Which is the best playoff team left standing?


And now, another wholly organic email chain from the Around The League team:

From: Hodgson, Henry
Sent: Monday, January 13, 2014 11:14 AM
To: Wesseling, Chris; Hanzus, Dan; Sessler, Marc; Rosenthal, Gregg; Patra, Kevin

You guys are probably just sitting around right now, making lunch plans and updating your Pinterest pages. Time to get back to work. I have a question for you, and I want it answered immediately. Who is the best team still alive in the postseason? Obviously I could wait three weeks and see for myself Super Bowl Sunday, but I'm impatient and I want answers now.

Get to it.

GR: An organic email chain started by a superior feels somehow less organic. But I will answer it anyway because I want to stay employed.

On a neutral field, the 49ers are the most complete. I trust their passing game more than Seattle's and San Francisco doesn't have a huge weakness like the respective defenses of Denver and New England. They also have more pleated khakis.

CW: Gregg stole my answer. I believe the 49ers are the most complete team in the league, but all analysis goes out the window in CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks on their home turf are the best team in the NFL.

Don't sleep on the Broncos. The only team to hold them under 400 yards this season was just dispatched in Denver yesterday.

MS: The 49ers have won me over.

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I get the CenturyLink heat, but no team in the league has won more games on the road this season than San Francisco. They didn't mind doing business in frigid Lambeau or dropping a hammer in Carolina.

Harbaugh's a freaky man, and the 49ers are peaking at the right time. I like this defense against a 'Hawks offense generating 8.3 fewer points and 98.5 fewer yards over the past five weeks. #UpsetSpecial

DH: OK, so Gregg and Marc have the Niners. Wess has the Niners, Seahawks and Broncos in a harmonious three-way tie (I think). Henry seems to be slowly coming unhinged in his windowless corner office.

As for me: I guess this is where I'm supposed to pick the Patriots and write about how they're a team of destiny and #BostonStrong and all that. But I can't. I think they're the fourth-best team remaining, and I don't think it's that close.

The Seahawks have the most talent. They have the best record. They have the home field. This will carry the day.

KP: This is ridiculous. I'm getting a sick feeling we are all following the Pleated Piper to our ultimate doom over a CenturyLink cliff.

However, as hopped up on cold medicine as I currently sit, I'm in no condition to resist the dulcet tones of Jim Harbaugh.

On NFL Network
"NFL Replay" will re-air the two 49ers- Seahawks matchups from the 2013 regular season:

The Seahawks' 29-3 win over the 49ers from Week 2 will air on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 3 p.m. ET. and at 10:30 p.m. ET.

The 49ers' 19-17 win over the Seahawks from Week 14 will air on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET. and Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 12 a.m. ET.

» Can't wait? Watch it now on Game Rewind
» NFL Network schedule

I've been all over town the last month babbling about how the 49ers have been the most balanced NFL team since Michael Crabtree's return. Of course, you wouldn't know this, given the long road of corn fields and mountain ranges that separate us. I would gladly return to those Chicago pubs to provide witnesses to stated ravings, if necessary.

Now, I want to see Dan be brave.

GR: This organic email chain is a disaster on the level of the Browns' coaching search. I blame Handsome Hank.

MS: I'm not sure it's FBI-raid level ugly, but there's a stink to this conversation.

CW: Nuance is out, simple is in.

The Broncos are better than the Patriots. The Seahawks at CenturyLink are better than any team in the league. The Seahawks are better than the Broncos on a neutral, cold-weather field. The Seachickens are the best team in the playoff field.

GR: Well ... the Cardinals were better than Seattle at CenturyLink.

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That game is instructive because I think the 49ers are built similarly on defense. I know that this last weekend was largely about running and defense, but it's hard for me to see the team with the worst passing game in the Final Four as the best team.

CW: If we're going by the "one game in the past in instructive" theory, the Seahawks were 29-3 better than the Niners at CenturyLink.

HH: I ask a simple question to three so-called experts, and wind up with three totally different answers. I have, however, learned something from this exchange:

» There's a guy called Kevin working on Around The League content. Nice to meet you, Kevin.

» The Patriots aren't anyone's pick as the best remaining team. This tells me they will likely be holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy when the blizzard settles at the end of the game in New York a few weeks from now.

» Organic email exchanges are the best way to distract Dan from 're-pinning' his favorite kitchen interiors on Pinterest.

I guess I'll just have to wait until Super Bowl Sunday to get a decent answer. Thanks for trying.

GR: I hate you all.




The latest "Around The League Podcast" broke down all four Divisional Round games and looked ahead to a monster Conference Championship weekend.