The 2011 Super Bowl is still more than three weeks away, and six games are yet to be played in determining who will meet in Arlington, Tex. for the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 6.
But only one matchup makes perfect sense: Green Bay versus New England.
Let’s take a second to explore the alternatives.
First, let’s eliminate Seattle, which carries absolutely no cachet, though a spirited run to the Super Bowl as the only 7-9 team in history to make the playoffs makes for a juicy story line worthy of being beaten to death.
Same goes for Atlanta. The Falcons are an up-and-coming team, but the franchise’s lack of favorable postseason history, outside of a Super Bowl appearance in 1999, won’t generate much buzz.
Baltimore has been there, done that, winning it all in 2001, but a shot at a second ring for veteran Ray Lewis in the twilight of his career would be fitting, as it would for Ed Reed, who was drafted by the Ravens just two seasons after the title run.
The New York Jets are more than four decades removed from Joe Namath’s guarantee and the ensuing upset over the Baltimore Colts, so the overdue factor applies here. Rex Ryan would make for some all-time great one-liners during media week, and the NFL wouldn’t mind having the undivided attention of the New York television market.
But like the Ravens, the Jets don’t necessarily have that one player, particularly at quarterback, that can evoke an overwhelming mix of love, hate, respect and celebrity.
Pittsburgh does, in Ben Roethlisberger and perhaps the NFL fine machine, defensive end James Harrison, and it’d be nice to see the Steelers tie Dallas’ record mark with the organization’s eighth Super Bowl appearance.
History is on the side of the Bears too. Football’s winningest franchise with 704 victories, Chicago is surpassed in total number of league championships only by Green Bay, which has 12 to the Bears’ nine.
Together, Pittsburgh and Chicago, who have never met for a league championship, would make for a matchup that just makes sense, if for no reason other than both teams’ historical imprint on the game.
But no one combination from the AFC and NFC, including the Bears and Steelers, would be more attractive than Green Bay and New England.
We could only hope it would be as enthralling as when they met in Week 15, a 31-27 Patriots win at Foxborough.
The Patriots, as the most dominant team of the last decade, have become a brand more powerful than any in the NFL. The Packers stand alone as the most iconic organization in football history, if not all of professional sports.
Tom Brady, painfully close to joining the greats after an undefeated season in 2007, would be afforded the chance to etch his name alongside Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks ever to win four Super Bowl titles.
Aaron Rodgers would be in pursuit of just his first, but a victory would pull him even with Brett Favre, his Hall of Fame predecessor and arguably the finest of all time, who earned his lone ring with a win of the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.
The Xs and Os would be intriguing, matching Brady’s nearly invincible persona and New England’s workmanlike offense versus Green Bay’s exuberant 3-4 defense, against the glitzy and glamorous backdrop that is the adult playground called Jerry World.
If you can argue for a better Super Bowl scenario, let me know.
I doubt the NFL would relish anything less.