After many great battles between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, could Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota be the next great quarterbacking rivalry the AFC needs?
The AFC has a ton going for it, including your on-the-rise Oakland Raiders. However one thing has hurt the conference more than anything when compared to the NFC: market size. The NFL is an increasingly global game and that sort of thing shouldn’t matter anymore. That being said, the NFC has markets like Atlanta, Dallas and Washington, D.C., while the AFC has smaller cities like Buffalo, Indianapolis and Jacksonville.
If there is anything that can overcome market size to draw a great rating, it is high-octane quarterback play. Despite having smaller media markets than the NFC, the AFC has had great success on television the last 15 years due to three men, all quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.
All three have won multiple Super Bowls in their soon-to-be Hall of Fame careers. However, Manning retired after 2015 and the other two aren’t all that far away. So who is going to step up and be the shining beacon of AFC quarterbacking when Brady and Roethlisberger inevitably retire?
The Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck felt like a prime candidate for it, but organizational dysfunction has him too beat up for a 28-year-old quarterback to keep taking this punishment. Blake Bortles is not doing it for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Maybe two first-round rookies in Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes are those guys?
But let’s be real for a second. There are already two young emerging stars of quarterbacking in the AFC: Oakland’s Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans. They came into the league within a year of each other. Both the Raiders and the Titans should be in the AFC playoff mix this fall. They even had matching injuries on the same day a year ago. Merry Christmas, your leg is busted!
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Of course, we know that they are both immensely talented. What we don’t is if they can form that quarterbacking rivalry the AFC needs.
It’s early, but are the Raiders going to eventually loathe Titans. Liken it to how the New England Patriots felt about the Colts and Denver Broncos when Manning starred for them.
Obviously, the Raiders and the Titans don’t play in the same division. That would only expedite the rivalry for sure.
That being said, if both teams are routinely finishing one or two in their division, Oakland and Tennessee are going to be meeting each other on the gridiron almost annually. It’s not just their quarterbacks that have the same career arc, it’s their entire teams.
They’re not mirror images of each other, but the offensive lines are the best part of both rosters. The quarterback play has these teams’ futures blinding bright. It helps to have two of the better on-the-rise general managers in football in Reggie McKenzie and Jon Robinson.
These two quarterbacks have already met twice since Mariota came into the league in 2015. The Raiders topped the Titans 24-21 in late November of that year. Oakland would finish 2015 at 7-9, the Titans had the worst record in football at 3-13.
Last year, the Raiders again won in Nissan Stadium 17-10 in late September. The Raiders went 12-4 and made the AFC Playoffs as a wild card team. Tennessee finished 9-7 and lost the tiebreaker to the Houston Texans for the AFC South crown.
Barring anything unforeseen, this should be an interesting potential rivalry series going forward. However, it’s honestly lacking teeth at this point. Neither Carr or Mariota are antagonistic by nature. Then again, nothing compares to the national disdain of the Brady/Belichick Patriots.
Carr comes from a football family like Manning, but didn’t have his career path for him paved in gold like Archie did for Peyton. It’s just a Silver and Black tarmac laid out by Carr’s brother Derek after being rag-dolled for the expansion Texans.
Forcing bad blood between the Titans and Raiders at this point feels silly. However, these two teams are going to meet a lot in the coming years. The two games have been close, but Tennessee needs to win for this budding rivalry to have any bite. Frankly, this series just needs Khalil Mack getting into it with Titans tackle Taylor Lewan and we’ll be cooking with napalm in no time.