Sunday’s AFC Championship Game will be the 17th time Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have faced off and probably the last. Everyone knows that this is the greatest quarterback rivalry of the 21st century, but where does it stack up amongst the other ones in NFL history?
Related: Ranking All 16 Manning-Brady Bowls
A great quarterback rivalry cannot just be confined to the regular season. It has to carry over to the postseason and last for multiple years. This has not happened often. Here are the five greatest times that it has.
5. Sid Luckman vs. Sammy Baugh
For those of you who do not read much about the pre-Super Bowl era, Luckman quarterbacked the Chicago Bears and Baugh led the Washington Redskins. In the early 1940s, these two teams met for the NFL championship three times in four years. Chicago won two (including an NFL record 73-0 beatdown in 1940) and Washington won one.
4. Terry Bradshaw vs. Ken Stabler
This contest that started with the “Immaculate Reception” could not be called a rivalry until 1976 since Bradshaw and the Steelers dominated. However, after suffering back-to-back AFC Championship Game losses to the Steelers, Stabler led the Oakland Raiders to 1976 world championship after beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI. Along the way, the Raiders dispatched the Steelers 24-7 in the conference title game. The rivalry resumed in 1980 when Stabler was traded to the Steelers’ AFC Central rival Houston Oilers. The two teams split regular season victories in 1980 and ‘81, Stabler’s only two years in Houston.
3. Troy Aikman vs. Steve Young
This rivalry was brief but for four years all eyes were on these two teams and their respective quarterbacks. Both Aikman and Young met in the NFC Championship Game three years in a row and would have met for a fourth had the 49ers not been upset by the Green Bay Packers in the 1995 Divisional Round. The quick decline of the Cowboys and the emergence of the Packers brought this rivalry to an end way too soon.
2. Bobby Layne vs. Otto Graham
Layne’s Lions and Graham’s Browns met for the NFL title three years in a row from 1952-54. Detroit won the first two in close games, but Cleveland prevented a three-peat with a 56-10 walloping in which Graham accounted for six touchdowns.
1. Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady
As you can see, no other rivalry even comes close. Enjoy Sunday’s game because we may never see another QB pairing like this for a long, long time.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)