Revisiting Tom Brady’s Conference Championships

Tom Brady will make his NFC Championship debut this weekend with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (PHOTO COURTESY: Charles Krupa / Associated Press/LA Times)

By Matt Noonan

By now you probably have heard that Tom Brady – yes, the former New England Patriots quarterback – is headed back to the conference championship for the ninth time in the last ten seasons. Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied to beat the New Orleans Saints, 30-20, last night in the NFC Divisional Round to secure a date next Sunday with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

For the most part, Brady’s trips to the conference championship have resulted in trips to the “big game” – that would be the Super Bowl, to be exact – while some have ended in disappointment. But Sunday will mark the veteran signal-caller’s first appearance in the NFC Championship after appearing in 13 AFC title games.

Being a history nerd, as well as a lifelong football fan, I thought we could get ready for this weekend’s big game by revisiting all of Tom Brady’s past appearances in the conference championship round, beginning with his initial appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in January 2002.


January 27, 2002: Eight days after leading the Patriots past the Oakland Raiders in what has been dubbed the “snow bowl,” Brady received some help from Drew Bledsoe, who replaced the young quarterback who sustained a sprained ankle late in the second quarter. Bledsoe completed 10 of 21 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown while the defense limited Pittsburgh to just two touchdowns during the final two sessions.

New England would advance to its first Super Bowl since the 1996 season and beat the St. Louis Rams, thanks to a game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri.

January 18, 2004: Eight days after a dramatic win over the Tennessee Titans, Tom Brady and the Patriots outlasted Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, 24-14.

While Brady tossed one touchdown in the win, it was the New England defense, specifically Ty Law, who highlighted the victory – the unit intercepted Manning four times while recording four sacks.

New England would advance to the Super Bowl and beat the Carolina Panthers.

January 23, 2005: Supposedly, Tom Brady was sick prior to his team’s championship meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he looked pretty good once the game commenced. Brady completed 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards while Corey Dillon led all rushers with 73 yards on 24 carries.

New England would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl two weeks later where they would beat the Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 24-21.

January 21, 2007: After scoring back-to-back wins over the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers, the New England Patriots entered the 2006 AFC Championship game with a lot of momentum. However, it slowly disappeared early in the third quarter as Indianapolis erased a 21-6 deficit to beat the Patriots, 38-34.

The Colts limited Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to just 13 points in the second half while Peyton Manning finished the game with 349 passing yards and two touchdowns (one passing and one rushing).

January 20, 2008: Tom Brady played the role of gunslinger in this particular match-up with the San Diego Chargers by completing 22 of 33 passes for 209 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions as the Patriots won their 18th straight contest before falling to the New York Giants two weeks later in the Super Bowl.

January 22, 2012: This was perhaps the most dramatic AFC Championship game for Tom Brady and the Patriots as they somehow edged the Baltimore Ravens, 23-20, thanks to a missed field goal by Billy Cundiff.

Tom Brady rushed for one score in the win, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for a game-high 68 yards on 15 carries.

Sadly, the dramatic win was quickly forgotten two weels later when New England lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons.

January 20, 2013: Tom Brady completed 29 of 54 passes for 320 yards and one touchdown – he also threw two interceptions – but it wasn’t enough to send the Patriots past the Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Baltimore erased memories of the 2011 championship meeting with an impressive 28-13 victory, thanks to three touchdown passes from Joe Flacco.

January 19, 2014: For the second-straight season, the Patriots won 13 of 18 contests, but their final outing with the Denver Broncos concluded with a 26-16 setback. Peyton Manning completed 32 of 43 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns while the Broncos defense limited Tom Brady to just two touchdowns – one through the air, one on the ground.

January 18, 2015: After a dramatic and exciting win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round, the Patriots scored a huge win over the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium. Tom Brady tossed three touchdowns in the win while LeGarrette Blount rushed for a game-high 148 yards on 30 carries and three scores.

New England’s defense intercepted Andrew Luck twice – they also limited Dan Herron to 51 rushing yards on 10 carries.

The Patriots returned to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2011 season to beat the Seattle Seahawks, thanks to a late-game interception by Malcolm Butler.

January 24, 2016: Weeks after losing to the Denver Broncos in the regular season, the Orange and Blue scored their second victory of the 2015 season against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Brady was sacked four times and picked-off twice, but he did toss one touchdown against a talented Broncos defense.

Peyton Manning concluded the game 17 of 32 for 176 yards and two touchdowns. He was also sacked three times.

January 22, 2017: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were the better team in this meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brady tossed three touchdowns, including two to Chris Hogan, who concluded the contest with nine grabs on 12 targets for 180 yards.

Two weeks after an impressive win against the Steelers, the Patriots would complete an improbable comeback against the Atlanta Falcons to secure the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl championship.

January 21, 2018: After knocking off the Tennessee Titans eight days earlier, the Patriots scored their second-straight postseason win against a member of the AFC South. New England rallied to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-20, thanks to two touchdown passes from Tom Brady to Danny Amendola.

Sadly, the exciting win against the Jaguars would follow with a disappointing setback to the Philadelphia Eagles.

January 20, 2019: Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead highlighted an overtime win against the Kansas City Chiefs by combining for 154 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Burkhead clinched the victory in overtime while Tom Brady concluded the contest with 348 passing yards and one touchdowns.

Kansas City did intercept Brady twice while Patrick Mahomes completed 16 of 31 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns. New England would go onto capture their sixth Super Bowl with a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

Noontime’s Sunday Thoughts (Jan. 17, 2021)

By Matt Noonan

Happy Sunday, everyone – I can use the word “happy” in front of what day it is, right?

Well, no matter what, I hope everyone is doing well while having a wonderful weekend. And of course, I do hope this post – well, more my weekly column, to be exact – finds everyone thinking optimistically because better days are ahead, I believe it.

Similar to last week’s Sunday Thoughts, I am going to share ten quick thoughts heading into what I hope will be a wonderful week for everyone.

So, without further ado, here is this week’s Noontime’s Sunday Thoughts!


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Thought No. 1: The Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers are the real deal. Yes, I know Ben Volin of the Boston Globe shared similar thoughts with his readers, but I think both teams could see each other early next week in Tampa, Florida to compete for the ultimate prize: the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Thought No. 2: Kudos to members of Bills Mafia, which performed a good deed last night after Lamar Jackson exited the game with what appeared to be a concussion. According to several outlets, following the conclusion of last night’s Buffalo-Baltimore Ravens game, members of Bills Mafia donated to Jackson’ favorite charity: Louisville’s chapter of Blessings in a Backpack. While its unknown how much money Buffalo fans donated, this is certainly an amazing story, as well as one of the many reasons why we ALL love sports, right?

Thought No. 3: I think the Cleveland Browns can beat the Kansas City Chiefs. Yep, I do. Cleveland has been a great story this season – they’re the underdog this afternoon – and it would be great to see Baker Mayfield and the Browns back in the conference title game for the first time since 1989.

Thought No. 4: Bold prediction: Tom Brady will throw three – maybe four? – touchdowns today and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will beat the New Orleans Saints in what will be Drew Brees‘ final contest in the National Football League (NFL).

Thought No. 5: Why does Cris Collinsworth always refer to a coach, player or someone within the NFL (or outside the league?) by starting his sentences with “here’s a guy?” Does anyone know?

Thought No. 6: Is it just me or was the 2020 college football season a disaster? I think this past fall was a horrible display of leadership, as well as a bad product. Sure, Alabama looked like world beaters compared to everyone else, but that was because of so many cancelations and postponements last summer and fall.

Thought No. 7: Cooper Manning, who is Peyton and Eli’s brother, called what appears to be his first high school basketball game last week. And he shared some unique thoughts on broadcasting – I think he also offered to give away a car, which seems like a strange thing to do at a high school game. But what do I know?

Thought No. 8: Sarah Fuller, who became the first female kicker to compete and score a point in a Power 5 college football game earlier this school year, will take part in Joe Biden‘s presidential inauguration this week. As noted in Pete Thamel‘s story on Yahoo! Sports, she considers this opportunity “an honor to be invited to participate in one of America’s great traditions.” Indeed, this is quite the honor for Fuller that I hope will continue to stay involved with football so she can continue to inspire more young women to pursue and accomplish their dreams, both on and off the field.

Thought No. 9: Call me crazy, but why are we playing high school sports during a pandemic? While the initial month of 2021 is far from over, it seems both this weekend (and the past few days) are an ideal time to crown high school football champions in both Michigan and Texas. Alright, good for them – yay, they finished their respective seasons – but maybe other states can do what Connecticut did and punt to next school year. Do the right thing and keep all the student-athletes safe and healthy.

Thought No. 10: I am a social media nerd and have really enjoyed following the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League (NHL), specifically their TikTok account. The content they have produced for TikTok is funny, which it should be. And I loved their recent video of waking up in the sunshine state: so peaceful.

Noontime’s NFL Divisional Round Predictions

By Matt Noonan

It’s time for another BUSY weekend of professional football – are you ready for the National Football League‘s (NFL) Divisional Round?

I am, despite picking four of six games correct last week – I thought the Chicago Bears were going to upset the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks were going to beat the Los Angeles Rams, but like I sad in 2020, what do I know?

Let’s see if I can go four-for-four with picks this weekend – fingers crossed, of course! – but in the meantime, I hope everyone continues to stay safe, happy, and healthy!

Have a great weekend and let’s get ready for some great football – let’s go!


Get ready for a BUSY weekend of football by listening to the Football Friday Podcast with Andrew Pezzelli and Zach Weiss on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!


Noontime’s Postseason Record: 4-2 | Wild Card Predictions

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (Saturday, Jan. 16 at 4:35 p.m.): The last time the Rams beat the Packers in the postseason they were representing St. Louis, not Los Angeles. And it happened to be in the second round of the 2001 postseason – January 2002, to be exact. Can they do it again? Maybe, but for the Rams to score an upset win over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, they must control the time of possession while receiving some help from their defense. Prediction: Green Bay 24, Los Angeles 14

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, Jan. 16 at 8:15 p.m.): This is a toss-up – both teams are capable of winning this matchup! – but the Ravens may have the edge, thanks to its rushing attack. But the same could be said for its defense, too, which limited Derrick Henry to just 40 yards on 18 carries (2.2 yards per carry) last week. Buffalo received some help last week from the Indianapolis Colts‘ coaching staff, which made some strange decisions in both halves. PREDICTION: Baltimore 28, Buffalo 17

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, Jan. 17 at 3:05 p.m.): The Browns have not appeared in the Divisional Round since 1994 when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 29-9. Cleveland beat Pittsburgh last week in a bizarre and crazy first-round matchup, but I am not sure they’re capable of slowing down the defending Super Bowl champions. Kansas City will push ahead for good early in the third quarter and secure a home date for the AFC Championship. PREDICTION: Kansas City 30, Cleveland 21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Jan. 17 at 6:40 p.m.): Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are peaking at the right time. Sure, they didn’t manhandle the Washington Football Team last week, but they certainly looked pretty good. And while Tampa Bay may have lost both meetings with Drew Brees and the Saints earlier this season, I think the third time is the charm for Bruce Arians‘ team. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 28, New Orleans 25

Noontime’s ‘What If’ NFL Playoff Predictions (Week 10)

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are currently the top team in the NFC. (PHOTO COURTESY: NOLA.com/AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

By Matt Noonan

Another week of the National Football League (NFL) is set to kickoff this evening – are you ready for some football?

Whether you’re eager to watch tonight’s contest between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans or Sunday’s bounce back win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it is time to dish out our second-straight ‘What If‘ NFL Playoff Predictions for the tenth week of the 2020 season.

Like last week, I will list the current postseason teams in order for both conference, as well as highlight the best opening round matchup (in my opinion!), along with who will win their respective conference crown and yes, the Super Bowl!

Let me know what you think – send me a tweet to @NoontimeSports or an email to MattNoonan@noontimesports.com.

Who’s in the AFC Playoffs?

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)
  3. Buffalo Bills (7-2)
  4. Tennessee Titans (6-2)
  5. Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
  6. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
  7. Miami Dolphins (5-3)

Who’s in the NFC Playoffs?

  1. New Orleans Saints (6-2)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (6-2)
  3. Green Bay Packers (6-2)
  4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1)
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
  6. Arizona Cardinals (5-3)
  7. Los Angeles Rams (5-3)

Most intriguing first-round matchup:

  • Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs: The Dolphins are trending in the right direction while it appears as if the Chiefs are sleepwalking their way to victory. Sure, this match-up may not occur once the postseason begins, but I would love to see this Dolphins defense against Patrick Mahomes. Most likely, the Chiefs would prevail, but no one should count out these Dolphins, which have scored some impressive wins over the past few weeks.
  • Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals: These two teams have met previously in the postseason, but who wouldn’t want to watch Kyler Murray face-off with Aaron Rodgers? Pending how the rest of the season goes, this matchup could occur, but again, who knows? Both Murray and Rodgers have been players to watch this season, so you know it would be a game every football fan would want to watch next January.

AFC Championship Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Like last week, this is my AFC Championship prediction, but maybe the Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders or Miami Dolphins replace one of these two teams listed above? I could also see the Tennessee Titans in the championship game for the second-straight season, but in the end, the Chiefs are the defending champions and will beat the Steelers by a field goal, not a touchdown. PREDICTION: Kansas City over Pittsburgh

NFC Championship Prediction: Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints: The New Orleans Saints are the best team in the NFC – sorry, Seattle Seahawks fans, but your defense needs to improve its defense immediately. Additionally, I don’t think Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go on a deep postseason run – maybe they lose in the opening round to the Philadelphia Eagles in the opening round? – but this matchup would feature two of the best quarterbacks in the game. And in the end, the Saints offense will make a few more plays to beat the Packers and celebrate a conference championship on their home field. PREDICTION: New Orleans over Green Bay

Super Bowl Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs vs. New Orleans Saints: This has the potential for an offensive showcase, but which defense will not break? My answer: the Saints! PREDICTION: New Orleans over Kansas City

Noontime’s ‘What If’ NFL Playoff Predictions (Week Nine)

Heading into the second half of the 2020 NFL season, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are the favorites to win the Super Bowl. (PHOTO COURTESY: CNBC.com/David Eulitt)

By Matt Noonan

The second half of the 2020 National Football League‘s (NFL) season kicks-off this evening with the San Francisco 49ers hosting the Green Bay Packers.

Yet, before we turn our attention to the game, allow me to share the first of many ‘what if‘ posts from Noontime Sports that will highlight the 14 teams in the postseason at the beginning of the remaining weeks of the 2020 season, as well as what teams I (Matt ‘Noontime’ Noonan) believe will win their respective conference crowns.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into our initial ‘what if‘ post for the ninth week of the NFL season!

Who’s in the AFC Playoffs?

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1)
  3. Buffalo Bills (6-2)
  4. Tennessee Titans (5-2)
  5. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)
  6. Indianapolis Colts (5-2)
  7. Cleveland Browns (5-3)

Who’s in the NFC Playoffs?

  1. Seattle Seahawks (6-1)
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)
  3. Green Bay Packers (5-2)
  4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)
  5. New Orleans Saints (5-2)
  6. Arizona Cardinals (5-2)
  7. Los Angeles Rams (5-3)

Most intriguing first-round matchups:

  • Buffalo Bills vs. Indianapolis Colts: The Colts appear to be flying under the radar – yes, their schedule gets tougher, beginning this week with a must-see matchup on Sunday, November 8 against the Baltimore Ravens. Four days later, they’ll take on the Tennessee Titans, so we’ll certainly learn more about Indianapolis over the next week or so, but this team seems equipped to beat the Bills, who squeaked past the New England Patriots last weekend.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Los Angeles Rams: The match-up to watch in this game would be Jared Goff vs. the Buccaneers defense. I am not sure how Goff would do against these Bucs front seven, but I would certainly be interested in seeing how Tom Brady and the offense fared against the Rams defense, too. The Bucs offense – if healthy, of course – could pose serious problems for opposing defenses, not just the Rams, but everyone they would face in the postseason.

AFC Championship Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Chiefs and Steelers are the best teams in the AFC. And most likely, these two teams will be competing in the conference championship. But in the end, Kansas City will prevail, thanks to Patrick Mahomes. PREDICTION: Kansas City over Pittsburgh

NFC Championship Prediction: Seattle Seahawks vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Similar to Kansas City and Pittsburgh, Seattle and Tampa Bay appear to be the best teams in the NFC. The Seahawks defense will need to improve over the next few weeks, especially if they want to stop Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay over Seattle

Super Bowl Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This seems like a logical matchup, especially at the halfway point, right? As much as I would love to see Tom Brady win another ring, I just have a weird feeling – maybe a hunch? – that Kansas City will prevail by at least a touchdown. PREDICTION: Kansas City over Tampa Bay

Alright, that will do it for now, but keep your eyes out for more ‘what if’ Noontime Sports content over the next few days and weeks!