Playoff games are typically win-or-go-home scenarios. For the Bucs, they’re going home regardless of the outcome in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
That’s because they’ll play their third road postseason game of the year at Lambeau Field against the top-seeded Packers, with the winner advancing to Super Bowl XL in . . . Tampa. It sets the stage for the Bucs to be the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
"I think everyone knows what’s at stake," Tom Brady said of the scenario. "We won two road playoff games and we have a chance to play four quarters of football to get back home to a home Super Bowl, which would be a pretty cool thing."
While no team has ever hosted a Super Bowl in which it has played, two teams have played in Super Bowls in proximity to their geographic location. In 1984, the 49ers beat Miami at nearby Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, and in 1979, the Rams — who called the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum home — lost to Pittsburgh at the Rose Bowl. Only six teams have ever made the playoffs in a season in which they were scheduled to host a Super Bowl: The Dolphins in 1970, ’78, ’94 and ’98, the Texans in 2016 and the Vikings in 2017.
Even if the Bucs do play a home Super Bowl, it won’t be much of an in-game advantage. Because of the pandemic, this will be the league’s first Super Bowl that is not a sellout since the first game between the Packers and Chiefs in 1967.
The NFL announced this past week that there will be approximately 22,000 fans at Raymond James Stadium in two weeks, 7,500 of them vaccinated health care workers as guests of the league. Tampa Bay averaged 14,483 fans for its eight home games in 2020. Raymond James Stadium usually holds close to 75,000 fans for events such as Super Bowls.
But first the Bucs have to get there. The road to Tampa goes through Green Bay, even for Tampa.
"We don’t play that game this week," Bucs coach Bruce Arians said of the Super Bowl. "That’s the message to everybody. We play the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. You start thinking about the Super Bowl, you’ll . . . be packing your bags on Monday."