What were thought by many to be the two best teams in all of the NFL last September are the last two teams left standing as February approaches.
The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will play on the final Sunday of the season, and the paths that they took to get to MetLife Stadium were rather different from one another. Seattle has the best defense in the league, a bruising one with real play-makers. Denver, on the other hand, merely has arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the position.
February 2 cannot come soon enough.
2014 NFL power rankings: Super Bowl
4. San Francisco 49ers: Life lessons are hard learned, something not lost on Colin Kaepernick the day after the NFC Championship Game. The third-year pro turned the ball over on three occasions in the fourth quarter, the last being as much a result of a mistake committed by Kaepernick as it was a fantastic defensive play made by Seattle's Richard Sherman.
Kaepernick has earned himself a fair amount of criticism for his lousy fourth quarter, but one shouldn't ignore all of the good plays he made in the losing effort. Kaepernick did well to silence many critics that had popped up in the middle of the fall season. I expect he will do so again down the road.
San Fran and Kaepernick will be back and soon. They'll again be favorites to win it all come February 3.
3. New England Patriots: Tom Brady isn't going anywhere, right? Yeah? Then New England will again be contenders next season. It's as simple as that.
The 2013-14 season has, for me, been the ultimate showcase of how great Brady really is. There are MAYBE a couple of other quarterbacks out there that could have carried that Patriots roster to within one game of a Super Bowl.
Brady's biggest concern as it pertains to the next 12 months will, as it was last offseason, be the health of tight end Rob Gronkowski. His legendary status has been cemented, but Brady will be 37-years old at the start of the preseason. 2014 could legitimately be his final chance to win a title.
The Super Squads
2. Seattle Seahawks: And some of you were worried about Russell Wilson. Wilson took a massive leap toward an elite status when he hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, erasing that fumble on his first play from scrimmage from the memory.
Oh yeah. There was also that game-saving tipped pass from Sherman.
Here's the worry for Seattle: I don't think 23 points is going to cut it against the Broncos. Don't look now, but Brady and the Patriots only put 16 points on the scoreboard against Denver, and that was in good weather. Wilson may have to have the game of his life on Super Sunday if he is to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy in two weeks.
1. Denver Broncos: Do you believe in destiny? The answer may be irrelevant, because it sure looks like Peyton Manning believes. He and his offense are historically good. He could be eying what would be the final game of his career.
He'll also be playing in the house that younger brother Eli built.
Not everybody is a fan of Manning for whatever reason(s), but even his detractors can't deny that the game has never had a better ambassador in a NFL player. The greatest challenge of his season, heck, maybe even of his career, is in front of him. Some movie scripts would have February 2 be a “passing of the torch” moment, one that sees a player from the next generation defeat an all-time great.
The actual ending will be much different if Manning has anything to say about it.