Super Bowl Predictions 2013: Most Likely Wild-Card Round Teams to Make Big Run
If recent history tells us anything, it's that one of the eight teams playing in this weekend's Wild Card Weekend will make a trip to the Super Bowl.
Only once in the past seven Super Bowls has at least one representative not played in the first round, and five of those six teams actually went on to win the big game. In other words, it's more likely than not that we'll watch the eventual Super Bowl XLVII champion on Saturday or Sunday.
With the NFL's top teams looking nearly unstoppable of late, it's nearly impossible to know which team will ultimately make the run. After all, we're not psychics or anything. However, it has become pretty apparent based on matchups which teams will most likely make a thrilling run to New Orleans in February.
For that reason, here is a complete breakdown of the teams playing this weekend that are most likely to make the Super Bowl.
Obviously, a game against the red-hot Seattle Seahawks isn't exactly the way the Redskins wanted to start their first postseason of the Robert Griffin III era. The Seattle defense has been an absolute menace all season and matches up extremely well against Washington's athletic offensive attack.
But if the Redskins can pull off an upset, their path may just break wide open all the way to the Super Bowl.
Washington's likeliest opponent in the Divisional Round, the Atlanta Falcons, is a fantastic matchup. The Falcons rank 21st in the NFL against the run, giving up 123.2 yards per game and the Redskins played them tough, losing 24-17, in a game where RGIII went out with a concussion.
More importantly, despite a very up-and-down season, DeAngelo Hall proved on Sunday he could lock down an opposing No. 1 receiver. Dez Bryant struggled mightily to make headway against Hall, something that could loom large against Falcons receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones.
A matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round could be much more problematic—especially after what should be a down-to-the-wire game against Seattle. Jim Harbaugh's squad has been great at home during his tenure, having lost just one game to a team other than the New York Giants.
Still, the Redskins feel like a far likelier Super Bowl contender than either AFC wild-card team or the non-conference rival Baltimore Ravens at this juncture.
Super Bowl Likelihood: 15 Percent
After weeks of preaching against overreaction about the Texans, well, perhaps now would be a good time to panic. Needing a win over an Indianapolis Colts team they had beaten just two weeks prior, Houston came out and laid its second consecutive egg, losing home-field advantage.
The blame (once again) falls at the feet of quarterback Matt Schaub and head coach Gary Kubiak. Schaub completed 24 of 36 passes for 275 yards, but his two interceptions accounted for the game's only turnovers.
Kubiak's play-calling was far more atrocious. Facing a Colts team that had given up 352 rushing yards a week prior against the Chiefs, the Texans coach gave Arian Foster a mere 16 carries in a game that was close for almost its entirety.
The problems with Schaub and Kubiak are real and could derail Houston. However, of the teams playing in AFC wild-card games, the Texans are far and away the most likely to make a deep run.
Because of their late-season swoon, it's easy to forget how complete this team is on both sides of the ball. Foster, Schaub and Andre Johnson form one of the best quarterback-running back-wide receiver trios in the league and Houston's defense finished No. 3 overall in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric.
The Texans also have the third-best point differential in the AFC and have beaten three of the other five playoff teams in their conference. Unfortunately, one of those teams Houston beat (the Denver Broncos) has home-field advantage, paving the way for the Texans to play an AFC team they didn't (the New England Patriots) in the Divisional Round.
Like Washington, the matchups may be what ultimately dooms the Texans.
Super Bowl Likelihood: 20 percent.
Has it become obvious I'm not a huge fan of Atlanta's playoff chances yet? Well, if the Redskins' section wasn't clear enough, let me spell it out for you: Whichever team wins between Washington and Seattle will play for the NFC championship.
Based on how rapidly the opening spread has moved from a pick 'em to the Seahawks being favored by three, it's become pretty clear that they're a heavy favorite—and it's appallingly obvious why.
Seattle finished with an eight-game stretch that saw the team go 7-1 with impressive wins over Minnesota, Chicago and San Francisco. And, of course, we all know about the three-week stretch where the Seahawks defeated their opponents by a combined 150-30.
More impressive than the blowout victories is the fact that Seattle is the most complete team in the NFL, bar none. Pete Carroll's squad ranks inside the top five of Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings in offense, defense and special teams and is the top overall team as well.
In other words, the best team in the NFL is playing at its apex heading into the postseason. The Redskins and (likely) the Falcons get home-field advantage, which will play a factor. Still, with Russell Wilson playing on par with just about any quarterback in the NFL and Brandon Browner coming back to the secondary, Seattle's path to the Super Bowl is becoming glaringly evident.
Super Bowl Likelihood: 50 percent
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