Created on: January 08, 2013
The first week of the National Football League (NFL) postseason has come and gone, turning some contenders to sideline pretenders after sixty minutes. The results of the AFC Wild Card Round of the playoffs found the Houston Texans taking care of the Cincinnati Bengals at home, with the Baltimore Ravens doing the same to the Indianapolis Colts. In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks ended the Washington Redskins season while the Green Bay Packers dispatched the Minnesota Vikings to advance.
That leaves eight teams remaining for the chance to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The question in some fans minds will be who of the eight are serious contenders to win it all. Taking a look in the AFC, one has got to like the chances of the Denver Broncos. There were many pundits that thought that Peyton Manning was taking an enormous risk, coming back to play in Denver. It turns out he was right once again as Denver finished fourth in the league in total offense. Put that with a team that leads the league in sacks and there is a combination that could be in the Super Bowl.
The New England Patriots have to be considered a likely choice, as well. The Patriots ended the regular season ranked number one in total offense in the league while their defense has been surprisingly stout. Years of astute drafting have helped New England improve their defense, making them a popular pick to be in the big game. They also own a ten point win over the Broncos in the early weeks of the 2012 season, though the win was at home. If they meet again in these playoffs, it will be in Denver.
No team that makes it to this weekend can be discounted, but the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens have to be considered long shots. Houston looked like the class of the AFC for much of the season but dropped from the number one seed to the number three seed in a blink of an eye. In every big game test this season, they failed miserably. They are playing New England in round 2, which beat them soundly once during the regular season in Foxboro. The Ravens simply have too many nagging injuries on the defensive side of the ball to be able to hang with Peyton Manning.
In the NFC, things are a bit more wide open. Any of the four remaining teams could make a legitimate claim to being the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Green Bay has gotten hot at the right time, perhaps coinciding with the return of Clay Matthews to their defense. They had a blip on the radar with the week 17 loss to the Vikings, but they destroyed them at home when it counted. Aaron Rodgers is a big time quarterback that can lead the Pack back. Matt Ryan and Atlanta have been the class of the conference this year so they could take it with their home field advantage throughout NFC Playoffs.
The problem with Atlanta is their strange habit of losing to underwhelming opponents. One has to wonder if the team that won all those games shows up, or the team that plays down to opponents arrives at the field. If it is the latter, Seattle is more than equipped to knock them out. Seattle's defense, along with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, are riding a six game win streak and are more than a match for the Falcons. San Francisco made it to the NFC Championship last season and play at home this Sunday. Their defense is who can lead them over Green Bay as Colin Kapernick has been shaky in recent weeks. The 49ers might be considered the long shot from the NFC side of things.
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