When the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants battle to advance to the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs this Sunday, there will be some intriguing storylines that include Atlanta's attempt to get a monkey off its back and New York's prospects for a repeat of their 2008 Super Bowl run.
But do either of these teams have a real shot at the Super Bowl?
My best guess is no.
The Falcons are a talented team with potential written all over them, but their lack of success in the playoffs has been disconcerting. Last season's 48-21 beatdown at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champs was the latest of Atlanta's setbacks in the playoffs. The Falcons haven't been to the NFC Championship game since the 2005 playoffs, when they were handed a 27-10 loss by the Philadelphia Eagles.
One wonders if this team is still too young across the board to be counted on in clutch games.
The Giants, meanwhile, are one of the most unlikely playoff teams and greatly benefited from the Dallas Cowboys' inability to close out the division. New York made a miracle Super Bowl run and topped it off with a win over the undefeated New England Patriots in 2008, but who really thinks they will be able to do it again?
Both of these teams have struggled with inconsistency this year, and their defenses have held them back.
The Giants pack a powerful punch in the passing game and have a dangerous pass rush, but their ineffective running game and porous defense make another Super Bowl run extremely improbable. The Falcons, on the other hand, have been somewhat average offensively despite having some of the best talent in the NFL at all offensive positions. They have also struggled to stop teams, especially through the air.
Unlikely Super Bowl runs happen quite often it seems. We've already mentioned the '07-'08 Giants, and we can't forget about the Green Bay Packers, who sneaked into the playoffs last season with a sixth seed.
Still, I don't think either of these teams will have what it takes to pull of an improbable run. If we see a wild card team in the Super Bowl at all, I'll be surprised if it's the Giants or the Falcons.