Just four remain in the Face of the NFL bracket that will unequivocally remove debate about who deserves to be the single representative of what the NFL is all about.
For the first time, No. 1 seeds fell in the Elite Eight with both Cam Newton and Tom Brady losing to a pair of non-quarterbacks. J.J. Watt, everyone's favorite "He just gets it" player, took out Newton, while it was Brady's own teammate, Rob Gronkowski, who eliminated the New England Patriots quarterback.
Both were matchups of players that had a strong case at winning it all, and the South region featured a pair of players who draw as much attention and camera time as any in the league. While Newton is the reigning NFL MVP, Watt has earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in three of the last four seasons.
The other two top seeds survived, though. Aaron Rodgers beat Antonio Brown to be the representative of the North region and he didn't even have to go on Dancing with the Stars to get there. And Russell Wilson topped Larry Fitzgerald in a race that drew the most votes of any matchup.
The Elite Eight produced debate and close contests, but just three matchups remain before a champion is crowned.
Voting is now closed, but come back Friday to see which two stars will face off in the championship round.
No. 3 Rob Gronkowski def. No. 1 Tom Brady
Gronkowski's huge numbers came from Brady and Brady's been helped a ton by Gronk running over defenders. But in a head-to-head battle, Gronk's the goofy party animal who has America's heart. While Brady certainly has no shortage of fans in New England, there are plenty of non-Patriots fans who just plain don't like the guy.
No. 1 Russell Wilson def. No. 2 Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald has been one of the NFL's best receivers for more than a decade now, but it's very hard to beat a young, elite quarterback who has a Super Bowl ring. Both are mild-mannered ambassadors for the game, but Fitzgerald generally stays out of the headlines altogether, while Wilson Whips and Nae Naes on Nickelodeon with his celebrity fiancée.
No. 1 Aaron Rodgers def. No. 2 Antonio Brown
One player is in Green Bay and the other in Pittsburgh, yet one is photobombing celebrities at movie premieres and the other is doing the rumba on Dancing with the Stars. But like Fitzgerald, it's too much to ask Brown to top a franchise quarterback who has a celebrity girlfriend of his own.
No. 1 Cam Newton vs. No. 2 J.J. Watt
The case for Newton:
Cam Newton is the reigning NFL MVP, but his impact on the Carolina Panthers and the NFL goes beyond his contributions on the field.
Newton single-handedly took dabbing from something you hadn't heard of to something that desperately needed to go away in all of a few months. Even Roger Goodell and Robin Roberts were dabbing together on ABC News before the Super Bowl.
He's a dancing, dabbing, football-gifting, constantly smiling tank of a quarterback who presents challenges that defenses have never faced. If you've watched a football game in the last year or two, you probably have an opinion about Newton that falls anywhere in the range of entertaining superhero to classless punk, but likely not anywhere near the middle.
While J.J. Watt is a living, breathing "Our troops are the real heroes" meme complete with intentionally awkward (?) dancing, Fort Minor rapping, the most lukewarm opinions possible and a distaste for anyone who doesn't take football super seriously, Newton is the antithesis. He's a player who doesn't forget that the game is supposed to be fun and entertaining, and he manages to look cool and smooth every step of the way.
But unfortunately, the polar differences between the two players often stir conversations of race.
"I'm an African-American quarterback," Newton said before the Super Bowl of his many critics. "That may scare a lot of people because they haven't seen nothing that they can compare me to."
Newton is still just 26, and even though the Panthers lost Super Bowl 50, he has so many years left to smile for cameras, give little kids footballs and earn the very few football accolades he hasn't yet cruised by with ease.
The case for Watt:
If Newton finds a way to win games, then Watt finds a way to dominate them. Even in a league bursting with athletic, productive defensive linemen, Watt stands out. In fact, he doesn't just stand out, he stands above all the rest. This past season, he joined Giants great Lawrence Taylor as the only players to ever win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award three times. Taylor himself said that Watt is "bad SOB."
"I think he's one of these guys that only comes around once every 20 to 30 years," Taylor told the Houston Chronicle.
Newton led his team to the best regular season record and the Super Bowl, but it was a breakout year for the young quarterback. Watt has been a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro in four of his five seasons, and just recently turned 27. The Texans lost five of their first seven games, but pulled it together with a 7-2 record down the stretch, making it into the playoffs thanks in large part to Watt's stellar 17.5-sack season.
Off the field, he's also awkward and genuine in a way that many football players aren't, and that has value when it comes to representing the NFL in all aspects. He has his share of haters, but he's a popular figure among NFL fans and non-fans alike.
It's a shame that Watt and Newton had to face off before the finals -- this easily could have been the championship matchup if the two hadn't both belonged in the South region. But Watt's done what Newton has done for longer and with more consistency, and there's no reason to think he'll slow down.
Winner: Watt (68.8 percent vs. 31.2 percent)
Final Four matchups
No. 3 Rob Gronkowski vs. No. 1 Russell Wilson: A gigantic monster who runs over people on the field and parties with the best of them off the field against an undersized defier of the odds who is kind of weird, but in a lovable-dad-in-khaki-shorts kind of way.
No. 2 J.J. Watt vs. No. 1 Aaron Rodgers: The three-time Defensive Player of the Year against the two-time NFL MVP pits two players with a pair of strong cases as the best players in the league over the last four of five years.