Rodgers, Brady duel as Bucs target Super Bowl curse

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Rob Woollard
·4 min read
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Aaron Rodgers takes on Tom Brady in a first-ever NFL playoff game between the two quarterback titans on Sunday when the Green Bay Packers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field for a place in the Super Bowl.

For the legion of admirers who argue that Rodgers' natural talents make him the best quarterback of all time, Sunday's NFC championship showdown is a chance to put one over Brady, regarded by many as the undisputed G.O.A.T.

In raw statistical terms, Rodgers' resume pales into comparison when contrasted with the achievements and honors amassed by the 43-year-old Brady over the course of his 21 trophy-laden seasons in the NFL.

Rodgers is bidding to reach the Super Bowl for only the second time in his career since leading Green Bay to victory over Pittsburgh a full decade ago in 2011.

Brady, meanwhile, is looking to extend his record number of Super Bowl appearances to 10, with dreams of adding a seventh championship ring to those won with the New England Patriots in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2015, 2017 and 2019.

A win on Sunday would see Brady become the first quarterback to reach Super Bowls in three different decades, and only the fourth after Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner and Craig Morton, to lead two different franchises to the NFL's championship showpiece.

Blocking Brady and the Bucs' path, however, are Rodgers and a multi-faceted Packers team who shrugged off a 38-10 drubbing by Tampa Bay in week six of the regular season to enter the playoffs as top seeds.

- The greatest? -

At the center of the Packers revival has been Rodgers, who has delivered an Most Valuable Player-worthy season en route to this weekend's battle at Lambeau.

"I say this all the time," revered former Packers quarterback Brett Favre said in a recent interview.

"Tom Brady is the greatest player ever if we're measuring from a Super Bowl perspective. But, believe me, the Packers are good year in and year out because of Aaron Rodgers."

The 37-year-old Rodgers, who started the season against a backdrop of uncertainty after the Packers swooped for quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the NFL Draft, says he is not thinking about his long-term future or personal milestones.

"I'm always just trying to stay present, especially this year as much as anything, and enjoy the moments," Rodgers said.

"I'm going to enjoy these moments for sure, and just not worry about what happens down the line."

Brady heads to Lambeau hoping to extend Tampa Bay's dominant record on the road.

The Buccaneers advanced to the NFC title game with a 30-20 defeat of the Saints in New Orleans last Sunday -- their seventh straight win away from home this season.

"Let's keep that streak going," Brady said. "That would be pretty sweet. Let's get another one. We're going to be challenged to get it because we're going up against a great football team."

The Buccaneers are also going up against the weight of history.

If they are victorious in Green Bay on Sunday, they would become the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl at their home venue, with Tampa's Raymond James Stadium the site for the February 7 title game.

- Bills eye 'dogfight' -

While Rodgers and Brady are duel for NFC honors on Sunday, in the AFC, the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Buffalo Bills with uncertainty surrounding the fitness of quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes has spent this week in the NFL's concussion protocol after being knocked out of last Sunday's divisional round nail-biter over the Cleveland Browns following a heavy blow to the head.

The 25-year-old reigning Super Bowl MVP returned to practice on Wednesday, however, and is expected to start at Arrowhead Stadium against a Bills team targeting its first Super Bowl appearance since the franchise's ill-fated losing streak in the early 1990s.

The Bills appeared in four straight Super Bowls -- and lost all four -- between 1991 and 1994.

Buffalo's miserable streak of playoff futility ended this season, however, with rapidly maturing quarterback Josh Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs leading the way in post-season wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens.

Allen says the Bills have improved since being outclassed 26-17 by the Chiefs in October.

"I think we've gotten a lot better since that game," Allen said. "So it's good teams that are going to go out there and compete, and it's going to be a four-quarter dogfight."

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