NFL Teams with the Toughest Routes to the Super Bowl
The Minnesota Vikings have a brutal road to the Super Bowl, and they aren't the only ones with massive challenges to overcome to get to the promised land in 2012.
There's a reason teams push so hard to get a first-round bye and home-field advantage every season. Though we've recently seen some amazing runs by wild-card teams who've won every single game on the road on their way to a championship, it's certainly not the route most teams want to take.
With one week left in the regular season, these four teams have the toughest paths to travel in order to achieve the ultimate prize.
The Cincinnati Bengals, at 9-6, are locked into the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
Even if they beat the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, they can't change their fates, as the Ravens already clinched the AFC North with a victory against the New York Giants in Week 16.
If the season ended today, the Bengals would be scheduled for a trip to the East Coast to face the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the Wild Card Round—a daunting task for any team in the month of January.
Should they win that game, the Bengals would then travel to face either the Denver Broncos—winners of 10 straight games (likely 11 after they face the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17)—or the Houston Texans.
Both teams have veteran leadership and stifling defenses, and the Bengals would be heavy underdogs all the way to Super Bowl XLVII.
If the Washington Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, they'll host a playoff game in the Wild Card Round.
If they do so, they'll be hosting the Seattle Seahawks (provided the 49ers don't lose to the lowly Arizona Cardinals and concede the NFC West)—a team nobody wants to face right now.
The Seahawks have put up 150 points in the past three weeks while allowing just 30. Russell Wilson is playing as well as any quarterback in the league, Marshawn Lynch is running the ball as well as he ever has, and the team's defense has been shutting folks down all year long.
If the Redskins manage to get past the Seahawks, they'll be in line to face either the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers or San Francisco 49ers in the next round, and all three of those teams feature veteran defenses that will bring plenty of heat to RGIII's kitchen and offenses that will annihilate the porous Redskins defense.
As impressive as the Redskins' 2012 second-half run has been, it won't last long in the playoffs.
First things first: The Indianapolis Colts feature a defense that allowed the Kansas City Chiefs to total 507 yards in Week 16.
Elite offenses are going to shred the Colts in the postseason.
Secondly, Andrew Luck has had some major struggles on the road this season, throwing 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in those games compared to 10 touchdowns and five interceptions at home.
The Colts are set to hit the road and face the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs. Joe Flacco is significantly better at home, and given the way the Ravens trounced the New York Giants in Week 16, it seems safe to say they're getting back on track after a few bad weeks.
If the Colts should defeat the Ravens, they'd be in line for another brutal road game against either the Houston Texans or Denver Broncos, who both feature offenses that would have little trouble lighting up the porous Colts defense, not to mention their defenses are among the best in the NFL.
The Minnesota Vikings have the toughest route to the 2013 Super Bowl of any potential playoff team.
First off, the Vikings need to defeat the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 to ensure they'll even get in.
The Packers are highly motivated to win the game, due to the fact that a loss and a San Francisco 49ers victory over the Arizona Cardinals would bump them back to the No. 3 spot in the NFC.
Should the Vikings lose in Week 17, there are a few teams that could sneak into the No. 6 seed, given the right circumstances.
However, in the event that the Vikings win, they'll be tasked with hitting the road to face either the 49ers or Packers the very next week. Then, they'll have another road trip to face the Atlanta Falcons the following week for the NFC Divisional Round.
And given the one-dimensional Vikings offense, it's hard to see this team getting past the first round, let alone making it all the way to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.