The Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves on the doorstep of the Super Bowl this weekend, a Super Bowl that will be played in the Buccaneers' home of Raymond James Stadium.
With a win over the Packers in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, the Buccaneers can become the first team to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Tampa Bay has spent the week practicing while seeing the many Super Bowl LV banners and branding go up around them at Raymond James Stadium and throughout Tampa, making the chance of a potential reality impossible to ignore.
Well, they better ignore it until it becomes reality, if Bruce Arians has any say in the matter.
"Yeah, we don't play that game this week," the Buccaneers coach during his Championship Wednesday news conference, via the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud. "That's the message to everybody. We play the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
"You start thinking about the Super Bowl, you’ll get your ass beat and be packing your bags on Monday.”
Truer words have rarely been spoken. There's a long history of teams overlooking their current game to take a peek at the grandeur of the chance they could earn, and then falling flat and failing to ever see the dream for themselves. Pittsburgh lamented doing so in losing to Jacksonville in January of 2018, looking beyond the upstart Jaguars to a much-desired rematch with New England in the conference title game, a rematch that never happened. There are plenty more we could reference.
It's not often, though, that a team gets a chance to win one game to earn the right to play the Super Bowl at home. Most recently, Minnesota flirted with it in the 2017 season, reaching the conference title game only to get blown out by the Eagles in Philadelphia, who went on to win Super Bowl LII over the Patriots at Minneapolis' U.S. Bank Stadium.
Tampa would make history in multiple ways if the Bucs can beat the Packers on Sunday. The Buccaneers would become just the second No. 5 seed to reach the Super Bowl since 1990, joining the 2007 Giants, who defeated the Packers in the NFC Championship Game (at Lambeau Field) to get to Arizona, where they dealt Tom Brady's Patriots their only loss in the greatest upset of the last two decades. They would also become the first wild-card team to make the Super Bowl since the 2010 season.
The team that did it back then? Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers.
All roads to history lead through Green Bay, both historically and literally. We'll learn Sunday whether the Buccaneers will be packing their bags for the offseason, or emptying them into their usual locker room for the biggest game of their lives.