With four elite teams remaining in the NFL playoffs, it can be argued that the Super Bowl is going to be great regardless of what happens during the Conference Championship Round. With that said, though, there is no doubt that some possibilities are more enticing than others.
Since there will be two weeks of buildup prior to the Super Bowl, it's important for the matchup to have plenty of intriguing storylines to go along with it. In addition to that, the game has to be entertaining since even non-football fans are going to be tuning in.
With all of that in mind, here is a look at how each potential Super Bowl XLVIII matchup at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. ranks in terms of overall interest and entertainment value.
4. New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
Having three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots going up against the league's No. 1 defense in the form of the Seattle Seahawks certainly doesn't sound bad on the surface, but it may very well produce the worst overall game from an on-field perspective. The Pats deserve a ton of credit for persevering despite so many injuries on both sides of the ball, and the development of their running game behind LeGarrette Blount has been impressive as well.
At the same time, this game could potentially turn into a low-scoring slugfest that won't exactly captivate the viewing audience. New England isn't the same team that NFL fans have grown accustomed to, and Brady even acknowledged ahead of the AFC Championship Game that the Pats are now viewed as underdogs, according to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk.
I know when we played Baltimore no one picked us to win and no one's gonna pick us to win this week. We've had our backs against the wall for a while, really the whole season. We've lost players and teams have really counted us out. We've got a bunch of underdogs on our team and we'll be underdogs again. We'll see how that shakes out at the end of the week.
Simply put, New England vs. Seattle isn't exactly a powerhouse vs. powerhouse matchup. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Seahawks' defense run New England ragged. With that in mind, this is the least appealing Super Bowl option on paper.
3. New England Patriots vs. San Francisco 49ers
In terms of competitiveness, a Patriots vs. 49ers would seemingly be a bit fairer than the aforementioned contest. The Niners' defense is excellent in its own right; however, there are some question marks in the secondary, which means Brady should have more success throwing the ball to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. In addition to that, the Niners have more dynamic players on offense than Seattle, which could lead to some points being put on the board.
It's also important to note how consistently good these two teams have been over the past few years. The Niners are coming off a Super Bowl appearance last year, and they are entering their third consecutive appearance in the NFC Championship Game. The Pats will also play in their third straight AFC Championship Game this week, according to Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com.
Both teams deserve to be rewarded for their excellence, so it wouldn't be tough to get behind this game. Also, there is a built-in storyline since Brady is from San Mateo, Calif. Brady grew up as a 49ers fan, and he very well could have ended up in San Francisco had the Niners not selected the immortal Giovanni Carmazzi in the 2000 NFL draft. The media could potentially have a field day with this angle leading up to the game, and it would be cool to see Brady attempting to equal Joe Montana's Super Bowl win total against the 49ers.
2. Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers
Football purists don't mind a good defensive chess match, but there is no denying the fact that casual fans like to see some points on the board. There are even plenty of hardcore football fans who feel the same way with the NFL continuing to trend in an offensive direction. For those fans who like a good, old-fashioned shootout, it can be argued that the Denver Broncos vs. the San Francisco 49ers is the best possible matchup.
The Broncos boast the greatest offense in NFL history this year in terms of points scored, and quarterback Peyton Manning set single-season marks for both passing yardage and passing touchdowns. As good as the Niners' defense is, they would be hard-pressed to cover Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas consistently throughout the game. Also, since there are obvious holes in Denver's defense, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick should have an opportunity to do some damage with his triad of weapons in Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.
Denver vs. San Francisco has been a popular Super Bowl pick since the start of the season, and ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale is sticking with it.
It's impossible not to get excited about anything Dickie V says, so this particular Super Bowl showdown is quite enticing. With the Niners looking to get revenge for losing in last year's Super Bowl, and Manning looking to cement his legacy with a second ring, this would be a dandy.
1. Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks
Since the very first week of the season, it has been evident that the Broncos are the best team in the AFC and the Seahawks are the best team in the NFC. They both ended up with 13-3 records and are the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences, so those who want to see the best are clamoring for this matchup. That is already apparent as evidenced by this poll conducted by ESPN's Darren Rovell:
Fans seem to prefer this potential game to any other by a significant margin, and it isn't difficult to see why. It would truly present the best of all worlds. The Broncos have the NFL's best offense at nearly 38 points and 457 yards per game, while the Seahawks are tops defensively with 274 yards and 14.4 points allowed per contest. This would be a test of wills, and there is no telling who would come out on top.
The most intriguing part of this tilt would be the cat-and-mouse game between the Denver receivers and the Seattle secondary. The Broncos may very well have one of the greatest stables of pass catchers in NFL history, but the Seahawks have one of the best defensive backfields in recent memory as well. With Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell locking down receivers on the outside along with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at safety, it's no wonder that Seattle has been so dominant.
Manning may be the one quarterback capable of solving the Seattle secondary, though, and most impartial fans would love to see him try.
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