<italics>(SI.com's Don Banks' thoughts on the potential Super Bowl matchups</italics><italics>.) </italics> <italics> </italics>The reasons to root for this rematch from the regular season are many. For starters, San Francisco's 41-34 upset win in Foxboro in Week 15 may have been the game of the year, at least in the second half, when the Patriots stormed back from a 31-3 deficit to tie it at 31-31 midway through the fourth quarter. The 49ers answered that rally and became the first team to beat New England at home in December since 2002. 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?
2 of 4Robb Carr/Getty Images
This was my top-ranked potential Super Bowl pairing last year, and we came a couple of narrow conference title-game losses from getting the historic Har-Bowl matchup between John Harbaugh's Ravens and Jim Harbaugh's 49ers. But there's more to it this time around, thanks to Ray Lewis' retirement plans. No. 52 going out on the game's grandest stage would dominate plenty of the pregame buildup.
3 of 4Rob Carr/Getty Images
Well, Asante Samuel might have something to say all week. The former Patriots cornerback has always been clutch in the postseason (a league-record four playoff interception returns for touchdowns), and you know he'd love to pick Brady's pocket with the game on the line. The quarterback pairing is a good one, too, because Brady and Matt Ryan got to know each other well when Ryan was winning games for Boston College while Brady was down the road winning titles in Foxboro.
4 of 4Daniel Shirley/U.S. Presswire
The all-Bird Super Bowl would pair two of the best franchises in the NFL in terms of personnel judgment, and seem a natural culmination of the fresh starts that both clubs made at quarterback and head coach in 2008. That's when the Ravens and Falcons drafted Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan in the first round, respectively, and hired John Harbaugh and Mike Smith to lead their organizations. Good calls all the way around. 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. (Pictured: Ryan vs. the Ravens in August 2012.)
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!