Ten rings, 107 playoff starts, one stage

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NFL Nation

If Ben Roethlisberger says it’s okay, call this NFL playoffs the year of the old man.

And Big Ben isn’t even the oldest.

Five of the NFL’s longest serving quarterbacks are still playing, while some of the future stars like Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson are staying home to watch.

This postseason, which begins Saturday with a Wild Card weekend, marks the first time in NFL history that five quarterbacks age 37 and older will start the same playoffs. They are Tom Brady (43), Drew Brees (41), Philip Rivers (39), Roethlisberger (38) and Aaron Rodgers (37).

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All old men, Roethlisberger said this week. I know you didn’t mean to use those words. I’ll say it for you. That’s good. It’s nice to be with them. When we sat at home and people talked about old people still playing…. Why don’t you get involved – you’d be disappointed. To be a part of this tournament, to be a part of it, to be a part of it, as Coach [Mike Tomlin] calls it, is an honor and a pleasure. I hope it’s not a one-time thing. We’ll give him everything we have so I can be the last old man.

Five veterans have started a total of 107 playoffs, but this is the first time all five have competed in the playoffs in the same year.

One of those five players has led the NFL in touchdown passing in 10 of the last 14 seasons, and Rodgers is doing that this year (48). All five are in the top eight touchdown passes of all time. According to a study by the Elias Sports Bureau, no less than four of the top ten players of all time started the same season.

Together they have won 10 of the last 20 Super Bowls, although no one other than Brady has made it to the Super Bowl since Rodgers and Roethlisberger met 10 years ago.

A look at the best moments of the veteran quarterbacks, how they got there and what the Super Bowl means to each of them.

Error! The file name is not specified. Illustration by ESPN

Playback time

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season: 21
defeat record: 30-11, six Super Bowl wins in nine appearances.

It’s hard to pick just one, but Brady, who came back from a 28-3 half-time deficit against the Atlanta Falcons to win 34-28 in Super Bowl LI, won the cake. Second place would have to come from a 37-31 overtime win over Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game following the 2018 season. — Jenna Lane.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
seasons: 20
playoff record: 8-8, one Super Bowl win in one appearance.

The race for the Super Bowl MVP title in 2009 was a masterful one: Eight touchdown passes and zero interceptions in three postseason games. And he capped it all off with a TD green light for the ages in the fourth quarter of New Orleans’ 31-17 win over the Colts. Brees made his eight pass attempts on eight different receivers, including a TD to Jeremy Shockey and a two-point conversion to Lance Moore. — Mike Triplett

Error! The file name is not specified. Drew Brees won his only Super Bowl after the 2009 season, beating the Colts and being named MVP of the game. Jed Jacobson/Getty Images

Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts
Season: 17 Plate
Disposal : 5-6

Rivers has a lot of respect in the 2007 AFC championship game with a torn ACL, but he beat Peyton Manning and the Colts in the 2008 Wild Card final, which was a first place finish. The 8-8 Chargers should have had no chance in this game. At the time, the Colts were the hottest team in the league and Manning had just won his third MVP title. This is the second year in a row the Chargers have sent the Colts home in the playoffs. — Mike Wells

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay PackersSeason: 16Reversal: 10-8, a Super Bowl victory in one game.


– Matches, X-factors and other for each team
– Experts predict surprises, QB under pressure
– Myths for 14 teams in the playoffs
– Schedule, brackets, TV time and other
– What went wrong for teams that didn’t make the playoffs.

The answer is simple: the Super Bowl XLV. Rodgers was the MVP in the Packers 31-25 win over the Steelers, and his fourth-quarter throw to Greg Jennings for 31 yards was one of the greatest shots of his career. But the Packers wouldn’t have made it to the Super Bowl if Rodgers hadn’t played the divisional round against the Atlanta Falcons. He completed 31 of 36 passes for three touchdowns on the road, spread through the top seed. — Rob Demovsky

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers season
: 17
Playoff record: 13-8, two Super Bowl wins in three appearances.

Roethlisberger is experiencing a great offensive and defensive moment in his career. But seriously. The victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, crowned by a Santonio Holmes touchdown, will forever remain in the hearts of Steelers fans. But just as impressive was Nick Harper’s victory in the 2005 Divisional Playoff Round. Harper picked off a fumbling Jerome Bettis in the final minutes of the divisional round with the Colts, but a Roethlisberger tackle saved the Steelers’ fate. — Brooke Pryor.

How did they get here?.

Error! The file name is not specified. Tom Brady is looking for his seventh Super Bowl win and first with the Bucs. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Brady: The Bucs were swept aside by the Saints and lost by three points to the Rams and Los Angeles Chiefs. The decisive win came in week six against the Packers. It took a win in the final four games to advance to the playoffs and become the No. 5 seed, but this will be the first time Brady will be a wild card in the postseason. — Lane.

Bree: Brees and the Saints started on a shaky note (1-2). He then missed four games in November and December due to a punctured lung and 11 broken ribs. But he managed to bounce back, even though he only played ten quarterfinals with top receiver Michael Thomas. And New Orleans won its fourth straight NFC South title thanks to one of the most talented and complete teams in the NFL. — triplets.


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Rivers: You would think that 11 wins and an additional playoff spot would have easily earned the Colts a playoff spot. No. They needed to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17 and get help from other teams to advance to the playoffs as the second seed since 2014. On the absurdity of the 2020 season: The Colts would win the AFC South if the Houston Texans beat the Tennessee Titans in Week 17. — Wells.

Rogers: He went from a bumbler in 2019 to one of the best players in 2020 in Coach Matt LaFleur’s new offense. Rogers not only completely masters the new system, he masters it in the second half. The likely NFL MVP led the league in touchdown passes (48) and threw just five interceptions – all without adding key players to the catcher’s position. — Demovsky

Roethlisberger: The steel mills had their greatest success when Roethlisberger began to slow down. But in the final three games of the season, the offense got carried away, and Roethlisberger often gave the impression of being the worst version of himself, taking off-target shots and uncertainty in his back pocket when he expected contact. In the second half of the Colts’ Week 16 victory, Roethlisberger looked like the quarterback who helped his team to an 11-0 start. He extended the field with 39 and 34 yard passes and threw for over 200 yards in the second half. — I’m sorry.

How it is different at this age.

Brady: Brady questions his age in a system that forces him to hit harder than ever in his career. His 34 rushing yards completed this year, more than any other QB in the league, were a career high. His percentage of success on those shots was almost identical to Mahomes’. — Lane.

Bree: The strength of Brees’ arms and his lack of downfields have been examined in depth in recent years, and he no longer throws for 5,000 yards every season. But it has made up for its shortcomings in these areas by being even more effective. Over the past four seasons, Brees has posted the highest ranking of his career, percentage of completions and interceptions. — triplets.

Rivers: Rivers doesn’t have the arm strength he had when he was younger, but this season he has put together some of the smartest plays of his career. In Week 16, it looks like he could end the season with single-digit interceptions for the third time in his career. Rivers finished the regular season with 11 interceptions compared to 20 in 2019. He also had the third highest school completion rate (68%) in his career. One thing that hasn’t changed is Rivers’ availability. He started 240 games in a row. — Wells.

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Domonic Foxworth and Ryan Clark explain why they think Aaron Rodgers is the most pressured quarterback of the postseason.

Rogers: To say that Rogers is smarter now would be to say that Einstein became relatively smarter after developing the theory. But Rodgers, for his part, is more willing to take control than hold onto the ball and wait for something to develop on the pitch. It gave him more rhythm in the attack. — Demovsky

Roethlisberger: The 2020 Roethlisberger is not the shooter he was known for earlier in his career. Instead, Roethlisberger spent most of the season throwing short slings and underhand passes, putting the burden on his offensive weapons to make plays. But when leading an offense without a huddle, Roethlisberger is quick to point out that his rebuilt elbow is perfectly capable of hitting the ball on deep throws to players like Chase Claypool and James Washington. Roethlisberger has never been a particularly mobile quarterback, but he is even more so this season with his arthritic knees. — I’m sorry.

What is Super Bowl?

Brady: The Bucs are a formidable opponent, especially when it comes to overtaking the Saints, who beat the Bucs in the regular season with a 38-3 win in Week 10. It will also depend on their defense, which has been inconsistent and has tended to allow the passage of explosives. But we can never rule out Brady because of his history. — Lane.

Bree: This could be Brees’ last chance to return to the Super Bowl and consolidate his legacy as one of the greatest of all time. After three years of disastrous playoff exits, the Saints are once again among the top contenders in the NFL. They are as deep and versatile as any team in the playoffs, with a top four defense and a top six offense in speed. — triplets.


Take your pick in the playoffs and compete for $30,000! Make your choice

Rivers: The road to the AFC Super Bowl runs through Buffalo and then Kansas City, the top two teams in the conference. It’s going to be tough for Rivers and the Colts. Rivers is among the top five players in NFL history for touchdowns and passing yards, but he has yet to play in the Super Bowl. His teams have only reached the conference championship twice in his career. — Wells.

Rogers: Brett Favre never won his second Super Bowl, but at least he made it to his second. His appearance took place at different times of the year. Rodgers can match Favre for the MVP title, but if he surpasses him for the Super Bowl titles, he can pass Favre in the eyes of those who score Packers quarterbacks, if he hasn’t already. — Demovsky

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Adam Schefter doesn’t think this postseason will be the last we see of Ben Roethlisberger, but he understands the pressure Big Ben is under and his options are limited.

Roethlisberger: According to ESPN REIT, the Steelers have a 10% chance of reaching Tampa Bay. It’s a distant goal, but it’s not out of the question – and this team is going all the way to Roethlisberger. He has three Super Bowl appearances and two wins to his name, but he hasn’t been back in a decade. Leaving with one of them in the twilight of a career rich in history would further enhance his resume in the Pantheon. He would be the fifth QB to win three Super Bowl titles. He would join Brady, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman. — I’m sorry.

and now?

Brady: He is under contract with the Bucs for one more season and has given no indication that he wants to retire now, especially given the way he has played the past four weeks. This offense led by Brady could be great if it has a full season to really work with coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and develop better chemistry with the receivers, and if Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown return. — Lane.

Bree: Brees has not yet announced whether he will retire after 20 seasons, although there has been much speculation inside and outside the building. In any case, the Saints will have a hard time keeping the entire core team after this season because of the very tight salary cap. So there’s one last dance feeling in these playoffs. — triplets.

Error! The file name is not specified. Philip Rivers has tickets for the 18th. The NFL season will not be missed. AP Photo/David Becker

Rivers: Free agency or high school football coach in Alabama. Rivers has yet to decide if he will get his 18th win. I want to play this season. If he decides to play, his playoff appearance will likely play a big role in the Colts’ decision to rehire him for the 2021 season. Rivers, who turns 40 in November, will be the head coach at St. Mary’s Catholic High School. — Wells.

Rogers: There’s no way the Packers are going to let Rodgers down after a season like this, is there? Jordan Love, a first-round draft pick in 2020, probably wouldn’t be ready to play next season anyway, but the way Rodgers played should convince the Packers that the time to part with Rodgers hasn’t come yet. — Demovsky

Roethlisberger: It is under contract through 2021 and has a ceiling of $41.2 million. He plans to return next season, said Adam Schefter, ESPN source, but Roethlisberger also said he won’t hesitate to hang up the jersey if he’s not playing at his level. Roethlisberger stated unequivocally that he did not want to hurt his team, and his postseason performance may dictate his decision for 2021. — I’m sorry.

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