The NFL playoffs are finally here, which means we finally get to cast off 20 underachieving teams and focus on 12 franchises that will be playing games with everything on the line.
It’s the best time of the year, but not every Super Bowl run is created equal. As you look at this crop of dozen teams, you likely want to see some squads reach Minneapolis more than others. With that in mind, I ranked all 12 teams in order of how good their Super Bowl story would be.
It’s a subjective list and there’s plenty of room for disagreement of course. Hit me up on Twitter at @KevinKaduk with your own rankings.
12. Carolina Panthers
They were just in the Super Bowl two winters ago and the franchise’s main storyline is Jerry Richardson putting the team up for sale because he’s a pervy old man. (Allegedly). The last thing the NFL needs after this season is Ron Rivera firing up his team by telling them to go win one for The Creeper.
11. Tennessee Titans
Have you ever met a Titans fan? Or heard someone say they hate the Titans? Unless you live in Nashville or know a particularly passionate AFC South fan, I’m guessing the answer is no. Marcus Mariota could change Tennessee being the most anonymous team in the NFL in years to come, but for now the Titans don’t move the needle at all.
10. New England Patriots: Been there, done that.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers: The team rallying around an injured Ryan Shazier is touching and it could be cool to see the Steelers rising up to beat the Patriots in Foxboro after the dumb catch rule robbed them of homefield advantage. But 13 of the last 14 Super Bowls have included Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger. It’s time for someone new.,
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: I love a good defensive team more than anybody plus I’d like to see Blake Bortles win after all the junk he takes. But I’m also not ready for alarmist takes on how no one would watch (spoiler alert: they still would) and two weeks of jokes about London and teal cheeseburgers.
7. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs aren’t in the “never won a Super Bowl club” like a lot of the teams ahead of them, but they might as well be. KC’s fervent fans haven’t won a Super Bowl or a conference championship in 47 years. One fun wrinkle: Alex Smith could become the first quarterback since Trent Dilfer to win a Super Bowl then start the next season on a different team.
6. Los Angeles Rams: Sean McVay will turn 32 on January 24 and could supplant Mike Tomlin as the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl by four whole years. (Tomlin was 36 for Super Bowl XLIII).
And not that you needed to feel any older, but think about this: McVay was one day old when the Giants beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. So yeah, the Rams winning does seem like a good story.
5. Buffalo Bills: This would be higher if I thought it had any chance of happening. The good news is that Bills fans have already staged a Super Bowl-level celebration.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Sorry Nick Foles, same with the Eagles. If Carson Wentz were still healthy, his quest to finally deliver Philadelphia a Super Bowl title would be far and away the best potential Super Bowl story. Maybe Foles turning into the next Jeff Hostetler would be just as cool, but I can’t rank it No. 1 on the slight possibility he turns the Eagles
3. Atlanta Falcons: We’re all well aware of the Super Bowl losers’ curse and the Falcons suffered a bit of a hangover with an uneven regular season. But now that they’re safely in the playoffs, they have the personnel and experience to stage another exciting run to the big game. If any fans deserve a Super Bowl, it’s the ones who just sat through a year’s worth of 28-3 jokes.
2. Minnesota Vikings: The prospect of the Vikings playing at home and sending the Super Bowl ticket market through the roof is a fun one, but don’t overlook the other stories they’d bring to the table: Case Keenum, a defense that’s worthy to share a franchise with the Purple People Eaters and Mike Zimmer, by far the most underrated coach in the sport.
1. New Orleans Saints: No team in the field brings a better combination of on-the-field excitement and off-field storylines. Superstar rookies Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore carving up the AFC representative while the old vet Drew Brees bolsters his top five5 QB of all-time resume with one more Lombardi Trophy? That’s something I’d look forward to watching.
Which potential Super Bowl storylines do you think are the best?