Only two NFL teams are left standing, and it's hard to imagine a better Super Bowl matchup than the one we got. Tom Brady, at 43 years old, is back in the Big Game but with a new team. This time he leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into Super Bowl LV, where he'll face 25-year-old Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The last time we saw these two quarterbacks clash (Week 12 of the regular season), they each attempted over 40 passes in a shootout that may have foretold what's to come on Super Bowl Sunday.
We'll take a closer look at that game in this week's numbers to know, but first we have some other fallout to cover from Sunday's AFC and NFC title games. Most of this week's numbers will focus on the two teams that advanced to the Super Bowl, but we're going to start things off with a number that probably could've predicted the downfall of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. We'll also point out a promising number for Josh Allen's future with the Buffalo Bills.
Now, let's dive into the facts and figures.
Zero players have won the league MVP award and the Super Bowl in same season since Kurt Warner did it with the St. Louis Rams in 1999. This year's expected MVP-winner is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who led the NFL with a career-high 48 touchdown passes and only threw five interceptions during the regular season. He led the Packers to a 13-3 record and reached his second consecutive NFC Championship Game in 2020, but one of the few teams that got the best of him during the regular season came back to haunt him in the playoffs.
Green Bay's loss to the Buccaneers doesn't fall on Rodgers' shoulders, but it's fair to ask what more he could have done to lift his team to victory. Although he threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the losing effort, his performance in the red zone was not perfect. The Packers only scored touchdowns on two of their four trips inside Tampa Bay's 20-yard line. On his final drive of the game, Rodgers fired three straight incompletions on goal-to-go situations from the Buccaneers' eight-yard line. Instead of running into the open field on third down, he tried (and failed) to force a tight-window throw to wide receiver Davante Adams in the end zone. The Packers kicked a field goal on the next play, cutting the lead to five points, but Rodgers never touched the ball again.
Talk about a tough way to end an MVP season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to become the one and only team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl at their home stadium. Super Bowl LV will be played at Raymond James Stadium, where the Bucs won five of their eight home games this season. While having the Super Bowl in your own backyard is certainly an advantage, the Bucs have been road warriors this season. They only lost two games away from home during the regular season, and now they're ripping through the playoffs with three straight road victories.
About 22,000 fans — many of them vaccinated health care workers — will be in attendance for this year's Super Bowl. No matter the outcome of the game, they'll be witnessing history on Feb. 7. That's because Tom Brady will extend his NFL record by making a 10th Super Bowl appearance. It'll also be Tampa Bay's first time in the Big Game since the Buccaneers beat the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. That game was played back in 2003, so the Bucs will have the historical chance to snap an 18-year championship drought in front of a home crowd.
Although his Buffalo Bills lost on Sunday, up-and-coming quarterback Josh Allen now has three playoff games with 250-plus passing yards and 50-plus rushing yards. That is an NFL postseason record. In the loss to the Chiefs, Allen threw for exactly 287 yards while also leading his team on the ground with 88 yards on seven carries (12.6 yards per carry). The former top-10 draft pick pushed his way into the MVP conversation this season and lifted his team to an AFC Championship Game appearance in only his third year as a pro -- a feat Buffalo hadn't accomplished since 1993, three years before Allen was born.
While Allen certainly has a bright future ahead of him as maybe the league's best dual-threat quarterback, that doesn't mean his play is above criticism. Because he can do so much, Allen often tries to do too much. He ate four sacks for a total of 53 yards lost and also threw an interception in the loss to the Chiefs. He is clearly not on the same level as Patrick Mahomes yet, but he's improving at a rapid pace and will likely keep the Bills competitive for years to come.
Here's a tasty bit of trivia for you: Tom Brady is set to become one of four quarterbacks to start a Super Bowl for multiple teams, having already done it nine times with the New England Patriots before this year with the Buccaneers. The three other quarterbacks who have accomplished this feat are Peyton Manning (Colts/Broncos), Craig Morton (Cowboys/Broncos) and Kurt Warner (Rams/Cardinals). Manning is currently the only quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl start with multiple teams, but Brady can join him with a win over the Chiefs.
With Brady going to the Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers, his own personal legacy starts to overshadow that of the entire Patriots dynasty. While Brady is enjoying immediate success in Tampa Bay, New England went 7-9 and missed the playoffs without him this season. Bill Belichick is widely considered one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history, but Brady has officially shattered the narrative that he was simply New England's system quarterback.
After putting up 118 yards on Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce now has five career 100-yard playoff performances. That is an NFL record for a tight end. Kelce did this damage on a game-high 13 receptions versus the Bills, including two that went for touchdowns. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid finds unique ways to get the ball in Kelce's hands, as evidenced by the underhand touchdown pass Patrick Mahomes threw to him on the one-yard line.
Kansas City's offense is loaded with dangerous playmakers, but Kelce is definitely Mahomes' favorite target. Shutting down Kelce in the Super Bowl seems unlikely, but it should be Tampa Bay's primary focus on defense. The Buccaneers have a strong defense that was able to slow down likely MVP Aaron Rodgers without star rookie defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. The Bucs will need Winfield to make a healthy return for the Super Bowl, where he'll be tasked with helping contain Kelce.
The Chiefs are trying to become the first team in 16 years to win back-to-back Super Bowls. The last team to do it was Tom Brady's 2003-04 New England Patriots. Patrick Mahomes is doing all he can to take the mantle from Brady as the next great dynasty-building quarterback, but he'll have to beat him head-to-head to make it happen. The last time they met in the playoffs was in the 2018 AFC Championship Game, when Mahomes was the league MVP and Brady went on to win his sixth Super Bowl title.
If Chiefs do, in fact, pull off a second consecutive Super Bowl victory, Mahomes will become the first quarterback in NFL history with two rings by the age of 25. He is already on a meteoric tear through this league, with 25 wins in his last 26 starts (including playoffs) and ZERO career losses by more than eight points. Kansas City locked up Mahomes on a 10-year contract extension last offseason, and this Super Bowl versus the Buccaneers could chart the course for a decade of dominance.
Tom Brady may have the 1-0 advantage in his only playoff meeting with Patrick Mahomes, but Mahomes has taken the last two regular-season meetings. In their Week 12 slugfest this season, the Chiefs and Buccaneers combined for 960 yards of offense. Mahomes threw for 462 yards and three touchdowns in the 27-24 victory, and Tyreek Hill (who finished with 269 yards on 13 catches) was on the receiving end of all three of those scoring strikes.
While the Chiefs led 20-7 at halftime, the Bucs battled back to make it a game in the second half. Brady threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns of his own, with wide receiver Mike Evans hauling in a pair of touchdowns. It was a banner day for Rob Gronkowski, as well, as the veteran tight end had a season-high 106 yards on six receptions against Kansas City. If we get anything resembling this shootout on Super Bowl Sunday, Brady vs. Mahomes will be remembered as one of the most entertaining matchups in Super Bowl history.