GREEN BAY – Well, there’s not much else to discuss in this weekly space, which started in December as “Path to the Playoffs” and has morphed in January into “Road to the Super Bowl.”
There are no more games that affect playoff seeding or home-field advantage. No more results that materially impact what’s next.
No more rooting for this potential opponent over that one really, either, because anyone doing that with the Super Bowl on the horizon is wasting energy.
Yes, a league title is still two wins away, but just getting to a Super Bowl is a huge achievement, even if the work isn’t done.
On Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif., the Packers will be looking to get to their first Super Bowl in nine years, and the 49ers are looking to get to their first in seven years.
Since then, Green Bay has reached this stage twice and lost, in 2014 at Seattle and in 2016 at Atlanta. San Francisco got back to this point once since its last Super Bowl as well, the following year, losing in 2013 at Seattle, and the 49ers hadn’t returned to the playoffs since then until this year.
In those intervening spaces, both teams changed coaches, the Packers once and the 49ers three times. The head men now going head-to-head, Matt LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan, reached a Super Bowl together on Atlanta’s staff three years ago at Green Bay’s expense, and now one will prevent the other from getting back there.
In the AFC, the Super Bowl droughts are much longer. Kansas City’s last Super Bowl appearance was exactly 50 years ago, when the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV. Tennessee’s last (and only) was precisely 20 years ago, a loss to the Rams in XXXIV.
Kansas City’s Andy Reid is the only coach of the four left who has led a team to a Super Bowl before, doing so with Philadelphia 15 years ago. As a head coach, this will be his seventh conference title game, and second in a row, while it’s the first for everyone else.
Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel won three Super Bowls as a player with the New England Patriots, and he’s trying to make the Titans the first No. 6 playoff seed to reach the Super Bowl since, yup, the 2010 Packers.