Potential Super Bowl 58 matchups, ranked by fun factor

Now that the Divisional Round of the playoffs is over, the NFL’s final four is set. The Kansas City Chiefs will be playing in their sixth straight AFC Championship, and the San Francisco 49ers are in a similar boat as they’ll be participating in their fourth NFC Championship in five years. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens are in this position for the first time since they won it all in 2013, and the Detroit Lions have only gotten to this stage once in franchise history as next Sunday will be their first appearance since 1991.

So this weekend pits teams against each other that are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to experience in Conference Championship Games, which should create some interesting matchups for the big game. While the Super Bowl is always fun and should be a national holiday, let’s be honest: Some matchups have more storylines and would be better than the others.

Listed in descending order, below is a ranking of how much fun the four potential Super Bowl combinations would be.

4. Chiefs vs. Lions

The 2023-2024 NFL season ending the same way it started, pitting Kansas City against Detroit, wouldn’t be a bad storyline by any means.

It’d feature one of the league’s best offenses — the Lions, who rank fifth with 26.9 points per game — and one of the best defenses, as the Chiefs are No. 2 in points surrendered per contest (16.7).

We’d get an exciting battle between Detroit wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kansas City cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, both of whom have put together fantastic campaigns. Also, the likes of Jonah Jackson (if the severity of his knee injury doesn’t keep him from playing), Graham Glasgow and Frank Ragnow duking it out with Chris Jones would be a pay-per-view-worthy battle in the trenches.

However, the contest in the season opener between the Chiefs and Lions was ultimately decided by bad football. Drops by Kansas City’s receivers, Kadarius Toney most notably, ended up becoming the biggest storyline in Week 1, especially since one pass went through Toney’s hands for a pick-six by Detroit.

So either the one-point outing we watched in September won’t replicate itself or the Super Bowl will be decided between which team makes the fewest mistakes rather than the most plays, neither of which would be good football to watch compared to the other options.

3. Ravens vs. Lions

This matchup would certainly include a couple of interesting battles on both sides of the ball.

Baltimore has one of the best pass rushes in the NFL, as they finished the regular season with the most sacks as a team, bringing down the opposing quarterback 60 times, which was three more than any other club. Leading the way was defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, who logged a career-high 13 sacks and was named a second-team All-Pro, while edge rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy contributed 9.5 and nine, respectively.

Meanwhile, Detroit’s offense only yielded 31 sacks this season, which is tied for the fourth-fewest. So this would be a battle of which side gives in first as offensive tackles Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker would look to contain Clowney and Van Noy while the Lions’ interior three named above try to keep Madubuike in check. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that quarterback Jared Goff has notoriously struggled with pressure in the pocket during his career.

On the other side of the ball, Detroit’s running back duo David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs pose a significant threat to any defense. Those two combined for nearly 2,400 yards from scrimmage and 24 total touchdowns during the regular season. However, Baltimore might have the perfect linebacker duo to counter that two-headed monster in the Lions backfield. Patrick Queen has developed a reputation as one of the league’s most athletic and best coverage backers, while Roquan Smith has become a perennial All-Pro over the last four years.

However, the Ravens beat down the Lions 38-6 back in October, and this matchup lacks a significant history between the teams which the other two have in spades.

2. Ravens vs. 49ers

Unlike in Super Bowl XLVII, both Harbaugh brothers won’t be pacing the sidelines as Jim is exploring opportunities to get back in the league after leading Michigan to a National Championship and John is working to add another trophy to the family mantle. But, any Super Bowl rematch creates an intriguing matchup, especially considering the last one was a three-point affair. There have only been a handful of repeat Super Bowl matchups since the game’s inception in 1967, so to a certain degree, this would be like watching history and a rivalry begin to develop.

Continuing with the theme of rematches, these teams faced each other about a month ago on Christmas Day in what has been appropriately deemed a “Super Bowl preview.” The Ravens and 49ers were both at the top of their conferences at the time and finished as the one-seeds in the playoffs.

For San Francisco, they’d be looking to prove that the 33-19 defeat was simply a fluke. No one will be looking for more retribution than quarterback Brock Purdy, who had arguably his worst performance of the season with a 56.3 completion percentage and four interceptions. Also, that outing seemingly cost Purdy the MVP award as the odds swung in Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s favor after the contest, heightening the intrigue of this matchup.

Additionally, we’d get to see two of the best linebacker duos square off. As mentioned above, Queen and Smith are a couple of the best players at their positions and so are Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw.

However, this matchup still wouldn’t be nearly as fun as a more recent Super Bowl rematch.

1. 49ers vs. Chiefs

Super Bowl LIV was an instant classic. The game was tied at halftime, then San Francisco took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, only for Kansas City to rattle off 21 unanswered points and take home the Lombardi Trophy.

Unlike the second-most-fun matchup, this one would feature a lot of the same faces. Both coaches, Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan, are still with their teams. While the 49ers will have a different quarterback, Patrick Mahomes is still behind center for the Chiefs and will be facing a defense that is still led by Warner, Greenlaw and Nick Bosa.

That sets up for another Super Bowl rivalry, similar to the Cowboys and Steelers in the ‘70s, the 49ers and the Bengals in the ‘80s, and the Patriots and Giants more recently.

Additionally, people in San Francisco felt robbed in the NFC Championship Game last season with Purdy and Josh Johnson suffering injuries, leaving the team without a healthy quarterback. That led to the Eagles advancing to the big game against the Chiefs — which Kansas City went on to win — and 49ers’ fans were left wondering what could have been.

So, this matchup could finally put an end to those talks and give the football world the fireworks some were hoping for a year ago. Plus, a win by San Francisco could have people in the Bay Area could claim that they had the NFL’s best team over the last two seasons, heightening the stakes for what is already one of the most high-stakes sporting events of the year.

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