GREEN BAY—The playoff field of 12 has been whittled to four.
There’s really nothing to talk about in the way of scenarios, as is customary in this space, because the 2014 NFL season has just three games remaining.
Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 1 will be played by either the Packers or Seahawks from the NFC and either the Patriots or Colts from the AFC.
Green Bay is seeking its second Super Bowl appearance in the Mike McCarthy era and the sixth in franchise history, while Seattle is looking to make it back-to-back trips for a total of three on its ledger.
New England is seeking its sixth Super Bowl bid with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady as its cornerstones, and its eighth overall. Indianapolis is seeking its third appearance and first in the post-Peyton Manning era.
There’s no need to rehash what has happened through the playoffs so far, so instead, here’s a quick synopsis of the big wins and key moments from each of the four teams’ regular seasons:
The season had two turning points, after the loss in Detroit in Week 3 and the loss in New Orleans in Week 8. After the first, QB Aaron Rodgers told everyone to “R-E-L-A-X,” and after the second, the Packers made personnel changes on defense, beginning with LB Clay Matthews, that paid considerable dividends.
Green Bay’s last-second win in Miami in Week 6 was its most dramatic, while the home victories over the Patriots in Week 13 and the Lions in Week 17 were the most meaningful.
The defending champs bottomed out, so to speak, with a loss in Kansas City in Week 11 that dropped them to 6-4, but then they got on a roll. They won six straight to close the regular season, with five of those coming against playoff contenders San Francisco (two), Arizona (two) and Philadelphia.
The return of injured linebacker Bobby Wagner after the loss to the Chiefs helped Seattle’s defense return to form, and the 17 points allowed in last week’s playoff win over Carolina were the most the Seahawks have surrendered since that Kansas City game.
Once again Kansas City is a team’s turning point, as New England’s blowout loss there on a Monday night in Week 4 had national pundits speculating the Belichick-Brady magic was dead. Yeah, right.
The Patriots’ explosive offense returned, and they ripped off seven wins in a row before losing at Lambeau Field. That is New England’s only loss in a game that mattered (they rested starters in Week 17 with the AFC’s No. 1 seed wrapped up) since the calendar turned to October.
Indy’s playoff pedigree was questioned due to regular-season losses to AFC favorites Denver, Pittsburgh and New England, plus a humbling, five-touchdown defeat at Dallas in Week 16.
Wins in October over eventual postseason entrants Baltimore and Cincinnati, though, showed what the Colts can do when they’re playing their best. They had an incredibly difficult schedule outside the otherwise awful AFC South, and therefore they may have actually entered the playoffs more battle-tested than at first glance.
For all Packers-Seahawks preview coverage, click here.