The NFL draft looms on the horizon as teams aim to reload for the upcoming season and hope to import as much day-one starting talent as possible. With training camps and rookie camps seemingly canceled in efforts to keep the season a possibility, teams will be likely winning with the talent they’ve imported through free agency and developed in house. Though these match-ups may seem questionable, they’re thought to be the most ideal for entertaining the fans of the game. Plainly said, nobody wants a repeat of the Broncos-Panthers Super Bowl.
On paper and on the field, the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens have the strongest rushing attacks in the league, which will carry them through the playoffs to the league’s biggest stage. Quarterback Lamar Jackson was humbled by the Tennessee Titans this past post-season and will come back with a more team-based mentality, instead of attempting to carry the team in the playoffs. Jackson’s unique talent paired with a strong Ravens’ front office and head coach John Harbaugh spells success, and this team is exactly the type of juggernaut needed to run into the buzzsaw of Robert Saleh’s front seven in San Francisco. Though they lost DeForest Buckner in a trade to the Colts, the 49ers accrued the 13th pick in the draft, which they’ll use on one of the many available starting-caliber defensive tackles in a strong defensive line draft. These two teams are the least likely to regress out of all the playoff teams from the past year, just based on their coaching, rosters, and front offices.
Two of the most talented men to ever throw a football on the same gridiron battling for the game’s crowning achievement is almost always a situation that results in fans winning no matter what. Aaron Rodgers versus Patrick Mahomes in a Green Bay-Chiefs matchup would be a fireworks show for one of the highest watched Super Bowls in history. With both teams returning the majority of their rosters, the Packers being tied for the most picks in the upcoming draft and Rodgers getting a second year in Matt LaFleur’s offense, this game would present an excellent opportunity for both teams to showcase their underrated defenses. With playmakers on both sides of the ball, neither of these teams should be counted out as representing their conference on the biggest stage.
Though incredibly unlikely following a complete roster rebuild for New England, a theoretical matchup between the Patriots and the Tampa Bau Buccaneers promises an entertaining contest. Tom Brady leads his new team to the promised land in his first season as signal-caller for the Bucs, slinging touchdowns to wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin with ease behind a rebuilt Tampa offensive line. While on the other side, Bill Belichick proves his system is still too smart for the rest of the league and rides the ever-improving arm of Jarret Stidham to the highest stage. Who wins? Well, the best matchup is Brady and his new arsenal of weapons against the reigning defensive player of the year in shutdown cornerback Stephon Gilmore and the Patriot’s top-ranked pass defense, but the really important part of this game would come down to Belichick’s creativity on offense with statue Stidham and a dearth of weapons. The hooded figure has always found a way to win, at least with Brady by his side. Again, this is another matchup where regardless of the outcome, the fans get a victory. We’d really see who mattered more to New England’s dynasty, the dependable signal-caller or the daunting head coach/general manager.
If Rodgers versus Mahomes doesn’t happen, the battle between the league’s most consistent passer of the past 15 years and the up-and-coming gunslinger would be an excellent consolation. Drew Brees holds, and will likely hold, a king’s share of league passing records when he finally hangs his cleats up and calls it a career. Mahomes, barring injury, seems to be the chosen one to eventually shatter the league’s records and get the titles, which Brees would happily hand him with a smile and a handshake down the road. In a Saints-Chiefs matchup, the elder statesman would put up one heck of a fight, with reigning Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas being paired up with veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to form a strong tandem on the perimeter while running back Alvin Kumara cuts between the tackles. The Saints’ offensive and defensive capabilities are second to none, as they engaged in the only true shootout anybody had with the 49ers last season, proving they can hang with the toughest of opponents. Mahomes is a different animal, and with Andy Reid continuing to cook up plays for the most gifted quarterback on the gridiron, it’s tough to not imagine this being an offensive masterpiece.