's the QB of a team in search of its first playoff berth ever. He even had the hometown fans chanting ''T.J.! T.J.!'' after his TD pass.

- Caleb Hanie, Bears: The fourth-year pro from Colorado State didn't come out of left field (he's the guy who replaced Jay Cutler in the NFC championship game and almost rallied the Bears over the Packers), but now he's the man charged with getting Chicago to the playoffs. So far, not so good. In last week's loss to the Chiefs (a week after his first career start ended in a loss to the Raiders), he was sacked seven times and intercepted three times. Cutler has been out since Nov. 20 with a broken right thumb and could miss the rest of the season. On Sunday, Hanie takes his chances against Tim Tebow and the Broncos.

- Tyler Palko, Chiefs: The fifth-year pro from Pitt was shaky in his first two starts since replacing Matt Cassel (injured throwing hand), tossing three interceptions in each his first two starts, losses to the Patriots and the Steelers. Then he got lucky against the Bears. He was lifted in the second quarter for recent signee Kyle Orton, who lasted all of one play before leaving with an injured right index finger. Sent back in, Palko threw a TD pass at the end of the half, and the Chiefs won 10-3. Now he goes against the Jets.

- Josh Johnson, Bucs: The fourth-year pro from San Diego may not get a second chance this weekend, but he made his first NFL start of the year in last week's embarrassing 38-19 loss to the Panthers. He did nothing exceptionally good or bad in throwing for 229 yards and a TD and leading his team in rushing. But the Bucs lost their sixth in a row, and are all but out of the playoffs. Now it appears Josh Freeman (out with an injury to his throwing shoulder) could return for Sunday's game against the Jaguars.

- Tom Brandstater, Rams: The former Fresno State QB is with his fifth team in his third NFL season. Oh, and this week he was moved up from the practice squad in case he needs to make his first pro start against the Seahawks on Monday night. Starter Sam Bradford missed last week's game with a high right ankle sprain, and has missed practice most of the week. His backup, A.J. Feeley is out with a broken right thumb. Just in case, the Rams this week signed Kellen Clemens, and added Matt Gutierrez to the practice squad. Good luck.

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Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rosenblattap

Tagged: Matt Gutierrez, Bears, Broncos, Colts, Chiefs, Rams, Patriots, Giants, Buccaneers, Panthers, Ravens, Cardinals, Texans, Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, Eli Manning, Matt Cassel, Dan Orlovsky, Matt Leinart, Richard Bartel, Tom Brandstater, Tim Tebow, T.J. Yates

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