Mahomes won MVP in 2018 and followed it up with a Super Bowl MVP last season. Jackson is coming off his own MVP season, in which he rushed for 1,206 yards. And both former first-round quarterbacks are still very early in their careers.
The game itself promises to be exciting -- it holds the ninth-highest regular-season matchup rating from ESPN Stats & Information (94.7) since the metric was created in 2008 -- and these two quarterbacks are a big reason for that. How does Mahomes-Jackson 3 (the Chiefs won the first two times they matched up) stack up against other highly anticipated QB matchups in the history of the NFL? Let's take a quick look at the best of the best in QB showdown intrigue, going back 70 years (ordered by date).
Headline: Matchup of past two MVPs
Date: Sept. 28, 2020
This game checks off every box. It's the first meeting between former MVPs age 25 or younger in NFL history, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It's also a matchup between the reigning MVP (Jackson) and Super Bowl MVP (Mahomes). Mahomes had 50 passing touchdowns and 5,000 passing yards in 2018, while Jackson broke Michael Vick's single-season QB rushing record in 2019.
They own the two longest active regular-season win streaks among starting quarterbacks in the NFL; Jackson has been the victor in 13 straight, while Mahomes is riding an eight-game streak. Both are capable of making jaw-dropping plays, from throws on the run to highlight-reel spin moves, on center stage on Monday Night Football.
Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees
Headline: First matchup of 40-year-old QBs
Date: Sept. 13, 2020
Don't forget the Bucs-Saints season opener. It was Brady's Buccaneers debut and the first time we've seen two 40-year-old QBs face off in NFL history. Brees and Brady entered the game first and second, respectively, in all-time touchdown passes. The previous game between the top two touchdown passers of all time had been in 1949, between Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman. Brady's Bucs debut didn't go as scripted, though, as he threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, in the 34-23 loss.
Headline: An overdue first matchup
Date: Nov. 30, 2014
This was the long-overdue first meeting between Brady and Rodgers. Brady was "just" a three-time Super Bowl winner and two-time MVP at the time, and Rodgers was a Super Bowl MVP and NFL MVP. It was also hyped as a Super Bowl preview and battle for MVP, as they entered tied for the best Total QBR (79.6) in the NFL. The Packers won 26-21 after a late Brady drive stalled. Rodgers went on to win MVP, but Brady won another Super Bowl.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Brett Favre
Headline: Favre's first game against the Packers
Date: Oct. 5, 2009
This might have been the most hyped grudge match ever. Favre, a three-time MVP winner, entered his first game against his former team and the QB who replaced him, Rodgers, on Monday Night Football in Minnesota. Favre threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions, while Rodgers was sacked eight times. The Vikings improved to 4-0 by defeating the Packers 30-23. And with the victory, Favre became the first quarterback in NFL history to beat all 32 teams.
Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning
Headline: A battle of the unbeatens
Date: Nov. 4, 2007
Hyped as the biggest regular-season game of all time, it featured the 8-0 Patriots and 7-0 Colts and perhaps the greatest quarterback rivalry ever. Brady and Manning ranked first and second in Total QBR, respectively, entering the game. Brady, a three-time Super Bowl winner, was halfway to a historic season, and Manning was the reigning Super Bowl MVP. It lived up to the hype, as New England overcame a 10-point deficit behind two fourth-quarter touchdowns from Brady. Pats win 24-20.
Steve Young vs. Joe Montana
Headline: Montana's only game vs. 49ers
Date: Sept. 11, 1994
Montana was traded to the Chiefs after winning four Super Bowls and two MVPs with the 49ers, while Young, who won NFL MVP in 1992, was still in search of his first Super Bowl. That was the stage for the only grudge match between Montana and the 49ers. Montana tossed two touchdown passes in the Chiefs' 24-17 victory.
Dan Marino vs. John Elway
Headline: The first meeting of two stars
Date: Sept. 29, 1985
Alums of the 1983 NFL draft class, Marino and Elway met for the first time in 1985. Like Mahomes and Jackson, they were two of the biggest faces in the game. In 1984, Marino shattered NFL records for single-season passing yards and touchdowns en route to an MVP and a Super Bowl appearance. Elway and the Broncos were coming off a 13-3 season. The Dolphins won 30-26 behind 390 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions from Marino.
Terry Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach
Headline: Super Bowl rematch
Date: Oct. 28, 1979
Bradshaw and Staubach went head-to-head nine months after the Steelers beat the Cowboys 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII. This game featured the previous two Super Bowl-winning QBs, and Bradshaw was the reigning MVP and Super Bowl MVP. Staubach was in his final season, when he'd throw 27 touchdown passes. The Steelers won this game, though, 14-3.
Bart Starr vs. Johnny Unitas
Headline: A pair of MVPs and Super Bowl champs
Date: Nov. 5, 1967
It doesn't get much better than Starr against Unitas, especially given the circumstances in 1967. Starr was the reigning MVP and Super Bowl MVP. Unitas was the NFL's all-time passing yards leader, a two-time MVP and two-time champ. The Packers had also eliminated the Colts from championship contention late in the 1966 season. This time Unitas got revenge by throwing a touchdown pass to Willie Richardson in the final two minutes to help the Colts win 13-10 and stay unbeaten.
Otto Graham vs. Norm Van Brocklin/Bob Waterfield
Headline: NFL championship rematch
Date: Oct. 7, 1951
This was a rematch of the 1950 NFL championship game, won by the Browns on a late field goal. There was more intrigue, though, with three Hall of Fame quarterbacks now in the mix: the Browns' Graham against the Rams' QB committee of Van Brocklin and Waterfield. Van Brocklin had thrown for 554 yards in his previous game, which still stands as an NFL record. Graham was on his way to 10 consecutive championship game appearances and threw for four touchdowns in the 1950 NFL title game win. On this day, Graham and the Browns came out on top 38-23.