In the National Football League, legends are made in the postseason. Many of the top players in NFL history put together Hall of Fame–caliber careers based on their performances during the regular season. But if you look at the players who are widely considered to be the best to ever play the game at their respective positions, they have one thing in common: at least one Super Bowl ring to their name.
After 17 weeks full of injuries, amazing individual performances, and shocking upsets, the 2016 NFL Playoffs are now upon us. Twelve teams are set to battle it out over the next month for the right to hoist the Lombardi Trophy as the champions of Super Bowl 51. Even though there are dozens of potential Super Bowl matchups, we all know that only a handful of teams stand a realistic chance at reaching the big game on February 5, 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston.
With that said, here’s a look at the most likely matchups for Super Bowl 51 according to the oddsmakers for the Las Vegas sportsbooks.
15. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Giants
For this scenario to happen, the Chiefs and Giants would have to pull off more than one improbable upset over the next three weeks. The Chiefs would have to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots to reach Super Bowl 51. And the Giants would face with the daunting task of having to beat the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys, and either the Atlanta Falcons or the Seattle Seahawks (all on the road) to earn the right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 51.
14. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Seattle Seahawks
This potential matchup ranking this low has more to do with the Chiefs than the Seahawks. As we previously mentioned, Kansas City has an extremely tough road through the AFC, despite their first–round bye. And when it comes down to it, we just don’t see any way that this is the matchup we’ll see in Super Bowl 51.
13. (tie) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Quite frankly, we’re shocked that the Vegas oddsmakers didn’t give this potential matchup a higher likelihood. The Steelers have an elite offense and know how to win in the postseason. And the Seahawks, who still have one of the most talented rosters in the game, have as good of a chance as any NFC team this year.
13. (tie) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants
If the Giants can get by the Green Bay Packers on wild-card weekend, we actually think this matchup has a realistic chance of happening. Both teams have Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks and are talented enough to make deep postseason runs. That said, the Steelers and Giants would have to win three playoff games each to reach the Super Bowl, which isn’t likely.
11. (tie) Kansas City Chiefs vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Chiefs and Falcons both have first-round playoff byes, which means that each must win two games to reach Super Bowl 51 in Houston. However, while they will surely benefit from the extra week of rest, both teams have to beat incredibly tough opponents to punch their respective Super Bowl tickets.
11. (tie) Kansas City Chiefs vs. Green Bay Packers
To be perfectly honest, we thought the Vegas oddsmakers were a little generous here. For starters, we see the Chiefs as extreme Super Bowl longshots given their likely opponents (the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots). As for the Packers, they will have to knock off three formidable opponents to win the NFC title.
9. (tie) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers
If you are anything like us, then this scenario — a rematch of Super Bowl XLV in 2010 — would make you extremely happy. It would give football fans a chance to see two of the league’s best quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger) duel it out for a world championship on the game’s biggest stage.
9. (tie) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Atlanta Falcons
If this matchup happens, we could all be in for one of the highest-scoring Super Bowls in recent memory. The Steelers and Falcons are both capable of lighting up the scoreboard (Pittsburgh averages 24.9 and Atlanta averages 33.8 points per game in 2016). On top of that, neither team is particularly strong on the defensive side of the ball. If nothing else, this game would be highly entertaining for even the most casual of football fans.
7. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Dallas Cowboys
We feel like a broken record, but we do not see any way the Chiefs get by the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots in the AFC Playoffs. On the flip side, the Cowboys still have everything in place to win their first conference title since 1995.
6. New England Patriots vs. New York Giants
There may not be a more intriguing potential Super Bowl matchup than this one. As a refresher, the Patriots and Giants faced off in two Super Bowls in the last nine years (the G-Men won both). What makes this possible matchup even more interesting is the fact that the Giants are the only team that has beaten Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in a Super Bowl (four other teams were unsuccessful).
5. New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
Simply put: This potential Super Bowl matchup would instantly become one of the most hyped games in the history of professional sports. These teams met in Super Bowl XLIX two years ago in one of the most hard-fought title games in NFL history.
Based on how that game played out, it’s safe to say that these two franchises simply do not like each other. It also bears pointing out that the Seahawks likely would have won their previous Super Bowl meeting with the Pats were it not for some questionable goal–line play–calling by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys
This scenario would be a dream come true for Roger Goodell and the National Football League. The Steelers and the Cowboys have arguably the two biggest, and most loyal, fanbases in the league, which means ratings would likely be through the roof if this potential matchup came to fruition.
3. (tie) New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons
We’re at the point in this list where it becomes abundantly clear that the Vegas oddsmakers strongly believe the Patriots will represent the AFC in Super Bowl 51. In this scenario Brady and Belichick would square off with the Falcons, who are the No. 2 seed in the NFC and possess what is arguably the league’s best offense. If this becomes the matchup we see in Super Bowl 51, expect to see a great deal of scoring.
3. (tie) New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers
Based on the way the Packers have played as of late, we could realistically argue that this is the most likely potential matchup for Super Bowl 51. Rodgers has been on a tear over the last seven weeks (and may have won himself the 2016 NFL MVP award in the process), which leads us to believe that the 33-year-old is fully capable of singlehandedly leading the Packers to a NFC title.
1. New England Patriots vs. Dallas Cowboys
This one needs little explanation, really. How could the No. 1 seed in the AFC versus the No. 1 seed in the NFC not be the most likely Super Bowl matchup according to Vegas, especially when both teams are firing on all cylinders entering the postseason?