With Wild Card Weekend upon us, speculation has already begun as to which teams will reach the “big game.” From powerhouse franchises, such as the Broncos and Falcons, to upstart Wild Card teams like the Redskins and Colts, the race for the Lombardi trophy looks wide open.
This year’s batch of playoff teams is rich with storylines, making almost every potential Super Bowl match up a must-watch. Whether it’s two players who have been linked since their draft day or a battle for family bragging rights, there is a hefty handful of compelling matchups that have a good chance of happening. Here are five potential matchups that rise above the rest.
It has been evident since their draft day last April that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be linked for the entirety of their NFL careers. The first and second overall picks from the 2012 draft have been a large part of the rise of rookie passers this season.
RG3 has been able to lead a Redskins team that no one gave much thought to coming into the season, while Luck has been able to breathe life into a Colts team that was 2-14 before his arrival in Indy. Both quarterbacks have had large impacts on their teams, and while I personally think this is the least likely of the five to happen, it is just as interesting as the others.
If RG3 and Luck were both able to lead their teams to the Super Bowl, it would mark the first time two rookie quarterbacks would be starting in a championship game, and would also be the first time a rookie passer has won a Super Bowl.
The two young guns have quickly become some of the league’s most fun players to watch, which only makes this dream matchup all the more interesting.
Ever since the Ravens franchise was born in 1996, they have been the most successful team in the DC-Metro area. In five all-time regular-season meetings, the Ravens lead the series 3-2 over the Redskins, with Washington winning the most recent game 31-28 in an overtime victory last December.
The “Battle of the Beltway” would mark the first postseason matchup of these two franchises and would also feature one of the game’s best middle linebackers of all time in Ray Lewis. Lewis announced early Wednesday afternoon that he will be retiring at season's end, and there seems to be no better way to end his Hall of Fame career than with a Super Bowl.
While, to some, the jury is still out on Joe Flacco, the Ravens seem to perform better when doubted, especially in the playoffs. If these two teams end up squaring off in the Super Bowl, it will surely mean a lot for the DC-Metro area, as they have not had a lot of success in pro sports as of late.
During “Peyton-palooza” last offseason, many teams were vying for the quarterback's services, one of those teams being the San Francisco 49ers. It was reported that two of his top three choices were San Fran and Denver, of which he obviously chose the latter.
The Niners have since found a spark in second-year passer Colin Kaepernick and have taken control of the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Between one of the league’s best defenses, a tough running game and the always exciting Kaepernick, it would be no surprise if the 49ers reached the Super Bowl. The Broncos are no slumps on defense either, as they are the second-ranked defense in all of football.
Of course, Peyton is no stranger to postseason success, having played in two Super Bowls and winning one of them. If the Broncos and 49ers teams were to collide in Super Bowl XLVII it would be the first time either franchise has reached the big game since their respective Super Bowl runs with Hall of Fame quarterbacks John Elway, Steve Young and Joe Montana.
Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are another pair of quarterbacks whose careers will be forever-connected as they were the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Entering this season, the two passers had similar regular-season records; Flacco was 44-20 and Ryan was 43-19. While Flacco has had more success in the postseason when compared to Ryan, Ryan has been one of the hottest quarterbacks this season and has perhaps leapfrogged Flacco into the “elite” conversation.
Ryan has thrown for 4,718 yards along with 32 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, leading the Falcons to a 13-3 record. Flacco hasn’t necessarily played badly this season, but has thrown for almost 1,000 yards less than Ryan, along with ten fewer touchdowns.
Both teams have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl and it would certainly settle the argument as to which team got the better player in 2008.
The “Harbaugh Bowl,” if you will, would be one of the most exciting Super Bowl matchups of the past decade. We’ve seen sibling rivalries taken to an elite level with the Manning brothers and we could see the second coming of that in this potential scenario.
The Harbaugh boys have had much success in the NFL in their young head coaching careers, but both have yet to win a Super Bowl. In the sole regular-season meeting between these two teams, John Harbaugh and the Ravens won 16-6 on Thanksgiving Day during the 2011 season. Not only would this Super Bowl matchup feature the Harbaugh rivalry, but it would also have undertones of an East Coast-West Coast battle for NFL supremacy.
Another intriguing piece of this puzzle to watch for is the star linebacker for both teams. Ever since he was drafted, Patrick Willis has drawn comparisons to Ray Lewis, and with Lewis announcing that he will retire at season’s end, this game could be seen a passing of the torch from one elite defensive player to another.
No matter which storyline you decide to follow, this game has all the pieces to become an instant classic.