The Super Bowl is only a few short weeks away, and over 100 million of us will gather to watch it no matter who’s playing. And while we don’t yet know the exact teams in the mix, we can hazard a guess: it’ll be one of the 36 matchups listed below. Twelve teams, two conferences, one champion. Let’s run down the possibilities, from 36 (eh, it’s still football) to 1 (cancel all other plans for 48 hours in either direction). Games are rated according to a highly scientific and proprietary formula encompassing watchability, entertainment value, relative team talent and good old-fashioned gut feelings. Let’s roll.
36. Colts vs. Seahawks: The singular most boring matchup imaginable, from every angle. This matchup tests the very limit of the “yeah, it’s the Super Bowl, but I might not even watch” theory. (Spoiler: you will watch.)
35. Chargers vs. Seahawks: A team with no fans vs. a team whose fans are on the other side of the country from where the game’s being played. The Chargers won the regular-season matchup, so it’s not like this is anything we haven’t seen even this year. Sorry, Seattle. You lack the unique spice of previous Seahawks squads.
34. Colts vs. Eagles: They both squeaked in on the last day of the season, so they’d leave a whole lot of broken hearts in their wake if they got this far. Plus, Philly would be playing for back-to-back championships, and nobody wants to see Philly fans that happy.
33. Texans vs. Seahawks: There are teams in the NFL that seem to operate in totally different universes. These are two such teams. At least there will be funny ads.
32. Chargers vs. Eagles: Pretty much the same book on this game as Colts-Eagles, with the notable exception that Philip Rivers might spontaneously combust if forced to deal with two weeks’ worth of Philly fans’ abuse.
30. Ravens vs. Eagles: Two Eastern Seaboard birds. Feel the excitement. It feels like cracked interstate pavement.
29. Texans vs. Rams: Watching the Texans defense try to contain the Rams offense would make for some interesting betting propositions, at least. Sort of an irresistible force-immovable object scenario.
28. Ravens vs. Seahawks: Will be entertaining watching Seattle come up with all kinds of new touchdown celebration routines and then getting to execute exactly none of them.
27. Chargers vs. Bears: Much like the Chargers’ other Super Bowl appearance, this would almost certainly be an “oh yeah, that did happen, forgot all about that one” Super Bowl.
26. Ravens vs. Saints: In their game earlier this year, New Orleans squeaked past Baltimore. As with any other Baltimore matchup, if the Ravens can drag the Saints into a ditch, this will go Baltimore’s way. Anything else and it’s all New Orleans.
25. Texans vs. Saints: JJ Watt vs. Drew Brees! Is that enough to carry a Super Bowl? Sure, why not? The Battle For I-10 would have some decent off-field storylines, if nothing else.
24. Colts vs. Bears: Rematch of Super Bowl XLI, where Peyton Manning got his first Super Bowl victory against an overmatched and all-but-forgotten Bears team. These are not those Bears, and this game would not go that way.
23. Chiefs vs. Eagles: This has a very “Is This Your King?” vibe to it, as the Chiefs would utterly decimate the Eagles and steal the crown right off their broken skulls. It’d be half of a fun game.
22. Ravens vs. Cowboys: Dallas played Baltimore way back in Super Bowl V, but it was the Colts, not the Ravens. This might end with Baltimore’s defense treating poor Dak Prescott like a chicken wing.
21. Colts vs. Rams: Any game with the Rams, Chiefs or Saints in it is automatically entertaining, but this is going to push it. Colts could be down by half a hundred by halftime.
20. Chargers vs. Cowboys: With all the kids Philip Rivers has, it’s a statistical certainty that at least two of them are bandwagon Dallas fans.
19. Colts vs. Saints: A Super Bowl XLIV rematch, where we get to see if Drew Brees can do to Peyton Manning’s replacement what he did to Manning back in 2010. Bet he can.
18. Ravens vs. Rams: Top-shelf defense vs. top-shelf offense is never not entertaining.
17. Texans vs. Eagles: This would have been a low-30s game were it not for their Christmas Eve-eve game, when Philly won 32-30 and Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney nearly tore off Nick Foles’ head. Bad blood flowin’ between these two teams, and that’s always good news.
16. Patriots vs. Seahawks: The Seahawks would run the ball every. Damn. Down. And probably lose again, even worse this time. Plus, we’re all sick of seeing the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Anyone new. Anyone.
15. Colts vs. Cowboys: Colts straight-out blanked the Cowboys in their regular-season meeting, the game that brought Dallas back down to Earth. Outside of that, there’s not a whole lot going for this particular game.
14. Patriots vs. Eagles: Rematch! Reeeeematch! You know Patriots fans would like this matchup more than any other potential one on the board, if only to settle scores like they’re wrapping up “The Godfather.”
13. Ravens vs. Bears: Defensive battles are like pitcher’s duels, always much better in theory than practice. You don’t want stalwart defensive stands when you’re face-deep in buffalo cheese dip, you want bombs and mega-kicks and 70-yard broken-field runs. Save these defensive battles for when there’s snow on the ground.
12. Chiefs vs. Cowboys: This one gets knocked down only because it’d be over before the first quarter. Absolutely no way Dallas puts up any kind of decent defense against Kansas City. Patrick Mahomes would drop 28 on the Cowboys in his first possession, somehow.
11. Patriots vs. Bears: A rematch of Super Bowl XX — the Ditka/”Super Bowl Shuffle” Bears year — which must come as a real shock to Patriots fans who thought the team burst into existence when Tom Brady arrived. This would be a heavy Patriots-fatigue Bowl, and the whole country would be pulling for Chicago … which probably wouldn’t be able to muster another 46-10 win. New England won the regular-season matchup 38-31.
10. Chargers vs. Rams: The battle for Los Angeles! Imagine telling someone in 2015 that it would be Los Angeles vs. Los Angeles for the 2018-season Super Bowl. There are probably a whole lot of other things you’d want to tell that person from 2015, but this is one of so many, many facts that would blow their mind. The Rams won the regular-season game, played back before the Chargers found their feet.
9. Texans vs. Cowboys: This could be an unexpectedly decent game; the Texans beat the Cowboys in overtime earlier in the season. But this would get Texas all over our pretty Super Bowl, and that’s a stain that doesn’t come out easily.
8. Chiefs vs. Seahawks: A rematch of a regular-season game that was surprisingly enjoyable; the Seahawks were able to expose the Chiefs in a way few teams had all year. This game would be the polar opposite of smashmouth football, but it’d be damn fun all the same.
7. Chargers vs. Saints: The Drew Brees Bowl! Winner gets to claim Brees as its own forevermore. Plus, watching Brees and Philip Rivers air it out for 60 straight minutes of game time and about seven linear miles of air travel would just be the best.
6. Patriots vs. Rams: A Super Bowl XXVI rematch, the first win of the Patriots dynasty — think we’d hear about that a little during the run-up to the game? This would be a classic matchup of precision vs. speed, and could end up being a great game. Of course, everyone sick of the Patriots would be too fed up to care.
5. Chiefs vs. Bears: The best offense in the game versus the best defense in the NFC? Hell yes. Here’s where we find out just how well Patrick Mahomes can handle pressure, and just how creative the Bears can be in scheming for the KC offensive lunacy.
4. Patriots vs. Saints: One of the great quarterback matchups of all time in the Super Bowl, and one of the great pure team matchups as well. The salt coming off both head coaches could dust a billion pretzels, and yeah, no one wants to see the Patriots in a Super Bowl anymore, but still — this would be an instant classic.
3. Patriots vs. Cowboys: You would be looking at the highest-rated Super Bowl in history right here. Roger Goodell and the NFL have to be salivating over this possibility like dogs looking at a sizzling steak. The Cowboys fanbase hasn’t truly risen up en masse since before the Patriots were any good, so seeing these two bandwagons hammer away at each other for two weeks would be tremendous fun. Unfortunately for everyone outside of Boston, the Patriots would annihilate the Cowboys, but it’d be a fun pregame.
2. Chiefs vs. Rams: A rematch of the finest game of the regular season, which takes the tiniest bit of luster off the matchup. The Rams won that one, 54-51, in a tight defensive struggle. Can you imagine how insane a game like that would be in the Super Bowl? Let’s all try.
1. Chiefs vs. Saints: The GOAT matchup. Best quarterback of the future against one of the best of recent history. Two astounding franchises, two No. 1 seeds, two worthy potential champions. This could end up being one of the great Super Bowls of all time, with 2,000 yards of offense and 200 combined points. We can hope.
The Super Bowl is five weeks away. Make your case on which of these 36 scenarios will come to pass.
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