Super Bowl 2013: Which Teams Have the Easiest Path to New Orleans?

Marques EversollAnalyst IJanuary 8, 2013

Could it be Falcons-Patriots in Super Bowl XLVII?
Could it be Falcons-Patriots in Super Bowl XLVII?Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

We're down to the final four teams in each conference. Eight teams remain, and their sights are set on Super Bowl XLVII.

The top seeds have the benefit of playing at home throughout the playoffs. The NFC will go through the Georgia Dome, giving the Atlanta Falcons a definite advantage for getting to New Orleans. And the AFC will go through Denver, meaning Peyton Manning could be making his third Super Bowl appearance this year.

But just because a team is playing at home doesn't necessarily mean that team has an easy path to New Orleans. After all, Tom Brady's New England Patriots are still alive and always prove to be a tough out in the playoffs.

The Packers and 49ers square off this weekend in San Francisco, and both teams certainly have Super Bowl aspirations. But whoever wins on Saturday will advance to play the winner of the Atlanta vs. Seattle game. And that's not exactly an easy task.

So, looking at each individual conference, which teams have the easiest path to New Orleans?

AFC: New England Patriots

New England has the No. 2 seed in the AFC, so if they beat the Texans this week, they could potentially host the AFC Championship Game. If the Baltimore Ravens get a road win at Denver, that would set up a Ravens at Patriots rematch in the AFC Championship.

The Patriots should undoubtedly roll past the Texans this week at home. After all, they dominated Houston 42-10 less than a month ago on Dec. 10.

There are plenty of holes in Houston's secondary, and that's a recipe for disaster with a quarterback like Tom Brady up next on the schedule.

Assuming the Patriots get past the Texans, they will either host the Ravens or travel to Denver, setting up a Brady vs. Manning matchup in the AFC Championship. All football fans say, "Yes, please."

In the AFC, it looks like a two-team race to represent the conference in Super Bowl XLVII. The NFC is wide open, but the AFC appears all but settled. Given the fact that Brady tends to have Manning's number head-to-head, I'll give the Patriots a narrow edge over the Denver Broncos.

NFC: Atlanta Falcons

The No. 1 seed Falcons face a daunting task this week in hosting the red-hot Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome.

It will take a complete game from Atlanta to get past Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, but playing at home, the Falcons still have a simple path to follow to Super Bowl XLVII.

The Packers and 49ers will both have their work cut out for them when they play in San Francisco this weekend.

And whoever wins that game will have another tough game in the NFC Championship. Atlanta hasn't been much of a threat in the playoffs in recent years, but this is an improved Falcons team with home-field advantage.

Out of all four remaining teams in the NFC, Matt Ryan and the Falcons have the easiest path to New Orleans.