It was only two years ago when a pair of wild card teams, the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers, advanced to play in conference championship games—and Green Bay went on to beat the No. 2 seed in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Super Bowl XLV.
Wild card teams are just as dangerous—and capable—of winning it all as the top seeds in the 2013 NFL playoffs.
You can be sure that the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers are well aware of that fact—and that those squads don't want to see any of the following teams still standing after the opening round of the playoffs.
For a team that is a last-second field goal away from winning eight consecutive games to end the season, the Cincinnati Bengals aren't getting nearly the level of respect that the team deserves.
A pair of sophomores, QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green, have made huge strides in their development and cohesion this season, connecting 95 times for more than 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air.
The law firm, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, quietly picked up more than 1,000 yards on the ground.
Defensively, the Bengals are a Top 10 unit against both the run and the pass.
This isn't a team that's going to blow the opposition out, but it's a team without a glaring weakness, and one that has been playing outstanding football for the better part of the past two months.
Nobody wants to play this team right now.
Indianapolis doesn't have an outstanding defense. If we're being honest, the Colts defense is average at best, ranking 19th against the pass and 30th against the run.
But this team believes that it can beat anyone standing before them thanks to rookie sensation Andrew Luck, who has taken over under center and led the Colts to the playoffs only a year after the team won a total of two games.
Luck not only set a new record for most passing yards in a season by a rookie, but he's led the Colts on more fourth quarter comebacks than any NFL quarterback since the NFL and AFL merged back in 1970.
If the Colts are within striking distance of taking the lead in the fourth quarter, chances are that Luck will get the job done.
Nobody wants to deal with that in the playoffs.
Like the Cincinnati Bengals, the Seahawks have been on a roll, winning seven of their last eight games heading into the playoffs.
Rookie QB Russell Wilson has been a completely different quarterback in the second half of the season than he was early on, running the offense with the poise and confidence of a seasoned veteran.
Marshawn Lynch has re-emerged as one of the elite running backs in the NFL, picking up nearly 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Lynch has picked up at least 100 yards rushing in each of his last four games and in eight of his last 10.
Defensively, the Seahawks have been outstanding, ranking fifth against the pass and 11th against the run.
With a mix of quality veterans like DE Chris Clemons and CB Marcus Trufant, along with rising stars like LB Bobby Wagner and CB Richard Sherman, Seattle doesn't have a glaring weakness when the opposing offense is on the field.
Teams like Seattle, who do everything well, are the last teams that the higher seeds want to see advance past the wild card round.