There have been many great Super Bowls through the years, but something you don’t hear anything about is the potential matchups that could have been.
It won’t be much of a stretch suggesting that any of these games could have happened because they all include teams that made the conference championship game the same year, but never got a chance to play in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl 44: Indianapolis Colts vs. Minnesota Vikings, February 7, 2010. Sun Life Stadium. Miami, Florida.
Brett Favre vs. Peyton Manning. That right there sells the game.
Vikings fans will remember the turnovers and interceptions that allowed the New Orleans Saints to reach their first Super Bowl six year ago. Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning is a pretty good quarterback matchup in its own right, but not Favre vs. Manning.
Favre took a beating at the Superdome that night. No doubt he would have played in Miami two weeks later, but would have been limited with a severely sprained ankle. Minnesota was probably a better team than the Saints and Colts that year and a second Super Bowl win at 40-years-old would have been enough for Favre to call it a career.
Another intriguing game would have been the Vikings vs. the team the Colts defeated in the AFC Championship Game, the Jets. Favre vs. the team he played with the season prior.
Super Bowl 42: New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers, February 3, 2008. University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona.
Another dream quarterback storyline between Brett Favre and Tom Brady. The Giants needed overtime and Tom Coughlin froze his face in order to keep Green Bay out of the Super Bowl, 23-20.
Favre and Brady only played each other twice when Favre was with Green Bay. A 28-10 Packers road win in 2002 and a 35-0 New England shutout in 2006 with Favre going 5-of-15 for 73 yards at home.
We would have gotten a 19-0 perfect season from New England or that second Super Bowl that Favre never won. As with the Super Bowl 44 scenario, a Green Bay win probably would have been enough for Favre to call it a career three years sooner than he did.
Super Bowl 37: Tennessee Titans vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
January 26, 2003. Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
This time around the Bucs keep up their end of the bargain. It’s the Titans that fall to the Raiders that keep us, for the third time, without this ever elusive Titans/Buccaneers Super Bowl. It probably wouldn’t have mattered what team Tampa Bay played in the Super Bowl that year, the defense was good enough to shut down one of the best offenses in the NFL in Oakland.
Super Bowl 33: Tennessee Titans vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
January 30, 2000. Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
This is Oilers vs. Bucs exactly 20 years later, but neither game happened. These two franchises seem destined to meet one day in the big game. Tampa has made the NFC Championship Game three times and each time the Oilers/Titans franchise also made the AFC Championship Game the same year.
The Bucs defense of the late 90′s and early 2000 is historically great and was great enough to win a Super Bowl three years later with Brad Johnson as QB. They lost the conference title game to the Rams 11-6. The greatest show on turf was shutdown in a way nobody thought possible that day. If you remember back to our hypothetical Super Bowl 14 between Houston and Tampa, you should know that it was it was the Rams that denied the Bucs in their second chance to reach the Super Bowl.
You could also have had a Tampa Bay vs. Jacksonville Super Bowl since the Titans easily defeated the Jaguars on the AFC side that year 33-14.
Super Bowl 33: Denver Broncos vs. Minnesota Vikings
January 31, 1999. Pro Player Stadium, Miami, Florida
The highest scoring team in NFL history at the time, the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, disappointed a suffering fan base once again with a 30-27 home, overtime loss to Atlanta. The Falcons were plenty good at 14-2, but the Vikings had an all-time great offense.
Super Bowl 33 is largely forgettable. The Falcons never threatened Denver in John Elway’s final game. It was 17-6 at the half and no points were scored in the 3rd quarter, before 30 total points were scored in garbage time in the 4th. Maybe if the Vikings play Denver that year, Elway’s career doesn’t end on such a high note.
Super Bowl 31: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Carolina Panthers, January 26, 1997. Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Two expansion teams meeting in the Super Bowl in their second year of existence would have been unique. Also the only game on the list where neither team made the Super Bowl that year.
Carolina was 12-4 and was the 2 seed in 1996, so their run to a conference title game was a little more expected. On the other hand, Jacksonville gets into the playoffs with a 9-7 record and had to win at Buffalo and pulled off a huge upset at Super Bowl favorite Denver that year just to make the AFC Championship Game and fall short at New England 20-6.
The Jaguars hosted and defeated Carolina earlier that season 24-14.
Super Bowl 28: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Dallas Cowboys, January 30, 1994. Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia.
Instead of seeing another Bills and Cowboys Super Bowl, how about the Joe Montana led Chiefs trying to stop the Dallas dynasty?
Kansas City lost at Buffalo 30-13 in the AFC Championship Game, with the Bills holding Montana to 125 yards on 9-of-23 passing.
Joe’s last game would come a year later in Miami, a 27-17 Wild Card loss to Dan Marino.
Super Bowl 28: Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers
January 30, 1994. Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
This was a Super Bowl that we also did last year between the Chiefs and Cowboys. I think it’s fair to say of the dozen of so hypothetical matchups we have done over the past two years, this one would have been the biggest. Joe Montana facing his former team.
Neither championship game this year was all that close. Buffalo beat Kansas City 30-13 and Dallas beat San Francisco 38-21.
Super Bowl 27: Miami Dolphins vs. Dallas Cowboys, January 31, 1993. Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California.
You would imagine that if Dan Marino went against the Cowboys instead of Buffalo, the game would have been closer than 52-17. Miami would win at Dallas the next season, 16-14, in the famous Thanksgiving Day, Leon Lett, snow game at Texas Stadium.
This was as close as Marino would get to another Super Bowl, his last of three AFC Championship Game appearances. Buffalo made their third straight Super Bowl with a 29-10 win over the Dolphins. The amazing thing is that Miami dominated the Bills earlier in the season at Buffalo 37-10, but lost both home games, including this conference title game.
The was the second and final road playoff game that the Bills played during their early 90′s run of four straight Super Bowls.
Buffalo and Miami were 11-5 in 1992, with Miami winning the tiebreaker. If that never happens, we never would have seen the 32 point comeback from the Bills vs. Houston as the Bills would have received a bye and the Dolphins would have hosted Houston.
Super Bowl 25: Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers
January 27, 1991. Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
For a six year stretch from 1988 to 1994, the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers made a combined 10 conference title game appearances and somehow never played each other in the Super Bowl. We are picking Super Bowl 25 since this is the closest that it came to happening. That means no Giants Super Bowl win and the Scott Norwood missed kick.
Buffalo beat the Raiders 51-3 in the largest blowout in conference title game history in either league. They also scored the most points ever in a conference title game. Meanwhile, San Francisco lost to the Giants 15-13 at Candlestick.
This was the first year that has the playoff format that we use now with six teams in each conference qualifying.
A low scoring game was to be expected. the 49ers defeated New York on a Monday night at home in Week 13, 7-3 and the over/under was set at 37. San Francisco was the #1 seed at 14-2 and they were 9-1 that season in games decided by six points or less.
Giants kicker Matt Bahr hit five of his six field goals as the only scoring for the Giants. The game winning drive was set up by a Roger Craig fumble with 2:36 left. A team led by Jeff Hostetler went into Candlestick and beat Joe Montana. This was Montana’s last start for San Francisco. He would miss all of the 1991 season and played against Detroit off the bench in his only action of 1992 before moving on to Kansas City.
Super Bowl 20: Miami Dolphins vs. Chicago Bears, January 26, 1986. Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana.
This would have been the rematch of the lone Bears loss during the 1985 season. The famous Monday night game at the Orange Bowl that Miami won 38-24. Instead, we got a 46-10 drubbing of an 11-5 Patriots team that won road game against the Jets, Raiders and Miami, crisscrossing the country from New York to Los Angeles to Miami to New Orleans.
The amazing thing was that up to that point, New England was 1-18 all-time at Miami, including 18 consecutive losses. They had not won in Miami since 1966, but did so in January of 1986.
Super Bowl 18: Los Angeles Raiders vs. San Francisco 49ers
January 22, 1984. Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
The 49ers and Raiders have made the conference title game three times in the same season and have never played against each other in the Super Bowl.
Two teams that used to share the Bay Area 20 miles a part would have to fly cross county to Tampa to play in Super Bowl 18. The Raiders vs. Redskins Super Bowl that year was not competitive, with L.A. winning 38-9. You would expect Joe Montana and company to keep it closer than that.
The 49ers lost to Washington 24-21 on the NFC side, but then entered the 4th quarter in a 21-0 hole in D.C. Redskins kicker Mark Moseley, coming off his MVP season the year before (yes a kicker was named NFL MVP in 1982) made the game winner from 25-yards out with 40 seconds left. Two controversial defensive penalties on San Francisco aided the final Washington drive.
The odd thing about the AFC Title Game that season between the Raiders and the Seahawks is that Seattle defeated L.A. in both regular season games by a combined five points. The AFC Championship Game was not close, 30-14.
Super Bowl 14: Houston Oilers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
January 20, 1980. Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
Wait, what? This game doesn’t even seem possible. The actual Super Bowl XIV was a 31-19 Steelers victory over the Rams to put a close to the 70′s Pittsburgh dynasty.
Houston lost to Pittsburgh in the AFC Title Game for the second consecutive year during the 1979 season 27-13. It was a 17-13 game early in the 4th quarter and a controversial call that took away an Oilers touchdown would have made it a 17-17 game instead. These teams played in Week 16 at the Astrodome. The Oilers won 20-17.
The NFC Title Game between Los Angeles and Tampa Bay was much closer at 9-0. What makes it more frustrating for Bucs fans is that the game was a home and they had defeated the Rams 21-6 in Week 4 earlier that season in Tampa.
It’s all the more remarkable how close this game came to be considering Tampa was in year four of existence, lost their first 26 games in franchise history and won seven games in their first three season. This would also become just the second season in the first 21 years of the Bucs franchise where they finished over .500.
Super Bowl 12: Oakland Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys, January 15, 1978. Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana.
You could have picked Super Bowl 5, 8, 10 or 15 as Dallas and Oakland as both were in a conference title game five times over 11 years, but never met.
The 1970′s were dominated by the Steelers, Dolphins, Vikings, Cowboys and Raiders, yet we never saw America’s Team play the Silver and Black. In fact, during that entire run, Dallas and Oakland only played twice, in 1974 and 1980, splitting the two games at Oakland.
We picked Super Bowl 12 because it was one of the worst ones of the five. Dallas defeated Denver 27-10.
Super Bowl 5 isn’t considered good either, but Johnny Unitas won his lone ring and we don’t want to take that away.
Super Bowl 8 was Miami and Minnesota with both teams winning conference title games 27-10.
Super Bowl 10 had the first Pittsburgh and Dallas encounter, which was always quality.
Super Bowl 15 had Oakland defeating Philadelphia. That year, Dallas had Danny White at QB and we wanted to get a Roger Staubach vs. Ken Stabler battle.