Five Dream Super Bowls Matchups That Ended In The Conference Round

The NFL’s marquee game is the Super Bowl, it has brought us some wonderful matchups over the years, below are five Super Bowl matchups I hoped we could have seen, with main storylines and the ramifications of the games on the NFL.

Super Bowl XLIV (44) – Indianapolis Colts vs. New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints, who were a 4.5-point underdog (O/U – 56.5), beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV, winning the organizations first Super Bowl title.  Drew Brees was named game’s MVP, throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns.

Matchup I Wanted To See: Minnesota Vikings vs. New York Jets

As a 3.5-point road underdog, the Minnesota Vikings lost in the NFC Championship game to the New Orleans Saints 31-28 in overtime.  The number two seed in the NFC playoffs, Minnesota had opportunities to win the game, but an ill-advised Brett Favre interception in overtime sealed their fate.  After beating the Chargers in the 2009 Divisional Round, the Jets were onto play the Colts in the AFC Championship game.  Making their first AFC Championship appearance since 1998, New York an 8.5-point underdog played well in the first half, leading Indianapolis, the number one seed 17-13 at halftime.  But Payton Manning and the Indianapolis offense came alive in the second half and the defense made big stops in the fourth quarter as the Colts defeated the Jets, 30-17. 

If the conference championship game results were different, the New York Jets would have been in the NFL’s marquee game since Joe Namath led the team to victory in Super Bowl III.  On the other side, Brett Favre would be up against the team he played for in the previous season and going for his second Super Bowl championship.  As a Jet, Favre threw for 3,472 yards, 22 touchdown passes, 22 interceptions and completed 65.7% of his passes.  New York had started the 2008 season, 8-3, but ended up 9-7. 

In his first season as a Viking in 2009, Favre was awesome, setting career highs in completion percentage (68.4), yards per attempt (7.9) and had a career low interception percentage at 1.3 per NFL.com.  He also threw for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns: averaging 262.2 yards per game.  The gunslinger from Southern Mississippi would have cemented his status as an all-time top five quarterback with his second Super Bowl title playing for a new team and doing so at 40 years old. 

The Jets were a run-heavy ball control offense lead by rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, who served as a terrific game manager.  Thomas Jones led the club in rushing with 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns: averaging 87.6 yards per game.  The defense was phenomenal that season ranked number one in the league in total yards of offense allowed and ranked first in the NFL allowing 14.8 points per game.   Linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott were a dominate force for the defensive unit combining for 219 total tackles, 6.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss.

If the Jets would have ended their Super Bowl, Mark Sanchez aka ‘The Sanchize,” would be treated as a conquering hero turning into a modern-day Broadway Joe.  He would have been entrenched as the Jets quarterback for at least the next ten years.  The team would have built the proper system around him with a strong running-game and tough defense.  Rex Ryan would have been labeled as a defensive genius.  A championship could have finally put an end to the saying, “Same Old Jets.”

Super Bowl XXXIX (39) – Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots

The New England Patriots, a 7-point favorite (O/U – 47) defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21, to win back-to-back Super Bowls.  Deion Branch was the MVP of the game, catching 11 passes for 133 yards.

Matchup I Wanted To See: Atlanta Falcons vs. San Diego Chargers

Atlanta was 11-5 in 2004, winning the NFC South and being the number two seed in NFC playoffs.  After dominating the Rams in the divisional round winning 47-17, the Falcons advanced to the NFC Championship game and were defeated by the number one seed, Philadelphia Eagles.  San Diego was 12-4, winning the AFC West and being the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs.  They were upset in the wild card round by a tough New York Jets squad 20-17. 

The main storyline for this game would have been the quarterback matchup between Michael Vick and Drew Brees, two players directly and indirectly impacted by a franchise altering trade.  The Chargers had the number one pick in 2001 NFL draft, but traded the pick to Falcons for multiple picks, LaDanian Tomlinson was chosen by San Diego with one of the picks acquired from Atlanta.  Drew Brees was the first pick of the second round of the 2001 draft; by trading with the Falcons, the Chargers were able to select two players who were instrumental in their success. 

In 2004 there was no bigger star in the NFL than Michael Vick.  It’s hard to explain to fans now, how truly special Vick was; it was like watching a video game come to life.  In his fourth year in the NFL, he threw for 2,313 yards, ran for 902 yards, and accounted for 17 touchdowns (14 passing and three rushing).  He was such a unique talent, he had a cannon for an arm and was simply the most feared player with the football, to see him in a Super Bowl would have been awesome.  How would a championship have changed the course of his career?

Drew Brees led the third highest scoring offense in the NFL during the 2004 season, throwing for 3,159 yards, 27 touchdowns, 65.5% of his passes with a 104.8 passer rating.  LaDainian Tomlinson led the team in rushing with 1,335 yards and 17 touchdowns: averaging 89 yards per game.  He also added 441 yards receiving and a touchdown to help power San Diego’s high scoring attack. 

If the Chargers would have won Super Bowl XXXIX, does the franchise get a new stadium in San Diego and never leave for Los Angeles?  Does Drew Brees sign a long-term contract with the Chargers, never leaving and leading the Saints to their first Super Bowl?  Is Phillip Rivers traded?  Is head coach Marty Schottenheimer a lock to be inducted into Canton after hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy?

Super Bowl XXXIII (33) – Atlanta Falcons vs. Denver Broncos

As a 7.5-point favorite (O/U – 52), the Denver Broncos won their second consecutive Super Bowl, beating the Atlanta Falcons 34-19.  In his final game John Elway was named the MVP, throwing for 336 yards and accounting for two touchdowns (one passing and one rushing).

Matchup I Wanted To See: Minnesota Vikings vs. Denver Broncos

Minnesota was the best team all season in the league, and it looked as though they’d cruise to the Super Bowl after losing only one game all season.  The Vikings entered the 1998 NFC playoffs as the number one seed.   In the divisional round they beat the Cardinals 41-21, setting up an NFC Championship game matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.  Minnesota was an 11-point home favorite but were shockingly upset by Atlanta 30-27.  The game will be remembered for Gary Anderson’s missed field goal late in the fourth quarter which would have given Minnesota an almost insurmountable 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter. 

If the Vikings had won the NFC, they would have been entered the Super Bowl with a 15-1 regular season record, while Denver had a 14-2 regular season record.  Only once had two teams with such strong records faced each other in the Super Bowl; Super Bowl XIX between the 15-1 San Francisco 49ers and the 14-2 Miami Dolphins per NFL.com. 

Minnesota had the number one scoring offense in 1998, averaging 34.8 points per game.  The offense was led by Randall Cunningham, the long-time Philadelphia Eagles star, throwing for 3,704 yards, 34 touchdowns, completing 60.9% of his passes with a 106-passer rating.  Cris Carter and Randy Moss were unstoppable on the season.  Carter in his 12th season, caught 78 passes for 1,011 yards and 12 touchdowns.  Randy Moss, who was a rookie, caught 69 passes for 1,313 yards and an eye-popping 17 touchdowns: averaging an incredible 19 yards a reception.

Denver had the number two scoring offense in 1998, averaging 31.3 points per game.  John Elway was the undisputed leader of the offense; having thrown for 2,806 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season. But Terrell Davis was the most dominant player in the league.  He rushed for 2,008 yards and 21 touchdowns, being named league MVP.  He would have been the main weapon if Denver faced Minnesota in the Super Bowl.  Broncos head coach, Mike Shanahan would have had Davis carry the ball at least 30-35 times to control the clock and not let the Vikings offense on the field.

This could have been the greatest Super Bowl in history.  How would Randall Cunningham’s career be thought of had he led the Vikings to the championship.  Would John Elway have retired if he lost the Super Bowl?  Lots of intrigue would have surrounded this matchup.

Super Bowl XXXI (31) – New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers

Led by league MVP, Brett Favre, the Green Bay Packers, who were a 14-point favorite (O/U 52) won their first Super Bowl title since winning Super Bowl II, by beating the New England Patriots, 35-21.

Matchup I Wanted To See: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Carolina Panthers

In the NFC Championship game, the Packers, defeated the second year Carolina Panthers, 30-13 at Lambeau Field.  On the AFC side, the New England Patriots beat the second year Jacksonville Jaguars 20-6 to reach their first Super Bowl since getting mauled by the Bears in Super XX. 

If those conference championship games had gone the other way, Super Bowl XXXI would have featured a fascinating matchup between the NFL’s two newest teams in their second-year existence the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers offense was led by second-year quarterback Kerry Collins who started 12 games and threw for 2,454 yards and 14 touchdowns.  The club’s strength was its defense led by Sam Mills, who had 122 tackles and 5.5 sacks.  Kevin Greene and Lamar Lathon terrorized opposing quarterback all season combining for 28 sacks.

If the Panthers win the Super Bowl, head coach Dom Capers, would be remembered in legendary terms for leading a second-year club to a championship.  Does Kerry Collins remain with the Panthers long-term, and leads the team to consistent success?  Does a Super Bowl championship on his resume get Sam Mills into the Hall of Fame?   

Jacksonville had the number one ranked passing offense triggered by Mark Brunell who was a good passer and could get out of trouble using his feet.  In 1996, the left-hander, threw for 4,367 yards, completing 63.4% of his passes, rushing for 396 yards and accounting for 22 touchdowns (19 passing and three rushing).  Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell were a dangerous duo at receiver, combining for 168 catches, 2,373 yards and 10 touchdowns.  The Jaguars aerial assault would be tough to stop, it would have been interesting to see what Carolina would have done to slow down Jacksonville’s explosive offense.

If Jacksonville would have won the Super Bowl title, how would that have changed Tom Coughlin’s legacy.  Would he have been fired after the 2002 season and going to the New York Giants, leading the franchise to victories in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI?  Do the Jaguars become a marquee franchise and a dominant force in the AFC?

Super Bowl XX (20)New England Patriots vs. Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears who were a 10-point favorite (O/U – 37.5) beat the New England Patriots 46-10 to win the franchise’s first and only Super Bowl Championship.  Richard Dent was named the game’s MVP with 1.5 sacks and a solo tackle.

Matchup I Wanted To See: Miami Dolphins vs. Chicago Bears

The Miami Dolphins were the number two seed in the 1985 AFC Playoffs.  They lost the AFC Championship at the Orange Bowl 31-14 to the New England Patriots, who made the playoffs as a wild card.  Miami had entered the game as a 5.5-point favorite with and over/under of 48. 

The Dolphins were the only team to beat the Bears and keep them from an undefeated season; in fact, members of Miami’s 1972 undefeated team were on the sidelines during the game.  In the highly anticipated matchup on Monday Night Football in which the Bears were a 2-point favorite with an over/under of 43; Dan Marino dominated Buddy Ryan’s fantastic defense.  He was 18-27 for 270 yards, three touchdowns and quarterback rating of 108.6.  Miami won the game 38-21 and were the only team to score 30 or more points vs. Chicago during the 1985 season.

The anticipation of this rematch would have been huge.  It would have pitted the most dominant quarterback against arguably the best defense of all-time.  Dan Marino seemed to be Chicago’s kryptonite due his quick release and unbelievable ability to identify a defense.  He showed that he was the only quarterback able to neutralize the Bears famed “46” defense that dominated opposing offenses throughout the season.  If Marino would have one this game, would he be regarded as a top five quarterback of all-time?  A Lombardi Trophy is the only thing missing from Marino’s resume.  Don Shula would have been regarded as the greatest coach of all-time (before Bill Belichick) if the Dolphins could have beaten the Bears, maybe even making up for his loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III.

For Chicago, Jim McMahon would have been available in this game as he did not play in the regular season contest due to injury.  The “punky QB” was Chicago’s leader on offense and could make a big throw when necessary.  In this matchup, I could envision Walter Payton getting over 30 carries as the Bears would have used the superstar to keep the Dolphins high-powered passing attack off the field. 

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Scott has been a sports fan since he received a New York Mets jacket as a toddler. He’s been playing fantasy baseball and football for over 20 years, dating back to Frank Thomas being one of his first fantasy baseball picks. As a professional, he has covered the NFL, MLB, NCAAF, and NCAAB and is looked to as the go-to guy for fantasy sports amongst family, friends, and co-workers.

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