National Football League
Is Lamar Jackson-Patrick Mahomes the next great NFL QB rivalry?
National Football League

Is Lamar Jackson-Patrick Mahomes the next great NFL QB rivalry?

Published Jan. 25, 2024 8:45 p.m. ET

Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes are about to face each other in the playoffs for the first time, with a Super Bowl berth on the line. 

Sunday's AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens is bound to be one that helps define legacies, with plenty to gain for both Jackson, the overwhelming favorite to win his second NFL MVP award this season, and Mahomes, who already has two MVPs and two Super Bowl titles to his name.

Both quarterbacks are aware of the stakes, but they have nothing but positive things to say about each other.

"He's going to be the MVP for a reason," Mahomes told reporters when asked about Jackson on Wednesday. "He does whatever it takes to win, and that's what the greats do."


And Jackson kept things similarly blunt when a reporter asked him Wednesday what he likes about facing Mahomes.

"I don't like competing against him at all," Jackson said with a smile. "He's a great quarterback. It's a no-brainer, he's definitely a Hall of Famer. I believe it's just two greats, up-and-coming greats going toe-to-toe, like a heavyweight fight."

Jackson and Mahomes' budding rivalry has been must-see since the two burst on the scene in their first years as starting quarterbacks in 2018, both leading their teams to the playoffs with Mahomes winning his first MVP. Then in 2019, Jackson won his first MVP while Mahomes won his first Super Bowl. While Mahomes has more accolades as well as the head-to-head record — the Chiefs are 3-1 against the Ravens when Mahomes and Jackson have faced off — Jackson has a chance to strike a definitive blow in their first playoff matchup.

Could this rivalry eventually echo the great clashes between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning that dominated the AFC for well over a decade? First Things First's Chris Broussard says it's the closest thing to the Manning-Brady rivalry, more so than Mahomes' battles with the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen, seen in last week's Chiefs' divisional-round victory.

Lamar Jackson vs. Patrick Mahomes the new Brady-Manning rivalry?

"It's certainly more Manning-Brady than Josh Allen and Mahomes is," Broussard said. "Both of them [are going to] have two MVPs, both of them have two [first-team] All-Pro awards, and obviously they've been to multiple Pro Bowls. You can throw Joe Burrow-Mahomes in there and obviously Burrow beating them in the playoffs, maybe C.J. Stroud will continue to emerge, who knows? … But this is definitely more than Josh Allen-Mahomes. Josh Allen, all he has are two Pro Bowls."

Broussard's co-host Nick Wright agreed — with the caveat that Jackson still has some catching up to do to reach Mahomes.

"It's a better question, because Lamar has some real pelts on the wall," Wright said. "Lamar, from the individual honors perspective, he has the same trophy case as Mahomes, or he will here in a couple weeks. He'll have two MVPs. But I — and this is not disrespectful to Lamar — don't think Mahomes has a rival."

Wright compared Mahomes' current standing in the NFL to that of Tiger Woods in golf or Wayne Gretzky in hockey during their primes, where they had rivals, but nobody else considered fully at their standard. While Brady is now widely seen as head and shoulders above Manning in the annals of NFL history, Wright pointed out that was not the case during their rivalry.

"People have totally forgotten that for 15 years, that was a real argument," Wright said. 

Lamar Jackson vs. Patrick Mahomes = next best QB rivalry?

Wright cited Manning's iconic comeback win over Brady in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, pointing out that Manning beat Brady twice in two more AFC Championship Games in 2013 and 2015, and then reached three more Super Bowls, while Brady had to wait eight more years after that 2006 game until he won another Super Bowl.

"The day Peyton Manning retired, the Super Bowls were 4-2 Brady, the MVPs were 5-2 Peyton, and Peyton was up 3-2 in the playoff matchups," Wright said. "There was a real argument. The problem is after [Peyton] retired, Brady went to three straight Super Bowls, went to another one a couple years later, won another league MVP and distorted the argument. 

"But during the entirety of Peyton Manning's playing career, there was a real debate about who was better [between him and Brady]. That is not the case with Patrick Mahomes, if anyone's having an honest debate about it."

Wright said Jackson will have a chance to become Mahomes' primary rival, perhaps alongside the Bengals' Joe Burrow, if he leads the Ravens to a win Sunday and then a Super Bowl title. But he believes Jackson has a much longer way to go if he wants to challenge Mahomes' status as the best quarterback in football.

"I don't believe that title is up for grabs for the time being," Wright said.

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