Every postseason is a chance for a player, coach or team to pile on accolades, shape their legacy, or perhaps change the narrative. Last season, Matthew Stafford went from a quarterback with no playoff wins to one talked about with a potential Hall of Fame resume after guiding the Rams to a Super Bowl title.
Here's a look at what's at stake for each franchise in this year's playoff field:
For Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, it's all about championships. With a second MVP a virtual lock, Mahomes can become the fifth QB in NFL history with multiple MVP awards and multiple championships won as a starting QB, along with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas. Now, that's a Mount Rushmore. None of those four accomplished the feat before turning 31. Mahomes is 27.
It's also championship or bust for Bills Mafia. The Bills are seeking their first Super Bowl title in franchise history after losing in four straight from the 1990-93 seasons.
Joe Burrow and Co. can make another run to the Super Bowl, and without a top-two seed. They can become the first team to make back-to-back Super Bowl trips without a top-two seed since the playoff field expanded to 12 teams in 1990. Burrow can also join Russell Wilson as the only QBs to start in two Super Bowls in their first three seasons.
The Jaguars are playing with house money at this point, having made the playoffs after having the No. 1 overall pick in each of the last two drafts. They can become the third team in the common draft era (since 1967) to win a playoff game after having the No. 1 overall pick (1978 Oilers and 1991 Cowboys).
Justin Herbert can make a splash in his first playoff run. The Chargers haven't reached the AFC championship since 2007 at the Patriots. But could his rocket arm carry the Chargers even farther? The last QB to win a Super Bowl in his first postseason trip was Brady in 2001.
The two biggest knocks on Lamar Jackson would be his long-term longevity (he's missed nine of the last 21 games) and playoff performance (1-3 record, four total touchdowns, seven turnovers). Assuming he can return from a knee injury that forced him to miss the final five games, he can improve his postseason resume and make a lot of money in the process by guiding Baltimore on a deep playoff run. Andy Dalton is the only active QB with multiple playoff starts and a worse playoff passer rating than Jackson (68.3).
The Dolphins backed their way into the playoffs but they are in the dance nonetheless. They are seeking their first playoff win since a 2000 wild card overtime win against Peyton Manning's Colts. Only the Lions (1991) have a longer active streak without a playoff win than Miami.
The Eagles are trying to become the first team to win a Super Bowl with a No. 1 seed since they accomplished the feat in 2017. Imagine if Jalen Hurts guides them to a championship after entering 2022 in a make-or-break year? Hurts can become the fourth-youngest starting QB to win a Super Bowl behind only Ben Roethlisberger, Mahomes and Brady.
After all the 49ers have invested at quarterback in recent years, can "Mr. Irrelevant," Brock Purdy, lead them to the Super Bowl? Purdy will be the first rookie QB drafted in the seventh round or later of the common draft era to start a playoff game. No rookie QB has ever started a Super Bowl. The 49ers are seeking their first title since Super Bowl XXIX vs. the Chargers.
The Vikings are looking to prove they are not as fraudulent as their negative point differential this season suggests. Minnesota can become the fourth team with a negative point differential in the regular season to reach a conference title game, along with the 1978 Oilers, 1996 Jaguars and 2011 Giants. Minnesota hasn't reached a Super Bowl since the 1976 season, and has never won a Super Bowl.
You can never dismiss a Brady Super Bowl run, even if Tampa Bay did finish with a losing record. But, let's see if they can win a game or two first. Brady has 35 playoff wins, two shy of matching the Patriots for the most playoff wins of any franchise all time. He'll likely have to do it as an underdog, a spot he has a 7-3 record with in the playoffs. Tampa Bay can also be the first team to reach a conference title game with a losing record.
The pressure continues to mount on the Cowboys to make their first NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season, when they also won a Super Bowl. The Cowboys' 11 straight postseason appearances without a conference championship trip is the longest streak in NFL history. They'll need to win on the road to get there, which they haven't done in the postseason since the 1992 NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park. Their eight-game road losing streak in the postseason trails only the Lions (11) for the longest all time.
The Giants would love a playoff win with rookie head coach Brian Daboll after going 4-13 last season. They are seeking their first playoff win since Super Bowl XLVI against the Patriots. They'll be in familiar territory as an underdog again. They have the best playoff record of any team as an underdog (13-8) since 1970.
Geno Smith can continue his Cinderella season with a big upset at the 49ers. Only one team has won a playoff game as a double-digit underdog in the last decade. The Titans beat the Ravens 28-12 in the 2019 divisional round.