Faced with a question like this, there is really no wrong answer.
Looking at the four potential Super Bowl matchups, there is no shortage of storylines that lie ahead. Regardless of how this weekend unfolds, the Super Bowl will offer incredible matchups, dynamic players, and brilliant coaching staffs. With any one of these four games, football fans will emerge as the biggest winners of all.
This is all to say ... trying to rank them was a tough task.
But that is what we did here, voting on the four potential Super Bowl matchups. Here are the results, with the four potential Super Bowl matchups, ranked.
1. Chiefs vs. Eagles
Who wouldn’t be up for a battle between the statistically two best teams from either conference? The popcorn drawing matchup would be Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense vs this loaded Eagles defense. Edge rushers Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat provide an issue for the Chiefs offensive tackles with their speed around the corner, but the interior battles between Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, and the Eagles’ bevy of inside rushers vs Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, and Trey Smith will be box office. Mahomes is in his own stratosphere as a QB this year. While his Average Throw Depth has gone down since his stellar 2018, his efficiency is almost at a career-high. The Eagles will try to challenge him with their talented secondary, and it’ll be box office.
Flipping it riverside, Jalen Hurts has turned into an MVP candidate while playing in the most versatile and explosive offenses in the league. Wanna sit back in 2-high shells and limit explosive passes? Then the Eagles can get explosives in the run game with Hurts, a stable of dynamic RBs, and the best offensive line in football. As soon as you peek too far inside on the run game, boom—AJ Brown or Devonta Smith over the top, who win in various ways. The chess match between Eagles OC Shane Steichen and Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo will be fun to watch.
— JP Acosta
2. Bengals vs. Eagles
Most sports are at their best when they prominently feature elite athletes making plays in space. A Bengals-Eagles Super Bowl would be full of that sort of thing. Both teams are stacked with multiple standout wide receivers who can turn a routine catch into a game-breaking play. Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase and Philly’s A.J. Brown are All-Pro talents who are among the best in the league at their position. DeVonta Smith and Tee Higgins are good enough to be No. 1 options on many other teams. Philly’s Dallas Goedert is a productive, pass-catching tight end, and Cincy’s Tyler Boyd has multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons on his resume.
The guys throwing them the ball are pretty damn good, too. Jalen Hurts’ third-year breakout turned him into an MVP front-runner, with an improving ability to stretch the field with his arm made even more dangerous by his dynamism as a runner. Joe Burrow proved himself on the biggest stages last season by leading the Bengals to the Super Bowl, and he’s been every bit as good this year. I’d expect lots of big plays in a Bengals-Eagles game, and that makes for a good Super Bowl.
— Ricky O’Donnell
3. Bengals vs. 49ers
This matchup might have some sentimentality for the undersigned author, but we will get to that in a moment.
Part of the allure, however, stems from the battle of wits this potential Super Bowl offers. When the 49ers have the ball, you have the minds of Kyle Shanahan and company tangling with Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anuramo, who as our own JP Acosta argued, is the unsung hero of the entire NFL Playoffs.
Then when the Bengals have the ball, Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan — who has received some head coaching interest — square off with DeMeco Ryans, who also seems to be headed into a head coaching role whenever this season ends.
Regarding the players on the field, this potential game is filled with must-watch matchups. San Francisco’s 21 personnel package against Mike Hilton, Jesse Bates III, and the Bengals’ defense. Deebo Samuel against Eli Apple in man coverage. Fred Warner prowling the middle of the field against Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati quick passing game.
Now for the sentimental part. A rematch of two different Super Bowls from my childhood, bringing back images of Ken Anderson, Joe Montana, Boomer Esiason, and John Taylor. And a pretty sweet uniform matchup to boot.
— Mark Schofield
4. Chiefs vs. 49ers
Yes, there’s a good chance we could run this one back and get a repeat of Super Bowl LIV — which was one of the most anticipated offense vs. defense games on paper that turned into a total snooze fest. That said, this year could be very different.
The biggest indictment of Super Bowl LIV was that while Kansas City certainly deserved to win, nobody on either side of the ball really lived up to their potential. The quarterback play from Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo was middling, offensive skill position players (outside of Tyreek Hill) were uninspired, and neither team was particularly good defensively either.
We came away with a game that felt a lot like we had two young teams who weren’t prepared for the moment and did their best to patch a game together.
Three years makes a big difference. Both the Chiefs and 49ers are older, wiser, and better. Brock Purdy is still getting his feet under him at quarterback, but is definitely a more exciting player to watch than Jimmy G. Meanwhile Mahomes might not have the weapons he did in 2020, but that’s also made him a much more complete quarterback. Arguably this was Mahomes’ best season, as he was forced into developing his game more — which seemed impossible for someone of his skill.
Meanwhile the 49ers defense has more experience under its belt. It’s better equipped now to contain a quarterback like Mahomes, and with Christian McCaffrey in the fold they’re more varied on offense than they were three years ago.
A second Super Bowl meeting between the Chiefs and 49ers would be a hell of a game.
— James Dator