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NFL’s Final Four: A Study in Historic Implications and Season-Long Storylines

The dust from the Divisional Round has cleared, and four teams remain in the NFL Playoffs. Here’s what’s at stake for each squad.

Lambeau Field by Mike Morbeck is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NFL’s Final Four: A Study in Historic Implications and Season-Long Storylines

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

The Wild Card Weekend is over, the dust from the Divisional Round has cleared, and now we have four teams remaining in the NFL Playoffs.

The Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the final teams standing at the end of a long NFL Season. But while the season might have felt like a slog, each one of these teams has a unique journey they’ve taken to get to this point.

These teams are one game away from the Super Bowl, and that means a lot to each of them, in more ways than one.

The Kansas City Chiefs

The defending Super Bowl Champions began this season as the favorites to repeat in the AFC. With Patrick Mahomes leading the charge, the Chiefs coasted into the playoffs with a 14-2 record, earning them the #1-seed.

The Chiefs are stacked – there’s no denying it. Pushing through the Cleveland Browns in the Divisional Round, the Arrowhead residents secured their third consecutive AFC Championship appearance. That’s not something to take lightly, and neither is the idea of heading to back to back Super Bowls.

It took 50 years for the Chiefs to bring home their franchise’s second Lombardi Trophy. Winning two in a row would cement them as one of the greatest teams of all time. The departure of Tom Brady from the AFC opened up a window of opportunity for a new dynasty to take over. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes aren’t ones to squander opportunities.

There’s a new dynasty in the making, and it’s on the line at Arrowhead in the AFC Championship.

The Buffalo Bills

It’s been an odyssey of sorts for the Buffalo Bills to return to the AFC Championship Game. The last time the Bills appeared in the penultimate game of the NFL season, it was ahead of their fourth consecutive Super Bowl loss back in 1993. The famed “Four Falls of Buffalo” have hung over the franchise like a cloud, and have served as a great source of pain for Bills fans over the years.

And Bills fans know pain. Over the last 27 years, the Bills have had 15 losing seasons, the worst stretch coming from the 2005 to 2013 seasons, where the Bills recorded nine consecutive losing seasons. Running opposite of the Bills descent into the depths of despair was the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Dynasty in New England. So not only were the Bills abysmal, they had to get clowned on by some of the greatest football teams ever assembled year after year.

But now, things have changed. In the Wild Card round against the Colts, the Buffalo Bills won a playoff game for the first time since 1993. Keeping the momentum going, they took down the Baltimore Ravens to make it two in a row. That’s not just momentum coming from a hot season as the 2nd best team in the AFC, it’s something else.

The Buffalo Bills might just have destiny on their side in 2021, and that should worry any team that lines up against them.

The Green Bay Packers

The Matt LaFleur Era at Lambeau Field almost began with a trip to the Super Bowl. The 2019-20 Green Bay Packers were 13-3, the same record they finished this past season with, and nothing seemed to be standing in their way. Unfortunately, Jimmy Garropolo and the San Francisco 49ers had plans of their own, keeping the Packers from the Super Bowl with a 37-20 victory at Lambeau Field.

The Packers have won only four Lombardi Trophies in their history, but they have always been in the playoff picture. Additionally, since taking the reins in 2008, Aaron Rodgers has only failed to bring the Packers to the postseason in two seasons, not including the campaigns where he was injured.

And yet, throughout all of that success, including winning the NFC North six times in the last decade, the Packers have only been to one Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers. That Super Bowl was a decade ago.

Aaron Rodgers is surely in the pantheon of great NFL quarterbacks. However, what Rodgers lacks is a second Super Bowl win. Ring #2 would put Rodgers in the conversation with Joe Montana, John Elway, Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw and Peyton Manning, all of whom have won multiple Super Bowls.

This is a legacy moment for Rodgers. Winning two Super Bowls is an accomplishment his predecessor Brett Favre couldn’t achieve, and it’s within his grasp. All he needs to do is reach out and take it.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Historically, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the worst franchise in the NFL today. With a franchise win percentage of .393, they are the only team below the .400 mark. That’s rough. However, they currently have the greatest quarterback of all time calling plays for them, so who cares about the past?

This game represents a big swing in momentum for the Florida franchise. After signing Tom Brady, the Bucs shot up the Super Bowl odds charts, seemingly cementing their place atop the NFC. However, we’ve seen that promise crumble before for Tampa Bay.

The Jon Gruden Bucs were a one-hit-wonder, as things cratered after their Super Bowl win in 2002. Since those Bucs lifted the Lombardi trophy, Tampa Bay has had just four winning seasons prior to Tom Brady taking the wheel. In fact, this past season has been a top-5 all-time season in Tampa Bay, with the only one surpassing 2020’s win total being the Bucs’ Super Bowl season.

Is this the shifting winds that so many Tampa Bay fans have been longing for? Is this how the suffering ends? Can Tom Brady cement his legacy as the GOAT by taking another team to a Super Bowl? The sky was the limit for the Bucs in 2020, but who ever thought they’d reach the moon?

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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