Super Bowl 2014: Ranking the Best Potential Matchups

Sean HojnackiFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2014

Unfortunately, Peyton Manning can't play Tom Brady for the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, Peyton Manning can't play Tom Brady for the Super Bowl.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With only four teams still playing football, there are many things to consider in picking an ideal Super Bowl matchup, from franchise histories to marquee stars and from social-media beef to "Beast Mode."

There is also the consideration of which pairing would actually result in the best game.

We've boiled down thousands of factors using a complicated calculation on the back of an envelope and ranked the best potential matchups for Super Bowl XLVIII from best to least-best-but-still-a-good-game.

 

1. Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos

This would be the matchup between the two best teams in the league. It would pit the league's top-ranked pass defense against Peyton Manning, the man who set single-season records for passing touchdowns and passing yards this season. 

It would see Manning trying to shake off the critics, who point to his lone Super Bowl title as a demerit, going up against the new kids on the block. Russell Wilson has two Pro Bowl seasons on his two-year resume, and he would cement himself as one of the league's brightest young stars with a championship. 

Aug 17, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) speak following a 40-10 preseason victory by the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sp
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

While this matchup doesn't have the large media market appeal some advertisers might be hoping for, it would surely be a thrilling game. How much trash would Richard Sherman talk beforehand and during? (Please wire him for sound.) How many Skittles tie-ins would there be? How many cutaway shots of Eli Manning can we expect? 

Here's hoping.

 

2. San Francisco 49ers vs. New England Patriots

How can two teams that form a great matchup not at least appear as the second-best matchup? 

The 49ers formed a proud dynasty behind Joe Montana in the 1980s, and as the torch passed to Steve Young they completed a run of five Super Bowl wins in 14 seasons. 

Tom Brady quickly earned some rings with three titles in four seasons, but he hasn't hoisted the Lombardi trophy in nine years. As the twilight begins flickering on Brady's career, he has to wonder how many more chances he will get to equal Joe Montana's four Super Bowl wins. A fourth Super Bowl would dramatically advance the standing of "Tom Terrific" in the Montana vs. Brady debate.

And it would also be sweet to watch the 49ers deny him that fourth ring. It's a win-win!

Dec 16, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) gets sacked by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald (91) during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. The San Francisco 49ers won 41-34.  Mandatory Cred
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

 

3. San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos

The 49ers and Broncos have each been to six Super Bowls, except San Francisco has won five of them while Denver has only two. This would be the perfect year for Peyton Manning to turn the tide.

Then again, the high-flying Niners have not been without their share of heartbreak recently. This will be their third consecutive appearance in the NFC championship game. In 2012, they fell in overtime to the New York Giants after a pair of fumbles by punt returner Kyle Williams. 

Jan 22, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; New York Giants middle linebacker Jacquian Williams (57) knocks the ball out of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams (10) during a punt return in overtime of the 2011 NFC Championship game at Candlestick Pa
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

They made the Super Bowl last year and though they nearly pulled off the comeback after the blackout, they didn't have the magic touch. Anything less than a Super Bowl victory would feel like a letdown for San Francisco.

You almost want to root for the Niners to win just so head coach Jim Harbaugh doesn't blow a gasket.

Then again, it feels like Manning deserves a second ring to go along with the "greatest regular-season quarterback" talk. 

 

4. Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots

This matchup would be all about Tom Brady versus Richard Sherman. And I mean everywhere. On media day, on social media, in pregame, during the game and postgame. 

Sherman loves to run his mouth but it's hard to argue with his All-Pro play. When the Pats and Seahawks faced off in October of 2012, New England was leading and Sherman was wagging his jaw at Brady. Sherman summarized the exchanges for Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune:

I kept saying I’m going to get that next time. Every TV timeout, I went up and said it right to (Brady): 'Please keep trying me. I’m going to take it from you.' That was when they were winning. He just gave me that look and said, 'Oh, I’ll see you after game.' Well, I made sure I saw him after the game.

After Seattle rallied for the 24-23 victory that included a Sherman interception to stun the Patriots, Sherman bum rushed Brady and gave him a piece of his mind. Then he tweeted out a picture of the confrontation with the caption, "U MAD BRO?" 

This would not only be the best pass defense against a three-time Super Bowl winning QB, it would have trash talk, memes and probably some jokes about Brady wearing Uggs. What's not to like?