Super Bowl LVI combinations: Breaking down the four potential matchups

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Tampa, Florida, Sunday, January 23, 2022 - Los Angeles Rams tight end Kendall Blanton.
Rams tight end Kendall Blanton scores a first-quarter touchdown during a 30-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. A win over the 49ers this weekend would send the Rams to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles is hosting the final four this week.

Not college basketball, but the four surviving NFL teams who are headed to their respective conference championship games.

Representatives from each of those clubs — the Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs — will check out the Super Bowl practice facilities and hotels, and review the plans and procedures for the big week. They will do everything but tour SoFi Stadium, home of the Rams and Chargers, where Super Bowl LVI will be played Feb. 13.

The visit — a short drive for the Rams — is the NFL’s standard practice during Super Bowl week, with the remaining teams crossing their fingers and daring to dream.

So it’s the 49ers at Rams in the NFC championship game, and Bengals at Chiefs in the AFC.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the possible Super Bowl combinations:

Los Angeles Rams vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes calls out a play during a divisional playoff win.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes calls out a play during a divisional playoff win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. (Colin E. Braley / Associated Press)

These teams last played in 2018 at the Coliseum, and the game was a classic, with the Rams winning, 54-51. It was the highest scoring game in the history of “Monday Night Football,” and the first time in NFL history that a team scored at least 50 points and lost. The game was originally scheduled for Mexico City but was moved to Los Angeles at the last minute because of the shoddy field condition at Estadio Azteca.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff, now with the Detroit Lions, threw for 413 yards, and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes threw for a career-high 478. There were six lead changes, four of them in the fourth quarter.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid grew up in L.A. and attended Marshall High. Although he never coached for the Rams, he did wear a Rams uniform as a 12-year-old in a punt, pass and kick contest at halftime of a Monday night game in 1973. He comically towered over his competition, and video of that went viral.

For 21 years, the Rams and Chiefs resided on opposite sides of Missouri, until the Rams returned to Southern California in 2016. Austin Blythe, backup center for the Chiefs, used to play for the Rams.

One might call this matchup a “Modern Family” feud, as actor Ty Burrell — Phil Dunphy on the long-running ABC comedy — is a devoted Rams fan, whereas castmate Eric Stonestreet, who portrayed Cameron Tucker on the show, loves the Chiefs.

Los Angeles Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow passes during a divisional playoff win over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow passes during a divisional playoff win over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday. (Brett Carlsen / Associated Press)

Zac Taylor, coach of the Bengals, was an assistant receivers coach with the Rams in 2017 and quarterbacks coach in 2018. At 38, Taylor is among the league’s youngest coaches, yet is still more than two years older than the Rams’ Sean McVay, who when he was hired at 30 was the NFL’s youngest head coach of the modern era.

Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth was a fixture for years in Cincinnati, and vouched for Taylor when the Bengals were looking to hire him.

Both quarterbacks, Matthew Stafford and Joe Burrow, were No. 1 overall selections.

Before moving to L.A. in 1946, the Rams spent a decade as the Cleveland Rams. So both franchises got their start in Ohio.

The Rams and Bengals have played each other only 14 times, with Cincinnati holding an 8-6 advantage. They last squared off in 2019 with the Rams winning, 24-10. That game was in London, and Rams receiver Cooper Kupp had seven catches for 220 yards and a touchdown.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce takes the field before Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce takes the field before Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills. (Reed Hoffmann / Associated Press)

This would be a rematch of Super Bowl LIV, the last game before the COVID-19 pandemic, when Kansas City claimed a 31-20 victory. It was the first Super Bowl between teams whose primary uniform color is red.

Joe Montana played for both franchises, as did quarterbacks Steve Bono and Alex Smith.

Reid coached San Francisco’s offensive line — San Francisco State, that is.

The 49ers and Chiefs have met 14 times in their history, with each team winning seven of those.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Nick Bosa rushes the line during a win over the Houston Texans on Jan. 2.
San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Nick Bosa rushes the line during a win over the Houston Texans on Jan. 2. (Jeff Lewis / Associated Press)

This matchup would mark the third time these franchises have met in the Super Bowl, with the 49ers winning in the 1981 (26-21) and 1988 (20-16) seasons.

The late Bill Walsh, legendary coach of the 49ers, was an assistant coach for the Bengals from 1968-75. The DeBartolo and York families, who have owned the 49ers since the late 1970s, are from Youngstown, Ohio.

Nick Bosa, star defensive lineman for the 49ers, played at Ohio State and was friends with Burrow (who started there before transferring to Louisiana State) and Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard, another college teammate.

San Francisco and Cincinnati played each other this season in Week 14, with the 49ers collecting a 26-23 victory on the road. The Bengals overcame a 20-6 deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime, with rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase scoring two touchdowns in that comeback.

The Bengals kicked a field goal in the extra period, but the 49ers answered with a winning touchdown.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.