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Four unanswered quarterback questions heading into Sunday of Week 14

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One of the defining themes of the 2023 season has been instability at the quarterback position.

There have been an eye-popping number of backups starting games this year -- 22, according to NFL Research. And there is a very real chance several teams with backup QBs make the playoffs and advance.

Here is a breakdown of this week's major QB issues heading into Sunday, following conversations with a variety of sources.

Cleveland Browns

Joe Flacco was once again elevated to the active roster from the practice squad, and although he's still awaiting a full-time spot on the 53-man roster, he is expected to start today. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who cleared the NFL's concussion protocol this week, is slated to be Flacco's backup, while PJ Walker was waived.

Flacco impressed off his couch last week against the Rams, going 23 of 44 for 254 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The late pick was costly in a Los Angeles win, but one poor decision won't be the determining factor in Cleveland's QB decision. At 38 years old and with a playoff spot in reach, Flacco has a chance to lead Cleveland there.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Editor's Note: Trevor Lawrence will start for the Jaguars on Sunday against the Browns.

Trevor Lawrence suffered a high ankle sprain on Monday, damaging the ligament that connects the tibia and fibula. Lawrence faced an uphill battle to be ready for Sunday's game against the Browns. Yet his mobility and stability had improved enough by Thursday and Friday for him to be limited in practice, and he received a questionable designation heading into the weekend.

Head coach Doug Pederson described himself as "still optimistic" about Lawrence's status, and the star QB is pushing to play. The medical staff is scheduled to assess Lawrence's ankle, including his ability to cut and pivot on Sunday morning, at which point a final decision will be made. But as of now, it is considered likely that Lawrence plays, pending the evaluation.

Several people involved say he looks far better than anticipated, bolstering Pederson's optimism.

New Orleans Saints

Derek Carr cleared the NFL's concussion protocol on Friday afternoon, and he will play today. But Carr will do so at less than 100%. Though he passed through the protocol, Carr is also dealing with a non-displaced rib cartilage fracture. He will play through it, but that's why he was listed with a rib injury on the injury report to go along with the AC joint sprain in his shoulder.

Speaking to a pool reporter, Carr said these are the kinds of sacrifices players make this time of year.

"Everyone has got a broken something, dealing with this or dealing with that," he said. "I got my treatment, I did my protocol stuff, but I also, most importantly, made sure that I did everything I need to do to accomplish my job."

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks' steady quarterback situation was dealt a curveball on Thursday when starter Geno Smith tweaked his groin in practice, then didn't practice at all on Friday. While Smith is going to do everything he can to play, the team hurriedly signed Sean Mannion to the practice squad and then elevated him to the active roster for Sunday just in case.

It's fair to say Smith's status is in doubt, while Drew Lock is preparing to start. Coach Pete Carroll noted Lock has been waiting for an opportunity and "if this comes to pass, he's as ready as he can get."

In a huge game against the 49ers, it's possible that's what we'll see. Lock hasn't started since he went winless in three starts for the Broncos in 2021.

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