And then they were four.
The NFL playoffs continued this weekend and fans were treated to an exhilarating Divisional Round. The field of eight teams were cut down to just the final four.
These are the best teams in the league and two of them will have a shot at the Super Bowl.
This weekend, we saw blowouts, wild finishes, historic outings and crazy comebacks.
Everything great about the NFL was manifested in these four games.
But, in every game there were winners and losers and only the cream of the crop can live to continue the journey to New Orleans.
Which teams are the best of the Final Four?
Let’s find out.
They deserve more respect than they are getting and it hurts to put a No. 1 seed in this position. However, a 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks did not convince me that this team can unseat the San Francisco 49ers.
While fans can point to a roaring comeback in the game's final minute as proof of how good the Atlanta team is, there was no reason why the Falcons should have been in that position in the first place.
They let Russell Wilson and company stick around for too long and it almost came back to bit them. Matty Ice deserves a hefty amount of credit for pulling the win out, but the fact that the Seahawks were that close to victory is disturbing going into the NFC Championship.
I still have reservations about how well Atlanta can defend the incredibly potent 49ers offense. They did a fantastic job of bottling up Marshawn Lynch and Wilson, until the game was on the line.
This is a team that can go to New Orleans. Nonetheless, doubts still remain.
A historic performance by Colin Kaepernick did nothing to help the Falcons cause.
Yet, here we are.
Joe Flacco was magnificent for the Ravens and Ray Lewis’ retirement party lives to see another week because of it.
The Delaware product, and newfound leader, threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns on 18-for-34 passing. He registered no interceptions and a 116.2 quarterback rating.
Most importantly, he went head to head with Peyton Manning and won.
Not many quarterbacks can say that.
It took him two overtimes to do it, but this is a Baltimore team that came together and is gaining momentum. Ray Rice and company are back in the AFC Championship. Only a road rematch with Tom Brady and the Patriots is standing in the way of a Super Bowl berth.
The question still remains for the Ravens. In spite of that, this is a team notorious for playing at the level of their competition. On Saturday, they matched Denver every step of the way and finally overtook the Broncos.
They will have to play up to New England in order to get the win.
This time, though, fans would be wise to not completely count out the Baltimore Ravens
The San Francisco 49ers didn’t just win on Saturday night.
They set a tone that the rest of the NFL heard loud and clear. This is a team that won’t give up until a parade winds through the Bay Area and a Lombardi Trophy is returned to the city.
Colin Kaepernick made sure of that.
The phenomenon threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns. He added 181 yards on the ground—the most for a quarterback in a playoff game—and waltzed into the end zone two times.
It was, in short, brilliant and did away with any questions surrounding the Nevada product.
He has enhanced the Niners offense in unimaginable ways and that was manifested on the field at the expense of the Packers defense.
Green Bay was absolutely carved up as Frank Gore added a score and 119 rushing yards. There was no question who was the better team.
The defense was stingy and harassed Aaron Rodgers for the entire night. After this performance, San Fran is the team to beat in the NFC and a popular candidate to win it all.
New England battled injuries to key players throughout their bout with the Houston Texans, but there is little doubt to who is the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
As long as Tom Brady is under center, it is very hard to bet against the Patriots.
He showed why on Sunday as the superstar quarterback threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns. He was simply flawless and finished with a 115 passer rating.
However, Bill Belichick is known for including multiple players in the fun. January 13 was no different with Shane Vereen rushing for 41 yards and a score. He reeled in five receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
New England has weapons seemingly everywhere and a 41-28 win that wasn’t as close as the score may indicate was proof of that.
The Pats were in control from start to finish, setting up an AFC Championship rematch with the Ravens at home.
They should be the favorites and for good reason. No one is better than New England in the postseason and this year is proof of that.
Belichick is one win away from yet another Super Bowl.
Expect to see “The Hoodie” in New Orleans.