SB storylines have plenty of sizzle

An entire week has been devoted to two games and four teams battling for two spots in one big game.

But the next two weeks will be devoted to one game and two teams battling for one trophy.

Here is a look at what would be some of the storylines for any of the potential matchups for Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 1.

Colts vs. Seahawks: Call this matchup the Contract Bowl, with the winning quarterback getting an edge in his pending contract negotiation. Each quarterback, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and Seattle's Russell Wilson, is expected to land a mega-contract this offseason. Each was a part of the famed quarterback draft class of 2012 and each will be eligible for a new deal for the first time this winter.

Luck's contract figures to weigh in as the richest in NFL history, roughly $25 million per season (affording him the luxury of upgrading from the flip phone he still uses, if he so chooses). Wilson's contract is expected to come in well north of $20 million per season. But if Wilson wins his second straight Super Bowl, it would be very easy to make the argument that he deserves to be the highest-paid player in the game.

Patriots vs. Packers: A rematch of the Packers' 35-21 victory in Super Bowl XXXI (January 1997) in what turned out to be Bill Parcells' last game with the Patriots before he bolted for the Jets.

If this comes to fruition, Northern California would look on proudly. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers grew up in Chico, California, idolizing 49ers quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady grew up in San Mateo, California, idolizing Montana. And so the pride of Northern California would be squaring off in Glendale, with the winning quarterback earning another Super Bowl for his résumé.

Patriots vs. Seahawks: A matchup that would pit a Patriots team that dominated the first decade of this century against a Seahawks team that is set up to dominate the second decade of this century. There would be comparisons between the great Patriots defenses that helped win three Super Bowl titles and the current Seahawks defense trying to help bring a second straight Super Bowl title to Seattle.

It also would be a matchup that would further highlight the football acumen of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whose past two head-coaching hires have been Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick. Kraft fired Carroll in January 2000 after Carroll led New England to a 27-21 record that included two playoff trips in three seasons, a feat many franchises would be beyond thrilled to accomplish these days. But because Kraft then hired one of the -- if not the -- greatest football coaches of all time to replace him, no one can accuse Kraft of acting hastily with Carroll.

Colts vs. Packers: A heartland Super Bowl, with two Midwest teams staking their claim to greatness out West. It would pit a future NFL MVP, Luck, going up against the expected current NFL MVP, Rodgers, with both quarterbacks handling similar professional situations.

Luck had to succeed all-time franchise great Peyton Manning; Rodgers had to succeed all-time franchise great Brett Favre. But with a victory on the first Sunday of February and the last Sunday of the season, one of these quarterbacks would further elevate his standing and cement his legacy as one of the greats in his franchise's history.

Plight of assistant coaches: Rules are set up to allow assistant coaches the opportunity to interview for head-coaching jobs and to give them an advantage. Problem is, the rules sometimes create a disadvantage.

It happened this year for Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, just as it has happened to other assistants in other seasons, and will happen for more valuable assistants in future seasons.

Here's how it works: Assistant coaches on wild-card teams that win their opening playoff game are not allowed to interview for head-coaching jobs until the week after those games end. There is then a one-week window for assistants preparing for the divisional playoffs to also interview for head-coaching jobs.

The problem for Hamilton was the midnight Sunday curfew the Colts imposed on him. Hamilton talked with the Raiders just hours after Indianapolis' wild-card win over Cincinnati. But Buffalo officials, who were on the West Coast doing interviews, could not make it to Indianapolis to beat the midnight curfew, so they went on with their search, bypassed Hamilton and wound up hiring Rex Ryan. Hamilton never got his chance with the Bills.

Now, maybe Buffalo never would have hired Hamilton anyway. But Hamilton should at least have had the opportunity to state his case.

Maybe in the future, windows to interview assistant coaches could be extended, or rules to restrict team-imposed curfews could be implemented, so that no assistant or team hiring a coach misses out. Any coveted assistant coach is in demand for the right and responsible choices he has made. Why not trust him to make more of those, knowing he would not put his current employer in a bad position?

There has to be a way to give assistant coaches and hiring teams more flexibility without hurting the teams that have worked so hard to position themselves in the playoffs. What happened this year simply was not fair.

Pro Bowl is a draw: One week from Sunday, in the same stadium that will host Super Bowl XLIX, ESPN will carry this year's Pro Bowl, a game that is routinely and roundly criticized.

Yet for all the criticism, this much also is undeniable: People watch it.

They will say they don't, but they do. TV ratings support it.

Despite the fact that the Pro Bowl aired last year opposite the Grammy Awards, it still drew 11.4 million viewers, making it the most watched all-star game of any sport. This was nothing new, either.

In each of the past five years, the Pro Bowl has been the most watched all-star game of any sport.

So even with fans complaining about the Pro Bowl, and the NFL wondering whether it should continue it, the numbers suggest it is an unmistakable TV success.


Game of the Week: Packers at Seahawks -- Green Bay tries to win at a venue in which Seattle is 25-2 over the past three seasons. But no NFC team has reached consecutive Super Bowls since the 1996-97 Packers.

Player of the Week: Brandon Bolden-LeGarrette Blount-Jonas Gray-Shane Vereen or whichever running back the Patriots decide to feature -- Last time New England faced Indianapolis, Gray carried 37 times for 201 yards and four touchdowns; since then, Gray has carried only 20 times for 80 yards and one touchdown. But one of these New England running backs has the chance to burst out.