The thrust of this column is basic wishcasting.
Area Blogger Pinpoints Super Bowl Matchups He'd Prefer To View!
The Football Gods giggle.
I've been penning this item for years, annually getting ignored like a roaming fool. My five dreamy showdowns at the outset of last postseason:
- Chiefs vs. Packers: NOPE
- Bills vs. Buccaneers: NEGATIVE
- Ravens vs. Saints: SORRY, BRAH
- Titans vs. Seahawks: YOU'RE QUITE DUMB
- Browns vs. Packers: PAUSE ON THE LSD
Here I am again, wheeled out like a rube to offer my absurd requests to the skies.
It's a numbers game, too. No fewer than 49 potential matchups exist for Super Bowl LVI. That gives me a tick north of a 10 percent chance to nail one of these. I'm pushing for storylines and grandeur. Historical relevance and the juiciest possible clash to cap one of the league's more bizarre campaigns.
What could go wrong?
Only three teams pumped out more points per game than Kansas City, a club that went 9-1 down the stretch. Yet, we're disappointed. They feel a few ticks off from the explosive wonderwall that dominated the AFC over the past two seasons.
This projection, though, presupposes that K.C. turns on the jets and becomes the glowing entity we've witnessed before. A torrid playoff run that leads us to the dreamiest possible signal-calling tussle: Patrick Mahomes against Aaron Rodgers, with Green Bay's Matt LaFleur at the motherboard in a duel with Andy Reid.
I think back to 2011, when the Packers, coming off a Super Bowl title, ripped through the NFL to a 15-1 mark that suggested total invincibility. Come January, they were wiped 37-20 by an imperfect but potent Giants team that went on to steal the crown. Rodgers has played chicken with the Super Bowl ever since. Will Mahomes share the same fate?
Perhaps that's what depresses us about the Chiefs: What appeared perfect will never be. Last year's Super Bowl tumble -- followed by a good-but-not-great regular season -- has Kansas City operating as a disheartening reminder: Human endeavors are inherently flawed. We're all gonna get whacked at some point. There's underlying melancholy to all we attempt.
There's resilience, too. Something that keeps us watching, hoping Mahomes will avenge last year's defeat; hoping Rodgers can return to the heights we assumed he'd casually thrive in a decade ago. This squaring off would guarantee that one of these quarterbacks win a second, career-altering title in a rematch of Super Bowl I.
I don't believe I need to pen a dense Russian novel to explain the inherent pull here. Bill Belichick and Mac Jones, his fresh-faced rookie arm, in a made-for-cinema confrontation with 44-year-old Tom Brady. Even those worn out by the Patriots must agree the inherent storylines self-cook into an irresistible dish. WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR NEW ENGLAND'S SUCCESS? Realistically, it's a slightly absurd debate -- as if one of the two, Brady or Bill, quietly tugged the other to six rings. It's also why fiery AM sports talk radio exists in the first place. As much as Mahomes vs. Rodgers would jack the needle, no matchup comes imbued with more blazing headlines, gossip and human drama than New England facing Tampa Bay.
When clicking, the Niners are plenty of things at once: rugged, deceptive, creative and massively watchable. Their highest names -- George Kittle and Deebo Samuel -- form the core of an offense with the might to dominate on the ground and puncture teams through the air. I'm largely won over by the idea of this entire operation gaining revenge for the tight loss they suffered against Kansas City in Super Bowl LIV. Especially for Jimmy Garoppolo, seemingly destined to be replaced by first-round rookie Trey Lance, yet still kicking. Still making a string of high-level throws against the Rams to befuddle a Sean McVay squad he's never known defeat against. It's entirely unclear where that would leave the Niners -- the quarterback they worked to replace turning around and lifting the Lombardi -- but who wouldn't invite that dilemma?
I'm throwing the Bengals in here because it brings Joe Burrow that much closer to carving out an immediate legacy for a team lost in the wilderness for decades. Cincy hasn't sniffed gold since Boomer Esiason and Co. had their hearts ripped out by Joe Montana in Super Bowl XXIII. Amid a flawed pool of AFC contenders, the Bengals -- at their ceiling -- are a dangerous, big-play stage act with the power to drop a bushel of points. Can they pull it off in three games straight to get to LVI? In Burrow we trust.
Josh Allen didn't exist on our planet when the Bills dropped back-to-back stinkers to Dallas in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII. Perhaps he was being crafted in Valhalla by Gridiron Demigods as a slow-play revenge item for all of stung Western New York.
I've been a little down on the Bills after adoring them a season ago. The offense lands as a hot-and-cold act, but Buffalo has shown more balance on the ground of late while sporting one of the AFC's top defenses. The Cowboys have been a streaky, sometimes-underwhelming vessel, but turned heads in dropping 56 points on Washington and 51 on Philly over the past three weeks. Dallas also sports the rare, difference-making defense under Dan Quinn. Imagine DeMarcus Lawrence and rookie fireball Micah Parsons burning around the field in chase of big-bodied Allen.
I'm not certain my psyche can handle two weeks of Jerry Jones crooning on the mic in the lead-up to a Dallas mountaintop tilt, but I'm willing to give it the old college try.
Rain on the Titans' parade, if you must. Plenty pooh-pooh them as inadequate material for the AFC's top seed. From another angle, they've been the conference's most resilient beast, surviving a sinking-Titanic swath of lost bodies to win four of five down the stretch. Derrick Henry's return brings life, reuniting the thumping runner with devastating wideout A.J. Brown and Ryan Tannehill, one of the best quarterbacking stories in pro football. And Mike Vrabel's squad certainly looked the part midyear in consecutively knocking off the Bills, Chiefs, Colts and Rams.
Yes, it's a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIV, which boiled down to one hyper-notorious final play where Tennessee's Kevin Dyson was halted 1 yard short of the goal line to preserve a 23-16 victory for the Rams. Large chunks of both rosters were in onesies playing castle Legos when that tilt went down. Coach Sean McVay is more interested in wiping away the foul stench of his team's Super Bowl loss to the Patriots three seasons ago. Matthew Stafford has waited his entire career for a shot at February glory.
The NFL's marketing limb would adore the Rams playing at home in shiny, new SoFi. The Titans -- playing to type -- would be ready to spoil the party.