Yes, this seems about right. The NFL’s conference championship games will feature the four most compelling teams in the league facing off for the right to entertain the world two weeks from now in what will probably be the coldest Super Bowl ever.
But the weather at Giants’ Stadium in early February is not our concern this weekend. No, we’ve got Harbaugh vs. Carroll and Brady vs. Manning on tap and I, for one, could not be happier.
One great thing about the NFL’s final four this year is you can legitimately argue they are the four best teams in the league. Save the Carolina Panthers, who had the same 12-4 record, as both San Francisco and New England, there was no other team who had more wins than the four who will play Sunday.
(And for those of you Panther fans out there who want to argue your team is better, well, you better check the scoreboard from last weekend because San Francisco beat y’all pretty handily so I would say your case is null and void.)
This doesn’t happen that often. Usually some upstart worms their way into the latter rounds of the playoffs and while that certainly has its appeal, it seems nice to me to think the best teams in the league will be playing for the right to advance to the championship.
Of course there’s plenty of other great things about these matchups. A lot of people will tell you the games feature four of the top quarterbacks in the league.
I would heartily disagree with those people. I would say the NFC game between San Francisco and Seattle features two of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the game. Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick certainly have their moments, but I’m not sure I would rank them in the top five signal callers in the game, maybe the top 10 – I haven’t put a list together recently.
That said, the New England – Denver matchup does indeed feature two of the best, not just of this era, but also of all time. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are just about as good as it gets and it will be interesting to see if Manning can even up his playoff record against Brady. (My money says yes, but the Patriots have surprised me before.)
The other really great thing about this year’s final four is the quality of the head coaches. Again, I’m not going to say that these four teams are helmed by the best four coaches in the league; but it’s got to be close.
San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh, Seattle’s Pete Carroll, New England’s Bill Belichick and Denver’s, hey, what’s that guy’s name? Oh yeah, John Fox, have certainly proven themselves to be the best coaches this year.
On paper, Fox seems overmatched by Belichick who, despite his rumpled appearance, is actually one of the great NFL minds of all time. Fox, on the other hand, seems a serviceable coach who is fortunate enough to have Manning on his side which, a lot of times, is all you need to win.
While no bad blood exists between these two men, there should be some between Harbaugh and Carroll. Not only do the two play in the same division, but don’t forget they both came out of the old Pac-10 where Harbaugh’s Stanford teams routinely gave Carroll’s higher ranked USC squads fits.
Harbaugh seemed to delight in beating the Trojans and I’m sure the same thing applies now. I would love to be a person standing around their handshake Sunday, especially if the 49ers win.
If these two story lines are not enough to get you to watch Sunday’s action then I don’t know what is.
Honestly, football in January just does not get any better than what we’ve got in front of us this weekend.
Make sure to load up on snacks and beverages Saturday, you’re not going to want to leave the house once the games start Sunday afternoon!