So, it'll be San Francisco versus New York and New England versus Baltimore. All for the right to go to the biggest game of the year. No more upstart Broncos, no more defending Packers. No more surprise Texans, and no more record-breaking Saints.
Obviously, the majority of the public wants to see a rematch of Super Bowl XLII with the Patriots facing the Giants. It's not that simple, though.
In order to get past the 49ers, the Giants will, simply put, have to overcome the underdog story of the year. With Alex Smith (he of the number one pick that has disappointed almost every one of his six previous seasons in the NFL) gunning, the 49ers have impressed upon nearly everyone by now the fact that they are a serious team. By beating the New Orleans Saints in dramatic, if not overwhelming, fashion, the 49ers have proved that their sometimes-anemic offense (especially in regards to the passing game) is not a problem and their defense is a facet upon which they may hang their collective hat.
The Giants, on the other hand, rolled over the defending Green Bay Packers in such demonstrative fashion that their offense, well-heralded previously, may become secondary to a defensive unit that sacked opposing quarterback Aaron Rodgers four times. The Giants also had their way on offense, with Eli Manning picking apart the Packers' defense in embarrassing fashion.
On the other side of the conference, the New England Patriots put an end to the miracle story of Tim Tebow's Broncos. The team that could just ran into a buzzsaw and was clearly outmatched. Tebow outlived expectations and should be proud of the wins he (and the Broncos defense) managed this season, as well as making it to the playoffs, but the Patriots offense hung 45 points on the vaunted Broncos defense.
New England looks to continue its performance next weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, whose defense is miles ahead of the Broncos. The only hitch in the Ravens' game plan could be found in their regular season record: Of the four games they lost, all were away from home. Next week they'll play at Gillette Stadium, where New England is a tidy 7-1. That sole loss, by the way? It came to the New York Giants.
Both games will be televised on Sunday, with Baltimore tipping at New England at 1 PM MST on CBS, and New York playing in San Francisco at 4:30 MST on Fox.