The NFL is better when quarterback play is at its peak, and it’s possible there has never been a deeper group of quarterbacks.
The old guard is still going strong. Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady are leading likely playoff teams in their late 30s, and Drew Brees was too before his injury. The future is bright as well. Patrick Mahomes has taken over the NFL and he’s just 25. We saw young quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson have an epic duel on Monday night. Other young quarterbacks like Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson give the NFL a great foundation for the next decade.
We get a good look at the contrast between the young and old at the position on Saturday. If you’re making a top-three list of NFL MVP candidates, it should probably be Mahomes, 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers and 24-year-old Josh Allen. Allen’s Buffalo Bills play the Denver Broncos and Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers face the Carolina Panthers on Saturday, a pair of games that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
Allen was 8 when the Packers drafted Rodgers in the first round.
Josh Allen leads Bills vs. Broncos
There are similarities in the paths Rodgers and Allen took to NFL stardom.
Both came from California and not from glamour spots. Rodgers is from Chico and Allen is from Firebaugh. Both went to junior colleges because neither had a Division I scholarship offer out of high school. Neither had many options coming out of junior college; Rodgers went to Cal and Allen went to Wyoming. They both became first-round picks.
They have differences as players. People were skeptical of Allen coming out of college due to his accuracy issues. Rodgers tied an NCAA record with 23 straight completions in a game, against a good USC defense. But there are similarities. Both have incredible arm strength. They can each beat defenses with their legs too, though Rodgers doesn’t do that as much in his late 30s.
Allen’s development has been rapid. His first season, he showed the inaccuracy that was a problem at Wyoming. But his completion percentage in his three seasons has gone from 52.8 to 58.8 to 68.6. Allen has improved his touchdown and his interception rate each season too. The Bills are 10-3 heading into Saturday’s matinee against the Broncos and Allen’s fantastic year is getting some MVP attention.
But in the MVP race, Allen still is far behind a quarterback 13 years older than him.
Aaron Rodgers continues MVP push vs. Panthers
Rodgers’ revival has been one of the great stories of the NFL season.
It’s not that Rodgers was ever bad, but it has been a while since he was a legitimate MVP candidate. This season, Rodgers has 39 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The Packers are 10-3 and currently the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They can lock up home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs with three more wins, and that starts Saturday night against the Panthers.
Rodgers is playing as well as ever, but he won’t have many more shots to win a second title. The Packers already drafted his presumptive replacement, Jordan Love, in the first round this season. Rodgers could still have many more good seasons left in Green Bay and not be in a position to get a No. 1 seed and take his team to a Super Bowl again. Things change fast in the NFL and nothing is guaranteed year after year.
Both Allen and Rodgers rose up to be among the best quarterbacks in the NFL through similar backgrounds. Rodgers has won MVPs, a Super Bowl ring and is on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Allen has a long way to go to reach any of those heights, but his improvement through his third season has been remarkable.
Both quarterbacks will be in the spotlight on Saturday, two eras of quarterbacks each at the top of their game.
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