The Wild Card Round is complete, and seven division winners and the NFC's hottest team have managed to advance.
The divisional round of the playoffs sets up to be an entertaining weekend with so many great teams squaring off for a spot in their respective conference championship game.
However, some teams, notably a pair of squads from out West, have slightly easier roads to reach the Super Bowl.
So, let's examine the team from each conference with the most pleasant path to the Super Bowl.
AFC: Denver Broncos
The AFC's No. 1 seed also has the conference's easiest road.
The Broncos will square off with the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday afternoon. While the game won’t be a cakewalk, it's still a reasonable matchup for the Broncos, especially at home.
Denver already defeated Baltimore, 34-17, in a Week 15 matchup. And that game wasn't even as close as the score would indicate. The Ravens offense stalled for most of the game, failing to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
It will be a different test with Ray Lewis on the field, but the Broncos should still roll past the Ravens. Denver’s second-ranked defense will be too much for an inconsistent Baltimore attack.
That sets the Broncos up for a likely championship matchup with the New England Patriots—the game everyone wants to see.
Both teams have been brilliant this season, and they match up well.
But Denver gets the slight edge because of its superior defense and home-field advantage.
NFC: San Francisco 49ers
The NFC playoff picture is a bit harder to predict. It's a better overall conference, and there is considerably more parity at the top.
The Falcons are hard to pick because of their playoff history and opponent. Seattle is a dangerous selection because of how difficult it is to win three games on the road in the playoffs. And the Packers are a tough choice because they have to play San Francisco at home.
This leaves the 49ers.
Their road is not easy, but is the easiest of the rest of the field. Any game against Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense will be difficult.
However, it is a home game, giving San Francisco a slight edge.
The 49ers downed Green Bay, 30-22 in Week 1 of the season. Both teams have changed quite a bit since that point, but home field and recent history give the slight edge to the 49ers.
That leaves the championship round.
I believe Seattle will go into Atlanta and upset the Falcons, setting up a NFC West showdown in San Francisco.
Yes, Seattle destroyed the 49ers only a few weeks ago, but this game will be different.
This time, the game is at home for San Francisco, where it lost only one game in 2012. Add that to the chip the 49ers have on their shoulders from that loss, and San Francisco has the slight edge.
The 49ers reached the NFC Championship game last season only to fall in the final minutes to the Giants.
Don't expect that to happen again.
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