And then there were four.
This season's NFL playoffs have been among the most riveting in recent memory and that intrigue should continue into this weekend's AFC and NFC conference championship games. Only the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons remain in the hunt to go to Super Bowl XLVII, and each team carries its own set of storylines. So I got to thinking, which of the potential Super Bowl match-ups will make for the best (or at least most interesting) game?
Here is my list: (vote for your favorite below on the right)
#1 - Patriots vs. 49ers
As a Patriots fan myself, it is very difficult to remain objective when looking at potential match-ups, but this one in my opinion would make for the most exciting Super Bowl. The two teams met earlier this year in a game that the Patriots overcame a 31-3 deficit, only to eventually lose 41-34. That game was one of the best of the season, but it isn't what would make this game so enthralling. Patriots QB Tom Brady is looking to cement his legacy as perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time and win his fourth Super Bowl ring, which would tie him with 49ers legend Joe Montana. Oh and by the way, Brady grew up in the Bay area and was a huge 49ers fan.
#2 - Ravens vs. 49ers
The battle of the Harbaughs! If you are the parents of Jim and John Harbaugh (head coaches of the 49ers and Ravens, respectively), would this be the most stressful yet exciting two weeks leading up to the game? Two of your children are head coaches in the biggest sports game in the world. And who do you root for?
Aside from the Harbaugh brothers, this game would also feature two of the most formidable defenses. The 49ers are unquestionably the best defense in the NFL, while the Ravens D is relying on reputation of previous seasons, but still have plenty of star power. The biggest of those stars is LB Ray Lewis, who announced prior to the playoffs that this would be his last year in the league, which would make this game his final one in his Hall of Fame career.
#3 - Patriots vs. Falcons
Again, the aforementioned records that could be set by Patriots QB Tom Brady would be the major headline going into this match-up, but there are plenty of great storylines for this game as well. The Falcons are the top seed from the NFC, but have been overlooked by most experts as true contenders for the Super Bowl. The team would definitely ride the "nobody believes in us" wave throughout the weeks leading up to the game and would more than likely be big underdogs in the game itself.
This game would also be the last for another future Hall of Fame player in Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who announced this season would be his last.
#4 - Ravens vs. Falcons
While this game is probably the worst of all of the potential games, it would still be great to watch. Both teams would be looking to win the last game for their locker room leaders, the previously mentioned soon-to-be-retired Ray Lewis and Tony Gonzalez. One way or another, one of these greats would leave the game as a champion, and for a professional athlete, there is nothing quite like that.
The game would also showcase two quarterbacks who are on the cusp of greatness: Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Both have been characterized as second-tier players, but a win in the biggest game would change how one of them will be viewed in the coming years.
Each of these games would be amazing to watch, but which do you think will be the best? And let's be honest, half of the people who tune in just want to see the commercials anyway.