Tom Brady, determined to continue writing his legend with an 8th Super Bowl, and his Buccaneers, in search of a double, will be expected in the first round of the NFL play-offs which begin this weekend, like the Chiefs of Patrick Mahomes in reconquest.
. Destination LA
This year, Los Angeles is hosting the Super Bowl, 56th of the name, on February 13, in the brand new SoFi Stadium, home of the Rams and the Chargers, where the traditional halftime show will offer a hip hop poster of high quality, with Eminem, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg.
They are only fourteen to run for the supreme title of American football and there will remain eight after this first weekend of play-offs, which oppose the Cincinnati Bengals to the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, the Buffalo Bills to the New England Patriots, Sunday the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys to the San Francisco 49ers, the Kansas City Chiefs to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and finally the Los Angeles Rams to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday.
The Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans, who respectively finished first in the National and American Conferences, are exempt from this 1st round.
. The Bucs on board
Last year, Tampa Bay had advanced somewhat hidden for the first season of Brady, who had made the choice, risky for many, to leave New England after 20 years at the top (6 titles).
Then they ramped up during the play-offs, qualifying each time by winning out of their bases, before being crowned at home at the expense of Kansas City, the « Goat » (greatest of all time, the best player of all time) teaching the 43-year-old a lesson to Patrick Mahomes, 18 years his junior.
The Bucs quarterback is a year older. And… that still can’t be seen on the pitch, since he’s had a string of high-flying performances. So much so that he could well be named MVP of the season for the 4th time in his career.
Everyone is already dreaming of a remake of last year’s National Conference final against the Aaron Rodgers Packers, which Tampa had eliminated by forceps in Green Bay. But first it will be a matter of being serious against the Eagles who expect « a tough challenge » against Brady.
« This guy, he’s a seasoned killer, he knows how to run a good offense and keep it on track, » Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said.
Even if « Terrific Tom » will be deprived of two receivers, Antonio Brown, dismissed, and Chris Godwin, injured, he will be able to count on his longtime companion Rob Gronkowski and on the other star Mike Evans.
In this part of the table, a 62-year-old « classic » opposes the Cowboys and the 49ers, who will nevertheless meet for the first time at this stage since… 1995. Dallas and its quarterback Dak Prescott, excellent this season, will have to be wary of a San Francisco team qualified in extremis.
. The Chiefs against « Big Ben »
Winner in 2020, Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes were to establish a new hegemony. Then Brady passed by. Dethroned, the Chiefs do not appear less favorites in the American conference to play a 3rd Super Bowl in a row, despite the emergence of Tennessee.
The Chiefs will nevertheless start with the trap match par excellence, against Pittsburgh qualified somewhat miraculously at the end of the last day of the regular season and which therefore has nothing to lose.
« We shouldn’t really be in the game again and we’re probably not a very good team. We don’t have a chance. So let’s go and have fun! » Ben Roethlisberger, 39, said. has two Super Bowls to his credit (2006, 2009) with the Steelers and would postpone the time of retirement that everyone announces.
The other enticing confrontation will oppose the Bills and the Patriots in Buffalo, in conditions that promise to be icy at Highmark Stadium.
« The weather is the weather. I’m more concerned about the opponent than the weather, » said facetious New England coach Bill Belichick.