The content on this site (planet?) has been a little too heavy lately, so allow me to inject a little positivity into the blog.
As a lifelong Washington Redskins fan, my perspective on the past few decades of “Super Bowl season” has been that of a begrudging realist. Knowing that the Team That Dare Not Speak Its Name doesn’t have a real shot at the conference finals virtually every year is as liberating as it is frustrating.
Since my team hasn’t been in the conference championship game since I was in the eighth grade (and I’m now in my 40s, so that’s quite a stretch), I focus simply on what Super Bowl match-up I want to see most and root accordingly.
Most years, there’s a very clear hierarchy. Yet, I realized a few days ago that we are absolutely blessed this year. Each possible combination boasts a solid storyline, thanks in large part to four great quarterbacks at various stages of their careers, all of whom are compelling in their own ways.
That fact will make my favorite football Sunday of the year even better. I prefer conference championship Sunday for a number of reasons—actual home games (albeit with crowd restrictions this year), the potential for weather (as we’ll see in Green Bay shortly), two games instead of one (or three), and a greater focus on football (and less on fluff and hype).
As far as I’m concerned, there is no bad outcome today in terms of the Super Bowl pairing. Here’s a rundown of the possibilities:
Chiefs vs. Packers: This is probably the most exciting match-up if you love passing offense. The Chiefs are the defending champs and almost certainly the best all-around team in football after going 14-2 against a first-place schedule. The Packers, who led the NFL with 509 points scored this year, might be able to keep pace with Kansas City in a shootout that rivals the Eagles / Patriots Super Bowl three years ago. Patrick Mahomes is a unique talent who is always amazing to watch, and Aaron Rodgers has had maybe the best year of his career (and should be the NFL MVP). Neither quarterback “needs” this game to prove anything, but both players can transport their already-lofty resumes to even more rarified air with a second title. With that said, I think many casual fans might actually be surprised by the fact that Rodgers only has one ring, and a second title would lend some firepower to those who argue that the Packers’ QB may actually be the best ever.
Chiefs vs. Buccaneers: Any scenario that includes Tom Brady is going to have major historical implications. First off, only one quarterback has won Super Bowls with two different teams—Peyton Manning. But Manning’s title with the Broncos was in his final season, when he was running on fumes (9 TDs / 17 INT that year, and he missed a half-dozen games). By contrast, Brady is an ageless wonder, having thrown 40 touchdown passes in a season for just the second time in his career. This game would also give Brady the opportunity to win a championship without Bill Belichick, which would have tremendous symbolic significance, and, for my money, make Brady the undisputed greatest ever. Meanwhile, this combination would treat us to a rare, inter-generational battle of greats, as Mahomes, poised to be the best quarterback of the current era (and the next decade), takes on Brady, the best quarterback of his era (and quite possibly of all time). Brady prevailed in a classic AFC title clash two years ago, but, with Mahomes having won last year, and Brady on a new team, a rematch in the Super Bowl would be even more incredible. On top of that, there’s Kansas City’s attempt to become the next NFL dynasty, with a shot at a second straight title and no end in sight, with Mahomes still just 25 years old. It would also be a chance for Bruce Arians to get his first ring as a head coach after seemingly retiring for good in 2017.
Bills vs. Buccaneers: Speaking of inter-generational battles, the 43-year-old Brady contrasts nicely with the 24-year-old Josh Allen. But the bigger story with any combination involving Buffalo is, of course, the Bills’ years of Super Bowl frustration. If a young, talented, caution-to-the-wind player like Allen leads Buffalo to its first world title, he’s an instant legend. The Bills also posted over 500 points this year, while the Bucs’ defense, led by Devin White (140 tackles, 9.0 sacks) and Pro Bowler Jason Pierre-Paul (9.5 sacks) is statistically the best of the remaining field. Tampa finished sixth in yards allowed and eighth in points allowed. All of the other remaining playoff teams finished outside the top ten in PA. So much for “defense wins championships.” But the bottom line with this pairing is Buffalo’s redemption vs. Brady’s revenge / opportunity to cement himself as a unique—perhaps unreachable—player in football history. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Super Bowl is in Tampa this year.
Bills vs. Packers: A Bills vs. Packers match-up would give us the first Super Bowl in history between two teams that scored over 500 points during the regular season. Beyond that, a lot of the elements I talk about above would also be in play—an established, veteran QB on one side, a young up-and-comer on the other—plus the legacy piece for Rodgers and the curse-breaking opportunity for Buffalo. Back to the scoring point: the Bills and Packers are the two highest-scoring teams in the NFL. In fact, even though the Chiefs’ offense seems to the naked eye to be the most explosive and “scary,” the Packers, Bills, and Bucs all scored more points than Kansas City did in 2020, finishing #1, #2, and #3, respectively. The Chiefs “only” scored 473 points, good for sixth. Transporting these high-powered, cold-weather teams to the moderate environs of a Florida evening two weeks from now could make for a wild game.
And the best part of all of this is that I really don’t care who wins. I would be happy with any of these four games.
Life is good.
Sports are good.
Be happy, America!
And enjoy the games.