NFL

2023 NFL Playoffs: Ranking four potential Super Bowl LVII matchups, including Bengals vs 49ers rematch

Two rounds of 2023 NFL playoff football are in the books, and we’re officially down to four teams remaining in the race for the next Lombardi Trophy. Fourteen contenders opened the postseason hoping to bask in the confetti, but after this weekend’s action, where the Chiefs beat the Jaguars, the Eagles beat the Giants, the Bengals routed the Bills and the 49ers outlasted the Cowboys, just two games remain until Super Bowl LVII.

That means there are only four possible Super Bowl games on the table. Here’s how we rank them:

4. Chiefs vs. 49ers

SATISFACTION

We just saw this one in 2019, when Patrick Mahomes won his first ring at age 24. But a lot has changed since then, too: Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers QB at the time, is now out in favor of Brock Purdy, though there’s a chance Jimmy G himself could recover from injury to serve as Purdy’s backup in the big game of the year.

The revenge factor is the driving force here, with Kyle Shanahan surely eager to atone for his 31-20 loss in Super Bowl LIV. But there are plenty of other storylines, too: Purdy’s chance to be named the NFL’s best QB on the biggest stage as “Mr. Irrelevant,” Nick Bosa’s opportunity to disrupt Andy Reid’s offense like the Buccaneers did in the 2020 title game, Travis Kelce -George Kittle tight end battle.

3. Bengals vs. Eagles

SATISFACTION

If your main priority is collective QB cheats, vault this one to the top. There may not be two signal callers with more natural, steely charisma than Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts, each boasting championship experience from their prime-time college days at LSU and Alabama, respectively.

Cincinnati would see its first Lombardi Trophy against a franchise that just got its first ring five years ago, while the combined star power at wide receiver — Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins for the Bengals, AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith for the Eagles — can be worth seeing alone. All in all, these teams have both been incredibly balanced and especially clutch throughout the season, likely guaranteeing a battle to the buzzer.

2. Bengals vs. 49ers

Brock Purdy

SATISFACTION

This one is for the history buffs – a beautiful clash of old-school franchises with 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 barring injuries, it would likely mean either Joe Burrow, on just his third NFL season; or Brock Purdy, San Francisco’s unlikely rookie QB, would go out on top.

Burrow has survived stumbling offensive lines in the past, but his vision and quick release would be up for a real challenge against DeMeco Ryans’ ferocious front, looking to avenge 2021’s Super Bowl loss to another NFC West opponent on the big stage. From an X’s and O’s standpoint, this might be the most even, well-rounded matchup possible.

1. Chiefs vs. Eagles

SATISFACTION

The Super Bowl is all about spectacle: explosive plays, flashy halftimes, dramatic finishes. And in that regard, there just isn’t a more tempting pairing than this one. Yes, that’s based on Patrick Mahomes’ ankle holding up well enough for No. 15 to be his freewheel. And yes, maybe there is a touch of Chiefs fatigue developing now that KC has reached the AFC Championship in five straight seasons. But no one ever complains when they actually do watch The Chiefs play football, and when they’re firing on all cylinders, the Eagles have come the closest to matching, if not eclipsing, their offensive production this year. The duel between Mahomes and the steadfast Jalen Hurts would be a sight to behold.

And then there’s the Andy Reid factor, with KC’s coach looking for his second ring against the team he built his career with. Standing in his way on the opposite sideline: Nick Sirianni, who would like to follow in Doug Pederson’s footsteps as a second-year Super Bowl winner. The last time these two teams met, in 2021, they combined for 72 points, and that was before Hurts was an MVP candidate throwing to both AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith. If this comes to fruition, there will almost certainly be fireworks.

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