After losing Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and soon-to-be Ben Roethlisberger, the AFC is rapidly changing. The last couple of years have been a period of transition from the old guard to the new guard in the AFC.
But more than in other years, 2021 felt like the first time that the newer era of quarterbacks predictably rose to the top of the conference.
Here are four quarterbacks who are proving the AFC is starting to settle into the new era.
Four new leading quarterbacks in the AFC
#1 - Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
First and foremost, Patrick Mahomes is unmatched at the top of the AFC. He isn't going anywhere and represents the bar for greatness.
Mahomes has thrown for at least 37 touchdowns in three of his four starting seasons. He's had two seasons in which he has thrown fewer than ten interceptions.
While 2021 started off a bit shaky, Mahomes is back in the AFC Championship for a fourth-straight time. Put simply, anyone watching football in the last few years would put Mahomes as one of the best quarterbacks in football, if not the absolute best.
#2 - Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen's career started off in typical rookie fashion. However, his growth year-over-year has been tangible.
He used to be the weakest link of the team in the playoffs, but now he seems to be the leader of the team. The fourth-and-13 touchdown at the end of the Chiefs-Bills game was a defining throw for his growth.
He would not have trusted himself to make that throw on a fourth down and in that spot. This is the new Josh Allen who showed he's going to be around for a long time.
Some are calling Allen-Mahomes the new Brady-Manning matchup.
#3 - Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow is the newest member of the list, but by landing in the AFC Championship in his first full season, he's shown a great shot at longevity in the NFL. It wasn't just the ability to get to the game, but rather how he's been able to do it.
He's eviscerated defenses through the air all season long. He had a game this season that put him on the list for most passing yards in a game in NFL history.
His rookie season saw him throw for 13 touchdowns and five interceptions before tearing his ACL. However, in just his second year, Burrow threw for 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while completing more than 70 percent of his throws.
#4 - Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert has put together two great opening seasons. In his first two years, he's thrown for 69 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.
All that Herbert is missing is a playoff run. He was as close as one could get this season.
Had a couple of balls skipped a different way, he would have been in the dance.
However, while his team let him down in big spots in 2021, Herbert showed to be the best asset on the team. The rest of the pieces will fall into place, but the Chargers have the most difficult part of team building locked down.