Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will go head to head for only the second and probably last time on Sunday as the Green Bay Packers visit the New England Patriots.
Rodgers won the only meeting between the pair in 2014, however, while they are considered the greatest quarterbacks of the modern age and each guaranteed Hall of Famers, the Packers star has only been able to climb the mountain and win the Super Bowl once. Brady, meanwhile, has five Super Bowl rings in his collection.
The primary reason for that disparity is a substantial difference in the quality of supporting cast the two have played with over the course of their respective careers.
Brady has been able to enjoy throwing to the likes of Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman during his time with the Patriots and has regularly been supported by strong defenses led by Bill Belichick, who in addition to being arguably the greatest head coach of all time is also seen as one of the game’s finest defensive minds.
Rodgers lifted a Packers side that entered the playoffs as the NFC's sixth seed to Super Bowl glory in the 2010 campaign and his postseason appearances have followed the theme of him trying to elevate a team ill-prepared to contend at that level. Only in 2014, when an NFC Championship game collapse against the Seattle Seahawks prevented the Packers from booking a Super Bowl matchup with Brady and the Patriots, have Green Bay had a team capable of being considered genuine contenders.
In most other years the Packers have had to deal with injury-riddled receiving corps, a lack of options at running back and tight end and sub-par defenses that have often undermined Rodgers' Herculean efforts on the other side of the ball.
The numbers, provided by Opta, help illustrate the impact Brady's history of superior supporting casts. The yards per game difference (Brady 261.9, Rodgers 261.4) is negligible, but Rodgers has edge in completion percentage (64.9 to 64) and touchdowns per game (2.1 to 1.9). Brady has also thrown more interceptions per game (0.6 to 0.5), though not by much.
In the playoffs Rodgers has the same advantage in TDs and is superior in terms of completion percentage (63.5 to 62.8) and interceptions per game (Brady 0.8, Rodgers 0.6).
Additionally, Rodgers has 54 300+ yard passing games – 34.6 per cent of his regular-season games. Brady has 85 games with 300+ yards – 32.6 per cent of his regular-season games.
Brady has thrown multiple touchdown passes in 162 games, 61.8 per cent of his games. Rodgers has done so in 64.7 per cent of his starts, 101 times.
Despite Rodgers' numerical superiority almost across the board, it is Brady who continues to be more successful. He has a win percentage of 86 in his games with multiple touchdown passes, whereas Rodgers's is 76.2.
Rodgers has had a larger percentage of 1,000-yard receivers in a shorter amount of time in the league. Since Brady became New England's regular starting quarterback in 2001, 16 players have had 1,000+ yard seasons (though two came in 2008, when Brady missed the majority of the season due to injury), with Welker having the most (5). Rodgers has 10 receivers with 1,000+ yard seasons since 2008, Jordy Nelson having four of those. However, the Packers have had just one receiver top 1,000 yards in a season since 2015 (Nelson in 2016), while the Patriots have had four in that time.
That speaks to a decline in Rodgers' supporting cast in recent years, but he may actually have the edge in Sunday's encounter. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams provide him with a capable running attack, Davante Adams is a legitimate number one receiver while Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown are developing into reliable depth options. At tight end, Jimmy Graham provides an elite option who has the potential to make a huge impact in the red zone.
Brady, meanwhile, still has a favourite target in Julian Edelman but Gronkowski has consistently battled injuries and Josh Gordon does not appear fully fit. The pass-catching options beyond that trio are varying shades of average and, though James White is an excellent receiving running back, an injury to rookie Sony Michel has left New England having to rely on a career journeyman in Kenjon Barner alongside him.
Neither defense is formidable but this may well be the first time in years that Rodgers has had a better supporting cast than Brady, providing him a clear opportunity to win what will likely be their last regular-season meeting and give a three-win Packers team some much needed life.
|Kingsbury says ´everything´s on the table´ with number one pick|
|Patriots owner Robert Kraft ´truly sorry´ over scandal|
|Cam Newton swears off sex for a month to become ´mentally stronger´|
|This Week in US Sports: MLB handing out tons of extensions, playoffs loom in NBA|
|Robert Griffin III returns to Ravens to back up Lamar Jackson|
|Kyler Murray criticism ´garbage´, says Oklahoma team-mate Powers|
|Meet Brody Oliver - The engineering graduate set to test his NFL mettle|
|Former Packers linebacker Matthews signs with Rams|
|Raiders sign linebacker Burfict|
|Barkley on Beckham trade: I was sad to see him go|
|Cowboys sign former Packers wide receiver Cobb|
|Panthers sign DE Bruce Irvin|
|Manziel in contention for AAF debut on Sunday|
|Adrian Peterson returns to Redskins|
|An offer we couldn´t refuse - Giants GM Gettleman breaks silence over Beckham trade|
|I´m retiring from the NFL on top! - Ngata bows out on Kilimanjaro|
|Browns´ Mayfield defends Odell Beckham Jr|
|Dolphins deal Ryan Tannehill to Titans|
|Kareem Hunt banned for eight NFL games|
|Bell on skipping 2018 season: I don´t regret anything|
|This Week in US Sports: NFL free agency gets cooking, but trades keep coming|
|Beckham pens emotional farewell to New York|
|LeBron evidence that Brand Beckham can thrive in Cleveland, says marketing expert|
|Brown honoured to join ´legendary´ Raiders|
|Jaguars release QB Blake Bortles|
|Bears release kicker Cody Parkey|
|Browns hope Beckham trade will ´awaken this sleeping giant´|
|Chiefs release safety Berry|
|Patriots to bring back Jason McCourty on two-year deal|
|Thomas and Ingram reportedly bound for Ravens|
|LeBron James perfectly sums up social media mood after Odell Beckham Jr´s Cleveland trade|
|Beckham trade has made the Browns the team to beat - Garrett|
|Le´Veon Bell bound for Jets|
|49ers, Chiefs reportedly agree to terms on Ford deal|
|NFL rumour round-up: Browns acquire Beckham, Titans sign Wake|
|Browns reportedly acquire Odell Beckham Jr in stunning trade|
|Barr remaining with Vikings, snubs Jets|
|Steelers retain LB Shazier, toll contract for 2019|
|Davis announces Chargers deal|
|Jets set to sign linebacker C.J. Mosley to five-year deal|
|QB Bridgewater set to renew with Saints & reject Miami|
|Patriots tender WR Josh Gordon|
|NFL rumour round-up: Foles signs with Jaguars, Jackson traded to Eagles|
|Le´Veon Bell appears to hint at upcoming free-agency decision|
|Foles nearing four-year Jaguars deal|
|Eagles expected to land DeSean Jackson|
|Lions set to sign Trey Flowers|
|Collins set for $84m Redskins deal|
|Alexander heading for 49ers on four-year deal|
|Trent Brown to swap Patriots for Raiders, become highest-paid OL in history|
|Eagles & Malik Jackson agree three-year, $30m deal|
|Detroit Lions sign WR Danny Amendola|
|Rams to re-sign LB Fowler|
|Chiefs release four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Justin Houston|
|NFL free agency 2019: Five players on the move|
|NFL free agency 2019: Five teams that will dominate open market|
|Antonio Brown appears to reveal Raiders move|
|Safety Eric Weddle signs with Rams|
|Bills rule out trade for Steelers WR Antonio Brown|
|´I´m not doing this s*** no more´ – Irving quits NFL on Instagram|
|Fake news – Antonio Brown denies reported Bills trade|
|This Week in US Sports: MLB hot stove still active, Warriors add a former staple|
|Eric Weddle says ´no hard feelings´ as Baltimore Ravens cut safety|
|Browns release LB Jamie Collins|
|Holmes missing NRL´s Sharks but happy with NFL switch|
|Landon Collins bids farewell to Giants|
|Bosa & Sweat star as running backs fail to shine - Winners and losers from the NFL Combine|
|Falcons place franchise tag on DT Grady Jarrett|
|Seahawks franchise DE Frank Clark|
|Cowboys stick franchise tag on Lawrence|