Super Bowl: Ranking the 49 possible matchups
Fourteen teams remain alive in the NFL playoffs, and that means 49 possible Super Bowl combinations still exist. We’ve ranked every single one of those potential matchups, using a highly scientific method involving the analysis of star power, watchability, history, on-field performance, off-field narratives, and good old-fashioned gut feelings. You know what’s #1; let’s see how the other 48 shake out …
49. Raiders vs. 49ers: Two former Bay Area colleagues reuniting would be about as much fun as watching two high school friends get together after 20 years and realize in 10 minutes they have nothing in common anymore.
48. Steelers vs. Eagles: Sure, Pennsylvania would love to choose up sides in this family squabble, but the Battle of I-76 doesn’t exactly light up the rest of the country.
47. Titans vs. 49ers: This would be a Super Bowl you watch for the commercials.
46. Raiders vs. Eagles: Rematch of Super Bowl XV, a Raiders blowout. Beyond that, not much to recommend this one.
45. Steelers vs. 49ers: Legacy franchises who are a long, long way from their glory days. The Ben Roethlisberger tributes/takedowns that would accompany any Pittsburgh Super Bowl appearance would be suffocating.
44. Bills vs. Eagles: If nothing else, the Bills would halt that four-straight-losses thing dead.
43. Bengals vs. Cardinals: Some pairings are classics. Others, well … they’re made for sampling new nacho and chili recipes at the Super Bowl party.
42. Steelers vs. Cardinals: Rematch of Super Bowl XLIII, a preposterously entertaining game and proof that even the worst matchups can sometimes — sometimes — make for great Super Bowls. Probably not this one, though.
41. Titans vs. Eagles: This would be a ground-and-pound game, with the Eagles’ top-ranked rushing offense against Tennessee’s #2 rush defense. Strength on strength!
40. Bengals vs. 49ers: Rematch of Super Bowls XVI and XXIII. Would be pretty awesome if Joe Montana and Steve Young could suit up for San Francisco … the ‘80s versions, not the current models.
39. Patriots vs. Cardinals: New England has the second-rated pass defense in the league. How would Kyler Murray fare against that?
38. Bills vs. 49ers: The #1 (Buffalo) and #3 (San Francisco) defenses square off. Ready for a 6-3 Super Bowl, folks?
37. Bengals vs. Eagles: Remember when Philadelphia police greased light poles so that celebrating Eagles fans wouldn’t climb them? That’s the mark of a good fanbase right there. This might be the only AFC team that the Eagles could beat. Might.
36. Steelers vs. Rams: It’s entirely possible that Ben Roethlisberger could collapse into powder at the hands of the Rams defense.
35. Patriots vs. Eagles: Rematch of Super Bowl LII, where the Eagles Philly-Specialed right over New England. Bill Belichick watches replays of that Super Bowl to feel alive.
34. Raiders vs. Cardinals: A couple teams without a whole lot of recent postseason history but with a whole lot of ability to make something out of nothing. This is one of those weird pairings that might end up being a classic.
33. Chiefs vs. Eagles: The Chiefs like to pass. The Eagles like to run. Both achieve their chosen aims. This matchup would be like NFL 2022 vs. NFL 1972.
32. Bills vs. Cardinals: The ball might never touch the ground between these two aerial attacks.
31. Steelers vs. Bucs: Legacy team vs. legacy QB. The narratives would swirl right up until kickoff, and then it’d be a blowout.
30. Chiefs vs. 49ers: Rematch of Super Bowl LIV, where the Chiefs stormed from behind to run away with a victory. San Francisco isn’t getting any closer to KC this year.
29. Raiders vs. Rams: Another battle of ex-neighbors. In theory, the Rams should run away with this one, but as we’ve seen as recently as Sunday night, the Raiders always seem to stay close enough to keep things interesting.
28. Titans vs. Cardinals: Arizona has one of the worst run defenses of any playoff team, which seems suboptimal when potentially facing Derrick Henry.
27. Bengals vs. Rams: Could be the first Super Bowl where the teams combine for 2,000 yards of passing offense. This one would look like a Madden game set on Rookie.
26. Chiefs vs. Cardinals: The Kliff Kingsbury Bowl! How well would the Cards’ coach fare against his onetime protege? Probably about like almost everyone else has.
25. Titans vs. Rams: Rematch of Super Bowl XXXIV. If it comes down to the final play again, you can bet every single Titan is going to be in the end zone when the ball’s thrown.
24. Raiders vs. Packers: Rematch of Super Bowl II. Green Bay more than doubled up then-Oakland, a safe bet for the result of this one, too.
23. Patriots vs. Rams: Rematch of Super Bowl LIII, one of the most boring Super Bowls in history. Do not operate heavy machinery after watching a replay of that game. This one would be a chance for Sean McVay to even up the score with Bill Belichick … or bow to the master again.
22. Patriots vs. 49ers: The Jimmy G Bowl. The once and future Patriots backup QB gets another audition in front of Belichick.
21. Bills vs. Rams: Could be the first Super Bowl to break 200 combined points.
20. Steelers vs. Packers: Rematch of Super Bowl XLV, the famed Ice Storm Bowl in Dallas. Ice is highly unlikely in Los Angeles, as is a Pittsburgh victory.
19. Raiders vs. Bucs: Rematch of Super Bowl XXXVII, the game that made Jon Gruden’s career … but don’t hold that against it. Like that game, this would be a Tampa Bay stomper.
18. Titans vs. Packers: You’d think the matchup of one-seeds would be more compelling than this. You’d think.
17. Steelers vs. Cowboys: Rematch of Super Bowls X and XIII, back in the good ol’ days when you could tear a man’s arm off and the refs would congratulate you on a good tackle. Also a rematch of Super Bowl XXX, and you probably shouldn’t even try to imagine the memes that would have surfaced had Twitter been around back then.
16. Bengals vs. Bucs: Joe Burrow may look like he just spent two hours escaping the Wet Bandits, but he’s setting up to be the future of NFL quarterbacking. How better to take that mantle than snatching it off the GOAT’s head?
15. Titans vs. Cowboys: If the right Dallas team shows up, this could be an all-timer of a Super Bowl. If the tie-their-own-cleats together Cowboys show up, the rest of America will revel in their downfall.
14. Bengals vs. Packers: The Bengals are the NFL descendant of the 2019 LSU Tigers, arguably the best college football team in history. How would that team fare against the 2021 Packers? Probably wouldn’t even score a touchdown, but you never know.
13. Raiders vs. Cowboys: Somehow Dallas and the Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders never played in a Super Bowl when both were boozing, smoking and torching their way through the NFL in the 70s, which seems weird and wrong. (They played in five of the six Super Bowls from 1976 to 1981, but never together.) Without the loons that populated those old Raider/Cowboy teams, this matchup is more a case of oh, what could have been.
12. Titans vs. Bucs: Tom Brady’s Patriots career ended on an interception to the Titans, and if you don’t think Brady remembers that and would love to tear Tennessee’s heart out, may I introduce you to Tom Brady?
11. Bengals vs. Cowboys: If the Bengals make it this far, they’ll be the darlings of the Super Bowl, at least among the people who don’t also root for the Lakers, the Yankees and Notre Dame.
10. Bills vs. Bucs: Just seeing Tom Brady across the line is enough to give Buffalo fans the shakes. This would be a strong pairing, though.
9. Chiefs vs. Rams: A rematch of one of the most entertaining regular season games of the 21st century? Yeah, we can get behind that.
8. Patriots vs. Packers: Rematch of Super Bowl XXXI, when Brett Favre got his ring and everyone just laughed at the hapless Patriots, wondering if they’d ever amount to anything. Spoiler: they did. Would be a nice closing of the loop if Rodgers were to hammer the Pats on his way out of Green Bay.
7. Chiefs vs. Bucs: Rematch of last year’s Super Bowl. This one dented KC’s dynasty hopes, but a victory here would put that train right back on the track.
6. Bills vs. Packers: When both these teams are at cruising altitude, they’re the best in the game. But both have holes in their game, and both have the tendency not to show up when the spotlight’s brightest.
5. Patriots vs. Cowboys: This one’s lost a bit of its potential luster since the departure of Tom Brady, but a battle between the team of the 1990s and the team of the 2000/2010s is always worth a story or two.
4. Bills vs. Cowboys: Rematch of Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII, the third and fourth failures of the ‘90s Bills. Buffalo fans have been waiting 30 years for this one. The tension will be galactic.
3. Chiefs vs. Packers: A rematch of Super Bowl I, and quite possibly the best pound-for-pound matchup in this entire season. Mahomes vs. Rodgers? Come on, it doesn’t get any better on the field than that.
2. Chiefs vs. Cowboys: The game’s brightest star against the league’s best-known team? This is the kind of matchup that plays well all over the country … and the world, for that matter.
1. Patriots vs. Bucs: Yep. You knew it was going to be this one. Pats-Bucs won’t be the best on-field matchup, but the drama surrounding a Brady-Belichick rematch would be visible from space.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.