The Final Four.
It's a term usually associated with the four semifinalists in the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Today, it takes on a different meaning.
The National Football League's playoffs are down to four teams who will compete in the NFC and AFC title games.
At 3 p.m. in Foxborough, Mass., the New England Patriots will entertain the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC championship. At 6:30 p.m., the San Francisco 49ers will play host to the New York Giants for the NFC title.
When the day is over, we will know the identity of the two participants who will play in Super Bowl XLVI (the only game so important it uses Roman numerals) on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis.
Today's games -while taking place on opposite coasts -really are quite similar.
For starters, there's no doubt who is the better quarterback in either game. There's simply no comparing New England signal-caller Tom Brady to Baltimore QB Joe Flacco. The Patriots will enjoy a huge talent advantage at the most important position on the field. Ditto in game two where Eli Manning gives the Giants the edge over Alex Smith and the 49ers.
That's all many people need to know. They look at the quarterbacks as being much like the pitchers in a baseball game. There's no doubt they are the most likely players to determine the outcome.
Yet, it isn't quite that simple. There are many other factors that will go into determining the outcomes, including luck (no, not Andrew, he hasn't been drafted yet).
While New England and New York have the edge at quarterback, it is San Francisco and Baltimore who will bring the stronger defenses to the field, and that immediately makes both games competitive.
Plus, look at all the interesting angles.
Start with the Harbaugh brothers -49ers coach Jim and Ravens coach John - who are one win apiece away from coaching against each other in the Super Bowl. I don't know about you, but I would rather watch them for two weeks leading up to the big game than Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Patriots coach Bill Belichick, two of the most dour personalities in the NFL.
Then there's Brady, who led New England to three titles in four years from 2002 to 2005. He's running out of time to get another ring.
Yet, we've seen lesser quarterbacks lead their teams to Super Bowl titles, including West Virginia University graduate Jeff Hostetler who led the Giants to a 20-19 win over the Buffalo Bills in 1991, when he took over the team after starter Phil Simms broke his foot with two games to play in the regular season.
Of all the professional sports leagues in America, the NFL is the best at achieving parity. It's likely we will be treated to two close games today, and more than likely an upset -or even two.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org