Super Bowl XLVII is less than a month away and anticipation is approaching fever pitch. All, or nearly all, of the NFL’s preseason favorites are still alive.
Predicting who is going to get to New Orleans is one thing, but picking the winner is quite another. Even after the pack has been narrowed to eight teams there are a lot of different matchups that could shake things up.
Matchups aren’t the only thing that matters in the postseason, though. It’s usually all about timing. Some teams can get hot early in the season but eventually simmer as the season progresses due to injuries and adjustments from opponents.
With eight teams left it’s hard to separate the contenders from pretenders.
That’s why we’re going to go ahead and make a case for the top three teams that will likely end up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
New England Patriots
The AFC was very top-heavy during the regular season with Denver, New England, Houston and Baltimore all leading the way. That’s why it’s no surprise that all four have found their way to the divisional round.
Tom Brady and the Patriots have sparked their offense thanks to some help from Oregon’s Chip Kelly during the offseason. Bill Belichick’s incorporation of the no-huddle into his team’s already effective offense has helped open not just the passing game but the rushing game as well this season.
There is nothing more dangerous than Tom Brady in the playoffs. Add in the threat of a running attack (136.5 yards per game) and you will have serious problems beating this team.
Tom Brady and the Patriots got the better of Peyton Manning and his Broncos in the first matchup between the two this season. The AFC Championship Game could very well see a rematch that will rekindle the rivalry between the two future Hall of Fame QBs.
Since that first matchup with the Pats, Denver has done nothing but get better each week. In fact, it has won its last 11 games since that Week 5 encounter.
Manning and his team’s tough defense are flying right now and are showing no signs of stopping. It’s hard to see an end to this impressive run with Manning’s ability to strike at any time with deadly receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas and the team’s third-ranked rush and pass defenses.
The winner of the Atlanta Falcons vs. Seattle Seahawks divisional round matchup has a great shot at going the distance and winning the Super Bowl.
Seattle is a team that is built for playoff football. It is the most complete team still in contention, posting an excellent defense that is capable of shutting down the most potent offenses in the league.
Pete Carroll’s squad impressed this season with wins over three of the top remaining teams in the postseason: San Francisco, Green Bay and New England.
Matchups are everything and the Seahawks’ tough defense and ball-control offense matches up well against the pass-heavy offenses of the Packers, Broncos, Falcons and Patriots.