Super Bowl 2013: Darkhorses with Best Shot at New Orleans

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIJanuary 10, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 05:  Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans runs against the Cincinnati Bengals during their AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at Reliant Stadium on January 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Tired of seeing the same old teams in the Super Bowl? Well change could be on its way.

Five different teams have made repeat appearances in the big game over the last 10 seasons. Only one of those teams (the New England Patriots) is still in the hunt for this season's playoffs.

And there's only three teams (New England, Green Bay and Seattle) left that have played in a Super Bowl over that same time frame.

So a big mixup could be ahead after this weekend's divisional round games. Plenty of lower-seeded teams come into these games red hot and looking for an upset.

We're breaking down the four lowest-seeded teams and looking at which has the best darkhorse shot at New Orleans and Super Bowl XLVII.


4. Baltimore Ravens—AFC No. 4 Seed

Of all the darkhorse candidates, no one limped into the playoffs worse than Baltimore.

The injury plagued Ravens have had to crawl their way to the postseason, winning just one of their last five games.

But Baltimore showed new signs of life last week in its 24-9 win over the Colts.

This week, the Ravens have the unfortunate task of taking on Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver where they lost 17-34 in the regular season.


Despite a big win over Indianapolis, Peyton Manning is playing too well to be beat this weekend. Especially if Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed aren't back to 100 percent.

Baltimore won't go down without a fight, but it'll have to be a hell of a battle for them to get to the Super Bowl.


3. Green Bay Packers—NFC No. 3 Seed

Green Bay is playing great football and appeared to have fixed some of their flaws against Minnesota last weekend.

But that was an easy game to win. The Vikings were playing without starting quarterback Christian Ponder and in turn were dominated.

Things won't be so easy against the other NFC teams, who will have a much more balanced approach on offense.

Not to mention the tough defenses they could face—such as San Francisco this weekend.

The Packers haven't been able to do anything with the run this season. If they can't balance their offense, than opposing pass rushes are going to be all over Aaron Rodgers.

There's always hope with Rodgers behind center, but don't hold your breath against these hard nosed NFC teams.



2. Houston Texans—AFC No. 3 Seed

The Houston Texans were the best team in the AFC until they faced New England on the road and were embarrassed in a 42-14 loss.

The Texans only won one more regular season game after that defeat, losing out on both top AFC seeds.

But they battled through their Wild Card match against Cincinnati, and they'll battle again this weekend at Foxborough.

Houston is still one of the most balanced teams in the NFL. They have great mix on offense, and a lethal pass rush on defense.They were phenomenal last week, holding the Bengals to 198 yards with no offensive touchdowns.

The big difference maker in that game was they were able to get Arian Foster going with 140 rushing yards.

If Foster can continue to play like that, Houston will have a chance at returning to their early season form. And if they can do that, then the Texans will be tough to beat.


1. Seattle Seahawks—NFC No. 5 Seed

No lower-seeded team came into these playoffs hotter than Seattle. The Hawks coasted into the postseason, wining their last five games by outscoring opponents 193-60.


Seattle got this far by playing physical defense, headlined by an elite tandem at cornerback.

Though they struggled at first in the Wild Card against Washington, the Seahawks were eventually able to settle down and win the game 24-14.

With its tenacious defense, Seattle has the ability to make any opposing offense a non-factor. It then comes down to the Hawks offense.

Scoring touchdowns isn't the team's strongest suit, but they've moved the ball well this season. Their rushing offense ranked sixth in the NFL.

Marshawn Lynch was unstoppable against the Redskins, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown. If he can have that kind of performance throughout the rest of the playoffs, the Hawks will be unstoppable.