The Hall of Fame promises to be a crowded place for quarterbacks in the AFC in 20 years if the current crop of players continue to astound and develop. The 2022 season has highlighted the rise of brilliant young quarterbacks, so much so that Patrick Mahomes, at the age of 27, is the elder statesman of the group. The Kansas City Chiefs player has already put forward an impressive resume for his Hall of Fame credentials. He's already won one Super Bowl and reached another in the first five years of his career.
The Chiefs are once again backed as one of the leading contenders in the odds to win the Super Bowl. A second Vince Lombardi Trophy would all but ensure that Mahomes will be donning a yellow jacket at the end of his career. However, there will be intense competition along the way due to the quality of quarterbacks and teams in the AFC Conference alone. That will make Canton, Ohio a crowded place should they all opt to retire at the same time. It will also make for an enthralling 20 years of AFC action, bringing back memories of the conference when it was at its best, a time when Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and others battled it out to reach the Super Bowl.
The new era looks even more exciting.
Mahomes has almost punched his ticket to Canton and, if he opted to retire tomorrow, there would be few doubters that would deny him a place in the Hall of Fame. He has been electric on the field since replacing Alex Smith in his sophomore season. Mahomes appears to be all set to win his second MVP after a brilliant 2022 season in which he propelled the Chiefs to the number one seed, notably without Tyreek Hill.
That was a major challenge for Mahomes, but he passed with flying colors, connecting with his new wideouts. With Travis Kelce closer to the end of his career than the start, he will have to continue to develop players around him. Mahomes will now aim to reach his third Super Bowl to banish memories of his side’s defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2020 campaign.
Allen and Mahomes played out a thrilling Divisional Round matchup last season. Mahomes’ brilliance in the final 13 seconds tied the game before the Buffalo Bills were beaten in overtime to deny them a second-straight AFC Championship appearance. Allen has been incredible once again this season, displaying maturity and leadership as well as having every throw in the book. He alone will give the Bills a fighting chance in the AFC every year.
Even after Tom Brady's exit, it was not easy to dethrone the New England Patriots at the top of the AFC East. But Allen and Buffalo are now kings of the East and will now look to transfer that dominance to the AFC. He and his team just need to raise their levels in the big games, because only then can Allen be considered one of the greats.
Burrow well and truly announced his arrival lasts season with a brilliant run to knock off the Chiefs away at the AFC Championship Game. The Bengals were not quite ready to win the Super Bowl, narrowly losing out to the Los Angeles Rams. However, Burrow and his team are a confident bunch and, with Joe Cool as quarterback, will be contenders every year.
Burrow has earned comparisons to Brady when it comes to his demeanor on the field. He always seems to make clutch throws with pinpoint accuracy when it matters the most. Burrow doesn’t have the wow plays of Mahomes and Allen, but he's downright clinical when required. If the Bengals can keep him upright and injury-free, Cincinnati will be a perennial Super Bowl contender.
Burrow has the personality and drive to win multiple crowns. Although he'd be doing very well to ever match Brady, he is certainly capable of winning one or two.
In the early stages of the 2022 seasons there were fears that Lawrence was trending towards being a bust. He endured a miserable rookie campaign, which was entirely the fault of former head coach Urban Meyer, who failed to last the term with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Doug Pederson’s arrival promised stability and the chance for Lawrence to develop. It didn’t appear to go that way after a poor performance in a loss to the Denver Broncos.
But from then on Lawrence flicked the switch and was sensational down the stretch, guiding his team to seven victories in nine games. The Jags won the AFC South for the first time since 2017 and it could well be the start of an era of dominance. Lawrence’s performances were made all the more impressive considering the lack of talent around him. If the Jags get him some top-tier receivers, he will flourish in Florida.
Herbert is the other quarterback in the AFC West that has all the tools, but has not quite put it all together yet. He won Rookie of the Year ahead of Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa in 2020, but he has not been able to take the next step yet, despite making the post-season for the first time in 2022. The Los Angeles Chargers have always had a string of bad luck and bad decision-making that has held them back. They cannot afford to let that happen to Herbert as it did his predecessor Rivers.
Herbert has all the talent in the world and skills to match Mahomes, Allen and Burrow. He just needs to settle in with a composed coach that will allow him to thrive in the big moments. Herbert could be the answer to the Chargers’ longstanding playoff woes.
Tua and Lamar
Lamar Jackson could have been on the same trajectory as the other quarterbacks, but injuries and a lack of post-season form has stalled his progress. Renowned for his running ability, he has developed as a passer, making him a dual-threat quarterback. Until he can resolve his injury woes once and for all, he and the Baltimore Ravens are going nowhere.
It’s the same story for Tua and the Miami Dolphins. After two poor seasons, head coach Mike McDaniel appeared to unlock Tua's potential. Tua connected with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to devastating effect to propel Miami towards the number one seed in the AFC. However, he sustained two concussions over the course of the season, the second one ruling him out of the final three games of the campaign. That is a huge concern for the Dolphins moving forward, and could end a bright career.