The NFL takes its ratings momentum into the postseason with the culmination coming on Super Bowl Sunday. Regardless of who is in it, the Super Bowl draws an unmatched number of viewers each year. However, there are certain matchups that give the event extra juice and result in higher ratings. Over the past 10 seasons, the event ranged between 98.19 million viewers to 114.44 million viewers. Here the top five matchups I predict would draw the highest viewership. Factors include team notoriety, star power, past ratings, and information gathered from talking with industry experts.
Sports fans dream of "passing of the torch" moments, which is exactly what this one would be billed as. The impact of Patrick Mahomes vs. Aaron Rodgers in the Super Bowl very well could resemble the 1991 NBA Finals when Michael Jordan let the world know the NBA was his, and no longer Magic Johnson's. This is the matchup that would fill the most headlines through the two weeks leading into the game. The prediction here is it would draw around 110 million viewers. Green Bay is the most well-known team left in the NFC, and Rodgers is one of the NFL's most recognizable players. Mahomes, who has already made a name as a generational-type talent, has also become a household name to the casual fans due to his State Farm commercials, which, ironically, are sometimes with Rodgers. The last time the Packers were in the Super Bowl, in 2011, the number was 111.01 million.
The highest-watched Super Bowl to date will forever be known as the game the Seahawks didn't run the ball and lost to the Patriots 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX. The massive 114.44 million average was a product of the game coming down to the very last seconds and was as entertaining as a script could've written it. It was able to maintain the audience through its entirety, thus the enormous average. The Ravens-49ers collision course projects to do the same. These have been the two most dominant teams all year long, and when they met in the regular season, they exchanged blows. It was Ali-Frazier on the football field in the rain. This time, it would be in Miami, and the shiny offenses would be on full display. There would be plenty of pre-game hype, as well, with the soon-to-be MVP, Lamar Jackson, and oddly-interesting Jimmy Garoppolo squaring off. The last time these two franchises met in the Super Bowl, in 2013, it was watched by 108.69 million.
After three-straight Super Bowl appearances, Patriots-fatigue has settled in. It was even the case last year, which played a part in the Super Bowl failing to reach a 100 million average for the first time since 2009. That and the fact New England as adapted a boring-style of football. But the one matchup that would have the NFL giddy is an Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady Super Bowl. While it's at least four years too late, the NFL's version of Mayweather-Pacquiao would check off all the boxes. Rodgers and Brady are the NFL's two biggest stars, and this would be the ultimate legacy game. Rodgers is the most talented quarterback of this generation, but he must add another Super Bowl ring to be in the same discussion as Brady. What better way than to be the one to put the dynasty to rest? At least, that's how this would be promoted.
Nobody is picking the Eagles to make it this far, and they probably won't. But, if they do, and face the Chiefs, the storylines would be unlimited. The Eagles are one of the NFL's most talked about teams and is a team the person down the road who doesn't watch football has heard of. If they were to make the Super Bowl, their championship pedigree would be undeniable. Andy Reid desperately needs a Super Bowl, and how poetic would it be if it came against his team of 14 years? Both Reid and the Chiefs have a reputation of blowing playoff leads, therefore, no matter how much they lead, fans would be watching this one until the end, bolstering the game average. No two teams would have more heartwarming postgame celebrations, either. Seeing Reid raise that trophy would be big, of course, but a Chiefs win would officially launch the Mahomes legacy conversation. And after all the injuries endured, all the Nick Foles talk, and all the doubt, the moment for Carson Wentz would be worth recording.
The Saints don't have the national cachet of the Packers, Eagles, and 49ers, but the gap is narrowing. And anyone that doesn't have a dog in the race, will be rooting for the Saints after the past two devastating postseasons losses. The Ravens and Saints are the two most exciting watches in the NFL. Having them go head-to-head in the biggest event of the year would essentially be PR for how good the NFL product is. Lamar Jackson and Drew Brees head into the playoffs as the two hottest quarterbacks and are two of the most likable. This one would come down-to-the-wire, feature fireworks, and make it hard to turn away and eat the leftover halftime snacks. The level of excitement that would occur in the first half could even keep those solely watching for Jennifer Lopez and Shakira to not turn the channel immediately after the performances conclude.
[Super Bowl ratings via Sports Media Watch]