It can’t be disputed that Super Wild Card Weekend was a rousing success, dripping with storylines that included everything from an earth-rattling upset to thrillers that went to the wire. Even Nickelodeon got in on the fun, entertaining us with slime cannons and lighthearted commentary that tapped into the kid in all of us, along with actual kids they successfully entertained and kept tuned in for four quarters. And speaking of cannons, the quarterbacks preparing to take the field in the NFL divisional round are certainly not lacking for one, set to square up against some of the best defenses professional football has to offer this season. It’s all ramping up to the inevitable finale that is Super Bowl LV, set to be held in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, February 7.
But what battles would be the top draw at Raymond James Stadium?
Each of the final eight teams has a shot at making it happen, to varying degrees and with their own list of respective challenges, and while you could roll the dice in the remaining field of teams and get a fantastic matchup this February — five potential clashes truly stand out. So as we ourselves look ahead to what should be another exciting playoff weekend in the NFL, let’s jump ahead a bit and discuss five possible Super Bowl scenarios that would probably melt both our televisions and our eyes.
1. Chiefs (1) vs. Buccaneers (5)
This matchup needs no introduction.
The first time Patrick Mahomes was given the nod as a full-time starter in the NFL, he went on a record-setting tear to lead the Chiefs to a playoff berth and a clash in the AFC Conference Championship against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, losing in overtime thanks to a clutch throw from Brady to future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski. Mahomes would avenge his budding legacy by going on to win a Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP honors last season, but he never again got a shot at Brady and Gronkowski in the postseason. Fast forward to the present and Brady and Gronk are hoping to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first championship since 2002, and nothing would make for a better headline than him being tasked with going through Mahomes a second time, while Mahomes would work up a lather just thinking about avenging the playoff loss from two years ago.
2. Chiefs (1) vs. Packers (1)
This is the current collision course in the NFL, and it’s not hard to see why. Mahomes is arguably the best quarterback in the league but, right now, so is Aaron Rodgers — the front runner to land league MVP honors after leading Green Bay on a tear this season that can only be matched by what Mahomes is doing in Kansas City. The difference is Rodgers was considered in the dusk of his career, and the drafting of Jordan Love by the Packers only served to hammer home that narrative, but Rodgers would have none of it. With the help of an outstanding year by wideout Davante Adams and an opportunistic defense, the former league MVP is playing some of (if not the) best ball of his illustrious career, and seeing him square off with a younger former league MVP and reigning Super Bowl MVP for a chance at landing his second ring would be dynamite doused in gasoline. Meanwhile, Mahomes will have a shot at derailing a legend, further assuring his status as one himself.
3. Packers (1) vs. Bills (2)
Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs versus Aaron Rodgers and Devante Adams.
Talk about a headline. That writes itself and with a mountain of anticipation, seeing as this would be a matchup no one would be able to look away from. If you get up for popcorn, you’ll miss a big play. If you scamper off to the restroom, you’ll miss a big play — so forth and so on. These are two offenses that can blow the roof off of the scoreboard, and Allen is looking to solidify himself as the next big thing at quarterback in the NFL, but Rodgers is closer than he’s been in a long time to finally grabbing a second Super Bowl ring with no promises he’ll ever get this close again. The defenses for both teams will be under siege for 60 football minutes as the two QBs — both of whom can also make plays with their legs — launch a nuclear attack that would all of us with singed eyebrows. It also needs to be said that as furiously thirsty as Bills Mafia is for a return to glory, doing so at the expense of the Packers (who’ll enter this matchup as favorites) would be icing on the cake.
4. Packers (1) vs. Ravens (5)
Speaking of potentially seeing a legend derailed by a young up-and-comer, say hello to Lamar Jackson.
Jackson is reigning league MVP and is hot off of an exorcism of the Tennessee Titans, obliterating the narrative he can’t perform when the lights are the brightest. The road to the Super Bowl won’t get any easier for the Ravens as they ready to face the dynamic Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round, but it would be gobs of fun to watch the seasoned and wily Rodgers go toe-to-toe with a quarterback who not only makes game-breaking throws, but who also teleports downfield when he chooses to take off and run. To make things that much more spicy, aside from the fact these two fanbases loathe each other, is the fact Jackson has never once played the Packers in his young NFL career. If the first time it happens is with a Lombardi on the line, and a legend on the opposite sideline, the NFL will easily garner some of the highest TV ratings ever for The Big Game.
5. Saints (2) vs. Browns (6)
Let’s really, really have some fun with a curveball here.
The Browns aren’t supposed be in the AFC Divisional Round, right? After all, that’s what the Steelers believed, both before Pittsburgh got their lunch money stolen at home by Cleveland and afterward — wideout Chase Claypool doubling down on the shade from compatriot JuJu Smith-Schuster by predicting the Browns will “get clapped” by the Chiefs. Maybe they will, but they’re reloaded now from COVID-19 issues, so maybe they won’t. And if they can find a way to shock the world a second straight week and then one final time in the AFC Championship, few things would be better than pitting an organization that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2002 against one who rarely misses it. Baker Mayfield has proven himself not only a fiery locker room leader of men but also anything but a draft bust, while the Saints hope to send Drew Brees in potential retirement on the highest note possible.
Courtesy of Patrik Walker at CBSSports.com