With the vast majority of the minnows eliminated, the final rounds of the FA Cup are beginning to take shape. That isn't to say there couldn't be a surprise or two remaining; enough non-Premier League teams remaining that we could very well see a run at the Cup from a lower-level side.
We probably won't, of course; 10 of the 1 remaining teams in the FA Cup play in the top flight, and 4 of the 6 clubs at levels below the Premier League will face each other this time around. The best outcome is likely an upset or two among the remaining top flight sides coupled with an unfavorable draw for the remaining lower level sides and the elimination of anything interesting ahead of the quarterfinal round. One of the big clubs still in the competition will probably go on to win it, with the only real upside for fans of any other team being an extra Europa League spot to fight for come May.
But that's only the most likely outcome, and as long as there are smaller clubs in the competition there's still a chance that something fun may well happen. Are Hull such heavy favorites over Brighton or Cardiff really all that much better than defending champions Wigan Athletic? Is it really all that crazy to think that Sheffield United could put together a Bradford-eque run on a much bigger stage?
This is why the FA Cup is fun, at least to a certain point; so many crazy things have happened over the years that the most and least plausible scenarios really aren't that far apart in a relative sense. The intra-Premier League matches will get the lion's share of attention, with City-Chelsea and Arsenal Liverpool almost certainly drawing more eyeballs than any other match, but that doesn't mean that those game are inherently more meaningful.
For Forest, the Latics, the Blades, the Addicks, the Owls, and the Seagulls, this is the closest thing to glory that they have right now. It's just far enough along in the competition to dream big, but not so far that the reality of the challenge at hand has become impossible to ignore. Let's all root for something fun, everybody.
A full list of the weekend's fixtures is below.
Saturday, February 15th
Cardiff City vs. Wigan Athletic (15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET)
Manchester City vs. Chelsea (17:15 GMT/12:15 PM ET)
Sunday, February 16th
Sheffield United vs. Nottingham Forest (15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET)
Arsenal vs. Liverpool (16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET)
Monday, February 17th
Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Hull City (19:45 GMT/2:45 PM ET)