Watching last season's NFL playoffs, you would have been forgiven for being taken in by the mystique of postseason success enjoyed by Philadelphia Eagles backup and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, journeyman Case Keenum and the much-derided Blake Bortles, and perhaps left believing that a top-tier quarterback is not necessary to challenge for a Lombardi Trophy.
But the Minnesota Vikings, the team Keenum lead to within a game of contesting the Super Bowl in their home stadium, debunked that theory on Thursday, signing Kirk Cousins to a groundbreaking three-year, $84million contract.
Cousins' deal is unprecedented in that the $84million is fully guaranteed, and he could earn a further $6million in incentives, taking the total value of the contract to $90m.
For Washington Redskins fans continually frustrated by Cousins' propensity for turnovers in the biggest moments, it is a deal that will raise eyebrows.
However, with the Vikings possessing undoubtedly one of the best defenses in the NFL as well as a plethora of talent at the offensive skill positions, there can be little question that a quarterback who has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in each of the last three seasons should help them remain contenders for a long time.
The problem facing Cousins and the Vikings is that they are competing in a NFC loaded with quarterback talent.
Presuming he makes a full recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in December, Carson Wentz should be able to reproduce his MVP calibre play of last season and put the Eagles in contention to defend their title. Their NFC East rivals the Dallas Cowboys will be hoping for a resurgence from Dak Prescott, who guided them to Divisional Round of the playoffs two seasons ago, while in their own NFC North division the Vikings must contend with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers and rocket-armed Detroit Lions passer Matthew Stafford.
Two of the last three MVPs reside in the NFC South in Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, who have the seemingly ageless Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints for company.
The NFC West looks similarly imposing, with Russell Wilson dealt the unenviable task of elevating a disintegrating Seattle Seahawks team to a level where they can hold off the division champion Los Angeles Rams and the resurgent San Francisco 49ers, who have the benefit of perhaps the two brightest offensive minds in the game in Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan and two of the league's best young quarterbacks.
Jared Goff was transformed under McVay's tutelage while it was tough to find any observer who would not have picked the Niners to beat the majority of last year's playoff field after Jimmy Garoppolo went 5-0 as a starter to finish the season.
The stage is set for an extremely intriguing 2018 season in the NFC, the state of which is in stark contrast to an AFC suffering from a dearth of star quality at the game's most important position, as illustrated by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots' continued rule of the conference.
Bortles is the only quarterback not named Ben Roethlisberger or Peyton Manning to legitimately challenge Brady in the last five seasons, but the cold hard truth remains that his Jacksonville Jaguars only came close to beating the Patriots in the AFC title game due to the excellent gameplan of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, which significantly minimised his deficiencies.
Like Prescott, Derek Carr will be eyeing a bounce-back year with the Oakland Raiders, but both Carr and Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans are yet to make the strides expected of them after promising starts to their careers.
A troublesome shoulder has kept Indianapolis Colts star Andrew Luck on the shelf for over a year and there is no indication as to whether he will be able to transform a talent-poor team back into contenders.
Philip Rivers has always looked capable of dethroning the Patriots if the Los Angeles Chargers are ever able to break their infuriating habit of late-game meltdowns, while the Kansas City Chiefs are hoping their considerable investment in young gunslinger Patrick Mahomes pays off and keeps them atop the Chargers and Raiders in an AFC West featuring a Broncos team that has failed to replace Manning and now turned to Keenum.
Brady and Roethlisberger aside, the AFC is a conference full of 'ifs' and 'maybes' at the quarterback position. There is an arms race going on in the NFL, and the AFC is lagging behind a much stronger conference.
11 de diciembre 2018
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|Blue Jays release five-time All-Star Tulowitzki|
|Mourinho: Professionals care more than the fans|
|Casillas reaches 100 Champions League wins|
|Expansion franchise Cincinnati sign Garza, send Kamara to Rapids|
|Manchester City sign United States goalkeeper Steffen for reported £7m|
|Schalke 1 Lokomotiv Moscow 0: Russians miss chance for Europa League reprieve|
|Galatasaray 2 Porto 3: Terim´s men into Europa League after penalty drama|
|Jackman leaves Dragons role|
|Tottenham boosted as Barcelona bench Messi|
|Mane and Henderson in Liverpool XI to face Napoli|
|Mourinho shoots down question over how to get the best from Pogba|
|Ronaldo to start as Allegri aims to avoid Champions League big guns|
|Odriozola: I´m in love with Benzema, he´s the best number nine in the world|
|Vikings fire OC DeFilippo after loss to Seahawks|
|Marcelino suggests Valencia open to Batshuayi departure|
|Bottas to make rally debut in title-winning M-Sport Ford Fiesta|
|Kovac dismisses Pavard speculation|
|Yaya Toure leaves Olympiacos after just five appearances|
|Riise challenges Liverpool to banish Champions League disappointment against Napoli|
|We rallied around it - Durant on Green confrontation aftermath|
|Valencia ´p****d off´ with Fellaini´s controversial Young Boys winner - Soler|
|More must be done to combat racism at Premier League grounds – Chalobah|
|Napoli will not sack ´big signing´ Ancelotti if they miss Champions League qualification, says De La|
|Guardiola not interested in ´exceptional´ Saul|
|Shai gives Windies hope with thrilling ODI run chase|
|Ten Hag unsure whether to risk Ajax stars against Bayern|
|Erasmus to work with Bulls as Springboks assist Super Rugby sides|
|Paul Gascoigne pleads not guilty to sexual assault|
|Joshua is ´begging´ for unification fight, claims Wilder|
|Silva, Fernandinho add to Guardiola´s injury woes|
|Hosszu storms to 14th gold, Seto smashes Le Clos´ world record|
|Raheem is an incredible human being - Guardiola rallies behind City star Sterling|
|Sexton pens IRFU extension until 2021|
|Ajax boss Ten Hag can do big things, says Bayern chief Rummenigge|
|He´s good at basketball – Kerr running out of superlatives for Curry|
|Green thrilled to make Warriors return in victory over Timberwolves|
|Madrid squad great and humble - Solari responds to Ronaldo|
|Langer unsure what to expect from Perth wicket|
|Fournette subjected to alleged racial abuse in Titans loss - Marrone|
|Better and better - Mbappe hails Neymar link|
|It´s the end of one of the best movies you could ever see - James pays tribute to retiring Wade|
|NASA invites Curry to see moon rocks|
|No plan B for LaLiga Miami game after Barcelona withdrawal|
|Messi´s English haul, Neymar eyes hat-trick record - Champions League in Opta numbers|
|LeBron trumps Wade in last dance, Curry scores 38 points|
|Seahawks secure dominant win over Vikings|
|Iniesta visits Messi and former club Barcelona|
|Drake makes plea for ball thrown into stands after Miami miracle|
|´Toughest pretty boy I´ve ever met´ - Langer dismisses Paine concerns|
|Van Dijk says Liverpool can challenge for double ahead of Napoli decider|
|Hazard: I´ve always loved Real Madrid|
|Yankees interested in Machado, not Harper - Cashman|
|Warriors´ Curry believes moon landing was faked|
|76ers star Butler suffers strained groin|
|Brady: Patriots still have a lot of football to play|
|´No one died´ - Belichick´s message to Patriots after stunning loss|
|Silva lauds Digne after stunning free-kick|
|Aduriz joins Messi, Ramos in LaLiga history books|
|We have a plan - Ravens coach Harbaugh prepared for Flacco return|
|´It´s difficult to accept´ - Gracia calls for introduction of VAR|
|LaLiga press on with overseas match plan despite Barcelona withdrawal|
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10 de diciembre 2018
|Hazard backs Sterling as Neville reveals England star´s Euro 2016 concerns|
|Everton 2 Watford 2: Digne salvages draw with 96th-minute free-kick|
|Barcelona could ´steal´ Kane, says Pochettino|
|Oakland Raiders fire general manager McKenzie|
|Struggling Villarreal appoint Garcia Plaza as Calleja successor|
|Warriors assign Cousins to G League team|