NFL Playoff Bracket 2014: Conference Title Games We Would Love to See

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2014

Pats 7, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) goes over the pile to score a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Fans cannot control the NFL playoffs to create the most enjoyable possible scenarios, but we can always hope for the best.

With eight teams remaining in the postseason, there are a number of exciting possibilities for the AFC and NFC title games. However, the squads must first compete in the divisional round in order to provide us with the dream matchups.

Here is a look at the upcoming games from each conference that will decide the next round.

NFL Playoff Schedule - Divisional Round
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Jan. 11New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks4:35 p.m.Fox
Jan. 12San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers1:05 p.m.Fox
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Jan. 11Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots8:15 p.m.CBS
Jan. 12San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos4:40 p.m.CBS
via ESPN

If you do not have a rooting interest, however, you might be wondering why you should care. The truth is that these potential conference championships would be among the best you will see in years.


Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 20:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 20, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Peyton Manning was the franchise quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts until Andrew Luck came along. As ESPN notes, this seems to be working out:

Of course, Colts owner Jim Irsay told Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman this week that the team would have been worse had Manning stayed:

If we had kept Peyton, we would not have been able to field a competitive team. 

People don't understand that part of it. The salary cap would have crushed this franchise had Peyton stayed. It wouldn't have been fair to Peyton, and it wouldn't have been fair to the organization. It would have been virtually impossible to have a team that was any good.

That being said, Manning seems to be doing well enough himself as he was the only unanimous All-Pro selection this season. For the second year in a row, he helped lead the Denver Broncos to the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Still, the question—as it has been his whole career—is if he can win in the playoffs. Advancing to the Super Bowl with a win over the team that released him would be nothing short of poetic.

On the other hand, there might not be a better way for Luck to "arrive" in the NFL than beating Tom Brady and then his predecessor Manning in consecutive playoff games. 


San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 08:  Quarterback Russel Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks throws against NaVorro Bowman #53 of the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter on December 8, 2013 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won 1
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

There might not be a better rivalry in the NFL over the past couple of years than the 49ers and Seahawks. 

In the past two seasons, San Francisco had a regular-season record of 23-8-1 while Seattle was 24-8. The teams played four times, each side winning twice at home.

Coaches Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have a rivalry that goes back to their days in the Pac-10, and even the general managers have been raiding each other's roster whenever possible. 

In a short amount of time, these divisional opponents have created a deep rivalry that has led to hatred from both sides.

With that in mind, what could be better than these two teams competing at the highest level possible? A Seahawks-49ers conference title game could be on par with this year's Iron Bowl that led to a national title appearance for Auburn. 

Based on the way these two teams are built, it could be the start of a rivalry similar to the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the early 2000s. Even if you are not a fan, you will have plenty to get excited about in this matchup.


Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots

Sorry, Chargers fans. No one outside of San Diego wants to see you in the AFC Championship. In fact, one Pittsburgh Steelers fan tried to file an injunction to keep the team out of the playoffs, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Obviously there are different reasons for that, but the truth is that the underdog storyline does not compare to the potential of yet another Manning vs. Brady battle. Some people might be sick of seeing the same guys in the playoffs every year, but there is no denying the greatness of these two quarterbacks. 

Peter King of Monday Morning Quarterback tries to put this in words:

Both men rank among the best ever at their position and are amazingly still improving. Elite is an overused word to describe quarterbacks, and it really doesn’t do either Brady or Manning justice. They are future Hall of Famers because they’ve mastered the little things that often go unnoticed.

There will be other players on the field in this hypothetical game. The matchup between Demaryius Thomas and Aqib Talib alone would be a thrill to watch.

However, this one-on-one battle at quarterback would be the best fans can hope for in the NFL, and it would ensure one of them a chance to win another Super Bowl. The sport simply does not get much better than that.


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