OPINION: D.A.: Mahomes-Allen is the NFL's next great QB duel


The ground was frozen, the air was icy, yet flaming fireballs whizzed through the night sky. A Western New York night in January, with temperatures dipping below freezing, wasn't supposed to make for an aerial assault. But Josh Allen pointed his howitzer skyward and began launching. Dawson Knox, from eight yards out. Knox again, from 11. Thirty-four yards to Emmanuel Sanders. A 19-yard rope to Gabriel Davis. Tommy Doyle on a one-yard zip. The demolition was complete.

The aura ripped off the Patriots and thrown into the choppy waters of Lake Erie. Allen had surgically dissected the greatest defensive mind of all-time. Five touchdown passes. Four incompletions. The single most coldly efficient offensive performance in NFL history. The Bills didn't punt, turn it over, or settle for a field goal. Touchdowns only. All night.

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We've already seen that type of surgery performed by Dr. Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs superstar has garnered league MVP honors, won a Super Bowl MVP award, and hoisted Kansas City's first Lombardi trophy in five decades. Allen is 25 years old. Mahomes is 26. And the two will face off again in the AFC playoffs this weekend. It's not Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady, yet. But it'll absolutely be the premier quarterback duel for the foreseeable future.

Between 2003 and 2015, the league was defined by Brady and Manning. They combined for nine of the AFC's 13 Super Bowl appearances during that span, and with their box office pull, the NFL pitted them against one another in primetime. Starting in 2003, the league made sure there was a Pats-Colts or Pats-Broncos regular season matchup each year, and they usually fell on a Sunday night. The national television tilt often decided home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs, and gave us classics. New England's goal line stand back in 2003. Battle of the undefeated in 2007. Bill Belichick's ill-fated 4th-and-2 call in 2009. Pats overcome a 24-0 deficit in 2013. The moments live forever.

While Joe Burrow is phenomenal, Justin Herbert is special, Lamar Jackson is electric, and Kyler Murray is a highlight reel, the two quarterbacks best set up to define the 2020s are Allen and Mahomes. They're both on teams that are built to win now and for awhile. This'll be their fourth meeting in the last two years, and second in the postseason. Mahomes has already ripped apart the NFL's best defenses, and Allen just did his finest work last week. Kansas City watched the Bills stomp all over the Patriots' beating hearts, morphing from bullied to bullies in one violent bludgeoning. The Chiefs then took the stage 24 hours later, and put on their own fireworks display against the Steelers.

Just like the Bills, the Chiefs nearly hung 500 yards of offense on Pittsburgh (482-478), and scored touchdowns on six straight drives. Kansas City pulled next to the Steelers on the freeway, waved, and buzzed by doing 100 mph in their Maserati. They won't be able to do that with Buffalo, because Allen runs a luxury vehicle of his own. This means we're in for a show -- exactly the way Manning and Brady delivered.

Of course, no one should hand Allen and Mahomes the nine-combined Super Bowl trophies that Manning and Brady collected. But if you had to pick a duo that'll define the league after Brady and Aaron Rodgers call it quits, these two gunslingers are the guys. Two passionate and hungry fanbases. Two integral football cities. Two well-built franchises. Two well-rounded rosters. And, most importantly, two quarterbacks who can do the unbelievable. They're the next great quarterback duel. In fact, they're not just next -- they're now.

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