All four of the Conference Championship participants have Super Bowl history, making for a quartet of interesting potential pairings. That said, some are definitely more interesting than others. Here’s a ranking of the potential matchups:
1. New York Giants vs New England Patriots: Rematch of Super Bowl XLII
There is so much to like about this matchup of one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. Bill Belichick’s Patriots would get a chance to avenge themselves on the perfection-ruining upsettery of Eli Manning and the 2007 Giants. Both Brady and the younger Manning are in their prime, and both teams have gotten stronger offensively — or in the Patriots’ case, at least more diverse — since that matchup. Conversely, both teams are weaker defensively, making this a potential shootout for the ages.
2. Baltimore Ravens vs San Francisco 49ers: Har-bowl II
As soon as the NFL season was saved from the Lockout, fan communities in Baltimore and San Francisco began buzzing about the “Har-bowl” — the Thanksgiving weekend game scheduled between the brothers Harbaugh. The game itself was a bit of a disappointment, as the Ravens’ defense suffocated the 49ers 16-6. However, the Niners’ offense has improved since then, making the rematch more of an intriguing proposition.
3. New England Patriots vs San Francisco 49ers: Ultimate Offense vs Ultimate Defense
Fans just hoping for a great game might be thrilled with this one, as the pure punishment capable of being dealt by the Niners matches up against the offensive explosion of the Patriots in a virtual replay of last week’s 49ers-Saints game. There are also intriguing subplots in this one, as Tom Brady, a San Francisco native, would be going for his fourth Super Bowl win. That would tie him with Joe Montana among NFL QBs, an achievement the Niners would very much like to prevent.
4. New York Giants vs Baltimore Ravens: Rematch of Super Bowl XXXV
This matchup is only desirable for Giants fans who want to erase the stink of one of the worst championship games of the last twenty years, and Ravens fans who would very much like to relive it. Kerry Collins quarterbacked the G-men against the Ray Lewis and a Ravens defense that was at its most fearsome. The gameplan in that game was one of the worst imaginable, though, as Collins played right into the Ravens’ hands by throwing everything short of the sticks, allowing Baltimore to nine and ten players in the box with impunity. (The offensive coordinator of that Giants team? None other than Sean Payton, who would go on to architect one of the most prolific offenses ever.)
Which one are you rooting for this weekend?