The "Godfather" movie franchise came out a half-century ago. One of the famous lines -- "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" -- rings true for Tom Brady today. I wonder if he circled Weeks 3 and 4 on the calendar when he unretired, as he's scheduled to face rivals Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes in consecutive games, a set of matchups anyone would salivate over. That may be especially true, though, for Brady. Nobody can touch his GOAT status, but this could be his final chance to cement his bragging rights over his contemporaries, two quarterbacks consistently mentioned in the "best QB in the league" debates.
Before we get to Brady's domination in these rivalries, let's revel in the fact that the three most decorated quarterbacks in today's game are about to go toe to toe.
Brady, Rodgers and Mahomes are the only three active players in the league with an NFL MVP and Super Bowl ring. Nobody is falling off either: they have won four of the last five league MVP awards. They also own three of the top four touchdown-to-interception ratios all time. There are a lot of superstar QBs in today's game, but this trio ranks 1-2-3 in touchdown passes since Mahomes became the Chiefs starter in 2018.
You may have heard they have also etched their names into the history books:
Brady is the NFL's all-time leader in championships won (7), Super Bowl MVPs (5), games won (245), touchdown passes (626) and passing yards (84,922), among a billion other records.
Rodgers may be the most efficient QB of all time, holding the best touchdown-to-interception ratio ever, while ranking second in MVPs (4) behind Peyton Manning.
Mahomes has the highest passer rating in league history and is the youngest QB to win Super Bowl MVP.
Bottom line. They may go down as three of the greatest quarterbacks ever and they all tango in the next two weeks. Buckle up!
Brady's bragging rights
This sets up a near unprecedented QB double-dip. It will be the second time in NFL history a QB with an MVP and Super Bowl MVP starts consecutive games against an MVP and Super Bowl MVP QB.
And wouldn't you know it, the other instance involved the same trio in the exact same order, the last time they all played each other. In the 2020 postseason, Brady and the Buccaneers beat Rodgers and Co. in the NFC Championship Game, followed by Mahomes and the Chiefs.
You would have to imagine both are champing at the bit for a little revenge against Brady. You might remember Rodgers didn't have the ball in his hands when it mattered most in the 2020 NFC Championship Game. The Packers elected to kick a field goal with roughly two minutes left on fourth down, down eight points, rather than put the ball in the hands of the league MVP. Green Bay never got the ball back of course. The following week, Mahomes was seemingly running for his life on every play in the worst beatdown of his career. He posted the worst passer rating, and what was at the time the largest loss of his career (31-9) in that Super Bowl.
The beauty of both wins for Brady: he bolstered his own trophy case while denying a second ring to both of his counterparts. He's actually now 3-0 in the playoffs against Rodgers and Mahomes. He beat Mahomes in the 2018 AFC Championship Game en route to his sixth ring. So, really, every time he's faced these two in the playoffs, he's gone on to also hoist the Lombardi trophy. And the kicker, in true Brady fashion, all three wins came as an underdog.
Brady's overall resume against the pair makes him one of one. Between the regular season and playoffs, 30 quarterbacks have started a game against both Rodgers and Mahomes. Guess who is the only one with a winning record against both? TB12, of course. He's 3-1 against Rodgers and 3-2 against Mahomes.
If all of that wasn't enough, Brady has as many rings in his 40s as Rodgers and Mahomes have in their combined careers (two).
Brady vs. Rodgers: Round 5
Rodgers will get the first crack at TB12 on Sunday. Perhaps the only thing he has on Brady is MVPs, which also include the last laugh. He won his fourth in 2021, edging out Brady in the voting, 39-10.
They also have a lot of mutual respect for each other. Rodgers was asked about the challenge facing Brady following Green Bay's win against the Bears on Sunday, answering "Obviously, Tommy's a legend." Brady returned the respect on his podcast, Let's Go!. "They have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Aaron leading them."
Together, their seven MVP awards tie for the most all time in a quarterback matchup. Each of the previous three matchups involved either Peyton Manning against Brady or Rodgers.
QB matchups with 7 NFL MVP awards
2022: Aaron Rodgers (4) vs Tom Brady (3)
2015: Tom Brady (2) vs Peyton Manning (5)
2015: Aaron Rodgers (2) vs Peyton Manning (5)
2014: Peyton Manning (5) vs Tom Brady (2)
Like most things, when they've gone head to head, it's advantage Brady. He has better numbers in every major category. Rodgers' only win came in their first matchup in 2014, a Packers' 26-21 win in Green Bay. There will be plenty at stake on Sunday as both teams clash in a potential NFC Championship preview.
Brady vs. Rodgers: By the numbers
Brady vs. Mahomes: Round 6
While Brady and Rodgers will meet for the fifth time, the Brady-Mahomes rivalry will actually surpass that with matchup No. 6 the following week. Both players have filled up the stat sheets in these games, but Brady has the all-important 3-2 advantage in the win column, including a blowout victory in Super Bowl LV after most expected a passing of the torch from Brady to Mahomes. Mahomes will have a chance to even the series in Week 4 in their last potential meeting.
Brady vs. Mahomes: By the numbers
When Brady finally decides to retire, Rodgers and Mahomes may still be chasing his ghost. Mahomes is clearly the biggest threat to Brady's all-time records, but neither are out of range.
Assuming Brady continues at his career pace but also retires after this season, he would finish with 656 passing TDs and 88,981 passing yards.
Including 2022, Rodgers would need to play another six seasons, to age 44, to reach those marks.
Mahomes would need to play another 12 seasons, to age 38, to reach those marks, which are both attainable.
Sign me up for all of it! The quarterback debates, the narratives, the hype, the speculative records talk and the games themselves.
It's an offer I can't refuse.