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On the heels of outdueling the most physically gifted quarterback in the NFL, Joe Burrow faces an even more formidable test in his quest to become a Super Bowl champion: Defeat Patrick Mahomes for the fourth time in a row.

With the Cincinnati Bengals set to play the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game, the showdown between two of the league’s most talented and respected signal-callers carries significant implications for everyone involved. 

For Mahomes, who’s widely viewed as the best at his position, the matchup against the Burrow-led Bengals offers him a chance to avenge last season’s loss that left the Chiefs on the outside looking in. For all of his individual accolades, the rocket-armed superstar still only has one Super Bowl win on his otherwise stellar resume. And if he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Tom Brady, Mahomes needs to win at least a few more rings. 

For Burrow, though, Sunday represents much more than a chance to stamp his ticket to a second consecutive Super Bowl. 

If the No. 1 overall pick from the 2020 NFL Draft manages to get the best of Mahomes and Co. again, it’ll be much more difficult to keep calling his peer the best quarterback in the NFL. Because even though Burrow doesn’t have multiple MVP trophies, a Super Bowl ring, or a $500 million contract like Mahomes, it might not be long before he accomplishes those feats. 

And the 2023 AFC Championship Game could be the next step in his ascension to the top of the NFL totem pole.

Joe Burrow vs. Patrick Mahomes has been a one-sided affair thus far

Football is the ultimate team sport. It takes more than an elite quarterback to win, but having one certainly makes it easier. 

Just ask Bengals fans about the difference between having an above-average player at the position (no offense, Andy Dalton) to someone who possesses all the tools needed to dominate defenses. 

Ever since Burrow arrived in 2020, Cincinnati has climbed up power rankings and established a reputation as a tough, resilient team capable of keeping up with the top contenders in the AFC. 

In fact, Zac Taylor’s squad has made a habit of rising to the occasion against the Chiefs, who have overtaken the New England Patriots as the most successful franchise in the conference. 

In three matchups against Kansas City with Burrow under center, Cincinnati has emerged victorious every time. Burrow completely shredded the Chiefs in the penultimate game of the 2021 season, completing 30-of-39 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns in a three-point win. He followed up with a solid performance in the AFC Championship that helped the Bengals reach the Super Bowl for the first time in over three decades. 

Burrow had the Chiefs’ number again this season in Week 13 when he completed all but six of his 31 attempts for 286 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions in another three-point victory. 

No matter how you slice it, the fact the former LSU star has gone undefeated against Mahomes’ team speaks volumes.

A Bengals victory should make Joe Cool the undisputed QB1

Joe Burrow during a Bengals-Bills matchup in January 2023
Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals looks to throw a pass against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 22, 2023 | Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

There’s no doubt Patrick Mahomes deserves all the praise and respect in the world for his ability to make magic happen. 

There’s also no doubt his adversary on Sunday has put himself in the mix to steal the “best quarterback in the NFL” title from his clutches. 

A viable MVP candidate in his own right, Burrow’s resume already includes becoming a record-setting, championship-winning quarterback at the college level. He’s overcome a torn ACL and shoddy pass protection (something that’s still an issue) to develop into an All-Pro-caliber quarterback who led the NFL in completion percentage in 2021 (70.4%) despite taking a league-high 51 sacks. 

With a whopping 69 touchdown passes across his last two seasons, the poised playmaker has torched defenses with an air of confidence that’s drawn comparisons to Tom Brady. 

Of course, unlike the GOAT, Burrow hasn’t experienced the thrill of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy…yet. 

While he still has to cross that finish line, the fact the 26-year-old is this close to sending Cincinnati to the Super Bowl for the second straight season should strike fear into everyone across the league. Burrow took over a franchise that many regarded as one of the worst-run in the NFL, and he’s turned it into a perennial contender that’s toppled the Chiefs in all three matchups he’s started. 

If Sunday goes the Bengals’ way, how can Burrow not be viewed in a different light? He’ll have a 4-0 record against the player universally regarded as QB1. He’ll have consecutive AFC Championship victories under his belt–a feat that certainly puts him in the Mahomes-Brady class. And he’ll have done all this while playing for a team that had no semblance of hope prior to his arrival.

The Bengals better be prepared to pay Patrick Mahomes-type money for their biggest star

By not only meeting but exceeding expectations as the No. 1 pick in the draft, Burrow hasn’t just made himself a fan favorite and one of the league’s brightest and most revered young stars. 

He’s also set himself up for a Mahomes-like contract. 

By the time the Bengals’ season ends, they’ll be one step closer to backing up the Brinks truck for their superstar quarterback. 

After all, even though Burrow has been one of the league’s biggest bargains, he’ll soon become one of (or perhaps the) highest-paid player in the NFL. 

Given his value both on and off the field, the third-year pro has a solid case to ask to reset the quarterback market. Burrow could easily command $50-plus million per year–a figure no one could have imagined a few years ago when he was buried down the depth chart at Ohio State. 

Yet thanks to his unwavering self-confidence, his phenomenal play, and his penchant for winning football games, the Iowa native has gone from a no-name backup to winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship to becoming the No. 1 overall pick. 

And if Joe Burrow leaves Arrowhead Stadium with another victory over Patrick Mahomes, he might as well take the coveted title of being the best quarterback in the NFL with him. 


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