Ranking potential rematches for the 2023 NFL playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
After 271 regular season games, the NFL postseason field is officially set.
Only seven playoff teams from last year are returning this season, which means there are seven newcomers in the mix.
Inevitably, there will be some rematches as these 14 squads work their way through the bracket. Most of the teams have recent playoff history together, including several thrilling matchups last year.
What are some playoff rematches that we could see this January? Here’s a look at some potential options, plus a refresh of what happened last time out:
Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Last playoff meeting: Chiefs 42, Bills 36 (2021 divisional round)
Who could forget this one? With a trip to the AFC title game on the line, the Bills and Chiefs delivered an instant classic last January. There were 25 points scored in the final two minutes of regulation. The Bills took a three-point lead with 13 seconds left before the Chiefs miraculously tied it with a field goal. In overtime, Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce for the game-winning touchdown.
Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers
Last playoff meeting: 49ers 23, Cowboys 17 (2021 wild card round)
Another instant classic from last year’s postseason that could be rekindled this month. Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers traveled to Dallas and upset Dak Prescott’s Cowboys despite a furious comeback. San Francisco led 23-7 entering the fourth quarter before Dallas scored 10 straight. The Cowboys drove to the 49ers’ 24-yard line in the final minute, but the clock ran out after Prescott scrambled for 17 yards and couldn’t snap the ball in time for another play.
A potential rematch this year would happen in the Bay Area, as the No. 2 seed 49ers (13-4) finished ahead of the No. 5 seed Cowboys (12-5). They could face off in either the divisional round or the NFC title game, depending on the results of other matchups.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Last playoff meeting: Bengals 27, Chiefs 24 (2021 AFC Championship Game)
A week after their stunning win over the Bills, the Chiefs ran out of magic in the AFC title game. They led 21-10 at halftime before a dominant second half and overtime period by Cincinnati. The Bengals led 24-21 before the Chiefs forced overtime on a field goal as time expired. In the extra period, Vonn Bell intercepted Mahomes before rookie Evan McPherson nailed a 31-yard field goal to punch Cincy’s ticket to Super Bowl LVI.
With the Bengals holding the No. 3 seed, these two squads wouldn’t meet until the AFC Championship Game again. Cincinnati will have to take down the Ravens and then likely the Bills to set up a potential rematch with Kansas City.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Last playoff meeting: Buccaneers 31, Eagles 15 (2021 wild card round)
OK, this game was pretty forgettable. But it’s a notable potential rematch because of how quickly things have changed for both teams. Just a year ago, the Bucs were the defending Super Bowl champions and No. 2 seed while the Eagles barely snuck into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. Tom Brady and the Bucs didn’t have any trouble defeating Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, jumping out to a 31-0 lead before the Eagles scored 15 in the fourth quarter.
This year, the Eagles would enter a rematch as the heavy favorites. At 14-3, Philly has a first-round bye before potentially facing 8-9 Tampa Bay in the divisional round if all the favorites prevail. They could also play in the NFC title game if a team seeded lower than the Bucs wins in the wild card round.
Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers
Last playoff meeting: 49ers 27, Vikings 10 (2019 divisional round)
Way back in January of 2020, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers kicked off their playoff run with a win over the Vikings. It was an anticlimactic game for the most part – San Francisco never trailed and comfortably won by 17 points, limiting Kirk Cousins to just 172 passing yards. But the game was a crucial building block for the 49ers, who eventually advanced to Super Bowl LIV before losing to the Chiefs.
If the teams were to play this postseason, it would again come in the divisional round. Neither team has a bye, but the No. 2 49ers would be guaranteed to face the No. 3 Vikings if both win their wild card matchups. These squads are much different than when they played three years ago – Brock Purdy is the 49ers’ QB and Kevin O’Connell is the Vikings’ coach, among other changes – but there would be some familiarity.