2021 What To Look For - Conference Championships
Last week’s Divisional Round provided football fans with four gut-wrenching matchups with each outcome decided by a game-winning drive.
Three of the games ended on last-second field goals, and the fourth was an overtime thriller that had three go-ahead touchdowns scored in the final 2 minutes of regulation. Combined, the four games were decided by a total of 15 points for an average margin of victory of 3.8 points per game. It was the lowest average margin of victory in playoff history in a round with at least four games.
This week, the Conference Championships will decide which two teams will vie for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy. Will the experience of previously playing in a Super Bowl benefit Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo? Or will playoff newcomers Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford break through on the biggest stages of their careers?
Read on to learn what playoff accolades can be accomplished this week in the Conference Championships…
On Championship Sunday, the Super Bowl LVI participants will be determined. In the AFC (3:00 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+), the CINCINNATI BENGALS (12-7) take on the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (14-5) while the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-7) travel to SoFi Stadium to face the LOS ANGELES RAMS (14-5) in the NFC (6:40 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes).
With Cincinnati and San Francisco, this marks the fifth year since 1970 in which multiple teams have advanced to their conference Championship Games the year after finishing in last or tied for last place in their divisions.
If either team wins this weekend, it will become the fifth team to advance to the Super Bowl the season after finishing in last place in its division since 2000.
The teams to appear in the Super Bowl the season after finishing in last place in their division since 2000:
|SEASON||TEAM||SUPER BOWL||PRIOR SEASON RECORD|
|*Won Super Bowl|
Each of the four head coaches remaining in the 2021 postseason can cement themselves in NFL history with victories on Sunday.
In the AFC, Kansas City’s ANDY REID became the fifth head coach in league history to guide his team to at least four consecutive Championship Games. He is aiming to advance to his fourth Super Bowl as a head coach, and third with Kansas City. Overall, Reid has 19 postseason wins, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer DON SHULA for the third-most in league history.
With a win on Sunday, Reid will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer TOM LANDRY (20 wins) for the second-most postseason wins by a head coach all-time. Only BILL BELICHICK (31) has more.
The head coaches with the most career postseason wins in NFL history:
|HEAD COACH||TEAM(S)||POSTSEASON WINS|
|Bill Belichick||Cleveland, New England||31|
|Andy Reid||Philadelphia, Kansas City||19|
|Don ShulaHOF||Baltimore Colts, Miami||19|
Cincinnati’s ZAC TAYLOR is looking to become the sixth individual in league history to win each of his first three career postseason games as an NFL head coach and the first since DOUG PEDERSON in 2017.
In the NFC, both San Francisco’s KYLE SHANAHAN, who brought the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV in 2019, and Los Angeles’ SEAN MCVAY, who took the Rams to Super Bowl LIII in 2018, are looking to advance to their second Super Bowls as a head coach.
Each coach was hired by his current club in 2017 and the winner of the NFC Championship on Sunday will become the fifth individual in league history to advance to two Super Bowls within his first five seasons as an NFL head coach.
The individuals to advance to two Super Bowls within their first five seasons as a head coach in NFL history:
|HEAD COACH||TEAM||SUPER BOWLS|
|Mike Tomlin||Pittsburgh||XLIII, XLV|
|Jimmy JohnsonHOF||Dallas||XXVII, XXVIII|
|Joe GibbsHOF||Washington||XVII, XVIII|
|Tom FloresHOF||Oakland/L.A. Raiders||XV, XVIII|
KANSAS CITY OF CHAMPIONS:
The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS are the first team in league history to host four consecutive Championship Games. With a win on Sunday, they would become the fourth team all-time to advance to three-or-more consecutive Super Bowls.
The teams to appear in at least three consecutive Super Bowls in NFL history:
|New England||3 (2016-18)||LI - LIII|
|Buffalo||4 (1990-93)||XXV - XXVIII|
|Miami||3 (1971-73)||VI - VIII|
Quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES led the Chiefs to each of the past two Super Bowls and with a win on Sunday can become the 13th quarterback all-time to start in three-or-more Super Bowls, and the sixth to do so before turning 30 years old. Mahomes, who will be 26 years and 149 days old on the day of Super Bowl LVI, would become the youngest quarterback in NFL history to start three Super Bowls.
Mahomes enters Championship Sunday after recording 378 passing yards and three touchdown passes in the Divisional Round against Buffalo, and 404 passing yards and five touchdown passes on Super Wild Card Weekend against Pittsburgh.
With at least 300 passing yards against Cincinnati, Mahomes would become the first player ever to record at least 300 passing yards in three games within a single postseason.
With three touchdown passes, he will become the fourth player ever to record at least three touchdown passes in three games within a single postseason, joining TOM BRADY (2014), JOE FLACCO (2012) and AARON RODGERS (2010). Each of the previous three players won Super Bowl MVP that same postseason.
The players with the most games with at least three touchdown passes in a single postseason in NFL history:
|Tom Brady*||New England||2014||3|
|Aaron Rodgers*||Green Bay||2010||3|
|Patrick Mahomes||Kansas City||2021||2|
|*Won Super Bowl MVP|
With four catches on Sunday, Kelce will become the third player in league history to record 100 career postseason receptions, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (151 receptions) and JULIAN EDELMAN (118).
The players with the most postseason receptions in NFL history:
|Jerry RiceHOF||San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle||151|
|Julian Edelman||New England||118|
|Rob Gronkowski||New England, Tampa Bay||98|
|Travis Kelce||Kansas City||96|
Wide receiver TYREEK HILL led the team with 11 catches for 150 receiving yards and a touchdown last week. It marked his second-career postseason game with at least 150 receiving yards. Hill can join LARRY FITZGERALD as the only players ever to record at least 150 receiving yards in three career postseason games.
JOE & JA’MARR:
Cincinnati quarterback JOE BURROW is expected to become the first quarterback ever drafted first overall to start a conference Championship Game within his first two seasons.
With a win, Burrow, who was selected with the first overall pick out of LSU in 2020, will become the third quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL Draft to start a Super Bowl within his first two seasons in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO and BEN ROETHLISBERGER.
Burrow enters Championship Sunday after completing 28 of 37 attempts (75.7 percent) for 348 yards in the Divisional Round against Tennessee. On Super Wild Card Weekend against Las Vegas, he completed 24 of 34 attempts (70.6 percent) for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
On Sunday, Burrow can become the first quarterback ever to record a completion percentage of 70-or-higher in each of his first three career postseason games (minimum 25 attempts).
Burrow’s top target this season has been wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE, who recorded 1,455 receiving yards in the regular season, the most by a rookie in the Super Bowl era. After recording 109 receiving yards last week and 116 in the Wild Card Round, Chase’s 225 postseason receiving yards are the third-most ever by a rookie.
With 18 receiving yards at Kansas City, Chase will surpass TORRY HOLT (242 receiving yards in 1999) for the most postseason receiving yards by a rookie in NFL history.
The rookies with the most postseason receiving yards in NFL history:
|Torry Holt||St. Louis Rams||1999||242|
With at least 100 receiving yards on Sunday, Chase will join LARRY FITZGERALD (first four career postseason games) as the only players ever to record at least 100 receiving yards in each of their first three career playoff games.
BRING IT HOME:
When the LOS ANGELES RAMS host the NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, it will mark the first time in league history that a Championship Game will be played in the same stadium that will host that year’s Super Bowl.
With a win on Sunday, the Rams will become the second team ever to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium, joining the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, who won Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium last year.
Either the Rams or their opponent this week, the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, will become the sixth team ever to play in a Super Bowl that was hosted in its home state.
The Super Bowls with a team playing in its home state:
|SUPER BOWL||SITE||DATE||WINNING TEAM||LOSING TEAM|
|LV||Tampa, FL||February 7, 2021||Tampa Bay||Kansas City|
|XXXVII||San Diego, CA||January 26, 2003||Tampa Bay||Oakland Raiders|
|XIX||Stanford, CA||January 20, 1985||San Francisco||Miami|
|XIV||Pasadena, CA||January 20, 1980||Pittsburgh||Los Angeles Rams|
|XI||Pasadena, CA||January 9, 1977||Oakland Raiders||Minnesota|
Los Angeles quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD is set to appear in his first-career Conference Championship. He ranked second in the league with 41 touchdown passes during the regular season in his first season as a Ram.
Stafford can become the fifth different quarterback in league history to record at least 40 regular-season touchdown passes and reach the Super Bowl in the same season.
The quarterbacks to record at least 40 regular-season touchdown passes and reach the Super Bowl in the same season:
|SEASON||PLAYER||TEAM||TOUCHDOWN PASSES||SUPER BOWL|
|2020||Tom Brady||Tampa Bay||40||LV|
|2007||Tom Brady||New England||50||XLII|
|1999||Kurt WarnerHOF||St. Louis Rams||41||XXXIV|
Stafford’s top target this season has been wide receiver COOPER KUPP, who led the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and touchdown receptions (16). If Los Angeles wins on Sunday, Kupp will become the third different player ever to lead the league in receiving yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season.
The players to lead the league in receiving yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season in NFL history:
|PLAYER||TEAM||SEASON||RECEIVING YARDS||SUPER BOWL|
|Jerry RiceHOF||San Francisco||1994||1,499||XXIX|
|Jerry RiceHOF||San Francisco||1989||1,423||XXIV|
Linebacker VON MILLER has recorded a sack in each of Los Angeles’ postseason games this year. Going back to his 2015 postseason with Denver, when he was named Super Bowl 50 MVP, Miller has recorded a sack in four consecutive postseason games.
With a sack on Sunday, Miller will become the fifth player since 2000 to record a sack in at least five consecutive postseason games.
The players with a sack in at least five consecutive postseason games since 2000:
|Lamar Woodley||Pittsburgh||7 (Jan. 5, 2008 – Feb. 6, 2011)|
|Frank Clark||Seattle, Kansas City||5 (Jan. 14, 2017 – Feb. 2, 2020)|
|Simeon Rice||Tampa Bay||5 (Jan. 12, 2002 – Jan. 7, 2006)|
|Willie McGinest||New England||5 (Jan. 27, 2002 – Feb. 1, 2004)|
|Von Miller||Denver, L.A. Rams||4* (Jan. 24, 2016 – Jan. 23, 2022)|
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will recognize individual and team “Milestones” throughout the 2021 season. Joining the Hall in celebrating the year’s accomplishments will be 11 of the health systems that are network providers providing quality medical care and services across the country in partnership with Hall of Fame Health. They are Baylor Scott & White, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, HonorHealth, Flagler Health , Tampa General Hospital, OhioHealth, NorthShore HealthSystem, Providence St. John’s, HCA Gulf Coast, UCSF Health and Array Behavioral Care.