2012 NFL Playoffs

NFL Playoff Predictions: Sneaky Super Bowl Contenders Nobody Is Talking About

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Anthony Davis #76 of the San Francisco 49ers smiles during their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Kyle VassaloFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2012

While the Packers, Saints, Steelers and Ravens are all generating a ton of hype heading into the postseason, there are Super Bowl contenders that nobody is talking about.

Being under the radar can be a lethal advantage. We saw the Packers quietly pick apart every opponent they faced and catch fire at the right time, knocking one highly-touted opponent after another out of contention last year.

There are teams built for January that many are writing off as non-threatening. Here are two teams who have a shot at winning it all that nobody is talking about.

 

New England Patriots

It's almost comical to think that the Patriots' recent postseason struggles and defensive woes have virtually the entire league writing them off.

The AFC is wide open, and every single team has proven themselves to be vulnerable. The Patriots happen to have a future Hall of Fame head coach and quarterback tandem who know a little something about winning it all.

The Patriots love being written off. This isn't the best New England team we've seen, but they are guaranteed a game in Foxboro and will likely have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Can I get a quick show of hands of teams who want to go into into Foxboro to take on the Patriots with their season on the line?

 

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have the best defense in the NFL. They've jumped out to a 12-3 record and should shut down the Rams this week to make it 13-3, securing a first-round bye.

The Packers have proven that they aren't invincible, and the Saints will likely have to come to Candlestick to take on the 49ers.

They have their limitations offensively, but this is a team who has nothing to lose, has a league-best turnover differential of 26 and has a historic run defense that forces teams to throw to win.

Is it out of the question to see the Saints, who have lost against the Buccaneers and Rams on the road this season, lose to the 49ers on the road? The Packers are obviously the team to beat in the NFC, but sloppy conditions in Lambeau would favor the 49ers' style of play.

The 49ers aren't flashy and they've got to do better in the red zone, but Jim Harbaugh has his team believing and with Patrick Willis returning just in time, it's hard to imagine anyone will be thrilled about a matchup with the physical 49ers.

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