By JOEL SOLOMON
2 Point Lead
Twenty of 32 NFL teams have already been eliminated from the playoffs. Life moves on. So if you aren't a fan of one of the 12 remaining clubs you're going to still want a great matchup to watch on Super Bowl Sunday, February 7.
And, of course, if you're a New York Jets fan, you'll root for any team but the New England Patriots.
These are our five most intriguing potential Super Bowl 50 matchups:
5. CAROLINA PANTHERS VS. DENVER BRONCOS
A Super Bowl that gives us the top seeds in each conference would feature probable league MVP Cam Newton going against the league's top ranked defense. Peyton Manning could win one more title and ride off to Canton, like former Broncos great John Elway.
Or could it be Cam's first ring as he starts to build his own legacy. Carolina has had skeptics all season long despite running off a league best 15-1 record. Now here comes the hard part: proving them wrong again and winning the Super Bowl. Despite all the dabbing, the Panthers still aren't the league's sexiest team, as neither unit ranks in the top five (11th on offense and 6th on defense). Newton has carried them all season and it's easy to forget he's just five years removed from leading Auburn to a BCS title.
4) GREEN BAY PACKERS VS. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
How fitting in the 50th year of the Super Bowl we get a rematch of the very first one back in 1967. For an event and a game that celebrates its history and nostalgia, there's no better matchup than one that comes completely full circle. The Chiefs versus the Packers would give us Andy Reid looking for his first ring in his 17th season as a head coach, as well as long-waited revenge for Len Dawson and the Chiefs of yesteryear. For the Packers this would be Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers looking to one up their championship predecessors Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre.
3) MINNESOTA VIKINGS VS. HOUSTON TEXANS
At the Super Bowl you want to see the NFL's biggest stars on its biggest stage with a chance to solidify their Hall of Fame career with a ring. It would be hard to argue two bigger stars chasing a title than Adrian Peterson and JJ Watt. There would be plenty of storylines to discuss during media week from AP's comeback after last season's suspension, to the charismatic dancing machine Watt. This matchup would pit one of the greatest running backs in the history of the game versus a once-in-a-generation defensive monster. Also the Texans could break the curse of a team who was on that season of HBO's Hard Knocks winning the Super Bowl.
2) PITTSBURGH STEELERS VS. ARIZONA CARDINALS
This would be a Super Bowl XLIII rematch with some key players still involved, such as Ben Roethlisberger, James Harrison and Larry Fitzgerald. But the bigger storyline would be Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who was the offensive coordinator of that Steelers team and helped turn Big Ben into the big-arm quarterback he is today. This would also stage an old AFC North rivalry at quarterback between Roethlisberger and former Bengals signal-caller Carson Palmer, who could never seem to take over the top spot in the division. Arizona has been one of the best stories in football, so what better way to make history than by getting revenge?
1A) DENVER BRONCOS VS NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (We know, read on ... )
... Of course this would be the AFC Championship and not a Super Bowl, but there's no better matchup than Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning with a trip to Levi's Stadium on the line. Brady leads the all-time series 11-5, but they've split 2-2 in the playoffs with Peyton winning the last two. Peyton isn't what he once was, but to see this epic matchups between two future Hall of Famers perhaps for the last time would be must-watch television.
1) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Two words: Redemption Bowl! Patriots/Seahawks Part 1 was the most watched telecast in U.S. history with 114.4 million viewers. Now one calendar year later they'd be replaying one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. After leaving University of Phoenix Stadium last February with a feeling they'd probably never shake off, the Seahawks wouldn't have it any other way. Best of all, imagine late in the fourth quarter, Seattle marches for a winning score and it comes down to one last goal line play!
This time around, does Peter Carroll hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch or does he roll the dice again and let Russell Wilson throw? On the flip side, Tom Brady would be going for a fifth ring, besting Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most all time by a quarterback.
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