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AFC way in front in the quarterbacking arms race

It may take a week or a month (maybe more), but it seems like Aaron Rodgers is headed to the Jets. This further tilts the quarterbacking landscape in favor of the AFC.

I think it’s the most lopsided it’s ever been.

There are currently eight starting quarterbacks in the AFC who have had seasons with at least 40 touchdowns (passing/running combined). There is one on the NFC side: Matthew Stafford (and there are questions about whether he can physically hold up).

In the NFC, the best current quarterbacks seem to be Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins. Then you’re getting down to an injured Kyler Murray, Jared Goff, Derek Carr and Geno Smith. Maybe Jordan Love and Justin Fields can emerge as viable quarterbacks, but overall, it looks pretty bleak.

On the AFC side, you’ve got arguably the four most coveted quarterbacks in the league – in some order, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert. Guys like Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence, and now Rodgers don’t even show up in the top tier of the conference.

The current AFC quarterbacks have seven MVP awards; the NFC has none.

Below see a list of the presumed starters, along with the number of touchdowns they produced in their best season as a pro. The AFC group adds up to 506 touchdowns, while the NFC is down at 383.

For this project, I wasn’t sure who to list for some teams. Kyler Murray and Brock Purdy, for example, would start in Week 1 under ideal circumstances, but I don’t think they’ll be healthy. And with Panthers, Falcons, Commanders, Colts and Texans, I wasn’t sure whether to list youngsters or their modest veteran backups (Dalton, Heinicke, Brissett, Minshew, Mills). But whatever – you get the idea.

PlayerPassRunTotalCurrent team
Matthew Stafford41041LA Rams
Dak Prescott37138Dallas
Kyler Murray (inj.)261137Arizona
Kirk Cousins35136Minnesota
Jalen Hurts221335Philadelphia
Jared Goff32335Detroit
Derek Carr32032New Orleans
Geno Smith30131Seattle
Baker Mayfield27027Tampa Bay
Daniel Jones24226NY Giants
Justin Fields17825Chicago
Brock Purdy (inj.)13114San Francisco
Desmond Ridder202Atlanta
Sam Howell112Washington
Jordan Love202Green Bay
1st pick of draft000Carolina
PlayerPassRunTotalCurrent team
Patrick Mahomes50252Kansas City
Aaron Rodgers48351NY Jets
Josh Allen37946Buffalo
Lamar Jackson36743Baltimore
Russell Wilson40242Denver
Justin Herbert38341LA Chargers
Joe Burrow35540Cincinnati
Ryan Tannehill33740Tennessee
Deshaun Watson33336Cleveland
Trevor Lawrence25530Jacksonville
Jimmy Garoppolo27128Las Vegas
Tua Tagovailoa25025Miami
Mac Jones22022New England
Kenny Pickett7310Pittsburgh
2nd pick of draft000Houston
4th pick of draft000Indianapolis

Alternately, we could instead look at the best 30 quarterback seasons of the last five years by quarterbacks who are going to be starting this year. I’ve got 70 percent of them being guys who are now in the AFC (in the chart, the NFC quarterbacks are tagged with black dots).

2018Patrick Mahomes5,097502722496.11
2022Patrick Mahomes5,250413584493.91
2021Josh Allen4,407367636482.71
2022Josh Allen4,283357627476.42
2020Josh Allen4,544374218473.51
2019Lamar Jackson3,127361,2067463.01
2021Justin Herbert5,014383023462.92
2020• Kyler Murray3,9712681911450.52
2021Patrick Mahomes4,839373812444.14
2020Aaron Rodgers4,299481493440.33
2020Patrick Mahomes4,740383082437.84
2020Deshaun Watson4,823334443437.65
2020Russell Wilson4,212405132435.96
2022• Jalen Hurts3,7012276013431.13
2022Joe Burrow4,475352575425.54
2021• Matthew Stafford4,88641430416.65
2019• Dak Prescott4,902302773412.83
2020Ryan Tannehill3,819332667398.68
2020Justin Herbert4,336312345398.29
2018Deshaun Watson4,165265515397.45
2018• Jared Goff4,688321082397.26
2021• Dak Prescott4,449371461397.16
2021Joe Burrow4,611341182392.47
2019Deshaun Watson3,852264137389.54
2020Lamar Jackson2,757261,0057386.410
2020• Kirk Cousins4,265351561384.911
2019Russell Wilson4,110313423383.75
2021Aaron Rodgers4,115371013382.58
2022• Geno Smith4,282303661376.75
2022• Kirk Cousins4,54729972371.16

—Ian Allan

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