5 Teams That Are Dark Horses for the 2013 Super Bowl
The NFL is not a league content with crowning the same champions repeatedly.
In fact, seven different teams have won the Super Bowl in the past eight years.
Every season, new clubs find ways to make playoff runs and contend with the perennially elite likes of the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.
The 2012-13 campaign should be no different.
Five teams have a chance to be the elusive dark horse that sneaks up on everyone and finds itself at the Superdome for Super Bowl XLVII.
The first team listed may just be the most shocking of them all.
5. Carolina Panthers
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Last season, the Carolina Panthers finished with a 6-10 record and yet only gave up 23 more points than they scored all season.
Go ahead and take a second to digest that information.
If the young Panthers roster had found ways to win close games they may have been able to make their Super Bowl run already.
As it stands, Cam Newton and the rest of the team have had a year of bumps and bruises to learn their lessons.
They actually finished last season by winning four of their final six games.
If they continue that momentum and are able to get solid production out of the underrated Jon Beason-led defense, the Panthers have a real chance to make a run at the championship.
4. Denver Broncos
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The Denver Broncos were a legitimate AFC West favorite before they acquired Peyton Manning.
With him under center, the team has a real chance to go to the Super Bowl.
Are they a favorite?
The New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens are undoubtedly better teams right now, but Denver has a roster with potential.
Von Miller is an absolute stud at linebacker and the defense is developing nicely.
If the Broncos can find a suitable balance between their top-ranked rushing game from last season and the passing proficiency of Manning, they will be a tough team to beat.
3. Chicago Bears
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The Chicago Bears seemed to find a real groove in the middle of last season before a rash of injuries left them on the fast track to nowhere.
This season, Chicago is healthy and has all the components needed to play in February.
Devin Hester is still one of the best return men in all of football.
Matt Forte has proven to be one of the most productive running backs in the NFL.
Brian Urlacher and the defense are still hungry.
And Jay Cutler can be an elite quarterback when he has time in the pocket and isn't making poor decisions with the football.
If Chicago can survive the grueling NFC North, it will have a good chance to be the league's biggest surprise in 2012.
2. San Diego Chargers
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Are the San Diego Chargers ever not a dark horse poised to finally break out?
It seems the Chargers are perennially expected to make that next step and live up to the potential their roster possesses.
Prolific offense with a Pro Bowl QB?
Ability to consistently play quality football over the course of an entire season?
Not so much.
There is some urgency surrounding the club because surely head coach Norv Turner cannot survive another subpar showing.
With the addition of Melvin Ingram in the draft, the defense has become even more dynamic. This is a team that could easily take advantage of a vulnerable AFC West division and make a run towards the Super Bowl.
1. Detroit Lions
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Last season was a coming-out party of sorts for the Detroit Lions.
The franchise finally made it back to the postseason after being away for over a decade, and it showcased some serious offensive firepower via Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.
This lethal duo can get hot at any time, and it would not be crazy to see them making a charge come January.
The NFC North division will be as unforgiving as ever with both the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears also gunning to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
If Detroit can get decent play out of its secondary unit to complement its tremendous front seven, the Lions may turn heads for the second year in a row.
And on a much grander scale.