Incredibly, we’ve arrived to Conference Championship weekend with the NFL’s four teams remaining. While we have a pair of great championship games on tap, this is also an opportunity to look at the potential Super Bowl match-ups.
Clearly, when you take a look at the NFL Futures, the power lies within the NFC. Yet, most of Sunday’s attention will focus on Denver and New England (aka Brady v. Manning XV).
Regardless of who appears in MetLife Stadium, a solid pairing is likely in store for fans in East Rutherford, New Jersey on February 2.
Alas, here are the potential Super Bowl showdowns ranked for entertainment and storyline value. And thanks to natural curiosity and America’s desire to gamble, Vegas has already set lines for all four of the prospective games.
4. NEW ENGLAND VS. SEATTLE
LINE: SEATTLE BY 1.5.
STORYLINES: A rematch of last year’s “U Mad, Bro?” Bowl in Seattle…Tom Brady goes for his fourth Super Bowl ring…Tom Brady tries to avoid becoming the first quarterback since Jim Kelly to lose three consecutive Super Bowl appearances…Pete Carroll faces the team that gave him his first NFL head coaching job…Richard Sherman yelling about Brady…Belichick refusing to answer questions about Carroll…Having a media member potentially ask Belichick if he has ever eaten Skittles before…Which team’s receivers can actually get open?
SKINNY: If I’m the Patriots and am given to choice to face in San Francisco or Seattle, I’m pushing people out of the way to play the Seahawks. Different team away from home.
3. DENVER VS. SEATTLE
LINE: DENVER BY 1
STORYLINES: Best offense vs. arguably the best defense…Can Peyton throw in the cold?…Will Roger Goodell move the game if inclement weather is forecasted and he receives a mysterious phone call from the Manning family?…The AFC West Bowl…Is this Peyton’s last game?…Welker, Decker, Thomas boys vs. Seattle secondary…Can Russell Wilson win a Super Bowl playing like a quarterback from the early 70s?…Will the officials allow Seattle to actually play physically against the Denver receivers…Peyton trying to win a ring in his brother’s house, just like Eli did two years prior.
SKINNY: There is a lot of range to this matchup. If Peyton Manning is remotely on, Seattle is in trouble because Russell Wilson doesn’t have the firepower to match him. So, this will be on Seattle’s defense to bring it home.
2. NEW ENGLAND VS. SAN FRANCISCO
LINE: 49ERS BY 2
STORYLINES: Brady appears in his sixth Super Bowl and searches for ring #4 against his favorite team as a kid…a week full of Montana/Brady comparisons…a rematch of one of the best regular season games from the last five seasons…Harbaugh vs. Belichick…Montana carrying his Tom Brady voodoo doll into a luxury suite as MetLife Stadium…Harbaugh tries to stave off losing a second straight Super Bowl…Belichick attempts to win a sixth Super Bowl as a head coach or assistant.
SKINNY: Anything with the 49ers will be spectacular. Their fans will travel well and this holds plenty of sizzle due to the Brady/Montana parallels.
1. DENVER VS. SAN FRANCISCO
LINE: PICK ‘EM
STORYLINES: Will Manning turn into dust after getting hit by one of San Francisco’s pass rushers?…It’s cold, will Peyton Manning remember how to play football?…Which Denver defensive back will draw the ire of Anquan Boldin?…How quickly does Troy Aikman yell about Boldin being a jerk?…Montana/Manning comparisons (a complete insult to Montana but that’s another story)…Which 49ers linebacker takes a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after belting Knowshon Moreno for posing after making a first down run?…Denver trying to avenge their infamous 55-10 loss to the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV.
SKINNY: The best of the four potential Super Bowls. Manning against the physical 49ers defense is a sensational battle. San Francisco’s secondary isn’t lights out but their front seven is good enough to turn the opposing player’s lights out. If Manning can beat the 49ers on a neutral field outdoors in cold weather, call him whatever you want to.