The NFL's divisional round means we're down to the league's elite eight in the playoffs, and that's when the Super Bowl pairing starts to first come into view. There are still 16 potential matchups for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans next month, and here's a storyline or two about each of them, ranked from most intriguing to least appealing, at least from where I sit. With six of the eight teams in the divisional round making repeat appearances from last year -- all but Seattle and Atlanta -- these are potential pairings with which we're getting pretty familiar. ...
Then there's this: Can 49ers second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick pull a virtual repeat of Tom Brady's emergence in 2001, when No. 12 was a second-year backup who replaced his team's injured starter and went on to lead his club to a Super Bowl win in the New Orleans' Superdome? Talk about convergence. Lastly, Brady is still shooting for that fourth Super Bowl ring, which would tie his boyhood idol, Joe Montana. Would there be a more fitting way to win it than against the team Brady grew up rooting for in Northern California?
The coaching storyline would make for good fodder as well, given that Seattle's Pete Carroll preceded Bill Belichick in New England, taking the Patriots to back-to-back playoff trips in his three-season stint in Foxboro. The East vs. West matchup and the old versus young quarterback pairing (Brady and Russell Wilson) would add luster, too. Even without all of that the showdown between Seattle's young, dominating defense and New England's high-powered offense would be reason enough to watch.
It would be another Super Bowl rematch, but not one we'd care to remember. Ending the 1989 season, the 49ers drubbed the Broncos 55-10 in New Orleans, which is still the biggest blowout in Super history. My favorite sidebar of this matchup? That's easy. Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh and Manning are both ex-Colts quarterbacks, with Manning replacing Harbaugh in Indy in 1998.
In the 10 combined regular seasons since those moves, the Ravens and Falcons have combined for nine playoff trips and 10 winning records. The dual Lewis and Tony Gonzalez retirement plans would make for an irresistible Super Bowl week storyline as well.