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Super Bowl LVIII: Ranking the five matchups I'd most like to see at Allegiant Stadium in February

The path to lifting a Lombardi Trophy is laid, with 14 teams chasing ultimate euphoria on Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

The yearly turnover granted us six new playoff teams that didn't make the tournament during the 2022 season. The Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers join the repeat contenders: the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It marked the 34th consecutive year that at least four new teams made the postseason after missing the prior season, per NFL Research.

The new blood gives the path to the Super Bowl excitement and intrigue.

My assignment from's editors before our gauntlet begins is to lay out the five Super Bowl showdowns I most want to see.

I chose not to repeat clubs, to offer the widest breadth possible. And constraining this list to five matchups meant some were left out. Would I love to see C.J. Stroud lead the upstart Texans deep into the postseason? Absolutely. Would it be fascinating to watch Jordan Love pilot a young Packers squad to the biggest stage in his first full season as the starter? No doubt. But just as when a ball is fumbled out of bounds through the end zone, we have to acknowledge that the rules are the rules.

Let's get to the list.

Baltimore Ravens
13-4 · AFC No. 1 seed
Dallas Cowboys
12-5 · NFC No. 2 seed

Honestly, I could have pitted the Ravens against anyone and loved the matchup. If you don't like watching Lamar Jackson petrify defensive linemen before ripping a strike to Odell Beckham Jr. or witnessing a defense play like its follicles are on fire, I don't know what to tell you. John Harbaugh's club walloped seemingly every other NFC heavy this season, so let's see what they could do with Micah Parsons, Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb.

The Ravens have been the NFL's best team, on balance, leading in the final two minutes in each of their first 16 games this season. Their point differential of 203 is tops in the league. Harbaugh's club dismantled good opponents, collecting double-digit wins over the Lions, 49ers and Dolphins, among others. They could add America's Team to the list. 

This star-studded matchup would see Parsons and an up-and-down Dan Quinn defense try to wrangle Jackson. Meanwhile, the Ravens' defense has discombobulated QBs, but when Prescott is in rhythm, there has been no better signal-caller to dice up a D. Lamb's ability to win off the line of scrimmage would be massive.  

Give me two MVP candidates on the biggest stage any day of the year.

Miami Dolphins
11-6 · AFC No. 6 seed
San Francisco 49ers
12-5 · NFC No. 2 seed

This would be a full-circle game for Niners QB Brock Purdy, who saw his first significant action as a rookie in Week 13 last season, when he led San Francisco to a win over the Dolphins. The Mr. Irrelevant legend was born that day. For Purdy to then win a Super Bowl over those same Dolphins would be a scriptwriter's dream. Heck, maybe it's too obvious.

A rematch of Super Bowl XIX would provide storylines for days in the lead up to the big game. Kyle Shanahan versus former understudy Mike McDaniel. Miami speedsters Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane versus Fred Warner, Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Dre Greenlaw, Charvarius Ward, Arik Armstead and a smothering defense. Tua Tagovailoa overcoming the naysayers. Jalen Ramsey and Vic Fangio's banged-up D against Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk. Phew. 

Miami enters the postseason with significant questions about its ability to beat physical opponents. It will have answered those questions by making the Super Bowl.

Cleveland Browns
11-6 · AFC No. 5 seed
Detroit Lions
12-5 · NFC No. 3 seed

The space-time continuum might rip apart if this matchup occurred.

The only two teams in NFL history to go 0-16. Two clubs who have never been to the Super Bowl, their fans enduring generations of losses, fruitless rebuilds, quarterback quandaries and depressing campaign after depressing campaign -- all of it wiped out in one contest.

Beyond the mind-bending history, the on-field matchup would be enticing. A reborn Joe Flacco leading an injury-riddled unit, splashing big plays to Amari Cooper and David Njoku, against an Aidan Hutchinson crew that's lived off turnovers. Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown, David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs and one of the league's top offensive lines against Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and a world-wrecking defense. Jim Schwartz facing his former team, matching wits against young wizard Ben Johnson.

And who wouldn't want a Super Bowl week of Dan Campbell quotes in contrast with Coach of the Year favorite Kevin Stefanski?

Sadly, the members of one of these downtrodden fanbases would have their hearts broken on the biggest stage. But at least they could say they finally made it. 

Buffalo Bills
11-6 · AFC No. 2 seed
Philadelphia Eagles
11-6 · NFC No. 5 seed

Frankly, I nearly left Philly off this list. The Eagles' play has been unwatchable for weeks. Even their fans would surely admit as much. The defense is a mess, and the offense has struggled, despite featuring several studs. After squeaking by early in the season, the warts began to blister and burst.  

But since we're dancing in a fantasy land with this exercise, let's suppose the Eagles finally figure things out during the playoffs and coalesce into the team we saw last Super Bowl. In that event, a rematch of a riveting, back-and-forth, mistake-filled Week 12 overtime meeting with Buffalo is too good to leave out.

Two dual-threat QBs plowing over defenders. Josh Allen's one-legged heaves into a vulnerable Eagles secondary. Jalen Hurts zipping lasers to (a hopefully healthy) A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith against a Sean McDermott defense that has surged down the stretch.

The Bills looked dead in the water after losing in Philly back in November, but they put together five straight wins to swipe the AFC East title. They're rolling. With Hurts and Allen capable of making both ridiculous throws and head-shaking mistakes, this matchup could be a wild one for a Super Bowl.

Kansas City Chiefs
11-6 · AFC No. 3 seed
Los Angeles Rams
10-7 · NFC No. 6 seed

No chance I was leaving Patrick Mahomes off this list. The Chiefs offense has struggled all season, but the NFL's best player on the biggest stage is always worth watching.

Mahomes leading this band of pass catchers back to the Super Bowl would be the latest feather in his cap. Then, he'd have to deal with Aaron Donald, Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Kobie Turner and a young Rams defense that has performed swimmingly under Raheem Morris.

Steve Spagnuolo's defense has kept the Chiefs chugging along this season, suffocating opponents while the offense waned. A Super Bowl matchup against Sean McVay might be the stiffest test. Picture the Rams' balanced, explosive attack -- powered by Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, record-setting rookie Puka Nacua and sensational second-year back Kyren Williams -- facing off against Chris Jones, Pro Bowl snub L'Jarius Sneed and Spagnuolo's aggressive D. It would be a mouthwatering showdown.

McVay leading his youth-filled roster in what was supposedly a rebuilding year to the Super Bowl to face Mahomes and the reigning champs? Sign me up.

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