Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass...

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter of the game at Lambeau Field on Nov. 16, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Ronald Martinez

Call it the best rivalry that never was.

Of all great quarterback duels in NFL history -- from Bart Starr-Johnny Unitas to Terry Bradshaw-Roger Staubach to Dan Marino-John Elway to Tom Brady-Peyton Manning -- there has never been a Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers until now.

For as long as both quarterbacks have dominated the game, their matchup Sunday at historic Lambeau Field marks the first time the future Hall of Famers will face one another.

Too bad. As good as both players are, it would have been compelling theater to see more of these matchups through the years. But because of regular-season scheduling, Rodgers' relatively late ascendancy and a concussion that kept him out of the last Patriots-Packers matchup, this will have to do.

Referring to the absence of Brady-Rodgers matchups, as the always eloquent Bill Belichick put it: "It is what it is. Whatever hasn't happened hasn't happened.''

Or something like that.

At least we get this one. With each quarterback at the top of his game and the Patriots (9-2) and Packers (8-3) at the top of their divisions, you couldn't ask for a more enticing backdrop.

Both quarterbacks got off to somewhat sluggish starts this season, prompting some concern from their fans. But they have been nothing short of magnificent for most of the last two months.

"[Rodgers] is just phenomenal," Brady said. "He's just a great player. I always love watching him play, because he does things that a lot of guys in the league can't do . . . well, that nobody can really do except him. For a quarterback, I really know how hard it is to do that, especially on a consistent basis, and he's been as consistent as anybody who has ever played the position, so I've got a lot of respect for him."

The feeling is mutual.

"I studied [Brady] in 2007, a lot in the offseason in '06 when I was a backup [to Brett Favre]," said Rodgers, 30. "I was a fan in high school. I don't think he's that much older than me. I don't want to date him too much, but he's always been one of my favorite guys to watch on film. If we have a common opponent, I always enjoy putting on film when he played them to see what he did against them."

And what does Brady, 37, do best? Everything.

"He's got great pocket presence," Rodgers said. "He's very accurate. He's really good with his eye control. He does a lot of things at the line of scrimmage."

Pretty much what Rodgers does. He leads the NFL with a 119.2 passer rating and has thrown 30 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.

Brady, who has a 101.0 rating, isn't far behind with 26 touchdown passes and six interceptions. Since starting the season with four touchdown passes and two interceptions in his first four games, Brady has 22 TD passes and four interceptions in his last seven games.

Rodgers lost two of his first three starts this season, prompting the quarterback to tell fans to relax -- even spelling out the word during a radio interview -- about the slow start. The Packers have won seven of eight since then.

"I think we've been more relaxed," he said with a smile. "The preparation, the urgency and the focus picked up after the 1-2 start, but I think we also played some really good football teams."

And now comes another big test against another really good team. And another really, really good quarterback.

Enjoy this one. Hopefully we'll get a few more. Who knows? Maybe even a rematch in Phoenix in February.

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