With the New Orleans Saints falling to division rival Tampa Bay in last week’s Divisional Round, Tampa Bay gets the honor of traveling to Green Bay to take on the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
When three of the last four quarterbacks in the NFC are Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady, you know there will be a lot of big headlines. Compared to the AFC, where all four of last week’s quarterbacks were under the age of 26, three well-decorated future Hall of Famers entered the NFC’s Divisional Round, and now two remain.
While the biggest headline of the week is “Rodgers v Brady,” we all know quarterback wins aren’t a real stat. Both teams contain a full roster, coaching staffs, and administrative personnel all working towards a Super Bowl. While the two most decorated quarterbacks in the NFC won’t be straight up dueling, this game contains a myriad of exciting storylines within the game itself that will entertain anyone.
On the Tampa Bay side, we see Tom Brady make the NFC Championship in his first year in the NFC, and in his first year away from Bill Belichick. Brady has faced criticism as a ‘system quarterback’, and many wondered what he could do without his legendary head coach. Brady was unsurprisingly an upgrade over Jameis Winston and has done a lot to keep his team competitive. The truth is Tampa Bay already had a wildly talented roster with a suburb defense. A more consistent quarterback allowed the team to take that extra step.
Brady reaching the NFC Championship in his first year in the conference adds many more accolades to his already outstanding career. Should he win the game, he’ll have as many NFC Championship wins as Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees already.
The Buccaneers also have a chance to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium, something no team has accomplished. The Buccaneers hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2007, making the fact they are one game from playing a home Super Bowl game even more impressive.
For the Packers’ side of things, this is the fifth NFC Championship of Aaron Rodgers’ career, yet his first to be played at Lambeau Field. The Packers always played on the road.
Outside of Chicago in the 2010 season, the Packers have faced heartbreak in every other showing. The team fluked its way out of the game in 2014 while 2016 and 2019 ended in defensive poundings. But a home game advantage and an ascending defense create a different ballgame. The Packers have a chance to rewrite their narrative and show why no team should want to play this high-powered offense in Lambeau during winter.
Aaron Rodgers is one of the most talented quarterbacks we’ll ever see, but it’s damned hard to make a Super Bowl and takes a full team. It’s wild that Rodgers still has critics, but a second Super Bowl appearance should do wonders in silencing them.
Somehow, the national narrative paints the Packers as underdogs in both of their playoff games despite being the number one seed and favored in Vegas. The Packers boast the number one offense in the NFL, which crushed the Rams’ number one defense last week, yet still isn’t viewed as fearsome as they should be.
Perhaps this is due to the biggest headline of this game: a rematch with the one team that embarrassed the Packers in the 2020 season. The Buccaneers spanked the Packers by four scores in their previous matchup. Rodgers called that game an ‘anomaly’, and everything that happened since supports that statement. That game was terrible, but it was three months ago. The Packers are white-hot right now, and this game will be at Lambeau. The Buccaneers are probably the team the Packers have the poorest matchup with on paper, but there is a reason the Packers are the #1 seed.
At some point, one has to realize the Packers are the boogeymen in the league. This offense is streets ahead of anything else the NFC has shown in the playoffs. The defense may look putrid in the third quarter, yet the unit is ascending and doing enough to create wins. Young players are creating big plays and getting hot when it matters. The Buccaneers have a ton of talent and one of the league’s scarier defenses. But it’s the Packers giving the NFC nightmares.
There is a lot on the table for both teams and dozens of headline stories. Rodgers v Brady is something the NFL community has always wanted to see in the playoffs, but ultimately this week comes down to one storyline: can the Packers beat the Buccaneers and make it back to the Super Bowl?Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.