The NFL's Divisional Round brings heightened scrutiny and expectations. A win this weekend delivers an appearance in the championship game, and almost every team would consider that an accomplishment. A loss sends you home just before the smell of a Super Bowl sets in, and leaves teams in a perilous in-between. Losers were good enough to earn the top-seed or win a playoff game already, but not quite ready to roll with the truly elite. Let's take a look at the quarterbacks with the most pressure on them this weekend.
1) Drew BreesThe Saints' future Hall of Famer is almost assured to hang it up after this season, so a loss to the Bucs means the end of a career. The Saints have been knocking on the door of an elusive second Super Bowl for four years now. Each January has provided a different brand of pain, from the '17 Minneapolis Miracle, to the '18 Bayou Blown Call, to the '19 Kirk Cousins Game. This is yet another wonderful chance for Brees to cement an even greater legacy with a second Lombardi trophy. A loss would be more wood onto the bonfire of misery.
2) Aaron RodgersLike Brees, the Packers' signal-caller is searching for that second ring. With a win, Rodgers would already lock up something he's never experienced: playing in an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau. It's boom or bust for Green Bay. As the top-seed, it reaches the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade, or one of Rodgers' best shots at a title goes up in smoke at 37 years old. How many more chances will he get that set up this well? The Packers are the only team in the NFC that didn't have to play last weekend. They simply can't afford to lose this game.
3) Tom BradyThe living legend doesn't have near the pressure of the previous two because of his six rings. Brady doesn't need another championship to cement anything. Most people already consider him the GOAT. Another championship, though, would be a significant final word on the Belichick/Brady marriage. As the debate rages over who was more responsible for the Pats' success, Brady could end the discussion. We assume Brady will always get this far, but at 43 years old, this may be Brady's last good shot at a ring.
4) Lamar JacksonHe nabbed his first playoff win last week, putting to bed most of the speculation that he could never get it done in the postseason. But as a former MVP and such a unique talent, the pressure will always exist to be something so many other running quarterbacks were not. Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, and Fran Tarkenton never won a championship. They were always viewed as limited in the passing game when it mattered most. Tarkenton retired as the all-time leading passer ironically, but some felt it was the product of playing 18 years. He is never mentioned in the same breath as the all-time greats. A loss to the Bills will bring out the same Lamar criticism we heard before last week, but a win would be an exclamation point.
5) Patrick MahomesThere's not much pressure on Mahomes because he's already won a Super Bowl and followed it up with another impressive season. The Chiefs could lose 38-10 to the Browns and still be a preseason favorite next year. But Mahomes does have an incredible chance at repeating, and that's something few QBs have ever accomplished. Going back-to-back is the domain of Brady, John Elway, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Brian Griese and Bart Starr. All in Canton. It hasn't been accomplished in 16 years, and while Mahomes should have many more bites at the Super Bowl apple, you want to take advantage of the great chances when they're there. This Chiefs team has it all to win another ring. Andy Reid in his prime. Home-field advantage. Weapons all over the place.
6) Jared GoffThe former No. 1 pick has been criticized all season for a lack of ball security. The Rams’ defense has been the strength of the team, and now Goff is dealing with an injured thumb. It was difficult at times to watch him throw in last week's win over Seattle. While many still question his ability to be the long-term solution, his injury gives him an out to play poorly. The bigger question is his franchise's faith in him for the future if John Wolford started last week. A stinker by Goff could open that door for speculation.
7) Josh Allen The Bills could lose this weekend and no one in Buffalo would claim it was a disappointing season. The Bills answered the call this year. The organization changed its perception and reality by taking the AFC East, going 13-3, and winning a playoff game. They're built for the long haul. Allen also made some dazzling throws last week and proved this season he is clearly the franchise quarterback, no questions asked. A win, though, puts the Bills in the AFC Championship Game, just a step away from their first Super Bowl in 26 years.
8) Baker MayfieldIt's all gravy for the Browns at this point. They won 11 games, made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years, and defeated their hated nemesis in stunning fashion last week. Mayfield made plenty of great throws to help defeat the Steelers, and could lay and egg in this one and no one in Cleveland should complain. He solidified himself as the franchise QB they needed to turn the corner.