Four teams, two spots, four possible outcomes and zero potentially underwhelming matchups.
Fans of the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots may argue that a loss for their particular side means something akin to the end of the world. But fans who simply love good football should agree:
No matter who wins on Sunday, it's going to make for one heck of a Super Bowl.
As SportsCenter pointed out, via Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, the four remaining teams are the same ones who were most heavily favored to win the Super Bowl in the preseason:
Four teams remaining had best preseason odds to win it all: • New England: 6-1 • SF & Denver: 8-1 • Seattle: 10-1 (via @LVHHotelCasino)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 13, 2014
And that never really swayed.
The Pats suffered a slew of injuries, the Broncos' defense had some inconsistent patches, the 49ers struggled a bit without Aldon Smith and Michael Crabtree and the Seahawks faltered down the stretch.
But each team won at least 12 regular-season contests. Each team was favored in the divisional round. And each team, despite some final scores that may say otherwise, won convincingly over the weekend.
There is very little question that these are the four squads deserving of being in the final four, as Broncos safety Duke Ihenacho pointed out:
Broncos Patriots Seahawks Niners...the best four teams at the end. That's the way it should be! Y'all get ready for some good football 😏— Duke Ihenacho (@NachoLyfe) January 13, 2014
What a novel concept, right? The undisputed four best teams fighting it out for a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2. But ironically enough, this isn't exactly common in the NFL.
The last 10 Super Bowl champions have finished their respective regular seasons with an average of just 11.5 wins. Moreover, of the last six Super Bowls, five have featured at least one team that won 10 games or less during the regular season.
The unpredictability and parity of the NFL, which have both been so apparent during the past several years, are part of what makes the league so captivating, but every once in a while, it's nice to see the cream of the crop battling it out to determine the champion.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King summed it up:
I’ve looked back to the 1970 merger, and this championship weekend just has a unique feel to me. No dogs allowed. The four power teams that should be here are. This is the kind of doubleheader, as if the NFL needed advice on game-staging, that would justify two prime-time games. How do you pick a favorite game? How would you pick between Spielberg and the Coen Brothers? Between Fenway and Wrigley? Bird and Magic? You decide. I can’t.
We're still a couple of days away from the conference championships, but we already know what the Super Bowl will entail.
Which Super Bowl matchup do you most want to see?
On one side, hailing from the NFC, you will have a head coach that no one likes employing an extremely physical brand of football. That team will boast an elite defense that has playmakers all over the field and is capable of stonewalling any offense. This team will also feature a quarterback capable of beating you in multiple ways and a hard-nosed running game who is painfully difficult to stop.
On the other, the AFC squad will bring with it an explosive offense behind a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback and an underrated-yet-clicking running game. It's defense hasn't been consistent over the entire course of the season, but it has stepped up its play over the last several weeks.
That's a matchup I'm dying to see, regardless of the colors on the uniforms.
And the best part of all—it's already guaranteed.