Super Bowl 2013: Teams with Hardest Paths to Reach Season's Grand Finale
Merely reaching the Super Bowl, much less winning the biggest game of the year, is an accomplishment that a team can be proud of.
It's a testament to the skills, talents and dedication of everyone who is involved with the on-field product, from the front office to the coaching staff to the players themselves.
While getting to the final game of the season isn't easy, the journey is much tougher for some teams than it is for others.
Which playoff-bound squads have to travel the longest road to New Orleans?
Let's take a look at those itineraries.
Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts
The two AFC foes face off in the second AFC Wild Card Game, and while neither team's defense has been very good, both have dynamic offensive players who are more than capable of atoning for defensive lapses.
Whichever team emerges victorious will face a stiff challenge in the divisional round, as a trip to either Denver or New England awaits.
Both teams have faced the Patriots once already this season. Baltimore pulled out a 31-30 victory back in Week 3, when the Patriots were still trying to find themselves, while Indianapolis was thrashed by the Pats in Week 11 by a score of 59-24.
As for the Broncos, Baltimore took Denver on in Week 15, losing 34-17.
Both Denver and New England have legendary, battle-tested quarterbacks who understand what it takes to win in the playoffs.
If the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Houston Texans in the first AFC Wild Card Game, then the winner between the Colts and Ravens will play the Broncos. If Houston wins, a trip to balmy New England in January lies ahead.
Neither of those options is incredibly appealing.
The Falcons might have the top overall seed in the NFC, but that doesn't mean anything when it comes to the three potential opponents that Matt Ryan and company could be facing in the divisional round.
Atlanta's defense, which has been shaky all season to begin with, ranking 23rd against the pass and 21st against the run, saw three starters suffer injuries in the final game of the season.
Cornerback Dunta Robinson suffered an apparent head injury, cornerback Asante Samuel aggravated a shoulder injury and defensive end John Abraham had to be carted off of the field with what looked like an ankle injury (h/t ESPN). Of the three, only Samuel was able to return to action.
That banged up defense will be facing either Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, or, should the Green Bay Packers falter again, Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings.
Each of the three teams has a dynamic running attack that will give the Falcons an incredibly difficult time, especially if Abraham is unable to play.
Those dynamic running games all have the ability to eat up huge chunks of the clock, keeping Atlanta's explosive offense on the sideline and tiring out an already weak defensive unit.
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