By Don Banks | Jan. 18, 2019
As would seem to logically follow when you have the two top seeds in each conference squaring off on Championship Sunday, a glamor Super Bowl matchup is already assured. Not to look past the two marquee showdowns that will unfold in New Orleans and Kansas City on Sunday, but let’s take a first, semi-deep dive into the storylines and pre-game angles that await two weeks worth of exploration and dissection in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta:
Chiefs vs. Rams
This has to be the Super pairing that the entire football world (outside of New England and New Orleans) is rooting for, a rematch of that epic 54-51 instant classic Monday-night shootout in the Los Angeles Coliseum in Week 11 — won by the Rams. That was first game in NFL history where both teams topped 50 points, and this meeting would pit two of the youngest quarterbacks to ever start a Super Bowl, the Chiefs’ 23-year-old Patrick Mahomes and the Rams’ 24-year-old Jared Goff.
The L.A. coaching plot line would be interesting as well, with Sean McVay leading the Rams, and Kansas City’s Andy Reid having grown up in Los Angeles, often frequenting the Coliseum in childhood (including this appearance in a Punt, Pass & Kick competition). It also would be the first Super Bowl matchup to feature two teams in the NFL’s West divisions since Seattle throttled Denver five years ago. And lastly, Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins and Rams cornerback Marcus Peters joined their new clubs last offseason, after previously playing for the opposite team in 2017.
Patriots vs. Saints
Sure, we’d get the headline collision of two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Drew Brees, and that’s reason enough to hope for this matchup. But it’d also be another Bill Parcells Coaching Tree Bowl, with Bill Belichick and Sean Payton matching wits on the sideline. If the Saints won, Payton would become the third branch of the Parcells tree to win at least two Super Bowl rings, joining Belichick and former Giants coach Tom Coughlin.
The Patriots and their fans will always have a soft spot for New Orleans in their hearts, since they won their first Super Bowl in the Superdome, upsetting the Rams, in February 2002. And the two franchises could commiserate in their anti-Roger Goodell stances of yesteryear, believing their Bounty-gate and Deflate-gate scandals were largely creations of the league office. In addition, both clubs gave up on receiver Brandin Cooks after recent seasons, and Saints tight end Ben Watson, who is retiring after this year, was the Patriots’ 2004 first-round draft pick. If there’s anything worse than having the Saints use the facilities of their NFC South rival Falcons during Super Bowl week, it’d be the Patriots hanging around Atlanta, reminding everyone about that 28-3 blown lead in Houston two years ago.
Saints vs. Chiefs
For starters, having the two top seeds face off in the Super Bowl for the fifth time in six years is a habit that we could get used to. With their high-octane offenses and adept play-calling by head coaches Sean Payton and Andy Reid, we might be in for one of the highest-scoring Super Bowls of all time. Not to overlook a pair of defenses that have come up big so far in the playoffs.
Both the quarterbacks — Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes — are Texas kids who very nearly became teammates in New Orleans. The Saints were thinking about drafting Mahomes in 2017 at No. 11 as Brees’ successor when the Chiefs traded up to No. 10 to nab him.
And let’s not forget the dapper dresser and big talker who was Hank Stram, the coach who led the Chiefs to their only Super Bowl win in January 1970 — at New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium, no less. After 15 years in Kansas City, Stram later coached the Saints for two dismal seasons (1976-77), losing more than his share and never coming close to reproducing his success in Kansas City.
Rams vs. Patriots
This is the only Super Bowl rematch we can get, but what a doozy it is. New England logged one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history in beating the St. Louis Rams in New Orleans 17 years ago, launching the Patriots dynasty and the Tom Brady era that still rolls on today. And can we please hear the “Beat L.A.’’ chant ring out in Boston one more time, after the Red Sox bested the Dodgers in October and the Patriots embarrassed the Chargers in last week’s AFC Divisional round?
The coaching matchup of veteran defensive genius (Belichick) versus youthful offensive genius (McVay) would be beyond intriguing. And the old-young quarterback pairing of Brady and Goff, just a couple of California kids from the Bay Area makes for fine fodder as well. It would also be the first Super Bowl since the Ravens-49ers pairing in the 2012 season without a No. 1 seed involved. Interestingly, a No. 2 versus No. 2 Super Bowl hasn’t ever happened before, since the NFL went to a 12-team field in 1990. And ex-Patriots Aqib Talib and Brandin Cooks now star for Los Angeles and might have something to say about what life is like playing for the dynasty in Foxboro.