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2017 NFL season already has the lamest quarterback battles

Alex Smith vs. Patrick Mahomes might be something to watch, but the rest of the starting competitions are trash.

NFL: New York Jets at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

With two strong preseason performances, Patrick Mahomes is making a case to succeed Alex Smith as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback sooner rather than later. That’s good, because in 2017 the NFL is falling well short of its quota for QB drama.

While there are a handful of depth chart battles across the league, this year’s array of quarterback competitions is uninspiring. There’s no Philip Rivers-Drew Brees potential changing of the guard to be found, no Steve Young-Joe Montana duel to keep the preseason interesting. There isn’t even so much as a Tim Tebow-Kyle Orton mashup to drive training camp headlines.

Instead, 2017 has provided a combination of retreads and draft picks competing mostly for roles with bottom-feeding teams. Quarterback races for teams like the Bears, Jets, and Browns may simply decide whose resume claims a 4-12 record this fall. The teams with the most to lose — playoff contenders like the Broncos, Texans, and Chiefs — have already inked their depth charts. For now, at least.

Here’s a look at this season’s lackluster quarterback battles and where each team with uncertainty behind center could wind up when the season begins.

Decided QB battles

Broncos: Trevor Siemian over Paxton Lynch

Siemian was serviceable in 2016, but ultimately couldn’t take advantage of one of the league’s elite defenses. Denver scored a meager 1.9 offensive touchdowns per game with the former seventh-round pick behind center, a mark that ranked 25th in the league. That appeared to have opened the door for Lynch, a higher-upside project with major questions to answer after finishing his Memphis career with a flourish, but Siemian is now the “permanent” winner of the starting job.

This is a bad look for Lynch, who joins a regrettable group if he sits out Week 1.

49ers: Brian Hoyer over Matt Barkley, C.J. Beathard

Hoyer isn’t a permanent solution, but as far as stopgap passers go, he’s not bad. He was the Bears’ best quarterback in 2016, recording a passer rating of 98.0 in five starts — a higher mark than Derek Carr or Matthew Stafford — before succumbing to a broken arm that ended his season. He won’t have much of a challenge for the top job in 2017. His competition in Santa Clara includes a player he beat out on Chicago’s depth chart last fall (Barkley) and a third-round rookie who threw for 148 yards per game last fall at Iowa.

Texans: Tom Savage over Deshaun Watson

Savage’s consistent and efficient preseason was enough to fend off a spirited challenge from 2017 College Football Playoff Offensive MVP Watson. Watson’s winning record in college and ability to create space and time in the pocket will make him an eager replacement should his team need a change behind center. However, Savage was fine in his only start of 2016 and his familiarity with Houston’s offense shined through this August; in two games, he’s completed a league-high 85 percent (17 of 20) of his passes.

Chiefs: Alex Smith over Patrick Mahomes II

Mahomes has been impressive in the preseason, but he’s still a rookie passer who cut his teeth with a college offense that’s traditionally failed to produce starting QB talent. Smith has been consistently solid this preseason, and while that may not be enough to paint over the memory of his inability to find open receivers downfield in the playoffs, it’ll be enough for him to keep his starting role.

Andy Reid won’t rush his shiny new addition into the lineup. "It's Alex's job. That's what it is,” he told reporters after Monday’s practice. “There's no gray area with that."

Jaguars: Blake Bortles over Chad Henne

Bortles could have kept his job as Jacksonville’s starter with a real competition, but his dreadful performance against Tampa Bay in a primetime preseason game gave Henne the opportunity to make his first start since 2014. But then Henne wasn’t much better when he started the Jaguars’ third preseason game.

So the Jaguars decided to give Bortles his job back rather than look elsewhere. (We don’t know why either.)

The Jaguars boast one of the league’s most sneakily effective receiving corps, but that won’t do them any good if Bortles is lofting passes that land five yards from their intended target. There’s always next year, Jags fans.

Browns: DeShone Kizer over Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler

Five quarterbacks played for Cleveland in 2016; Kessler is the only one to return this season. A solid rookie campaign — excepting that time he lateraled the ball out of his own end zone — put him in pole position to lead a rebuilding Browns team in 2017. A pair of spring additions have now passed him for playing time. Brock Osweiler was so toxic the Texans had to give up a second-round pick just to ship him to Cleveland, but early returns on him have been ... not terrible. Second-round pick DeShone Kizer has been even better, showing out in preseason games and looking like a boom-or-bust big-play threat in the pocket.

The rookie started the team’s third preseason game, and despite a 6-18, 93-yard, one-interception performance, still managed to earn Hue Jackson’s vote of confidence to start in Week 1. Osweiler — who could be trade bait — didn’t even take the field, ceding snaps to 2016 practice squad fodder Kevin Hogan.

Jets: Josh McCown over Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg

New York reduced its roster to rubble this offseason, but forgot to pick up the supplies to rebuild a viable NFL franchise along the way. The only positional depth chart in worse shape than the team’s quarterback rotation is its receiving chart, which tops out at Robby Anderson and features a bunch of names pulled from an improv comedy sign-up sheet.

Still, someone needs to start, and it’ll be McCown (38 years old, 72.3 passer rating last year), over Petty (three TD passes, seven INTs in 2016), or Hackenberg (nailing reporters with awful passes throughout training camp).

No matter how the depth chart shakes out, the lineup is just be a stopgap solution until the club can draft Sam Darnold or one of the Joshes (Rosen or Allen).

Still waiting on official word

Dolphins: Jay Cutler vs. Matt Moore

Miami didn’t hand out a one-year contract worth up to $13 million to have Cutler play backup, and the former Bear didn’t shuck off retirement just to enjoy the South Beach sun. Head coach Adam Gase said as much when he told reporters Cutler “didn’t come out of retirement to stand on the sidelines.” But the team still hasn’t officially closed the books on its QB race. Technically this is still a competition, but the outcome has already been decided.

Up for grabs

Bears: Mike Glennon vs. Mitchell Trubisky

Chicago paid $18 million to give Glennon, a quarterback with 11 regular season passes the past two seasons, a chance to be its starter. He was expected to take the reins in 2017, but the early play of Trubisky may make Glennon a very expensive backup. While the team hasn’t made any official announcements about its depth chart, headlines like these suggest the race is still being run:

Trubisky will get plenty of snaps with the first team in the Bears’ next preseason game. If he shows the coaching staff enough, he could start Week 1.