It's not even Thanksgiving yet, and there are still six whole weeks left in the NFL season. So obviously, it's time to make some end-of-the-season projections.
Sure, December and January still remain, and division and wild card races are as tight as ever, but it's natural to want to take a look toward the future. It's normal to want to assume how the postseason will settle itself and which teams will be duking it out in Super Bowl XLVI.
Of course, one of the great things about late November projections is that this is one of the last chances for anything to be possible. You want a Bills-Seahawks Super Bowl? It's still possible, but not for long. You want to see the Titans and Eagles face off in Indianapolis? It's alive—barely.
Here are some Super Bowl matchups that would be great to see. They'd be captivating, dramatic, invigorating—and just plain fun.
And with any luck, we'll see one of them in February.
Put your team loyalties aside for a moment. Who wouldn't want to see a rematch?
Since meeting in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers have been arguably the best teams in their respective conferences. The Packers are the undisputed top team in the NFL with a sparkling 10-0 record, while the Steelers have a 7-3 record, tied for the best mark in the AFC.
These teams could be on a collision course for that rematch. If it happens, there'd be no reason for football fans to be disappointed. Last year's game was an entertaining affair, with Green Bay building a big lead and then holding on for dear life as the Steelers tried to fight back and win title No. 7. It was a thrilling finish, and it took some of the focus away from Dallas' poor handling of the game and the entire week.
Take last year's game, add it to two teams playing good football and add the storylines that would develop naturally. How do the teams feel about each other? What do the Steelers do differently? How will a championship change Green Bay's approach?
The two weeks of buildup would be entertaining, and the game wouldn't be too bad, either.
We'll get a taste for how this matchup would look on Thanksgiving, but regardless of how that turns out, a Harbaugh family Super Bowl would be a good story.
And a clash of two great defenses would make it even better.
Sure, the Harbaughs squaring off with a Lombardi Trophy at stake would be an unbelievable plotline. Two brothers, both rescuing down-on-their-luck teams, both with visible personalities, meeting with everything on the line. The story writes itself.
But the on-the-field product of a 49ers/Ravens Super Bowl would be the old school fan's dream. You'd have defense vs. defense, the league's best unit against the run and in points allowed going up against one of the best groups, personnel wise, in all of football.
You'd have Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs vs. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman in the linebacking corps and Ed Reed vs. Carlos Rogers, one of the league's leaders in interceptions, in the secondary. You'd have Frank Gore vs. Ray Rice. You'd even have Joe Flacco vs. Alex Smith!
One should expect a close game Thursday, and one should expect a close game in a rematch in February.
If we don't get Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh, we could get Ryan vs. Ryan. After all, Rex promised us he'd be there, and Rob (who you would think is the head coach based on in-game camera exposure, by the way) is doing all he can to mold the Dallas Cowboys defense into a Super Bowl-caliber unit.
If the Jets and Cowboys met in Indianapolis, the storylines would be bigger than with a Harbaugh reunion because the Ryans would make it so. We'd have 1,000 soundbites each from Rex and Rob about being brothers, being fat, growing up competitive with each other and how both are 100 percent sure their respective teams will come out on top.
Of course, like with Ravens/49ers, both teams have their stars and big names, and watching Dez Bryant or Miles Austin go up against Darrelle Revis would be worth watching by itself.
Every NFL season gets defined by hundreds of small questions, and this one is no different. One of those questions is over the best quarterback in the league, and is, these days, battled between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Who's better? The defending unanimous MVP in Brady, or the eventual MVP in Rodgers? Last year's Super Bowl MVP in Rodgers, or the three-time champion in Brady? Which No. 12 is better, the one on a red, white and blue jersey or the one in green and yellow?
Well, a Patriots/Packers showdown would go a long way in providing an answer.
If the Packers won, Rodgers would be coming off two straight Super Bowl titles and what will likely be one of the most dominant regular seasons of all time. It'd be tough to argue against him.
If the Patriots won, however, Brady would be a four-time champion, tying the record for most rings won by a quarterback, and he would be the MVP in at least two of those victories. It'd be tough to argue against him.
Brady and Rodgers have never faced off. New England played Green Bay last year, but Rodgers was out with a concussion. This would be the first meeting, and there couldn't be a better stage for it.
It would also be a meeting between offenses that, when fully functioning, have been the best in the league. It'd be a riveting contest, and that has a lot to do with the two quarterbacks running the show.
If these teams met, they'd both be trying to establish a convincing string of dominance. The New Orleans Saints would be aiming for their second Super Bowl title in three years, while the Pittsburgh Steelers would be making their third Super Bowl appearance in four years and would be looking for their second title.
The game itself would be an intriguing matchup. New Orleans has an explosive offense, led by an elite quarterback in Drew Brees, while the Steelers still have a dominant defense, as well as a big-play offense to go with it.
Plus, while Brady vs. Rodgers has been the big discussion, Brees vs. Ben Roethlisberger would key some spirited debate as well.
The Packers, with their still shiny Lombardi Trophy and undefeated start, have and deserve all the hype, but the Saints and Steelers have all the hardware and reason necessary to feel just as worthy of the big stage. If they met, it'd be a fun showdown.
If the New England Patriots and New York Giants met in the Super Bowl again...oh man.
The storylines would be unrelenting. The replays of that (momentary objectivity breach ahead) hideous night in Glendale, Ariz. (objectivity restored) would be everywhere. You'd see Eli Manning spin out of a sack, throw up a flair and have David Tyree out-leap Rodney Harrison to pull the ball down on the crown of his helmet. Over. And over. And over again.
But it would be enthralling. And when the teams finally played, the world would be fixated.
After all, the coaches are the same. The quarterbacks are the same. The other pieces have changed, but the new guys would be reminded quite frequently about what happened in February of 2008.
Media attention and hype before the game would be through the roof—and the teams might live up to it.
After all, New England and New York have already shown what they're capable of. They met earlier this season and it was memorable, as Manning and Tom Brady exchanged would-have-been game-winning drives. Apparently, these teams can't play without it coming down to the wire.
If we were treated to a XLII redux, there'd be plenty of reason to expect a good game, and there would be ample buzz going into it. Brady and Manning's quests to pad their resumes would command the attention, but there would be enough storylines—focused on 2011 and before—to make a rematch a memorable occasion.
If you're not into that previously discussed 49ers/Ravens game, then a Patriots/Saints tilt might be more up your alley.
Drew Brees, who leads the league in passing yards (3,326) and attempts (422), yet has a completion percentage over 70, would see the Patriots defense, especially a largely undrafted secondary, and go nuts. He'd be chucking the ball all over the field all game, and the Saints would be successful and would be lighting up the scoreboard.
Of course, Tom Brady, seeing his defense get gashed, would come out guns blazing as well, hitting Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez over and over again in an attempt to keep up.
What we would have would be something resembling the fourth quarter of 2003's Super Bowl XXXVIII, but for 60 minutes. The points would be through the roof. One of those quarterbacks could very well throw for 400 yards and lose.
The game wouldn't be brimming with big stories, but it wouldn't be bereft of them, either. After all, it was New Orleans' primetime thrashing of New England in 2009, in which Brees threw five touchdown passes and had a perfect 158.3 rating, that put the Saints on the map and convinced the world that that team could go on the run it eventually accomplished.
A Patriots/Saints game wouldn't exactly be three yards and a cloud of dust, but it'd be dramatic, dazzling and exciting—and maybe even down to the wire.
A game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and either the Dallas Cowboys or San Francisco 49ers wouldn't be able to sell the individual matchups (as well as, say, Lions/Jets would be able to sell Calvin Johnson vs. Darrelle Revis or Packers/Patriots can sell Rodgers vs. Brady). But that game would have history on its side—lots and lots of history.
Pittsburgh would be taking another crack at breaking its own record with a seventh Super Bowl title. Dallas and San Francisco would be looking to pull even with a sixth, and whichever team makes it out of the NFC would obviously look to pass the other for the conference lead.
A Steelers/49ers contest would be a long-awaited debut matchup between two of the NFL's most successful franchises, while a Steelers/Cowboys showdown would be the fourth of its kind in Super Bowl history and would no doubt reignite some dormant feelings between those two franchises and their alums.
It wouldn't be a stretch to see either of these games. Pittsburgh can beat anyone in the AFC, and San Francisco is in position to finish as the second-best team in the NFC. Dallas will have a bumpier road, assuming it even gets to the playoffs, but the Cowboys have the talent to hang tough with anyone.
Either one of these games would be fun just due to the laundry on the field. The players wearing those uniforms would make it a good one, and we could end up with a classic between teams that, at one point or another, were the undisputed classes of the NFL.
No game would be a better indication of NFL parity than if recent doormats Buffalo or Oakland squared off against Detroit in Super Bowl XLVI.
A lot has to happen for this Super Bowl to occur. The Bills need to stop doing a Bills impression and rediscover that winning formula, the Raiders need to hold off the Denver Tebows, win the AFC West and beat some better teams, and the Lions need to pull off whatever sorcery is needed to beat the Packers these days.
But if that all happened and Detroit was playing either Oakland or Buffalo with a title on the line, it would be truly incredible.
Each team has made its headlines this year. Buffalo was the nation's sweetheart after 3-0 and 4-1 starts, Oakland earned plenty of sympathy and respect for dealing with, and then winning after, owner Al Davis' death and Detroit has been a rags-to-riches story after it began the season 5-0.
If these teams made it to Indianapolis, sure, fans of the favorites would be disappointed, but by kickoff, the whole country would be embracing the idea of an underdog playing an underdog. The teams would be providing an example to other downtrodden teams that success can be right around the corner, and regardless of the outcome, there'd be a storybook finish either way.
It would be hard not to be fascinated if these teams squared off.
If the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles get to work pronto, we could still end up with as hyped a matchup as the NFL can offer.
The Jets spent the whole offseason guaranteeing a spot in the Super Bowl and daring other teams to beat them. They're like the Miami Heat.
The Eagles, on the other hand, did less talking (save for Vince Young) but spent their offseason stacking their team with new players via free agency. They're like the...well, they're the Heat, too.
So a Jets/Eagles Super Bowl would be like a Heat/Heat NBA Finals. For many fans, the only downside would be that one of the teams would have to win.
Both teams would be out trying to equal the buzz they've been generating since July (if not earlier). The Jets would be trying to finally achieve what they think is their birthright, while the Eagles would be trying to show that their plan was right all along.
Put it this way: If these teams don't get to Indianapolis, their season, according to the public and themselves, is a failure.
So this matchup would set all kinds of media attention records, but the game itself would be intriguing as well. A Jets or Eagles appearance would likely mean that the team won out through December and January, and with both teams playing well, there'd be some good matchup.
There'd be New York's excellent secondary against Philadelphia's explosive offensive options, the Jets' front seven against LeSean McCoy and Philadelphia's star-studded pass defense against Super Bowl heroes Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress, to name a few.
Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? Absolutely not. But it's November. The crazy scenarios are still in play. Enjoy them now, because they won't be for long.