The 2023 Super Bowl will feature a showdown between two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks – Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams. This matchup of talented passers has all the makings of an instant classic that could be remembered as one of the greatest Super Bowls ever.
Burrow, the young rising star in just his third NFL season, will take on Stafford, the established veteran playing in his 13th year. Their varying experience levels provide an intriguing backdrop to this quarterback battle. But both have demonstrated this season that they have what it takes to carry their teams on a championship run.
As Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona draws near, let’s take a closer look at what each quarterback brings to the table and how they match up against each other.
The Phenom – Joe Burrow’s Meteoric Rise
What Joe Burrow has achieved in just three NFL seasons is nothing short of remarkable. After being selected 1st overall in the 2020 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, he has transformed the franchise from perennial bottom dwellers to championship contenders.
Burrow took the league by storm in his rookie year, setting records for most passing yards and touchdown passes by a rookie, until a torn ACL cut his season short. He faced questions about whether he could recover and regain his previous form. But he left no doubt this season, with a dominating statistical performance that earned him Comeback Player of the Year and led the Bengals to an AFC Championship.
The numbers from Burrow’s 2022 season look like something from a video game create-a-player. He racked up 4,475 passing yards, 35 touchdown passes and completed 68.3% of his attempts. He also showed off his improved mobility, rushing for 257 yards and 5 touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, Burrow earned a 92.4 overall grade, ranking 2nd among all QBs.
But stats don’t fully capture the brilliance of Joe Burrow. What makes him truly special is his unshakable poise and confidence, rare qualities in a 25-year-old quarterback.
Burrow demonstrated these traits all season long as he surgically dissected defenses. He saved his best for the playoffs, out-dueling Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes in thrilling road victories. His penchant for playing his best when it matters most has earned high praise from peers across the league.
As he prepares for the biggest game of his life, Burrow remains as cool and collected as ever. For him, the Super Bowl stage is just another chance to showcase the abilities that could make him one of the all-time greats.
The Veteran – Matthew Stafford’s Long Road to Glory
On the other sideline, Matthew Stafford provides a stark contrast to Burrow as a seasoned veteran. The 34-year-old Stafford is in his 13th pro season and has seen it all during his time in the league.
After spending over a decade with the Detroit Lions toiling on mediocre teams, Stafford finally got his chance to join a contender when he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams before last season. He immediately made the most of it, winning the Super Bowl in his first year in LA.
Now Stafford is looking to become just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to win the Super Bowl twice. Given the dominant performance he put forth in his likely MVP season, he has a great opportunity to cement that legacy.
While he no longer boasts the rocket arm strength of his early years, Stafford remains one of the most well-rounded and effective veterans in the league. He posted 4133 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and completed a career-high 68.4% of his passes. Yet stats only tell part of the story of his mastery running the Rams high-powered offense.
What Stafford brings more than anything is elite decision-making and on-field vision. He has a preternatural ability to read defenses and make difficult throws look routine. Stafford also excels at generating big plays, as evidenced by his 91 completions of 20+ yards, second most in the NFL.
In the playoffs, Stafford has used his veteran savvy to overcome adversity. Despite injuries to receivers Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr., Stafford helmed the Rams offense to narrow wins. He has a chance to further build his burgeoning playoff legacy with another Super Bowl win.
For Stafford, who has endured criticism throughout his career for lack of postseason success, a second ring would be the ultimate validation. He has a chance to firmly stamp his name alongside the great quarterbacks in NFL history.
The Matchup – Strengths and Styles
So how do Burrow and Stafford stack up against each other ahead of their maiden Super Bowl meeting? Let’s break down the key factors that could determine which quarterback gets the edge.
Accuracy and Decision Making
Burrow and Stafford stand as two of the most precise passers in the NFL. But Stafford gets a slight bump here for his veteran savvy. He has one of the quickest releases and makes excellent pre-snap reads. Stafford’s 70.7% adjusted completion percentage led the league according to PFF. Burrow also ranked top 5 in most accuracy metrics. However, he is prone to occasional unforced errors, with 13 interceptions to Stafford’s 8. The Rams pass rush could force Burrow into more hurried decisions.
Deep Ball and Playmaking
Both quarterbacks have elite arm talent and excel at pushing the ball downfield. Burrow has shown a penchant for dropping pinpoint deep balls into the arms of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. He completed 19 of 63 passes of 20+ air yards for 7 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Stafford has the ability to flick 60-yard bombs with ease when receivers break open. There’s no clear edge here, as both rank among the best deep passers in the NFL.
Pocket Presence and Mobility
Matt Stafford has traditionally been known as a pure pocket passer. But this season, he showed some surprising mobility and made key red zone rushing touchdowns. However, he can be turnover prone when pressured heavily. Compared to other young QBs, Burrow lacks high-end speed but has superb pocket presence. He keeps eyes downfield under pressure and can evade would-be sackers to extend plays. His improved mobility gives him an edge here.
Both quarterbacks are lucky to be surrounded by elite skill position talent. For the Bengals, Ja’Marr Chase is the most dynamic receiver Burrow has at his disposal along with Tee Higgins. But Burrow lost a key red zone weapon when TE C.J. Uzomah went down injured. Stafford enjoys the luxury of Cooper Kupp, the triple crown receiving winner, as his go-to target. OBJ and Van Jefferson provide solid complementary options. The Rams also boast a stronger running game led by Cam Akers and Sony Michel.
When it comes to late game magic and inspiring confidence in their teams, Burrow and Stafford rate among the best. Both QBs engineered multiple thrilling comeback wins throughout the regular season and playoffs. Burrow seems extraordinarily poised for a 25-year-old while Stafford has bounced back from recent injuries. At this point, it’s too close to call between the two as competitors in the clutch.
Overall, Stafford holds a slight edge going into the Super Bowl thanks to his otherworldly accuracy, wealth of experience, and superior supporting cast. He will likely need to continue avoiding turnovers against a fierce Bengals pass rush. But the Rams trusting their fate to Stafford is a proven formula for success.
Of course, one can never count out Joe Burrow even at age 25 on the biggest stage. If he can protect the ball and use his mobility to extend plays, he is capable of willing his team to victory. This feels like just the beginning for Burrow’s Super Bowl legacy.
So who will emerge victorious in this instant classic quarterback duel? Tune into Super Bowl LVII to find out! Both Stafford and Burrow have the skills to author a storybook ending to an unforgettable season. Get your popcorn ready for what could go down as a battle between two all-time greats at the height of their powers.