The field of 32 NFL teams has officially been whittled down to just four, as conference championship matchups are now set. First, the Green Bay Packers will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship. While it'll be the fifth NFC Championship appearance for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it will be his first at Lambeau Field. After the conclusion of that game, the Kansas City Chiefs will host the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship. Unlike Rodgers, this will be the first home AFC championship for Chiefs head coach Andy Reid since…last year.
In this week's numbers to know, we'll take a closer look at the rare streak of dominance the Chiefs have enjoyed under Reid at Arrowhead Stadium and how it relates to a previous regime of his in Philadelphia. We'll also dive deeper into the damage Rodgers and the Packers did on offense in the divisional round, as they reload for another potential explosion that could send them to the Super Bowl.
Now, let's sink our teeth into some numbers.
In two seasons as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Matt LaFleur has led his team to two consecutive conference championship appearances. He is only the seventh coach since the dawn of the Super Bowl era to accomplish this feat, with the most recent example being Jim Harbaugh with the San Francisco 49ers (2011-2012). Last season, LaFleur's Packers were slaughtered by San Francisco in the NFC championship game. This year, he'll face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that gave his team a similar beatdown in Week 6.
LaFleur, who has coached the Packers to consecutive 13-3 regular-season finishes, has history on his side heading into this year's NFC Championship. Three of the previous six head coaches who made it all the way to a conference championship game in each of their first two seasons went on to win a Super Bowl. Those coaches were Barry Switzer (1995), George Seifert (1989) and Don McCafferty (1970).
The Kansas City Chiefs have now earned three consecutive home AFC Championship games under head coach Andy Reid. They join the 2002-04 Philadelphia Eagles, also coached by Reid, as the only other team in NFL history to host three consecutive conference championship games. After failing to establish a dynasty with the Eagles, Reid appears to be on a much more promising track to do that with the Chiefs.
The Chiefs have been downright dominant under Reid. In addition to their victory in Super Bowl LIV last season, they've claimed five consecutive AFC West titles and made the playoffs in seven out of eight seasons with Reid as head coach. Kansas City is nearly impossible to take down when Patrick Mahomes is healthy, as they've won 24 of their past 25 games with him as their starting quarterback (regular and postseason). The Chiefs need him at full strength for their upcoming battle with the Bills in the AFC Championship.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs has played in 18 games this season (regular and postseason), and has caught at least six passes in 17 of them. That is an NFL record for games with six-plus catches in a single season. Diggs has been a tremendous factor for the Bills this postseason. He caught six passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in Buffalo's 27-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round, then followed that up with eight receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown in the 17-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional round.
During the regular season, Diggs had five games with at least 10 catches and ended up leading the NFL in both receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535). He established himself as one of the league's elite wide receivers in 2020, making his first career Pro Bowl and forming an immediate rapport with quarterback Josh Allen. The decision to trade for Diggs last offseason will be remembered as the move that turned the Bills into legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield threw an interception in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, but it was only his second pick in the past 11 games (regular and postseason). That is quite a turnaround when you consider Mayfield threw seven interceptions in Cleveland's first seven games of the season. Mayfield's passing may not have been the driving force of the Browns' success this season, but his improved decision-making definitely ensured it. Mayfield's interception total dropped from 21 in 2019 to just eight in 2020.
Mayfield threw a total of 30 touchdown passes in the regular season and postseason combined. He is just the second quarterback in Browns' history to hit that mark, with the only other being Brian Sipe in 1980. The Browns have a firm leader in Mayfield and should feel confident going into the offseason that he will improve as a quarterback. If he does, Cleveland's days of postseason drought will remain a thing of the past.
In his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady is heading to his first NFC Championship game. He has now made it to 14 conference championship games. Excluding the Patriots (where he made 13 of those appearances), only two NFL teams — the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers (both with 16) — have more conference championship game appearances than Brady in their entire franchise history.
There's no shortage of ways to illustrate Brady's dominance, but 14 conference championship appearances in 20 seasons as a starting quarterback might be the most remarkable. Brady is completing well under 60 percent of his pass attempts in this year's playoffs, but he has five total touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) and zero turnovers through two games. At 43 years old, Brady knows how to play winning football in the postseason.
The Baltimore Ravens left a lot of opportunities on the field in their Divisional round loss to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday. The Ravens pushed their way inside Buffalo's 30-yard line a total of five times in the game, and they came away with only three points total. Outside of one successful field goal, Baltimore's four failed trips inside the 30 included two doinked field-goal attempts, a 101-yard pick-six and a turnover on downs. The Bills deserve credit for clamping down on an offense that had been running rampant, but the Ravens have to be losing some sleep over their lack of execution in the biggest game of their season.
A deeper dive into the box score will only make it more painful for Baltimore to handle this loss. Despite losing starting quarterback Lamar Jackson to injury in the second half, the Ravens had more passing yards (190) than the Bills (199). The Ravens also had way more rushing yards (150) than the Bills (32) and won the time of possession battle by over 10 minutes (35:33 to 24:27). Until Jackson completes a deep postseason run, he's going to be criticized — fairly or unfairly — for his team's inability to replicate regular-season success in the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Rams surrendered 32 points in their Divisional round loss to the Green Bay Packers. They had the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense during the regular season (18.5 points allowed per game) and only allowed the Seattle Seahawks to score 20 points in the Wild Card round. The Rams were also the only team to hold their opponents under an average of 300 total yards per game (281.9) during the regular season, then saw Green Bay's offense explode for 484 yards. Saturday's defeat marked the most yards (and the second-most points) Los Angeles had surrendered all season.
There was nothing the Rams could do to stop the Packers' offense. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected with his favorite weapon, wide receiver Davante Adams, on nine of his 10 targets, including one for a score. Green Bay featured three different running backs, who accumulated nearly 200 yards on the ground and averaged over five yards per carry. As dominant a display as this was, it could have been even worse for the Rams had Rodgers not decided to bleed out the last two minutes of the game with three kneel-downs inside the red zone. The Buccaneers defense has its work cut out for the NFC Championship.
The Drew Brees era appears to be ending in New Orleans, but the Jameis Winston era may be just beginning. Winston threw a 56-yard touchdown strike on a trick play in Sunday's loss to the Bucs and now has just as many 50-yard postseason touchdown passes as Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes have in their respective careers: ONE. Winston's strike was the first postseason pass attempt of his NFL career and it was also the Saints' longest play of the season.
With Brees probably heading toward retirement, Winston should get a chance to lead the Saints next season. He is not the same athlete as Taysom Hill, who started four games in place of an injured Brees this season, but he is more of a prototypical passer. As a former No. 1 overall draft pick who is still only 27 years old, Winston holds a lot of potential for the future of the Saints franchise. He has been patient sitting behind both Brees and Hill this season, and now there's a chance it could pay off with a new starting role in 2021.