Maybe there isn’t as much parity in the NFL as people think. The four finalists in the NFL postseason — the Seahawks, Packers, Patriots and Colts — each has a Super Bowl victory in the previous 10 postseasons.
A little familiarity can’t hurt, though, as four of the top quarterbacks in the league are in action on Sunday to determine the AFC and NFC champions.
Here’s a glance at both games, which will set the Super Bowl XLIX matchup in Glendale, Arizona.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
PACKERS AT SEAHAWKS 3:05 p.m. Sun. on Fox/5
Defending-champion Seattle got the upper-hand when these teams met in Washington State to open this NFL season. Frankly, it’s hard to see this weekend’s matchup going much different.
Green Bay squeezed a gutsy performance out of Aaron Rodgers in last week’s 26-21 come-from-behind win over the visiting Cowboys. The trouble is, he was visibly limited and less mobile due to an injured left calf. Against the Seahawks’ elite defensive unit, Rodgers will need to be able to keep plays alive and create. Without that ability, the top weapon on the team can’t be at his best.
As for the Seahawks, they took a relatively effortless 31-17 win over the Panthers last Saturday. And that was without much of a game from beastly running back Marshawn Lynch (14 carries, 59 yards). The Packers aren’t strong against the run, so a big day on the ground from Lynch or dual-threat QB Russell Wilson shouldn’t surprise anyone.
In the end, this is Seattle’s game to lose. They rarely drop games at home and have not lost since before Thanksgiving. The Seahawks will have a chance to repeat as champs on Feb. 1.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
COLTS AT PATRIOTS 6:40 p.m. Sun. on CBS/2
Talk about a lack of parity: Tom Brady’s Patriots have been in the AFC Championship Game in each of the previous three seasons — and eight of the past 13 times. The Pats are 5-3 in those games.
The Colts, meanwhile, aren’t new to this stage. Quarterback Andrew Luck — and most of the rest of the roster — has not been to the AFC Championship game, though.
As with the Packers-Seahawks matchup, these two teams met earlier in the season. New England won that matchup, 42-20, in Indianapolis and has the benefit of hosting the rematch. That doesn’t bode well for a Colts team that lost a couple of ugly 2014 matchups on the road to playoff teams (42-7 to the Cowboys and 51-34 to the Steelers).
Luck proved in last week’s 24-13 win in Denver that previous losses don’t dictate how the rematch will play out. Still, it’s hard to feel confident that Indy has what it takes to usurp the powerhouse franchise shaped by coach Bill Belichick, which toppled the Ravens 35-31 a week ago.
Count on the Patriots to reach their sixth Super Bowl of the 21st century.