Rooting interest aside, everyone should be thrilled to see Peyton Manning against Tom Brady in the AFC title game, while the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks resume their rivalry in the NFC.
Although there will not be the same type of storylines in the Super Bowl, there will be plenty of reasons to watch besides just the spectacle of it all.
Here is a look at how excited fans should be for each potential matchup for the big game.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos
Thrill Factor: 8 out of 10
Best In-Game Storyline: Contrast in Quarterbacks
There will obviously be a difference in quarterback styles regardless of who plays in the Super Bowl, as noted by this interesting stat provided by ESPN Stats & Info:
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have combined for -13 rushing yards this season. Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have combined for 1,063— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 15, 2014
Still, a matchup between Peyton Manning and Colin Kaepernick would be about as different as you can get while still having success at the quarterback position.
Manning is the favorite to win this year's MVP award after a dominant season that featured NFL records for passing yards and touchdowns in a season. Only once did he fail to top 200 passing yards, as you can always count on him to produce in the pass-heavy attack.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick relied much more on his teammates to carry the rushing attack while he topped 200 yards in only six of 16 games this year. On the other hand, he can beat teams with his legs, as he showed the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round.
Both of these quarterbacks are tough to defend, although for very different reasons.
Add this to the battle between the Broncos offense and the 49ers defense along with plenty of other storylines, and you have yourself quite an interesting matchup.
Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots
Thrill Factor: 7 out of 10
Best In-Game Storyline: Battle of Bruising Running Backs
Until about a month ago, Tom Brady was the Patriots offense. He was throwing the ball around 40-50 times per game and hoping that one of his undersized receiving targets could make a play.
However, New England has transformed its offense in the last three games, limiting the passes and putting the ball into the hands of LeGarrette Blount. The veteran running back totaled 507 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the first 14 games of the year but has 431 yards and eight touchdowns in the last three.
Amazingly, Blount still sees room for improvement after his impressive recent stretch, via Patriots.com:
I could do a lot of improvement. We've watched the film, I've seen a couple holes that I could have hit, seen a couple cuts I could have made. I'm just going to try to go out there and look at what they're going to give me and hopefully exploit some of their weaknesses.
Not to be outdone, however, Marshawn Lynch has spent the past few seasons proving that he is among the best running backs in the NFL. After rushing for 1,257 yards during the year, he helped the Seahawks in the divisional round with a 140-yard, two-touchdown effort against the New Orleans Saints.
These two players will be used early and often in this battle, and the more successful one will likely be on the winning team.
While those who love offense will not be thrilled to see this run-heavy matchup, it will still be highly competitive from start to finish.
San Francisco 49ers vs. New England Patriots
Thrill Factor: 9 out of 10
Best In-Game Storyline: Old School vs. New School Coaching Competition
Bill Belichick has been a model of consistency throughout his career with the Patriots. In 14 years with New England, he has won three Super Bowls, five AFC titles and has now won at least 10 games in each of the last 11 years.
He is now climbing the ranks among the best coaches in league history, thanks to records like this:
Congrats to Bill Belichick on tying Don Shula for the 2nd-most playoff wins by a head coach in NFL HISTORY!— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 12, 2014
Amazingly, he keeps surprising people with his ability to get the best out of his team. ESPN's Mark Schlereth is one of many who think Belichick's job this season was one of his best ever:
This may be Bill Belichick best coaching job ever! Pats back in the AFC Championship!— mark schlereth (@markschlereth) January 12, 2014
However, there is a new kid on the block breaking records with his success, as noted by Peter Schrager of Fox Sports:
Jim Harbaugh is the first coach in NFL history to reach the NFC Championship Game in his first three years as an NFL head coach.— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) January 15, 2014
Jim Harbaugh has turned the San Francisco 49ers into consistent contenders thanks to his combination of scheming and motivational tactics. He certainly has a lot more personality than Belichick, but it seems to work for him and his players.
Watching these two masterminds go at it would be enough to keep football lovers excited throughout the game.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos
Thrill Factor: 10 out of 10
Best In-Game Storyline: Best Offense vs. Best Defense
The Broncos had the No. 1 offense in the NFL by a wide margin this season. They lead the league in scoring, yards from scrimmage, passing yards and many other important categories.
At this point, the only question is whether they would be able to succeed against a team that is just as good defensively. The Seahawks gave up the fewest passing yards, total yards and points during the regular season, and they recently shut down the impressive New Orleans Saints offense.
Peyton Manning has been the best player in the NFL this season, and he has plenty of weapons to throw to on the outside. However, the Seahawks have three Pro Bowlers in the secondary, led by Richard Sherman, and the group can make things extremely difficult for the opposing offense.
These two teams are the best in the league at what they do, and it would be a great way to settle which is more important: offense or defense.
Meanwhile, this matchup would also be a competition of the two best teams in the league, something that was known to start the year and holds true now:
Preseason odds to win Super Bowl: Broncos 5/1, Seahawks 6/1, 49ers 6/1, Patriots 10/1.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) January 13, 2014
Updated Super Bowl Odds: Seattle +175; Denver +200; San Francisco +300; New England +500 - via @LVSuperBook— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) January 13, 2014
No matter which team you root for during the regular season, it is hard to deny that this Super Bowl would be one for the ages.
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