Ranking the Best QB Matchups of the 2022 NFL Season After Schedule Release

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2022

Ranking the Best QB Matchups of the 2022 NFL Season After Schedule Release

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    While there might never be enough high-end quarterbacks to go around in the NFL, we're living in a golden age of top-tier talent. From members of the old guard like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers to youngsters like Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow, there are enough superstars to ensure at least one great matchup every week.

    Now that the full schedule for the 2022 NFL season has been released, we can pinpoint the best quarterback matchups on tap this year.

    To rank these matchups, we considered factors like player talent, past performances, potential stakes and any relevant storylines. Since several of these heavyweight bouts feature division rivals, we'll be limiting every pairing to one entry apiece.

    Which quarterback battles are we most excited to watch? Let's take a look.

10. Justin Herbert vs. Derek Carr

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Where: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood (first meeting)

    When: September 11 (Week 1)

    Storylines often drive big-time showdowns. We're going to get a huge one on the first Sunday of the season.

    Back in January, Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders battled Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers in what might have been the best regular-season finale in NFL history. At worst, it was an instant classic that will long highlight this AFC West rivalry.

    These two familiar foes faced off with a playoff berth on the line. A tie would have sent both teams to the postseason, which nearly happened.

    The Raiders and Chargers went deep into overtime, with Daniel Carlson delivering the game-winning kick for Las Vegas as time expired. It was a 35-32 slugfest that saw Carr and Herbert combine for 569 passing yards and five touchdowns.

    The rematch will feature several big new additions, as the Raiders added wide receiver Davante Adams—Carr's top target at Fresno State—receiver Demarcus Robinson and pass-rusher Chandler Jones as part of their offseason haul. Meanwhile, the Chargers added tight end Gerald Everett, pass-rusher Khalil Mack and first-round guard Zion Johnson as part of their new group.

    Carr and Herbert are scheduled to meet again in Week 13 in Las Vegas, and both games will be intense.

    Will Herbert and the Chargers get a little revenge here? Will Carr and Adams rekindle enough of their college chemistry to keep Los Angeles at bay? We'll find out early in one of the best matchups of Week 1.

9. Russell Wilson vs. Patrick Mahomes

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Where: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver (first meeting)

    When: December 11 (Week 14, Sunday Night Football)

    The AFC West is now loaded at quarterback with Patrick Mahomes headlining a group that also includes Justin Herbert, Derek Carr and Russell Wilson.

    Wilson, a future Hall of Famer, is the newest member of the group. The Denver Broncos sent two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant to the Seattle Seahawks for Wilson and a fourth-rounder in March.

    This matchup is last on our list primarily because we don't know exactly what to expect from Wilson in his first season with a new squad, especially after a finger injury cost him three games last year and hampered him over the second half of the season.

    However, Wilson is a nine-time Pro Bowler who has missed the postseason only twice in 10 years. We're excited to see how he and the Broncos stack up against the defending division champion Kansas City Chiefs.

    Mahomes lost his top target in Tyreek Hill this offseason, but Kansas City is still loaded with receiving talent. Denver's receiving corps is none too shabby, either. This game will feature the likes of Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman, Courtland Sutton, Javonte Williams and JuJu Smith-Schuster. There will be offensive fireworks.

    The Chiefs remain the measuring stick in the AFC West until the Broncos, Raiders or Chargers prove otherwise. Wilson and the Broncos will get a chance to stake their claim during the heat of the playoff push on Sunday Night Football. 

    The Chiefs and Broncos will face off again in Week 17 in Kansas City. The rematch should be just as good.

8. Lamar Jackson vs. Josh Allen

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    Kirk Irwin/Associated Press

    Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

    When: October 2 (Week 4)

    Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens have battled Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills before. Buffalo upended Baltimore during the 2020 divisional round, 17-3, after Jackson exited with a concussion.

    The long-awaited rematch will be exciting for a few reasons.

    For one, Jackson and the Ravens should be healthy after experiencing an injury-induced slide to end the 2021 season. Jackson missed the final four games of the season with an ankle injury, while running back J.K. Dobbins (ACL) and cornerbacks Marcus Peters (ACL) and Marlon Humphrey (pectoral) suffered their own season-ending injuries at some point last year.

    The Ravens were 8-3 at one point last season before losing out to end the season. If healthy, they should be among the top AFC contenders.

    The biggest draw, though, will be the battle between draftmates and two of the league's best dual-threat signal-callers. This will be an early afternoon game, but Jackson and Allen will be looking to to steal the spotlight.

    Allen and Jackson were both taken in the first round of the 2018 draft. Since then, Jackson has amassed 9,967 passing yards, 84 passing touchdowns, 3,673 rushing yards and 21 rushing scores. Allen, meanwhile, has racked up 14,114 passing yards, 103 passing touchdowns, 2,325 rushing yards and 31 rushing scores.

    Jackson and Allen have each taken their turn as the best quarterback from the 2018 class. That book is far from written, though, and we'll be treated to the next chapter in this one.

7. Joe Burrow vs. Josh Allen

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

    When: January 2 (Week 17, Monday Night Football)

    The Ravens and Bills are hoping to be in the Super Bowl mix this season, but it was the upstart Cincinnati Bengals, led by Joe Burrow, who claimed the Lamar Hunt Trophy last year.

    The Bengals are kings of the AFC for now. Toward the end of the regular sseason, they'll face Josh Allen and the Bills for the first time in the Burrow era.

    There will be plenty at stake in this matchup, as Buffalo and Cincinnati are both expected to be Super Bowl contenders again this season. There also might be a fair bit of defense, as the Bills finished last season ranked first in both yards and points allowed.

    Cincinnati was a more modest 17th in points allowed, but its defense came alive in the postseason. The Bengals allowed an average of only 20.5 points in the playoffs.

    Good defense can make for exciting quarterback play, though. While this game might not turn into a shootout, we'll get to see Allen and Burrow doing their best to exploit mismatches, avoid mistakes and manage the game in critical moments.

    This one will likely have a playoff atmosphere, and it could mark the start of a new AFC rivalry. It'll be Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase battling Allen and Stefon Diggs for the first time ever. On Monday night. With perhaps prime playoff positioning on the line.

    What's not to love?

6. Tom Brady vs. Joe Burrow

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

    When: December 18 (Week 15)

    Tom Brady decided to unretire only a few weeks into the offseason, so he'll be back at the helm of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022. But Joe Burrow—the calm, collected and stylishly cool-under-pressure quarterback of the Bengals—might be in line to take Brady's crown one day.

    "He reminds me of Tom Brady," former Bills and New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan said on ESPN (h/t Chris Roling of Bengals Wire). "I've went against Tom Brady more than any other coach. ...That's who this kid is."

    Brady and Burrow have never faced off, and given Brady's age—he'll turn 45 in August—this may be their only opportunity to do so. That is, unless Cincinnati and Tampa both reach the Super Bowl.

    While Brady is nearly 20 years older than Burrow, this isn't your typical youth-versus-experience matchup. Brady can still sling it, as evidenced by his league-leading 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns in 2021. At the same time, Burrow is a cerebral quarterback who doesn't rely on talent alone.

    There will be plenty of talent here beyond the quarterbacks, though. Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin headline the pass-catchers involved. This is another late-season game, so there will likely be playoff implications in play for both sides.

    Could it be a passing of the proverbial torch? Perhaps not, but it will be another good one.

5. Aaron Rodgers vs. Matthew Stafford

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay

    When: December 19 (Week 15 Monday Night Football)

    Who doesn't love a battle between Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers? The two have a longstanding rivalry from Stafford's days with the Detroit Lions, and it's carried over to Stafford's stint with the Los Angeles Rams.

    The Lions drafted Stafford in 2009. That's only one year after Rodgers became the full-time starter of the Green Bay Packers. Stafford and the Rams only faced Green Bay once last season, but it was a critical Week 12 matchup that helped decide home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

    The Packers played host to the Rams in Week 12 and won 36-28. There was plenty of gunslinging involved, as Rodgers and Stafford combined for 609 passing yards and five touchdowns. Rodgers went on to win his second straight MVP, while Stafford and L.A. eventually won the Super Bowl.

    This one should carry the aura of a heavyweight fight, as the Rams and the Packers project to be two of the best teams in the NFC. The Rams are defending champions, but the Packers finished the 2021 season as the conference's top seed.

    Rodgers will no longer have longtime top target Davante Adams, but he will have a skill-position corps including Randall Cobb, Aaron Jones, Sammy Watkins, Amari Rodgers and rookie Christian Watson. Stafford will have the likes of Cam Akers, Allen Robinson II and the game's best receiver, Cooper Kupp.

    There will be plenty of firepower and a lot of quarterback familiarity in this one, plus some prime playoff positioning on the line. These familiar foes will be jockeying for late-season supremacy in Week 15 and will do it under the glow of Monday Night Football.

4. Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

    When: October 2 (Week 4 Sunday Night Football)

    Somehow, this game will feel bigger than the Ravens-Bills clash that will come earlier in the day. Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady don't have the sort of deep rivalry that Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford have. However, there's plenty of history between the legend and the phenom.

    Most recently, Brady's Buccaneers blasted Mahomes' Chiefs 31-3 in Super Bowl LV. However, their rivalry dates back to Brady's time with the New England Patriots.

    Brady bested Mahomes in a 43-40 thriller during the 2018 regular season, and he then guided the Pats to an AFC Championship Game victory over Mahomes' Chiefs a few months later before winning Super Bowl LIII. The Chiefs got their revenge with a regular-season victory over the Patriots in 2019, and they'd go on to win Super Bowl LIV that year. 

    After Brady went to Tampa, Kansas City beat the Bucs during the 2020 regular season. However, Brady won the rematch in Super Bowl LV to claim his seventh Lombardi Trophy.

    Now, Brady and Mahomes could be set to face off for the final time. Fittingly, the next edition of this generational battle will be played on Sunday Night Football.

    It will be early in the season, but that shouldn't reduce the importance of this game. These are two of the best teams in the NFL—both were No. 2 seeds in 2021—and two of the best quarterbacks to ever play. Both want another Super Bowl.

    We should have a good feel for how Mahomes and the Chiefs are operating without Tyreek Hill by Week 4. Likewise, we'll know how Brady is faring under new head coach Todd Bowles. This will be a tremendous measuring stick for both teams and quite possibly the hottest game of the opening month.

3. Joe Burrow vs. Patrick Mahomes

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    Jeff Dean/Associated Press

    Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

    When: December 4 (Week 13)

    Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes don't have an extensive history quite yet, but the rivalry should be plenty heated after last season.

    The Chiefs and Bengals faced off in Week 17, with Cincinnati claiming a come-from-behind 34-31 victory. The Bengals followed the same script in the AFC Championship Game, beating the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime.

    With five minutes to go until halftime in the AFC title game, Cincinnati trailed 21-3. However, the Bengals surged while Mahomes stumbled in the second half. Kansas City mustered only a field goal after the Bengals reeled off 21 unanswered points, and Mahomes never got the ball back after throwing an interception on the Chiefs' opening drive in overtime.

    "It still hurts," Mahomes said over Pro Bowl weekend, per NFL Media's Kevin Patra.

    Burrow has supplanted Mahomes as the top dog in the AFC quarterback race for now, but Mahomes is assuredly looking to reclaim the crown. Kansas City will be seeking revenge after blowing a huge lead to the Bengals in that AFC title game.

    Meanwhile, Burrow and the Bengals will be out to prove that last season's run to the Super Bowl wasn't a fluke. This could be a huge game as it pertains to AFC playoff seeding. It will come at a point in the season where the winner might just take control of the AFC race for good.

2. Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

    When: September 25 (Week 3)

    Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are two of the best quarterbacks of their generation, and one could argue that they were the NFL's best signal-callers in 2021. While Rodgers won MVP honors, Brady would have been a worthy winner as well.

    "I think if he doesn't get it, it's a travesty," former Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said of Brady and the MVP, according to ESPN's Jenna Laine.

    Brady didn't get it, but Rodgers will probably cares less about beating out Brady for Most Valuable Player than he cares about how things unfolded in the 2021 NFC Championship Game. The last time these two signal-callers faced off, Tampa overcame a three-interception game from Brady to win 31-26.

    Facing an eight-point deficit with just over two minutes remaining, the Packers had a chance to tie it, but they instead settled for a field goal. They never got the ball back again. Tampa went on to win the Super Bowl, while Rodgers fell short of reaching it for the fourth time in five trips to the NFC title game.

    This isn't a playoff game, but it will have big-time postseason implications. On top of that, it could go down as a piece of history. This might be Brady's last NFL season, and the 38-year-old Rodgers isn't getting any younger, either. Both quarterbacks have a chance to win it all in 2022 and may have to go through one another in the postseason to reach the Super Bowl.

    This is another early one, but it should be a thrilling potential playoff preview.

1. Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City

    When: October 16 (Week 6)

    This one is relatively early in the season, and for some reason, the schedule-makers didn't put it in prime time. They may have figured that most fans are going to find the game anyway. That's probably going to be the case because this is a huge one.

    There isn't a better quarterback rivalry in the NFL than that of Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. Both are dynamic All-Pro-caliber quarterbacks, and the two have met in the playoffs for two years straight. Last year's duel in the AFC divisional round was a surefire classic.

    Kansas City won 42-36 in overtime, but it felt like whichever quarterback held the ball last was going to win. The two teams combined to score 25 points in the final two minutes of regulation in a wild back-and-forth shootout. Mahomes walked off with an eight-yard touchdown strike to Travie Kelce on the opening drive to book the Chiefs' fourth straight trip to the AFC title game.

    During the game, Mahomes and Allen combined for 707 passing yards, 137 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns. It was arguably the game of the year, although it raised concerns about the NFL's overtime rules.

    "Josh Allen didn't even get a chance ...and that's why the NFL overtime is the worst overtime of any sport in the world," Danny Kanell of SiriusXM tweeted.

    The NFL changed its playoff overtime rules a few months later. Under the new rules, Buffalo would have had a chance to answer Kansas City's touchdown drive in overtime.

    In other words: The last time Mahomes and Allen faced off, we got a game so good that it altered the way the NFL operates? What will they do in the encore? We can't wait to find out.