The possibilities are as enticing as they are endless.
In short order, we could be watching a Super Bowl between Hall of Fame coaches -- one who's already got his bust in Canton, the Washington Redskins' Joe Gibbs, and another who's got reservations, the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick.
It might not be much for sound bites, but it'd be great for X's and O's.
Or we could have a coaches' Redemption Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks' Mike Holmgren and the Denver Broncos' Mike Shanahan. Minus Brett Favre and John Elway, both coaches have fallen from Super Bowl grace and need a pick-me-up.
Then we could have a familial Super Bowl featuring quarterback brothers Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts and Eli Manning of the New York Giants. Father Archie Manning, who never got to play in one, could experience the joy of winning and losing the big game at the same time.
How about a Super Bowl for the Jakes: quarterbacks Jake Plummer of the Denver Broncos and Jake Delhomme of the Carolina Panthers? At least it'd be a hoot.
If it's January, it's the NFL playoffs and that means anything goes. Until kickoff in tomorrow's opening wild-card game between the Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, anyway.
All 12 teams still playing believe they can run the table, even if history tells them the first and second seeds from each conference will be heavily favored to reach the Super Bowl in Detroit on Feb. 5.
In the past 10 years, only four of 20 Super Bowl teams were not seeded first or second. In the past two decades, only seven of 40 Super Bowl teams were lower than a No. 2 seed.
That doesn't stop coaches like Jon Gruden -- a No. 2 seed when he took the Bucs to the Super Bowl three years ago -- from dreaming, though.
"I think every year there are dark horses that jump onto the scene," Gruden said at a news conference this week. "It's just facts. I don't really think anybody thought New England, in their first Super Bowl season, was going to go from 5-11 to 11-5 and win the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback."
Funny, but that analogy matches wonderfully with the Bucs' turnaround from 5-11 and last place to 11-5 and first in the NFC South this season. Backup quarterback? Chris Simms, who replaced injured Brian Griese as the Bucs' starter in Week 8, is a match, too.
But are the No. 3-seeded Bucs a real threat to win the NFC championship, or might they be the weakest team in a suspect conference field? They played only two division winners this season and lost to both the Chicago Bears (13-10) and Patriots (28-0). Their schedule was strictly lightweight.
Like most of this year's playoff teams, the Bucs favor one side of the ball. They have the No. 1 defense and the No. 23 offense. Rookie Carnell Williams has revived the team's running game and Simms shows great promise in the passing game, but the offense isn't there yet. Is it close enough? Gruden will find out tomorrow.
Of the 12 teams in the postseason, only the Redskins (No. 11 offense, No. 9 defense), Colts (No. 3, No. 11), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 15, No. 6) and Broncos (No. 5, No. 15) displayed relative balance through the season.
If you're trying to break down this year's tournament, here are a few indicators:
There are six teams entered with a top 10 offense, including four from the AFC (Colts, Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and Patriots). NFC teams are the Seahawks and Giants.
Six teams are in with a top 10 defense, including four from the NFC (Bucs, Bears, Panthers and Redskins). AFC teams are the Steelers and Jaguars.
Only four teams lost fewer than 20 turnovers this season (Broncos, Jaguars, Seahawks and Colts).
Eight teams had more than 30 take-aways, but only two (Bengals and Panthers) had more than 40.
Six teams amassed more than 40 sacks, led by the Seahawks with 50.
In the playoffs, there is always a priority on big plays. The Patriots and Giants each dialed up 67 offensive plays of 20 yards or longer, followed by the Broncos and Seahawks at 61.
On the flip side, the Panthers and Bears have allowed just 37 plays covering 20 yards or more. Giving up the most 20-yard plus plays were the injury-ravaged Giants, who lost three linebackers and a defensive tackle down the stretch. They surrendered 65 such plays.
Inevitably, though, playoff games are most often won by the team with the best quarterback. In this year's cast, there are four top 10 draft picks at quarterback with the two Mannings, Cincinnati's Carson Palmer and Jacksonville's Byron Leftwich.
Only two of the 12 quarterbacks have played in a Super Bowl, however. New England's Tom Brady has won three of them in the past four years, and he beat Delhomme two years ago in a memorable duel.