The regular season is finally over and things have fallen into place. Twenty teams already know where they’re picking and will start preparing for the NFL draft. Twelve others have received playoff bids and are harboring Super Bowl hopes of different degrees.
There are 36 possible Super Bowl combinations and in the past, we’ve ranked all 36 from best to worst. But I’ll be honest: I had little clue and even less inclination to figure out how to order games quarterbacked by Tom Savage, Matt Moore or Matt McGloin (and really, it’s a shame none of those quarterbacks can play each other in Super Bowl LI).
So this year, we’ve limited it to the best 20 possibilities based on both storylines and the potential for a good game. And don’t fret Texans or Dolphins fans: Each of the 12 teams makes at least two appearances regardless of the likelihood they’ll even win a single playoff game.
20. Texans-Cowboys: The Texans could be the first team to play a Super Bowl in front of its own fans … who will still probably be outnumbered by the Cowboys contingent.
19. Dolphins-Seahawks: Two teams from the exact opposite corners of the United States and a rematch of a close Week 1 contest that almost saw Miami spring a shocking upset in Seattle.
18. Raiders-Seahawks: The replay of Bo Jackson running over Brian Bosworth would be played at least 20,000 times during Super Bowl week. Old school AFC West represent.
17. Dolphins-Lions: Because you’ve always wanted a media week with Ndamukong Suh as Only two No. 6 seeds have ever won the Super Bowl (2005 Steelers, 2010 Packers) and this would be the first matchup of sixth seeds in the big game.
16. Lions-Texans: Something would have to give on the rare chance the only two teams in the field without a Super Bowl appearance met up.
15. Steelers-Lions: The most successful team of the Super Bowl era against the least. Fun fact: The Lions have only played in four playoff games past the wild card round since 1970; the Steelers have won six Super Bowls over that same stretch.
14. Chiefs-Seahawks: Another possible old school AFC West rematch.
13. Steelers-Giants: The Rooney Mara Bowl would be the first Super Bowl matchup between the two storied franchises. It’d also allow either Ben Roethlisberger or Eli Manning to become the fifth quarterback with three Super Bowl titles to his name (Brady, Montana, Bradshaw and AIkman).
12. Chiefs-Falcons: Two underrated but hungry fanbases watch a rematch of their December 4 game — a 29-28 Chiefs win in Atlanta. Plus we all get to watch Tyreek Hill and Taylor Gabriel work their undersized magic.
11. Raiders-Cowboys: One of the worst things about the Derek Carr injury was that it likely robbed us of the possibility of seeing these two teams in the Super Bowl (something that somehow never happened in the ‘70s). That’s probably good news for Houston, though. The city might never recover if these two teams actually meet.
10. Cowboys-Chiefs: The Chiefs started out as the Dallas Texans from 1960 to 1962. Wonder if there are fans still kicking around the Metroplex?
9. Steelers-Falcons: The record for total points scored in a Super Bowl is 75 (Super Bowl XXIX: San Francisco 49, San Diego 26). It’d be fun to see these two offenses make a run at that mark.
8. Steelers-Packers: If this Super Bowl XLV rematch happens, it’ll be between two teams that caught fire: Pittsburgh won seven games to end the season, Green Bay six.
7. Patriots-Giants: Third time’s gotta be a charm, right Pats fans?
6. Packers-Chiefs: A Super Bowl I rematch, half a century in the making.
5. Patriots-Seahawks: Seattle isn’t what it’s been in the past, but it beat New England in Foxborough this season and Super Bowl 49 was an absolute classic. We’ll gladly roll the dice on another round.
4. Patriots-Falcons: This matchup might not be at the front of everyone’s mind, but it has just as much potential for a great game with the league’s top scoring defense (New England) trying to harness the league’s top scoring offense (Atlanta).
3. Patriots-Packers: Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers. What more do you need?
2. Steelers-Cowboys: Tons of history to draw from in this one: These two teams have met in the Super Bowl three times with Pittsburgh holding a 2-1 edge in head-to-head and a 6-5 lead in total Super Bowl titles. Added bonus: The Cowboys’ 35-30 win in Pittsburgh on Nov. 13 was the NFL’s best game of the regular season and we’d love to see round two.
1. Cowboys-Patriots: Yes, Super Bowl media week would be insane and there’s no way anyone is running out of storylines with Jerry Jones around. But take away the hoopla that would cause TV ratings records to be smashed and we’re still left with a game between two teams that were the best in the NFL from wire to wire this year. If this matchup happens, it’ll be the fourth straight Super Bowl that the No. 1 seeds meet in the Super Bowl.
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