NFL Playoff Predictions: Our Picks in the Conference Championships – The New York Times

More than a hundred players will suit up for this game, but the spotlight will fall on two of them: Tom Brady of the Buccaneers and Aaron Rodgers of the Packers. It isn’t unusual for quarterbacks to command most of the attention, but this matchup goes beyond that.

Brady, with more career touchdown passes and more Super Bowl wins than any other player, had a terrific 2020 season, throwing 40 touchdown passes and ending Tampa Bay’s long postseason drought. Rodgers, a two-time winner of the Most Valuable Player Award and one-time winner of the Super Bowl, had perhaps the best season of his career, throwing 48 touchdown passes while leading the N.F.C.’s top team.

The quarterbacks have combined to start 551 games, including in the postseason. But largely as a result of playing in different conferences for most of their careers, they have faced off as starters just three times. Two came in Brady’s time with the New England Patriots, with Brady beating the Packers in 2018 and Rodgers beating the Patriots in 2014. They faced each other in Week 6 of this season, with the Buccaneers winning, 38-10. It was the Packers’ lowest scoring game of the year.

Brady, 43, has a career edge in accomplishments. Rodgers, who is six years younger, has a physical edge. After a few quiet seasons, by his standards, Rodgers in 2020 used wide receivers Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to shred defenses as the Packers led the N.F.L. in scoring and finished fifth in total yardage. Brady’s statistics were also impressive, but he is more physically limited than he was in the past, frequently relying on talented receivers like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown and tight end Rob Gronkowski to turn short passes into long gains.

In a more neutral environment, Tampa Bay could have counted on its young defense to shift the balance in the Buccaneers’ favor by pressuring Rodgers. In that scenario, the team would rely on Brady to put up points against a good defense that is not nearly as explosive. But in Green Bay, with snow showers in the forecast and a game-time temperature expected to be around 30 degrees, a team from Florida — even one with a New England icon at quarterback — will be out of its element.

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