The conference championship round won't just be a battle between the top-four scoring teams in football. It'll also be a battle of the old vs. the new. 

On Sunday, 24-year-old Jared Goff will lead the Rams into New Orleans to take on the Saints (3:05 p.m. ET, Fox, stream on fuboTV, try for free), who are quarterbacked by 40-year-old Drew Brees. Later on Sunday (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS, stream on CBS All Access), 23-year-old Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will welcome 41-year-old Tom Brady and the Patriots into Arrowhead, where possible Arctic conditions await

The final four is a doozy. Mahomes is the frontrunner to win MVP, but he's going up against arguably the greatest quarterback of all time in Brady. It's the NFL's version of Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader (I'm not required to drop one Star Wars reference per article, but I'll do it anyway). Brees is the likely MVP runner-up, and he's tasked with taking down a quarterback in Goff who threw for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns in his third NFL season. For as much as we talked about defenses mattering as teams like the Bears and Ravens began to emerge as contenders in December, it remains true that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league in which great offensive play usually wins out over great defensive play. The Chiefs, Rams, Saints, and Patriots led the league in scoring. Their offenses all finished top five in DVOA. Their defenses all finished outside the top 10 in DVOA.

On Sunday, we should see a display of top quarterback play and peak offensive football. With that in mind, we decided to rank the final four quarterbacks. Just a reminder that while playoff history does matter, it is not the only factor. Recent success (put another way, who is playing better right now) matters more. In that sense, this list is more like power rankings. 

We begin on the younger side of the spectrum.

4. Jared Goff

There's no shame in slotting in behind Brady, Brees, and Mahomes, but the unfortunate reality for the Rams is that they're entering the conference championship round with the worst of the remaining four quarterbacks, and quite a large gulf exists between Goff and the three quarterbacks ahead of him. That doesn't make Goff a bad quarterback. It doesn't mean he's unworthy of this stage. It just means he's not nearly as good as Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, Brees, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and Mahomes, the best quarterback on the planet right now. 

Ever since that epic shootout win over the Chiefs back in Week 11, when Goff threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns, Goff's been a wreck. In the six games since, including the Rams' win over the Cowboys a week ago, Goff is completing 58.2 percent of his passes and averaging 6.4 yards per pass. He's thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions. In his first 11 games of the season, he completed 67.7 percent of his passes, averaged 9.3 yards per pass, and threw 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. Goff's production hasn't just slipped over the past month or so. It's tumbled over a cliff and sunk to the bottom of the Pacific. 

What's especially concerning is his performance under pressure. Every quarterback worsens under duress, but it's becoming increasingly clear that Goff is unable to operate at a high enough level in the face of pressure. Even in the win over the Cowboys, during which Goff went 15 of 28 for 186 yards and a 74.4 passer rating, Goff regularly looked bothered by pressure.

On this early third-and-goal, Goff faded away from pressure and threw an uncatchable pass to his receiver in one-on-one coverage. He also missed a chance to exploit Todd Gurley's mismatch on a slower defender up the seam. 

NFL Game Pass

Later in the second quarter, pressure prevented Goff from hitting a wide open target down the left sideline. 

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An illegal hands to the face penalty on the other side of the field wiped away this incompletion, but again, it's an example of Goff making a poor throw as pressure arrived.

NFL Game Pass

Goff is still a young quarterback who should continue to improve as he acquires more experience. He's coached by Sean McVay, who should help him ascend. And he's good enough to help the Rams upset the Saints in New Orleans. But he enters Sunday's slate of games as the worst of the remaining quarterbacks. 

Again, that doesn't make him bad. But it does make him the worst of the final four by a wide margin. 

Listen to Jason La Canfora and Will Brinson break down the title game matchups on the Pick Six Podcast:

3. Drew Brees

Before the playoffs began, I had Brees ranked second on the list of playoff quarterbacks, ahead of Brady. After all, Brees was coming off a regular season in which he completed an NFL record 74.4 percent of his passes for 3,992 yards (it would've been 4,000 if he'd played in Week 17), 32 touchdowns, five interceptions, and a league-high 115.7 passer rating. And it's not like Brees stunk it up against the Eagles on Sunday, when he threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns.

But Brees wasn't at his best against the Eagles. And he hasn't been at his best for the last month or so. 

During his final four regular season games -- including his great performance in a win over the Steelers -- Brees completed 69.2 percent of his passes, averaged 6.4 yards per pass, and threw three touchdowns and three interceptions for an 84.7 passer rating. During the win over the Eagles, Brees threw one bad interception that would've been a touchdown if he had led his receiver the proper amount. 

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In the third quarter, he missed what should've been another easy touchdown. 

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Here's how open Taysom Hill was when Brees released the ball.

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Brees' deep ball was off on Sunday. He's been off his game for the past month, which is why he lost his brief lead over Mahomes in the MVP race. The gap between Brees and Brady isn't that substantial -- they're neck and neck -- but Brady's playoff history vaults him above Brees, for now at least. 

2. Tom Brady

It's been a down season for Brady and the Patriots by their insanely high standards, which has inspired Brady to think of himself and the Patriots as the underdogs up against the Goliath that is the Kansas City Chiefs. After thumping the Chargers on Sunday to secure their eighth-straight trip to the AFC title game, Brady told CBS' Tracy Wolfson that "everyone thinks we suck and we can't win any games."


According to Chase Stuart of Football Perspective, Brady has been favored in 69 straight games. That includes Sunday's win over the Chargers, when the Patriots covered the 3.5-point spread with ease. 

It was during that game that Brady looked more like his old self, going 34 of 44 for 343 yards, a touchdown, and a 106.5 passer rating. He did most of his damage underneath, targeting running James White a whopping 17 times and hitting him 15 times for 97 yards. His passing chart, via NFL Next Gen Stats, makes it look like he did nothing but dump the ball off underneath.

NFL Next Gen Stats

But it'd be unfair to Brady to suggest that any other quarterback would've made all of those throws. We've seen Brady pick teams apart underneath with White serving as the primary vessel countless times. That shouldn't take away from his greatness. If it were easy, every quarterback would do it.

His pocket movement remains fantastic.

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And he's still capable of hitting passes downfield with tremendous timing.

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Brady has won five Super Bowls, owns a 28-10 record in postseason play, and is coming off a great performance over a Chargers team that is more talented than the Patriots. Brady might've experienced a down season in 2018, but even at his worst, he was still good enough to throw for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns. It's not like Brady was bad this season. He just wasn't his normal superhuman self. 

Brady wasn't flashy in the win over the Chargers, but that shouldn't be held against him. He executed the Patriots' game-plan to perfection. But he faces an entirely different kind of test on Sunday when he'll be asked to keep pace with Mahomes. 

1. Patrick Mahomes

What more is there to say about Mahomes at this point?

He's coming off a 50-touchdown, 5,097-yard season, joining Peyton Manning in the 50-touchdown, 5,000-yard club. In his first-ever playoff game, a dominant Chiefs win over the Colts, he submitted one of his worst stat lines of the season (27 of 41 for 278 yards and an 85.2 passer rating), but that stat line doesn't do his performance justice.

He helped lead the Chiefs to 24 points on their five first-half drives, three of which ended in rushing touchdowns, one of which he scored. 

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There was his sidearm pass that seemingly curved its way to Travis Kelce.

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There was the way he expertly navigated pressure, kept his eyes up, and cooly hit Kelce, who was only wide open because of how Mahomes manipulated the underneath defender with his eyes and a natural pump fake.

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There was more across-the-field magic in the face of pressure.

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Most importantly, in a game the Chiefs controlled the entire way, there were no turnovers. Mahomes did exactly what he needed to after the Chiefs opened up a huge lead in the first half. In doing so, Mahomes, 23, became the youngest quarterback to win a playoff game since Mark Sanchez back in 2009.

Mahomes is the best quarterback on the planet right now. He's so much better than the second-best quarterback on the planet that his lack of postseason experience is rendered completely insignificant. He belongs on top of this list, above two future Hall of Famers, one of whom might be the greatest quarterback of all time. And it's not particularly close.