History remains in the balance for the Detroit Lions.
They ended a 32-year playoff-win drought with Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Rams, sparking feelings of joy that had previously eluded generations of fans. They're not ready for the party to end now.
Buccaneers (10-8) at Lions (13-5)
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC
Betting line: Lions -6.5, total of 48.5
Super Bowl odds: Lions +900, Buccaneers +2800
Why we're watching
A win on Sunday for the Lions would secure a return to the NFC championship game for the first time since that same 1991 season that last saw them advance in the playoffs. They're favorites thanks to a roster filled with home-grown stars featuring Amon-Ra St. Brown, Aidan Hutchinson, Sam LaPorta and Jahmyr Gibbs.
They're led on the sideline by a head coach in Dan Campbell who takes chances and revels in his blue-collar identity. They're led on the field by a reclamation project at quarterback in Jared Goff who has revived his career after flailing as the No. 1 pick in Los Angeles. This is a Detroit team through and through, and they'll be playing for high stakes in front of a ravenous fan base.
The Bucs, meanwhile, want nothing more than to play spoiler. They bring their own compelling storyline to the table with another ex-No. 1 draft pick who not long ago was written off as a bust. Just five months ago, Mayfield was in a competition with Kyle Trask for the starting job in Tampa. Now he's an NFC South champion fresh off leading a dominant playoff win over the reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.
The stakes are high and the teams are hungry. Let's go.
Wild card of this divisional game
Mayfield. The former No. 1 pick's career has been defined by turbulence since he joined the Cleveland Browns in 2018. He won over Cleveland in his first season before being unceremoniously traded to the Carolina Panthers for a fifth-round draft pick before the end of his rookie contract.
He lasted half a season with the Panthers before they waived him. After finishing last season with the Los Angeles Rams, he signed a one-year, $4 million prove-it deal with the Bucs. He paid off on that bet by winning the starting job and leading the Bucs to an NFC South title. Even that was fraught as he finished the season with a pair of shaky performances that put Tampa Bay's season in peril.
Then he showed out with 337 yards and three touchdowns in Monday night's shellacking of the Eagles. Which Mayfield will show up on Sunday?
Person we'll likely praise after the victory
Campbell. The third-year Lions coach has quickly evolved from a dude most folks didn't take seriously — see talk of kneecap biting — to a formidable tactician and leader of men who has helmed the turnaround of one of the most forlorn franchises in sports.
Nobody in football — or elsewhere — thinks quite like Campbell, and that's given the Lions a significant advantage on Sundays. Campbell has cultivated a culture that demands respect and loyalty while trusting his players and leaving it up to them to win or lose on the field.
Not even the most optimistic Detroit fan projected the Lions advancing to the conference championship in Year 3 of the Campbell era. If he leads them there, he'll level up to a new coaching class.
Person we'll likely second-guess after the defeat
Goff. Lions fans roared Goff's name ahead of Sunday's quarterback battle against longtime Detroit signal-caller Matthew Stafford. When he walked into the locker room victorious, his teammates took the cue.
But Goff is not long removed from the stink of his Rams tenure that prompted Los Angeles to send him and a package of draft picks to Detroit in favor of Stafford. And if the Lions lose this, it's hard to imagine them doing so with a good game from Goff.
Detroit is amped up for Sunday's game, and anything other than victory against a Bucs team the Lions are heavily favored to beat would amount to crushing disappointment. In that case, the shine of Goff's resurgence will lose some significant luster.