NEW YORK (AFP) – Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady plays his 300th regular-season game Saturday trying to lift Tampa Bay into the NFL playoffs, the Buccaneers among seven teams that can clinch berths.
The 43-year-old quarterback and former New England Patriots star will lead the Bucs into Detroit seeking a victory to clinch Tampa Bay’s first post-season appearance since 2007.
The penultimate week of the campaign kicks off Friday with Minnesota at New Orleans, making this COVID-19 disrupted season the NFL’s first with games played on all seven possible days.
It concludes Monday with Buffalo, a division champion for the first time in 25 years, at New England, already eliminated from the post-season chase.
In between, answers will come about the playoff lineup and Brady will reach a milestone in Michigan, the same state where he was a college star and where he made his NFL debut off the New England bench in 2000.
”Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool,” Brady said of reaching 300 games. ”I don’t get caught up too much in statistics and those types of things, but football has just been a very important part of my life for a long time.”
Among non-kickers and punters, Brady ranks third on the NFL all-time games played list, trailing only receiver Jerry Rice’s 303 and quarterback Brett Favre’s 302. And Brady doesn’t see himself retiring any time soon.
”I’m very blessed to be 43-years-old and still doing it,” he said. ”It’s definitely a challenge for me still. There’s physical challenges, there’s mental challenges, there’s emotional challenges. I just love doing it.
”It’s pretty cool that I’m still able to do it and still have a team that’s supportive of me being out there and I want to go out there and do the best I can for them.”
Brady seeks his 12th consecutive season in the playoffs, his current run the longest by any quarterback in the Super Bowl era, and he’s going against the NFL’s worst scoring defense.
If the Bucs (9-5) fall to Detroit (5-9), they can still clinch a playoff berth if Chicago (7-7) loses at Jacksonville (1-13) on Sunday.
Green Bay (11-3), New Orleans (10-4), and Seattle (10-4) have already ensured spots in the National Conference playoffs with the Bucs, Arizona, Washington, and the Los Angeles Rams hoping to join them.
Washington (6-8) will host Carolina (4-10) on Sunday needing a victory plus a New York Giants (5-9) loss Sunday at Baltimore (9-5) to seal the NFC East division crown and a playoff spot.
The Rams (9-5) clinch a post-season berth by winning Sunday at Seattle or with a Chicago loss or a victory by Arizona (8-6), which entertains San Francisco (5-9) on Saturday and needs a win and Chicago loss to seal a playoff spot.
Reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City (13-1), the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3), and Buffalo (11-3) have already clinched American Conference playoff berths while Cleveland, Tennessee, and Indianapolis – all 10-4 – hope to join them.
Cleveland needs a victory Sunday at the New York Jets (1-13) and a loss by Baltimore, Miami, or Indianapolis to seal a playoff berth for the first time since 2002.
Indianapolis can clinch Sunday by beating host Pittsburgh and having either Baltimore or Miami lose.
Tennessee needs a victory Sunday at Green Bay or a loss by either Miami or Baltimore to reach the playoffs and can take the AFC South division title with a win and Indianapolis loss.
First-round playoff byes for the top overall record in each conference are also up for grabs.
Kansas City can clinch the American Conference bye into the second round by winning Sunday at Atlanta (4-10) or with losses by either Pittsburgh or Buffalo.
Green Bay can secure the National Conference first-round bye with a home triumph over Tennessee and a loss by Seattle.