[B]Enjoyable/poignant/fascinating subplots in play:[/B] New Orleans rebounds from Katrina. ... J-E-T-S Jets Jets JETS!!!!!!!! ... Without Brady/Favre/Manning overshadowing him, can Brees finally become a mainstream superstar? ... Mark Sanchez trying to win the Super Bowl on the 30th anniversary of fellow Mexican-American QB Joe Kapp leading the Vikings to Super Bowl IV. ... A superb Sean Payton/Rex Ryan coaching matchup. ... The possibility of a Larry David appearance (he's a huge Jets fan). ... The chance to hear Rex Ryan say outlandish things for a week. ... Mike and the Mad Dog being unable to resist a one-hour reunion on Radio Row every weekday. ... Two tortured fan bases that would have absolutely no idea how to react if they ever won a Super Bowl. ... Can Rex Ryan break "The Curse of the Fat Football Coach" and win a Super Bowl? ... And obviously, can New Orleans win its first Super Bowl?
[B]Annoying subplots in play:[/B] Anyone who plays the "Jets started Spygate, brought down a Patriots dynasty and now they're on top" card (sorry, the two events are not related). ... George Lopez jumping on the Sanchize Bandwagon (inevitable). ... Spike Lee.
[B]Funniest subplot:[/B] Jets fans descending on Miami and turning South Beach into every outdoor boardwalk scene from "Jersey Shore." You lookin' at me, bro? You better keep walkin', bro! Keep walkin'!
[B]Saddest subplot:[/B] If the Jets won the Super Bowl, my playoff preview -- in which (A) I argued that the NFL was now a passing league and all the old rules were dead, (B) took numerous shots at the Jets and their Round 1 chances in Cincinnati, and (C) proceeded to go 0-4 -- would immediately become the single most embarrassing column in the "Sports Guy" archives. And that's saying something.
[B]U.S. rooting breakdown: [/B]Saints, but not as much of a landslide because the Jets would be fairly big underdogs (at least 6-8 points) and people love pulling for upsets.
[B]Possibility of a memorable game:[/B] High. Good matchup for the Jets -- they could run on New Orleans, blitz the hell out of Brees and basically try to re-enact Super Bowl XXXVI (only if it had a lower point spread).
Vegas odds: 9-to-1.
[B]Enjoyable/poignant/fascinating subplots in play:[/B] Favre, Allen, Childress/"Hoarders," Ryan/Fat Curse, Sanchez/Plunkett, J-E-T-S Jets Jets JETS!!!!!!!! ... Former Jets teammates being unable to resist taking shots at Favre. ... Darrelle Revis versus Sidney Rice. ... The greatest matchup of uniform colors in Super Bowl history. ... Seeing blast-from-the-past throwback jerseys all week in South Beach (good ones like Al Toon, Sammy White, Joe Klecko, Tommy Kramer and the like) ... And, obviously, can Minnesota win its first Super Bowl?
[B]Potentially horrifying media day subplot that hasn't been mentioned yet: [/B]Someone making a "Have you ever walked into a kitchen holding a 12-pack and been ambushed by Chris Hansen?"-type joke to Brad Childress, followed by Childress vaulting his podium and pummeling him.
[B]Annoying subplots in play: [/B]Brett Favre backlash, "Pants on the Ground," Spygate, Lopez (see above).
[B]Funniest subplot:[/B] Let's say someone out there likes the Jets and Vikings. I know, random. But this person might exist. Let's say he bought a Favre/Jets jersey last season. And let's say he plans on attending Super Bowl XLIV while wearing that jersey. Wouldn't that be the greatest moment in sports bigamy history?
[B]Saddest subplot:[/B] That same sports bigamist getting pummeled to death by Jets fans after a gut-wrenching 24-20 loss.
[B]U.S. rooting breakdown:[/B] Dead even. With passion both ways. Gotta love the anti-Favre demo on one side and the anti-New York demo on the other.
[B]Possibility of a memorable game:[/B] Off the charts. Can't be calibrated. Only a Bills-Vikings or Browns-Vikings Super Bowl would have more significant "Whatever happens, one of these two effed-up fan bases is coming away as a Super Bowl champion and there's nothing we can do to stop it" potential. The Jets, Bills, Vikings and Browns are the Mount Rushmore of effed-up NFL fan bases: 50-plus years of history, lots of losing and misery, generations of fans and some particularly soul-crushing heartbreaks (in my Levels of Losing 2.0 column, those three franchises probably nailed every level combined). You can't root for any of these teams without having them infect your DNA in some way. Being a Saints fan hasn't exactly been a barrel of laughs, but there's a spiritual optimism about them -- something tied to the festiveness of Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras and the city in general -- that was beaten out of the Jets/Bills/Vikes/Browns fans a long time ago. Saints fans roll with the punches. Jets/Bills/Vikes/Browns fans expect to get punched, contort their faces into a giant wince, wait for a punch that never comes, say to themselves, "Cool, I'm not gonna get punched, it's gonna be OK!" ... and then they get clocked.
So having two of the Effed-Up Mount Rushmore teams as our Super Bowl matchup could potentially end the world as we know it. CBS should promote it, "Super Bowl XLIV: We Know It's Improbable, But Trust Us, Somebody Has To Win."
Of course, if you flip to Page 281 of your Sports Can Never Be Quite As Fun As We Want It To Be Manual, you'll notice Rule IV: "Any time there's an incredible matchup looming, forces will usually conspire to make it NOT happen." Just in the past six years, we were robbed of a Red Sox-Cubs World Series in 2003, a LeBron-Kobe finals in 2009, the Nadal-Federer rematch at Wimbledon 2009, Pacquiao-Mayweather I and Pats-Colts for the 2007 AFC title (when the Pats were 17-0). Throw in the 9-to-1 odds and a Jets-Vikes Super Bowl doesn't look so hot. Whatever. For once, the NFL final four doesn't have a potential lemon. Savor this weekend.