Let’s keep it real: It’s time for someone to dethrone the damn New England Patriots. New England just won its sixth Super Bowl with a boring-ass 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams. The Patriots’ 20-year reign of tyranny over the NFL has been going on for far too long.
In the last two decades, two teams have thwarted the Patriots in the Super Bowl (Giants, Eagles) three times. But the best way to really stop them is to keep them out of the Super Bowl altogether.
That means we’ll need a team in the AFC to beat them before they can reach the Super Bowl. Luckily for NFL fans, there are teams with rising quarterbacks who have a chance to step up to the plate and give the Patriots some real competition in the immediate future.
Here are four AFC teams and their young quarterbacks who have a chance to take down the Patriots and restore balance to the force.
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs
The most recent MVP of the league just pushed the Patriots to the edge two weeks ago in the AFC Championship Game. After the Chiefs were shut out in the first half of the game, Mahomes put together an incredible second-half performance. He led the Chiefs to 31 points after halftime — including 24 points in the fourth quarter.
Mahomes is only 23 years old and coming off of a season when he threw 50 touchdowns to 12 interceptions and led his team to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. It was also his first season as a starter. The Patriots saw just how talented Mahomes was up close and personal, and he’s only going to get better as he continues to grow as an NFL quarterback.
Vegas agrees with the Chiefs still being one of the top teams in the NFL — they have great Super Bowl odds for next season.
Opening odds to win Super Bowl LIV (Bovada):— OddsShark (@OddsShark) February 4, 2019
Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns
Once Baker Mayfield was shed of the anchors known as Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, he looked every bit the franchise quarterback the Browns drafted him to be with the No. 1 overall pick.
Mayfield had a passer rating of 106.2 in the eight games that he played with Freddie Kitchens calling the plays, which would have fifth in the NFL if he had been able to keep that pace up for the entire season. Kitchens is now the head coach in Cleveland, which is good news for Mayfield’s development.
Outside of Mayfield, the Browns have a budding defense that finished fifth in opposing passer rating (83.4) for the 2018 season. They have young stars on that side of the ball including Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Jabrill Peppers, and Larry Ogunjobi.
Mayfield and the Browns haven’t played the Patriots yet, but they look to be building a bully — perhaps one that can go toe-to-toe with the reigning Super Bowl champion.
Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans
The Texans have a young quarterback of their own who’s going to be a force in the AFC for the foreseeable future. As a rookie, Watson put together an explosive six-game stint as the starting quarterback before tearing his ACL. Then he backed that up with a strong sophomore season, throwing for 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Watson also has a dynamic No. 1 wide receiver to throw to: DeAndre Hopkins, who isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Hopkins finished 2018 with 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Houston has its quarterback, top wide receiver, and a vicious front seven in place — now the team needs to work on rebuilding an offensive line that gave up a ludicrous 62 sacks during the 2018 season.
Since Watson has been the quarterback, the Texans have played two competitive games against the Patriots, losing both games by a combined 10 points. If the Texans can get a bit tougher along the offensive front, they’ll have a better chance to topple the Patriots in their future matchups.
Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts
The Colts can really upgrade their team this offseason — and they’re already ahead of schedule. Despite a 1-5 start to the season, the Colts caught fire and finished with a 10-6 record. They got another win in the playoffs, before losing to the Chiefs in the Divisional Round. Now, the Colts are sitting on over $100 million in cap space for the upcoming offseason. They also have the Jets’ second-round pick (pick No. 34 overall) to get another impact player in the draft.
So that gives Indy space, draft picks, and one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Andrew Luck. The Colts might not have fared well in their early-season matchup against the Patriots this year, losing 38-24. But that was before the Colts had started to jell and rattled off nine wins in the last 10 weeks of the season. They also have the resources to get much better very, very soon.
Given their recent success in the draft — they drafted two rookie All-Pros in Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard — Colts fans should feel pretty good about the ability of this front office to build a legitimate power in the AFC, one that can challenge the Patriots.
Even if these teams can’t keep Brady and the Patriots out of the Super Bowl, he’ll be 42 years old next season and can’t play FOREVER.
Well, let me rephrase that. He probably can’t play forever. And another AFC team, and another quarterback, will get their turn at the crown.