Advertisement

A look at this year's Super Bowl shuffle

A look at this year's Super Bowl shuffle
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady heads to a podium for a news conference on Jan. 18 ahead of New England's AFC championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

With one more Sunday of games left before Super Bowl LI, here are the four potential matchups for that Feb. 5 showcase game in Houston.

Unlike last weekend's divisional round, when all four games were rematches from the regular season, these potential Super Bowl pairings did not face each other this fall.

Advertisement

A look at what might be:

Atlanta-New England – In a way, this would be Tom Brady vs. Brady Jr. When Atlanta's Matt Ryan was quarterback at Boston College, where the team got to No. 2 in the national rankings his senior year, he went to great lengths to study and emulate the Patriots star. Brady, meanwhile, has long admired ageless defensive end Dwight Freeney, who faced him frequently when he tormented quarterbacks for Indianapolis. "He's a phenomenal player," Brady said of Freeney in 2011. "If I could be a defensive end, I'd be like him."

Falcons Coach Dan Quinn was Seattle's defensive coordinator under Pete Carroll for the past two Seahawks Super Bowls. That includes the heartbreaking loss to New England.

Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are the general manager and assistant general manager of the Falcons. They worked under Coach Bill Belichick, first in Cleveland and then in New England.

The Patriots and Falcons have played four times in the Brady era, with New England winning each of them, and three taking place in Atlanta.

Atlanta is the only franchise among the remaining four that has not won a Super Bowl, losing in its only appearance to Denver, 34-19, in early 1999 — the last game of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.

Fifteen years ago, the Patriots played their final game at Foxboro Stadium and it was a memorable one, a divisional playoff game against Oakland hinged on the so-called "tuck rule." New England won, and ended that season with its first Super Bowl victory.

The Falcons are hoping their final season in the Georgia Dome ends with that kind of flourish. They move into their new stadium next season.

Atlanta-Pittsburgh — These teams don't face each other often, meeting four times since the 2002 season. Three of those games went to overtime, and one ended in a 34-34 tie. The Steelers have a 2-1-1 edge in those games.

This matchup would feature former defensive coordinators who went on to become head coaches in Quinn and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, and offensive coordinators who are NFL legacies. The Steelers have Todd Haley, the son of personnel man Dick Haley, who assembled all those classic Pittsburgh teams, and the Falcons have Kyle Shanahan, whose father, Mike Shanahan, coached Denver to two Super Bowl victories.

Two of the best receivers in football would square off in this game, Atlanta's Julio Jones and Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, and this would be an intriguing running back combination too, with Steelers Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams on one side, and Falcons Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman on the other.

In early 2007, the Steelers hired Tomlin, and the Falcons hired Bobby Petrino. One of those worked out well.

Green Bay-New England — This is one of two possible Super Bowl rematches, and could be an epic quarterback showdown between Brady and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Both grew up in Northern California, and both have significant others who are famous in their own right. That's Brady's wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and Rodgers' girlfriend, actress Olivia Munn.

The Packers beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, with Brett Favre leading Green Bay to a 35-21 victory in early 1997. More recently, Green Bay beat New England at Lambeau Field two years ago, 26-21, in the only meeting between Rodgers and Brady.

Advertisement

Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers was secondary coach in New England for one season before coming to Green Bay in 2009.

When Belichick was with the Browns, he coached Clay Matthews Jr., the father of Packers star linebacker Clay Matthews.

Incidentally, Belichick has a chance to become the first NFL head coach to lift that famous football-shaped trophy for a fifth time. You know the one. Named after that legendary Green Bay coach.

Green Bay-Pittsburgh — The second of the possible Super Bowl rematches, this would be a flashback to early 2011 when Green Bay won, 31-25.

That game took place in the dazzling stadium of the Dallas Cowboys. This one would be in the home of the Houston Texans.

And Packers-Steelers would be a true rematch, in that it would feature the same coaches, the same quarterbacks, and the same host state. (Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy is from Pittsburgh, by the way.)

The Packers and Steelers have two of the best traveling fan bases, and two of the game's most iconic and storied franchises, each of whom once made the unlikely ascent from No. 6 seed to Super Bowl champion.

Both teams started slow this season, with the Packers staggering to a 4-6 start, and the Steelers sputtering to 4-5. If they were to get that far, the Steelers would have won 10 in a row, and the Packers' winning streak would be at nine.

Fox would love this matchup, and so would ticket scalpers.

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer

Advertisement
Advertisement