With the conference championship games getting ready to start, only three NFL games remain as the season comes to a close.
The two top-seeded teams in the AFC will be going head-to-head in what could be the last ever game for one of the greatest quarterback rivalries ever played. Meanwhile, in the NFC, one of the NFL's hottest division rivalries will be played for the third time this year.
With that being said, let's take a look at the remaining playoff schedule followed by a preview of both conference championship games.
|2014 NFL Playoff Schedule|
|AFC Championship||New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos||Jan. 19||3 p.m.||CBS|
|NFC Championship||San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks||Jan. 19||6:30 p.m.||FOX|
|Super Bowl||AFC & NFC Champions||Feb. 2||6:30 p.m.||FOX|
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
Date: Sunday, Jan. 19
Time: 3 p.m. ET
The argument could be made that there's never been a QB-based rivalry more entertaining than Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady, and even if it isn't No. 1, it's really close. The two have met 14 times, with Brady winning 10 while also going 2-1 against Manning in the playoffs.
Manning will be looking to even up that postseason record.
There's a very real possibility that this is the last time the two ever play. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Manning could retire after this season due to his neck, with the report saying:
Despite setting NFL single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns in 2013 with the Denver Broncos, Manning will undergo the physical exam in March, as mandated by his contract, the sources told Mortensen.
If the exam reveals that his neck is stable, Manning plans to return to the Broncos in 2014, regardless of how Denver fares this postseason, according to sources.
If it does end up being their last head-to-head matchup, it's the best possible way for the rivalry to end. Both quarterbacks will be playing for a chance to go to another Super Bowl and possibly cement which player was the better quarterback. Brady would have the rings, while Manning would be the regular-season legend who could only get it done once in the playoffs.
Of course, these aren't the usual Brady-Manning teams we've been used to in previous season. The Patriots have a legitimate running game, ranking ninth in run offense during the regular season, averaging 129.1 yards per game.
While Manning's team isn't different than the high-scoring offenses he had in Indianapolis, this is a different team in that Manning has never been this effective at any point in his career. With 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, his offense broke a number of records this year.
When these two play, the games rarely disappoint. Hopefully this is one of those games that becomes an instant classic in the Brady-Manning rivalry.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Date: Sunday, Jan. 19
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
It may be the third time we've seen this matchup this season, but with how good these games have been the past couple of years and the fact that a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line, there's no guarantee that the Seattle Seahawks win game No. 3 this year against the San Francisco 49ers after they split the regular season series.
The 49ers are coming off a statement 23-10 win over the Carolina Panthers, which gave them their eighth straight win going back to the regular season. The return of Michael Crabtree has helped open up the passing game, helping Colin Kaepernick make big throws and help take the pressure off Anquan Boldin.
For the Seattle Seahawks, it looks like running back Marshawn Lynch, who carried the ball 301 times in the regular season, is showing no signs of slowing down. Lynch carried the ball 28 times against the Saints, going off for 140 yards and two touchdowns. According to Pete Damilatis from Pro Football Focus, Lynch broke 13 tackles in the game.
Of course, everyone will be focusing in on Russell Wilson vs. Kaepernick, as the two young quarterbacks are beginning to create a rivalry of their own. Home-field advantage will be a major help for the Seahawks, as they've only lost once at home over the past two seasons.
Will Kaepernick go to his second Super Bowl in just his second season as a starting QB, or will Wilson lead arguably the most talented team in the league to his first? Regardless, these two have cemented themselves as emerging superstars in the league.