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    Biggest 2020 NFL QB Matchups 🏈

    Biggest 2020 NFL QB matchups: In-depth look at Mahomes-Jackson, Brady-Brees, more


    With unprecedented offseason quarterback movement comes Tom Brady in a new conference.

    Instead of games against the "who's that?" QBs of the AFC East, he'll now match up twice a season with the likes of a couple of fellow future Hall of Famers.

    There are some more great QB matchups headed our way, including the NFL's new $500 million man against the reigning MVP and possibly the first two signal-callers taken in this year's draft.

    ESPN Stats & Info delved deeply into several of the duels on the slate for 2020. Here's some of what was uncovered.

    Henry Buggy, Jose De Leon, Douglas Clawson, Bryan Beasley, Will Erickson and Evan Kaplan contributed to this story.
    Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
    Date: Sept. 13 | Network: Fox
    Historic matchup: Brady and Brees kick things off with a Week 1 meeting in New Orleans. It will mark the first matchup between 40-year-old starting QBs in NFL history. The two will meet again in Week 9, as both QBs look to lead their teams to the top of the NFC South.

    Brees and Brady are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in passing yards, passing TDs and completions. In fact, their 151,987 combined passing yards measure out to just over 86 miles, more than enough to reach outer space.

    Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Week 1 matchup between Brees and Brady will be the first between the top two all-time leaders in passing yards since Hall of Famers Dan Marino and John Elway met in Week 16 of the 1998 season. It's also the first matchup between the top two all-time leaders in touchdown passes since Sid Luckman (Bears) and Sammy Baugh (Redskins) squared off on Nov. 20, 1949. Prior to Brady and Brees, the last time the top two in passing TDs were both active was in 1973 (Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton).

    The two have more combined passing touchdowns (1,088) than seven NFL franchises (Bengals, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Panthers, Ravens, Jaguars and Texans). In fact, individually Brady and Brees have more passing touchdowns than the Panthers, Ravens, Jaguars and Texans have in their franchise's history.

    Brady has 14 Pro Bowl selections in his career, tied with Peyton Manning for the most by any QB in NFL history, while Brees has 13 Pro Bowl selections in his career, third most by a QB. According to Elias, their combined 27 Pro Bowl selections will be the most ever in a matchup of starting QBs, surpassing Brady's previous records with Brees in 2017 and Manning in 2014 (22 combined in both those matchups).

    Previous meetings: Week 1 will mark the sixth meeting between Brady and Brees, with Brees holding a 3-2 edge. One of those wins came as the starting QB of the Chargers. Of the 14 QBs to have faced Brady at least five times in the regular season, Brees is the only one with a winning record. In their head-to-head matchups, Brees has thrown 12 touchdowns to 1 interception, while Brady has 7 passing touchdowns to 6 interceptions. But Brady has won the past two meetings, and the last time he faced the Saints in the Big Easy (Week 2 of 2017), he posted his highest single-game Total QBR (96.1) on the road over the past decade.

    Offensive firepower: Both the Buccaneers and Saints are loaded with offensive weapons. Each averaged 28.6 PPGA last season, which tied for third in the NFL. Tampa Bay's offense averaged the third-most yards per game (397.9), while New Orleans ranked ninth (373.9).

    Over the past three seasons, the Buccaneers and Saints have three of the top 13 players (Alvin Kamara, 4,476 -- fifth, Michael Thomas, 4,366 -- sixth, Mike Evans, 3,682 -- 13th) in scrimmage yards. In 2019, the Saints and Buccaneers had four players rank in the top 10 in receiving touchdowns in Thomas, Jared Cook, Chris Godwin and Evans. Tampa Bay had Godwin and Evans both finish with over 1,000 receiving yards, the second time in franchise history with multiple 1,000-yard receivers in a season (2014, Evans and Vincent Jackson).

    Thomas, Brees' top target, is coming off a year in which he set the NFL's single-season record for receptions (149). He ranked first in the league among WRs in yards per route run (3.0) with a min. of 100 routes, while Evans (2.5) and Godwin (2.4) ranked seventh and 10th respectively. One of the most impressive things about Thomas is his ability to catch everything thrown his way -- in 2019 he led all wide receivers in catch rate, as well as leading in that category in a myriad of other situations including against press coverage and into tight windows.

    New faces, new places: The Buccaneers acquired Brady's favorite weapon, Rob Gronkowski, through a trade with the Patriots this offseason. No player has recorded more receiving yards (7,786) or receiving touchdowns (78) from Brady. In fact, Brady and Gronkowski's 78 touchdowns are the fifth-most by any quarterback-receiver combo in NFL history.

    The Saints signed veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders to a two-year deal this offseason. Sanders is one of five WRs with at least 500 yards in each of the past eight seasons (T.Y. Hilton, Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones, Golden Tate). Sanders also is the only player ever to catch a pass for three different teams in the Super Bowl.

    The loaded NFC South: The Saints have an 83% chance to make playoffs and a 59% chance to win their division, both the third-best marks in the NFL according to ESPN's Football Power Index. The Buccaneers have a 63% chance to make the playoffs and a 30% chance to win the division. Tampa Bay has not reached the playoffs since 2007, the second-longest active playoff drought behind only the Browns (2002).

    Brady and Brees are among a loaded NFC South quarterback roster that includes Matt Ryan and Teddy Bridgewater, a foursome with 513 career regular-season wins, by far the most by a division's starting quarterbacks entering Week 1 in NFL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

    Patrick Mahomes vs. Lamar Jackson

    Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
    Date: Sept. 28 | Network: ESPN
    Historic starts: 2019 was the first season in NFL history in which quarterbacks under the age of 25 won MVP and the Super Bowl MVP. Mahomes became the youngest quarterback to win Super Bowl MVP (24) and Lamar Jackson became the youngest to win MVP (22).

    Last season, Jackson ranked first in Total QBR (81.8) and Mahomes ranked second (76.3). Jackson's mark is the third-highest single-season QBR in the past 10 seasons. Mahomes produced the fourth-highest QBR two years ago.

    Just how impressive was Jackson's 2019 season and Mahomes' 2018 season? Jackson's 2019 season was the first in NFL history with 30 passing touchdowns and 1,000 rushing yards. Mahomes' 2018 season was the second in NFL history with 50 passing touchdowns and 5,000 passing yards (along with Peyton Manning in 2013). From a fantasy perspective, those were the two most productive seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. Mahomes finished with 417.1 fantasy points in 2018 and Jackson recorded 415.7 fantasy points in 2019.

    On the run: Mahomes has 17 passing touchdowns on the run since 2018, the most in the NFL (NFL Next Gen Stats). Jackson has 1,220 rushing yards on designed runs since his first career start (Week 11, Nov. 18, 2018), 881 more than any other quarterback over that span.

    Since returning from injury in Week 10 of last season, Mahomes has done more damage on scrambles than any other quarterback, including Jackson. He has 271 rushing yards for 17 first downs and three TDs. Jackson has 233 rushing yards with 12 first downs and zero TDs.

    Looking ahead: According to Elias, when the two meet in Week 3 on Monday Night Football, it will be the first matchup in NFL history between former MVPs age 25 or younger. This will also be the fifth quarterback matchup between the reigning MVP and Super Bowl MVP.

    ESPN's Football Power Index, has the Chiefs as favorites in 14 of 16 games this season. The two in which they are underdogs? Week 3 in Baltimore (46.1%) and Week 15 in New Orleans (45.8%).

    According to Caesars Sportsbook, Mahomes is a 4-1 favorite to win his second MVP. Jackson has the second-shortest odds at 13-2 to repeat. If Jackson repeats he would be the fifth player to win back-to-back MVPs in NFL history.

    Dak Prescott vs. Russell Wilson

    Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
    Date: Sept. 27 | Network: Fox
    Plenty of symmetry: Prescott and Wilson will square off in Seattle in Week 3, the fourth meeting between these quarterbacks (including postseason), with their last encounter coming in the 2018 wild-card round, a 24-22 Cowboys win.

    Prescott and Wilson's first four seasons in the NFL look pretty similar, given that both players had:

    • 118 combined passing and rushing touchdowns, tied with Peyton Manning for the second-most by a player in his first four seasons in NFL history, trailing only Dan Marino's 144 (Elias Sports Bureau);
    • Exactly 14 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in their first four years;
    • Won at least 40 games (Wilson: 46, Prescott: 40); six QBs in NFL history have won 40-plus starts within their first four seasons;

    • Never missed a start in their NFL respective careers. And since Prescott entered the NFL in 2016, they are tied for second in wins and game-winning drives among starting QBs.

    One other parallel between the two is their ability to put the ball on the money. Since Prescott's rookie year in 2016, Wilson and Prescott rank first and second in completions and touchdowns on "dime" passes, defined by NFL Next Gen Stats as throws into a tight-window (less than 1 yard of separation) at least 30 yards through the air.

    In addition to putting the ball on the money, they also possess a unique ability to make throws on the run. Since the start of 2016, Wilson (23) and Prescott (22) rank third and fourth in the NFL respectively in TD passes on the run according to NFL Next Gen Stats, trailing only Jameis Winston's 28 and Aaron Rodgers' 26.

    Playing tag: Prescott signed his one-year franchise tender worth $31.4M last month, the highest by cap hit by any NFL player in 2020, just ahead of Wilson's $31M. The combined average annual salaries of the Cowboys trio of Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper comes out to $66.5M -- that's the highest among current QB-RB-WR trios in the NFL, according to Roster Management System.

    Since the franchise tag was implemented in 1993, there have been three instances of a QB playing a full season under the tag:

    Drew Brees (2005): Played out the season for the Chargers; signed as a free agent with the Saints in 2006.

    Kirk Cousins (2016, 2017): Got the franchise tag twice before signing with the Vikings in free agency during the 2018 offseason.

    There's also the narrative out there that Prescott has struggled against good teams and that was apparent in 2019, when he went 1-6 against playoff teams with the same number of touchdown passes as picks. Prescott's 25-point drop-off in his QBR from non-playoff teams to playoff teams was tied for the second-largest in the NFL in 2019, trailing only Josh Allen's 32-point drop.

    The Cowboys' offense features plenty of firepower, with WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup both finishing with 1,000 receiving yards in 2019. It was the first time Dallas had two players reach that mark since Dez Bryant and Jason Witten in 2012. Since Cooper made his debut with the Cowboys in 2018 Week 9, Prescott and Cooper's 14 TDs are tied for the most by any QB-receiver duo in the NFL (Matt Ryan & Julio Jones). RB Ezekiel Elliott also rushed for over 1,300 yards for the third time in four seasons and has averaged 125.4 scrimmage yards per game in his career, second-most in NFL history behind Hall of Famer Jim Brown's 125.5 (min. 50 games).

    Is Wilson underrated? Despite his stellar play, Wilson has yet to receive an NFL MVP vote in his career. Wilson's 86 wins as a starter are tied with Tom Brady for the most by a QB in his first eight seasons in NFL history. Additionally, his seven Pro Bowl selections thus far are tied with Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas for the most by a QB in his first eight seasons in league history.

    His play of late has been turning some heads, and he has firmly cemented himself as one of the game's best QBs for some time now. Over the past three seasons, Wilson ranks atop of the NFL in TD passes overall as well as within every imaginable situation you could think of. Despite being listed at only 5-foot-11, Wilson has been one of the best deep ball artists in the game, producing an NFL-high 43 TDs on passes 15 yards downfield since 2017. Last season, Wilson became the fourth QB in NFL history to produce 30 TD passes in a season with five or fewer interceptions, joining Tom Brady (2010), Aaron Rodgers (2014) and Drew Brees (2018).

    On the downside, Wilson was pressured on a league-high 37% of his dropbacks last season and took 48 sacks -- tied with Matt Ryan and Kyler Murray for the most in the NFL. He has been sacked at least 40 times in each of the past seven seasons, the longest such streak by any QB since times sacked for QBs was first compiled in 1963.

    Another glaring takeaway from 2019 for Wilson was his outstanding play facing zone coverage, while his production against man was the polar opposite. Wilson's 85 QBR against zone in 2019 was the second-best in the NFL after Patrick Mahomes and finished third in the league in completion rate and yards per dropback in that situation. He had a 21-point drop in his QBR from zone to man, the second-largest in the NFL after Josh Allen's 27-point drop using ESPN's Coverage Metrics powered by NFL Next Gen Stats.

    As for the MVP votes, a big reason behind the lack of them for Wilson is the voting structure of the award, which features a single vote for 50 members of the media as opposed to a tiered system with first place, second place, etc., where the first-place votes garner more impact. You could also argue Wilson hasn't garnered any votes in the past three seasons because the QBs that took home the hardware had spectacular and historic campaigns and were by far the most deserving.

    Tom Brady led the league in passing yards and got 40 votes in 2017. Patrick Mahomes topped 50 TD passes and 5,000 yards to garner 41 votes in 2018. And Lamar Jackson was a unanimous choice for the Ravens last season after posting 30-plus TD passes and 1,000 rushing yards.

    Mahomes vs. Brady

    Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    Date: Nov. 29 | Network: CBS
    Racing with a GOAT: Mahomes has already done quite a bit to put himself in the same category as Brady, arguably already the greatest quarterback of all time. Forthwith:

    • Passed Brady as the youngest QB to win Super Bowl MVP (Brady: SB XXXVI);

    • Fifth-youngest MVP in NFL history at 23 years, 104 days old (Brady: 30 years, 162 days old when awarded 2007 MVP);

    • Passed Brady as No. 1 in player merchandise sales (March 2019 - Feb. 2020), according to NFLPA;
    • Madden 20 cover athlete (Brady: Madden 18 cover athlete)

    Mahomes is entering just his fourth NFL season, though, as Brady enters his 21st. The 18-year, 49-day age difference is by far the largest age difference between two QBs in a regular season game who have already started and won a Super Bowl. It smashes the previous mark, set by Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning's overtime showdown in Week 3 of the 2014 season (12-year, 250-day difference).

    Fourth meeting: Brady holds a 2-1 record against Mahomes and the Chiefs, although Kansas City won their most recent showdown, in Week 14 of the 2019 season. And while both QBs have coughed up three interceptions in their head-to-head matchups, Mahomes has passed for eight touchdowns, compared to Brady's three.

    Among quarterbacks who have squared off against Brady at least twice since 2018 (including playoffs), only Ryan Fitzpatrick (72) has posted a higher total QBR than Mahomes in such matchups.

    Other intriguing QB matchups, Tom Brady edition

    Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers at Buccaneers, Oct. 18: Brady always has found success when squaring off against his championship-level peers. He has won 20 regular-season starts against QBs who already have started and won a Super Bowl, the most such wins in NFL history, per Elias. He's 20-8 in such games.

    It's also possible Brady could become the first Super Bowl MVP QB to face four different Super Bowl MVP QBs in a season, as he could face Brees, Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Nick Foles (Brees also could also do this).

    Brady has years of experience in dismantling good teams. He is 108-48 in regular season starts against teams entering with a win percentage at or above .500. His .692 win percentage in such games is the highest mark of any QB in the Super Bowl era (min. 50 such matchups).

    Rodgers, though, ranks 17th out of those 88 qualified QBs with a 53-39 (.576) record in such games.

    Buccaneers at Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, Dec. 20: Ryan has a victory over every NFL team except Brady's Patriots and the Steelers. He famously lost to Brady in Super Bowl LI, after the Falcons led 28-3 in the third quarter. Ryan has the NFL's longest active streak and the second-longest streak of all time with nine consecutive seasons of passing for at least 4,000 yards. He ranks ninth all time in completions, 10th in passing yards and 11th in passing TDs.

    Other intriguing QB matchups, league edition

    Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans at Jackson, Ravens, Nov. 22:

    The Ravens will be looking for revenge after last year's upset loss in the AFC divisional round. The Titans stifled the eventual MVP, as Jackson completed only 52.5% (31 of 59), was intercepted twice and was sacked four times. His Total QBR of 29 was his lowest of the season. Tannehill, the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year, didn't do much, but he didn't turn the ball over, and he passed for two TDs and ran for one. It was the first time the No. 6 seed had beaten the No. 1 seed since the 2010 playoffs.

    Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals at Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins, Dec. 6: Could we see the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2020 draft meet in Week 13? Burrow is expected to be the Bengals Week 1 starter, while Tagovailoa could start the season behind Ryan Fitzpatrick in Miami. If Burrow and Tagovailoa meet in Week 13, it would be the second straight year that the first two QBs picked in the draft met as rookies (Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones dueled in 2019). Burrow and Tagovailoa are familiar with each other as they met twice in college, splitting the meetings. Each had 76 TD passes over the past two seasons, the most in FBS.

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