In just his fourth season, Mahomes has one league M.V.P. award and added the Super Bowl M.V.P. last season. He is 26-7 as a starter in the regular season, and he threw for 5,000 yards in his second season. Mahomes’s star power has garnered him a bevy of endorsements, but this summer, he has grown more comfortable using it to draw attention to racial injustice. He joined other prominent players in a video that called on the N.F.L. to recognize Black Lives Matter and is among the athletes and artists involved in the More Than a Vote initiative to register voters and fight voter suppression.
Jackson, who entered the league a season after Mahomes, is nearly as accomplished, with his record-breaking running sometimes distracting from his rapid improvement as a passer. His record as a starter is 21-3, and last season he was named M.V.P. after throwing for 36 touchdowns and running for seven more, setting a quarterback record with 1,206 rushing yards while averaging an incredible 6.9 yards a carry. The Ravens have not lost a regular-season game in nearly a year.
Like Mahomes, Jackson extends plays by scrambling in and out of the pocket, and he is unafraid to use his strong arm to fire passes into traffic, rarely making a mistake.
“This is the modern-day N.F.L. right here, the athletic quarterback who can still sling it around, be off schedule and creative, and make something out of nothing,” said Doug Flutie, who had a reputation for improvising in his two decades in the N.F.L. and the Canadian Football League. “They’re everything I tried to be as a quarterback. It’s so much fun to watch them.”
The emerging rivalry between Mahomes and Jackson is also the most significant matchup between marquee Black quarterbacks, a position that had been historically off-limits to nonwhites, in league history. There have been other showdowns between Black quarterbacks, including Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb. But neither of them was voted most valuable player or had such extraordinary success so early in his career.
And while there were 10 Black starting quarterbacks in Week 1 this season, including Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Dak Prescott of the Cowboys, who faced each other for the fourth time on Sunday in a 38-31 Seattle win, Mahomes and Jackson have become the faces of the N.F.L., both on and off the field.