Thursday, May 26, 2022

Ranking best possible 2022 Super Bowl matchups: Chiefs vs. Rams is the most explosive option

Championship Sunday is upon us. The NFL’s first 18-week season has reached its penultimate round, and we’re down to four teams in the road to Super Bowl LVI. The upstart Bengals, who knocked off the AFC’s No. 1-seeded Titans, will visit the reigning conference champion Chiefs in Kansas City. And the Rams, chock-full of acquired superstars and fresh off an upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, will host their greatest foe of recent years: the rival 49ers.

With four squads left, we’re also down to four possible matchups for Super Bowl Sunday. Here’s how we’d rank them:

4. Bengals vs. 49ers

This isn’t a bad matchup per se. No doubt it’d be fun to watch Joe Burrow try to weather the 49ers’ ferocious defensive front and introduce Ja’Marr Chase to the world stage. You’ve also got the historical components — the Bengals seeking their first Lombardi Trophy, and Kyle Shanahan doing the same. But this pairing lacks one of the two best, most explosive teams on the menu, so it just doesn’t carry quite as much juice as the top three.

3. Chiefs vs. 49ers

This one’s rich just for the drama. Besides being a rematch of Super Bowl LIV, which was somehow just two seasons ago, it could force an impossible quarterback dilemma upon San Francisco, considering Jimmy Garoppolo — the guy the 49ers paid heavily to replace — would be making his second Super Bowl start in three years. (In reality, it’d ultimately probably just delay the Trey Lance era by a half-season or so.) Would the 49ers pass rush be licking its chops after seeing what the Bucs did to the Chiefs last year? Does Shanahan have the tools to avenge his previous Super Bowl loss to Andy Reid? Either way, the stakes would be high, with San Francisco looking to log its sixth all-time Super Bowl win to match the record-holding Patriots and Steelers, and the Chiefs looking to confirm a potential dynasty with their second win in three years.

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2. Bengals vs. Rams

This one’s appealing in part because it features two teams who weren’t in the big game last year, but more so because of the quarterback duel: New Gunslinger (Burrow) against Longtime Gunslinger (Matthew Stafford). The Bengals are riding high off low external expectations, making them the perfect wild card for a potential Super Bowl upset. The Rams, meanwhile, are on the other end of the spectrum, literally paying premiums for guys like Stafford to finally get over the hump. Between the QBs and Ja’Marr Chase and Odell Beckham Jr. and everyone else, this could be a shootout a la Bengals-Chiefs in the regular season. You’ve also got the Sean McVay dynamic, with the Rams coach going up against Zac Taylor, his former disciple.

1. Chiefs vs. Rams

Plain and simple, it’s got the most potential for fireworks. If the Bills-Chiefs shootout in the divisional round is the standard for playoff entertainment, this is probably our best chance at replicating the big-play back-and-forth. Stafford and Patrick Mahomes possess two of the game’s best arms, and the collective star power here would be abundant: Odell, Tyreek Hill, Cooper Kupp, Travis Kelce, Jalen Ramsey, Tyrann Mathieu, Aaron Donald, and so on. These are two of the NFL‘s most athletic, talented rosters on paper, and so it’s only right they’d go head to head in the biggest game of the year — in shiny Los Angeles, no less.

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