2023 NFL playoffs: Ranking top 14 potential Super Bowl matchups, including Chiefs vs. 49ers rematch

The 2023 NFL playoff picture is set, and Super Wild Card Weekend is just around the corner. Fourteen teams are preparing for a race to the Lombardi Trophy, but which ones would offer the best actual championship game? We’re so glad you asked. In celebration of the upcoming postseason, here’s a look at 14 of the most intriguing potential Super Bowl matchups:

Imagine Geno Smith advancing to the Super Bowl in his first season replacing Russell Wilson. The Seahawks may not be a well-rounded team, but they’ve been capable of fireworks. Matching up with the Chiefs is a recipe for a shootout. On top of that, you’d have Andy Reid, 64, and Pete Carroll, 71, both eyeing their second Lombardi Trophies as head coaches.

The Doug Pederson game. Five years after winning it all as the underdog in Philly, how wild would it be if the coach had a shot at a second trophy against his old team, and in his first year guiding Trevor Lawrence, no less? Funny enough, Jacksonville is also where Nick Foles — the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl MVP — landed after starring for the Birds.

This, of course, is assuming Lamar Jackson would be healthy enough to play for Baltimore. In that case, we’d have a smashmouth matchup of two teams who love to run the ball, and a rematch of Super Bowl XXXV, when the 2000 Ravens rolled over the G-Men. Brian Daboll’s physical overachievers would be good TV for the big stage.

11. Chiefs vs. Cowboys

The big-timers vs. the big market. Dallas has not been to the Super Bowl since 1995, whereas the Chiefs are looking for their second trophy in four years. The appeal is inherent, with America’s Team squaring off against the NFL’s standard-bearers.

10. Ravens vs. 49ers

Again, this probably only works as must-see TV if Lamar Jackson is active. But talk about a physical matchup, with the Ravens and 49ers boasting some of the nastiest defenses in the game. A rematch of 2012’s Super Bowl XLVII, it’d be a fitting cap to the season as John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, the ex-49ers coach, eyes a potential return to the NFL.

Maybe Tom Brady’s Bucs have been too sluggish to draw a reliable audience this year, but if they advance to the Super Bowl as an 8-9 team, well, they’ll presumably have picked up steam. Not only would this give Brady a chance at a record eighth ring (and reason to ride into the sunset for real), but it’d give KC a chance to avenge a 31-9 blowout loss in 2020’s Super Bowl LV.

8. Bengals vs. Cowboys

In Jerry Jones’ perfect world, Joe Burrow would be the Cowboys’ QB, dripping swag as much as unfazed confidence and pocket-passing prowess. With Dallas, again, the draw isn’t just the talent it has on both sides of the ball, but the aura around its franchise, which has been starved of a real run since the 1990s. Cincy, meanwhile, is still looking for its first Lombardi.

7. Bills vs. Cowboys

Dallas would be looking to tie the all-time record for most Super Bowl titles, with six. Buffalo would be seeking its first. And the potential for explosive plays, between Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb, etc. is abundant.

Few franchises have suffered more collective championship-hunting heartbreak. Both squads are still searching for their first Super Bowl win, and both remarkably have lost consecutive Super Bowls, combining to go 0-8 on the big stage. In this scenario, one of them would finally be guaranteed victory. Imagine the big-play faceoff between Stefon Diggs, the ex-Viking, and Justin Jefferson, his bedazzled successor.

5. Bengals vs. 49ers

A beautiful clash of old-school franchises featuring new-school talent. Not only would this be a rematch of both Super Bowl XVI (1981) and XXIII (1988), when the Joe Montana-led 49ers beat Cincy both times, but it’d likely mean either Joe Burrow, in just his third NFL season, or Brock Purdy, San Francisco’s improbable rookie QB, would go out on top.

4. Chiefs vs. 49ers

We just saw this one in 2019, when Patrick Mahomes won his first ring at age 24. But a lot has also changed since then: Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers’ QB at the time, is now sidelined in favor of Brock Purdy, although there’s a remote chance Jimmy G himself could be recovered from injury to appear in this year’s big game. Can you imagine that?

3. Bills vs. 49ers

On paper, this might be the most well-rounded matchup possible: You’ve got arguably the most explosive offense in the game against the stingiest defense in the game. DeMeco Ryans might have his hands full going up against Josh Allen and Co., or would it be the other way around? Either way, it’d be a virtual lock to go down to the wire.

2. Chiefs vs. Eagles

In terms of sheer spectacle, there might not be a better scenario than this. (OK, maybe one; just wait for the next matchup.) When firing on all cylinders, the Chiefs and Eagles have had this year’s cleanest, most consistent offenses. Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts would be a QB matchup to behold, Mahomes offering ultra-clutch freestyling and Hurts emerging as Philly’s unshakeable MVP. And then there’s the Andy Reid factor, with KC’s coach up against the team with which he built his career.

1. Bills vs. Eagles

It’s very similar to Chiefs-Eagles in that it prioritizes balanced offensive firepower, but this gets the slight edge because we’ve already seen Patrick Mahomes hoist or come close to hoisting the trophy aplenty. Here, Buffalo would be vying for its first-ever Lombardi against a team in the Eagles that just five years ago enjoyed confetti for the first time. The Bills also boast a better defense than the Chiefs, matching or eclipsing Philly in the ability to make plays on the ball. And Sean McDermott, like Andy Reid, would be looking to cap a magical year against his longtime employer.

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