The Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers remain on target as the projected Super Bowl opponents, according to the NFL Sports Power Rankings.
The No. 1 ranked Broncos will face No. 6 New England in the AFC Championship game Sunday in Denver. The Broncos advanced to the AFC championship for the first time in eight seasons with a seven-point win over No. 11 San Diego in the divisional playoffs.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who set NFL records for touchdown passes and passing yards during the regular season, is 4-10 against New England quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots, including 0-2 with Denver. The quarterbacks split a pair of AFC title games when Manning was the Indianapolis quarterback.
The Patriots moved up two places in the NFL Power Rankings and gained their third straight spot in the AFC title game with a 43-22 victory over the No. 12 Indianapolis Colts in the divisional playoffs, as LeGarrette Blount rushed for 166 yards and a franchise-record four touchdowns.
Colin Kaepernick threw one touchdown pass and ran for another score and the No. 2 49ers advanced to their third consecutive NFC Championship Game with a 23-10 victory over the No. 8 Carolina Panthers in the divisional playoffs. The 49ers will face the No. 5 Seattle Seahawks at rowdy CenturyLink Field in Seattle next Sunday for a chance to play in their second straight Super Bowl.
The Seahawks, the NFC’s No. 1 seed, moved within one game of a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII after holding off the No. 3 New Orleans Saints with a 23-15 decision in an NFC Divisional Playoff at a stormy and soggy CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks have gone an intimidating 16-1 in Russell Wilson’s two years as the starting quarterback.
Despite the 8-point result, New Orleans and Seattle switched places in this week’s NFL Power Rankings because the Seahawks had blasted the Saints by 27 points in their previous meeting on December 2. The closer result in the playoff game resulted in a downgrade in Seattle’s ratings and an upgrade in New Orleans’s.
Here are the complete NFL Power Rankings, through games of January 12, 2014: