There was a torch change in the NFL this weekend, an unexpected but significant event that could lead the league into a new era of quarterbacks.
A cynic could describe the transition as "out with the old and in with the new". However, what is developing before our eyes is the next generation of quarterbacks that will prevail in the playoffs.
There aren't many of the well-known names that have starred in the recent past in this year's division round. 42-year-old Tom Brady and the patriots left the company early, which led to speculation that his career in the Hall of Fame in New England might be over. Drew Brees, who turns 41 this month, and the Saints saw their season end abruptly by losing to the Vikings at home in extra time.
Meanwhile, Philip Rivers (38) (Chargers) and Matt Ryan (34) (Falcons) were unable to get their teams into the playoffs. Eli Manning, 39, lost his starting job with the Giants; and Ben Roethlisberger, 37, played in just two games before his season ended in injury.
These well-known names are now spectators and are paving the way for a younger collection of quarterbacks trying to create their own playoff legacies. If the future hasn't arrived, she's sure to open the door, especially in the AFC, where Pat Mahomes (24) leads the bosses against Deshaun Watson (24) and the Texans in Kansas City, while Lamar Jackson (22) and the Ravens Compete against 31-year-old Ryan Tannehill and the Titans in Baltimore.
Jackson is likely to be named league MVP after leading the NFL in touchdown passes (36) and setting a quarterback rushing record at 1,206 yards. The unstoppable offensive power led the Ravens to a 14-2 record and the top seed in the AFC. It's all good, but Jackson is determined to pay for poor performance in his first playoff start a year ago, which ended in a 23:17 loss to the Chargers.
"I will appreciate all the awards and stuff like that at a different time. I'm currently chasing something else," Jackson said recently, adding, "I'm much more confident than last year. I'm not a beginner. I was nearby and saw everything they could bring me. I just have to keep playing. "
Jackson will have to get past the titans who were excited when Tannehill saved the season and took over Marcus Mariota. Tannehill has received a lot of help because he sent Derrick Henry back, but you can be sure that he will do more against the Ravens.
Sunday's game at Green Bay features two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks at 31-year-old Russell Wilson in Seattle and 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers from The Packers.
The winner will face either Jimmy Garoppolo or Kirk Cousins. Garoppolo, 28, starts his first playoffs for the 49ers against Cousins, 31, who won his first playoff game on Sunday when the Vikings defeated Brees and the Saints.
Watson versus Mahomes, the MVP a year ago, should be a boon to two dynamic quarterbacks who can find exciting ways to put points on the board. Watson ran for a touchdown and threw for another to get the Texans down from 16 points and beat Saturday's extra time on Saturday with 22:19 for his first playoff win.
"When I play the game, I don't look at the scoreboard, I just keep fighting," said Watson. "You have to be grainy and have the courage to keep pushing and doing what you have to do."
Garoppolo fulfills the potential that the 49ers imagined when they took it over from the Patriots in 2017. He led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and top seed in the NFC.
"We still have a long way to go," he said. "It's a great step to win NFC West. But now the real tournament begins. We have a great mentality. Boys are ready for it."
The NFL is ready for this.