It’s not often that we see both Tom Brady and Drew Brees both playing during the first week of the posteason. Often enough, at least one of them will have a postseason bye—and typically, of course, that has been Brady, the New England Patriots more often than not getting a rubber stamp into the second round.
This season, we saw both of them not only playing during the Wildcard Round, despite both the Patriots and the New Orleans Saints finishing with strong regular season records, we also so both of them lose. While the Saints have missed entire postseasons before, this will be the first Divisional Round in which New England will not participate since 2009, literally a decade ago.
Neither Brady nor Drew Brees, it also need be said, particularly looked like their typical dominant selves, though that was much more true of Brady than it was Brees, who still completed almost 75 percent of his passes, over seven percent of which were touchdowns, and in actuality he posted the highest quarterback rating of his career—on his fewest pass attempts since 2003 after missing five games.
With the two oldest and most respected quarterbacks in the NFL ‘bleeding their own blood’, so to speak, and four of the year’s Pro Bowl quarterbacks coming from the younger generation—the AFC dominated in that aspect—one can’t help but wonder, are we seeing a full-blown changing of the guard now in the NFL to the next wave of quarterbacks?
There is still Aaron Rodgers with a part to play in that for 2019. At 36, he his now the old man remaining in the postseason. Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins are both 31, in more of an intermediate area, but the dominant faces of this postseason are the Lamar Jacksons and the Patrick Mahomes, who accounted for the top two seeds in the AFC, and thus didn’t have to play in the opening round.
One thing we do know is that things look a lot different from last year, with seven of the final eight teams from a season ago being different from the 2018 Divisional Round. The only common team is the Kansas City Chiefs, who were an overtime away from advancing to the Super Bowl.
How will the old guard perform in 2020? This is obviously relevant to the Pittsburgh Steelers, given that they are hoping beyond hope to have Ben Roethlisberger fully up and running next season. Eli Manning appears to be done. Philip Rivers is closing in on that status as well. It’s hard to imagine Ryan Fitzpatrick continuing to land starting gigs forever, even if he keeps beating Brady. Even Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan will be 35 next season.