This Sunday’s NFC Championship Game is a television executive’s dream.
Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fresh off a divisional-round victory over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, will head to Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers, with the winner advancing to Super Bowl LV.
Brady vs. Rodgers. Few quarterback matchups in championship-round history can compare to this battle of Pro Football Hall of Fame shoo-ins.
Between them, the 43-year-old Brady and 37-year-old Rodgers have five NFL MVP Awards, six first-team All-Pro selections, 23 Pro Bowl nods and an encyclopedia of NFL passing records. Rodgers is likely to take home his third MVP this season.
Brady dwarfs his Packers counterpart in postseason success (14 conference championship games, nine Super Bowl appearances, six Super Bowl rings), but Rodgers does have a Super Bowl win and a Super Bowl MVP on his record.
This will be Rodgers’ fifth NFC title game appearance and the first postseason matchup between him and Brady, who played in the AFC until this season.
Ahead of Sunday’s showdown, here’s a look back at some of the highest-profile QB matchups in previous conference championship games:
Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes was in just his first season as an NFL starter when the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs met in the 2018 AFC Championship Game, but his potential already was clear. Mahomes threw 50 touchdown passes that season and would go on to earn NFL MVP honors two weeks after losing to Brady’s Patriots in overtime.
Tom Brady vs. Ben Roethlisberger
Brady and Roethlisberger are two of the best quarterbacks of their generation, but their second AFC title game matchup was a dud, with New England blowing out the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 in 2016.
Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning
Brady and Manning squared off in four AFC Championship Games. By the final two (2013 and 2015), they both were firmly established as two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Manning had one of the best seasons in NFL history in 2013 but was fully washed up in 2015, when Denver’s fearsome defense carried him to his second and final Super Bowl title.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Russell Wilson
Hopes for a Brady-Rodgers clash in Super Bowl XLIX were dashed when Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks won in overtime in the 2014 NFC Championship.
Drew Brees vs. Brett Favre
Favre’s final legitimate shot at a third Super Bowl ring ended in overtime against Brees and the Bountygate New Orleans Saints in 2009. Brees, who’d already earned one NFL Offensive Player of the Year nod and multiple Pro Bowl selections, went on to win his lone championship, defeating Manning in Super Bowl XLIV.
Brett Favre vs. Steve Young
Favre and Young combined to win five NFL MVPs in a six-year span from 1992 to 1997. They met in the 1997 NFC title game, with Favre prevailing in a battle of future Hall of Famers.
Troy Aikman vs. Brett Favre
Aikman went through Favre to win his third and final Super Bowl in 1995. It was the last of four consecutive NFC Championship appearances for the Dallas Cowboys star and the first of three straight for Favre, whose Green Bay Packers won it all the following year.
Steve Young vs. Troy Aikman
The mid-1990s featured back-to-back-to-back battles between Young and Aikman for the NFC crown. Aikman won the first two — and went on to win the Super Bowl in both years — before Young broke through in 1994. Young also won NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP that season.
Jim Kelly vs. Joe Montana
Some forget Montana, the 49ers legend, also reached an AFC title game with the Chiefs, losing to Kelly’s Buffalo Bills in 1993. Kelly faced a future Hall of Fame QB in three consecutive conference championships and won all three. A rematch of this game is set for this Sunday in Kansas City.
Jim Kelly vs. Dan Marino
Marino reached the Super Bowl in his second season, then never made it back. This loss to Kelly in the 1992 AFC Championship Game was the closest he got.
Jim Kelly vs. John Elway
The Bills beat Elway’s Denver Broncos in a defensive battle to win the 1991 AFC title. Kelly and Elway were two of the NFL’s unluckiest stars in the late ’80s and early ’90s, combining for seven Super Bowl losses in eight years before Elway finally won his first in 1997.
Terry Bradshaw vs. Ken Stabler
The two future Hall of Famers met in three consecutive AFC title games in the mid-1970s. Bradshaw’s Pittsburgh Steelers and Stabler’s Oakland Raiders dominated the conference in that era, with one or both appearing in every AFC Championship from 1972 to 1979.