NFL

Teams That Have a Legit Shot to Go All the Way: Road to MetLife Stadium

Kevin W. RyanContributor IIIJanuary 2, 2014

Teams That Have a Legit Shot to Go All the Way: Road to MetLife Stadium

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    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2013 NFL regular season has come to an end. Cincinnati, Indianapolis, New England and Denver have been crowned champions in their respective AFC divisions. Green Bay, Carolina, Philadelphia and Seattle earned the same honors for the NFC. 

    The last three Super Bowl winners were all representative of the four Wild Card teams selected to the playoffs each year. This season, San Francisco, New Orleans, Kansas City and San Diego each have a shot to take home the 2014 Super Bowl as a wild card winner. 

    Of these 12 playoff teams, here are the six teams that have a legitimate chance to go all the way: the road to MetLife Stadium...enjoy.  

Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Seattle has played nearly the entire 2013 campaign as the NFL's top team. 

    By the week 13 mark of the season, the 'Hawks chirped about their 11-1 record including some impressive wins against Carolina, San Francisco, Arizona and New Orleans. 

    Nevertheless, after losing two of three games against tough division rivals Arizona and San Francisco, including their first home loss in 14 games, the Seahawks nearly lost the NFC West title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

    The Seahawks have one of the most lethal secondary units in all of football, and the loud-mouthed Earl Thomas III-led defense is far better off smack talking from their home field en route to the Super Bowl. 

    According to Vegas, the Seahawks are still the favorite to win the 2014 Super Bowl (at 12/5 odds) despite the recent struggles. 

San Francisco 49ers (12-4)

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    Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 was an extremely tumultuous season for the defending NFC Champions. The Niners started off the season 1-2 after dropping consecutive games to Seattle and Indianapolis.

    Following the two straight losses, the Niners won the next 11 of 13 games to finish off the season with the second-best record in the NFC at 12-4. 

    The 49ers have 36 wins in the last three regular seasons—an incredible feat for a team that carries a record of 46-66 over the previous eight seasons.  

    Last year's NFC Champions bring the same dominant defense into the 2014 Super Bowl bracket, as well as an NFL-high eight players named to the 2014 Pro Bowl. 

    Dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick will lead the 49er attack in their first-round playoff game on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field against Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers. Let us not forget the week 1 spat between Kaepernick, Joe Staley and Clay Matthews. 

Denver Broncos (13-3)

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    After Peyton Manning's record-setting, award winning season the Denver Broncos will enjoy a first-round bye in the playoffs. 

    Manning's all-time NFL-best 55 touchdown passes earned the veteran quarterback "Sportsman of the Year" honors with Sports Illustrated

    Manning has dismantled defenses all season long with a variety of incredible achievements, like having two 1000-yard receivers as well as four receivers that have each caught 10 touchdown passes. On top of making every receiver better, Manning broke the NFL record for passing touchdowns and passing yards in a single season. 

    Unfortunately, the 13-3 Broncos lost one of their top players when linebacker Von Miller was recently placed on the season-ending injured reserve. 

    Without Miller the Broncos still boast a 6-0 record this season, however replacing a defensive talent like Von Miller will be no easy task despite the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

     

Carolina Panthers (12-4)

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers started off the 2013 campaign in near-dumpster fire fashion, losing three of their first four games with the only win being against the eventual 0-6 New York Giants. 

    Following the 1-3 start, the Panthers closed out the season winning 11 of their 12 remaining games to finish as the No. 2 seed in the NFC. 

    Their signature win of the season came in week 16 when former Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton led the offense on a game-winning, 65-yard scoring drive that took just 32 seconds to top the rival Saints.

    While Newton, the face of the franchise, is usually the one to get most of the credit for the team's on-field success, the Luke Kuechly-led defense put the Panthers on the map as Super Bowl contenders after pulling out back-to-back grueling wins against San Francisco and New England.  

     

New England Patriots (12-4)

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    As the AFC's second-best team, the New England Patriots will watch the first round of the playoffs from home.  

    Quarterback Tom Brady has led the New England Patriots to their fifth-straight AFC East title, and their tenth in the last 11 seasons. 

    The Pats won all eight home games this season, and their most impressive road performance came late in the season when they demolished the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens 41-7 to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs.   

    If Denver and New England both win their first playoff game, the two AFC titans will face off in Denver for the AFC Championship in what will be one of the most compelling matchups football fans can imagine. 

Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Indianapolis Colts land here over the 11-5 Kansas City Chiefs not because of their 23-7 win over the Chiefs just two weeks ago, but rather because of their consistency and impressive wins over some of the league's top talent all season long. 

    The Colts have taken on the likes of San Francisco, Seattle and Denver this season and have emerged victorious in each game.  

    After dropping their week 14 matchup against Cincinnati, Andrew Luck and the Colts polished off their division-winning regular season by taking the final three games by a margin of 78-20. 

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