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Jan 15, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) scrambles during the first quarter of the AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t a threat and it isn’t a warning. It’s just the reality.

Obviously, Bill Belichick and the Patriots now have some serious obstacles on their return trip to glory.

After 20 years with Tom Brady in their holster for every imaginable duel, the Patriots joined everyone else in watching last night as Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes turned the final minutes of this season’s AFC divisional playoffs into laser surgery. Add in Joe Burrow, who has been the best quarterback in football over the past seven weeks, and you have an AFC landscape that at least somewhat resembles what Brady-Peyton Manning-Ben Roethlisberger looked like over the first 20 years of this millennium.

If you’re not at least mildly concerned, you should be – and for two reasons.

First, Mac Jones needs to keep getting better.

Second, he needs a weapons upgrade.

  • Joe Burrow

    Jan 22, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) celebrates after defeating the Tennessee Titans 19-16 during the AFC Divisional playoff football game at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Let’s remember that he’s only in his second season – and he’s in the AFC Championship Game with the Bengals, who have won their last five meaningful games. This season, Burrow finished second in the NFL to only Aaron Rodgers in passer rating and, in the last seven weeks, he ranks No. 1 in the NFL in that category with a stratospheric number of 123.7 thanks to 13 touchdowns and one interception. The lone pick came over the weekend at Tennessee – on a pass that deflected off the hands of running back Samaje Perine.

  • Josh Allen

    Bills quarterback Josh Allen throws over Chiefs Chris Jones.

    Want to build the perfect quarterbacking monster? He’d be 6-foot-6 with a rocket arm, accuracy and foot speed. And if he’s clutch, well, look out. This postseason, against the Patriots and Chiefs, Allen has posted an NFL-best quarterback rating of 149.0 while completing 77.4 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. Oh, he’s also the league’s second-leading rusher in the playoffs with 134 yards and has run for 10 first downs. And he’s signed long-term.

  • Patrick Mahomes

    Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes dives into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown against the Bills Micah Hyde. The Chiefs won 42-36 in overtime. (Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle)

    Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes dives into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown against the Bills’ Micah Hyde. The Chiefs won 42-36 in overtime. (Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle)

    He’s now 8-2 in his postseason career, both losses coming to Tom Brady. And before you say Bill Belichick and the Patriots never would have allowed Mahomes to go 44 yards in 10 seconds to set up a game-tying field goal … bite your tongue. In the 2018 AFC Championship, Mahomes took the Chiefs 38 yards in 16 seconds with only one timeout to do just that. The only difference was that he didn’t win the coin toss in overtime.