Any of the four possible matchups for the 2013 Super Bowl presents plenty of compelling angles and interesting on-field battles. However, there is a clear pecking order when it comes on which will provide the best bang for the buck.
As we know, the Super Bowl is about much more than the four hours it takes to play the game on the field. Ultimately, the game is all that will matter, but when you are in the moment and the press fixates on each team for two weeks, everything matters.
So, let's take all of that into account as I rank the four possible matchups for America's biggest game.
No. 4: Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers
Dear football gods, please spare me of the Harbaugh Bowl. Let's just forget about the matchup on the field for a moment, and focus in on what the two weeks will be like leading up to this game.
Yes, there will be plenty of talk about Ray Lewis wrapping up his stellar career in the Super Bowl, but there will be just as much, if not more, on the Harbaughs.
Jack Harbaugh should be insanely proud of what his two sons are accomplishing, but that doesn't mean I have to be happy about hearing about it.
Two weeks to discuss the relationship of these two brothers is simply too much. I don't need to know that these two competitive souls used to bare-knuckle box for the last Tic-Tac.
No. 3: New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons
This matchup has some compelling angles. For instance, it is the Super Bowl-tested Patriots going against the new kids on the block: the Atlanta Falcons.
It would also feature two of the most prolific passing attacks in the game—the Falcons have the No. 6-ranked passing attack and the Patriots are ranked No. 4.
Both of these team's defenses also finished ranked higher against the run than the pass, so this game would likely contain plenty of aerial fireworks.
I would have no complaints with this matchup. It just isn't as appealing as the next two.
No. 2: New England Patriots vs. San Francisco 49ers
In Week 15, the 49ers and the Patriots played one of the regular season's more entertaining games as the Niners went into Foxboro and edged out the Pats, 41-34.
That game was a blast as Colin Kaepernick exploded and helped the Niners open up a big lead, and then Tom Brady used a high-tempo offense to wear out San Francisco's defense while exploiting them with the passing game.
However, it was first-year starter Kaepernick who got the last laugh.
We've already seen what an explosive and great matchup this is. There is no reason to think these two wouldn't bring it in a similar fashion on Super Sunday.
No. 1: Baltimore Ravens vs. Atlanta Falcons
At first glance, it would be natural to put this matchup last. Both of these teams are severely lacking in history as compared to their opponents, and they are not the media darlings that their opponents are.
However, what this matchup has going in its favor is that it would allow both Ray Lewis and Tony Gonzalez the chance to end their careers on the sport's biggest stage.
Unlike Lewis, Gonzalez has not come out and said he is retiring at season's end, but he did say he was "97 percent" sure he would (CBSSports via USA Today). One has to think that Gonzalez could add the extra three percent to that if his team advances to the big game.
This would be a deserving ending for two guys who are in the argument to be considered the best ever to play their respective positions.
I would not get tired of seeing the career montages leading up to the game, and I would be anxious to see what lasting impression these two could deliver on this grand stage.
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