First look at Bucs-Packers, Bills-Chiefs: Matchup previews, X factors, big questions, more

  • ESPN.com national NFL writer
  • ESPN.com NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
  • Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008

  • Joined ESPN in 2011
  • New Jersey native and author of two published novels

The most unusual season in NFL history is down to its final three playoff games: the NFC Championship Game, the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LV. First up are next Sunday’s conference title matchups.

The first features two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. The other? We don’t know whether the Chiefs will have Patrick Mahomes or be forced to start backup Chad Henne against the Bills’ Josh Allen. Indeed, we might not know until next weekend if Mahomes will be cleared to play after suffering a concussion on Sunday. But we should never allow uncertainty to obstruct the hype. What follows is our first top-line look at the NFL’s championship weekend.

Kevin Seifert will provide matchup previews and X factors, including each team’s path to the Super Bowl. Dan Graziano will then answer one big question about each team still chasing the Super Bowl and the looming conference championship matchups. Let’s jump in.

Note: Odds and game lines are via Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Predictions are from ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).

NFC

(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (1) Green Bay Packers

3:05 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox

Opening line: Packers -3.5 (52)

What to watch for: This could be the final matchup between two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The Buccaneers and Packers won’t play during the 2021 regular season, which means the only way that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will face off next season is in the playoffs. After that, Brady will be 44 and his two-year contract with the Buccaneers will expire. One way or the other, however, the NFL is assured that one of the best quarterbacks in league history will appear in Super Bowl LV.

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