The 49ers and Patriots are playing in their third consecutive conference championship, while the Broncos and Seahawks both lost in the divisional round last year. Well whaddya know? We're one step away from the rare occurrence of the favorites prevailing and the chalk picks making it all the way to the game's biggest stage. Way back in early October, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I declared the suspense of the NFL's 2013 season over after just four weeks and instructed everyone to prepare for a Seattle-Denver Super Bowl in early February. That's not the way the NFL has rolled in recent years. But they're sizable last steps, aren't they now? In the AFC, the top-seeded Broncos have to get past a Patriots team they couldn't even protect a 24-0 halftime lead against in Week 12, and in the NFC, the No. 1 Seahawks will renew their grudge match with a 49ers club that beat them as recently as Week 14. But the different venues in these rematches could make all the difference this time, with New England having to play before an energized Denver crowd eager to celebrate the franchise's first Super Bowl trip in 15 years, and San Francisco venturing back into the frenzied environs of Seattle's CenturyLink Field, where the 49ers have been met with humiliation the past two years.