It should be no surprise that the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC will enter the postseason with the lowest odds for the Super Bowl.
Bovada has the Seattle Seahawks as the favorites to win the Super Bowl at 11-4, and the Denver Broncos are right behind them at 3-1. While I place the Broncos right behind the Seahawks in the below rankings, that does not come at the top of my rankings.
Have a look at Bovada's odds for each of the 12 playoff teams, and then I'll take a look at my top three contenders.
|San Francisco 49ers||13-2|
|New England Patriots||10-1|
|Green Bay Packers||16-1|
|New Orleans Saints||20-1|
|Kansas City Chiefs||25-1|
No. 1: San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers enter the playoffs as a wild-card team, but they still carry the third-lowest odds to win the Super Bowl. It is easy to see why.
The 49ers do not have nearly as easy a path to the Super Bowl as the others on this list, but there wasn't a more impressive team to close the season.
The 49ers finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak. Although four of those wins came over teams with losing records, they also boast of a win over the Seahawks and the surging Arizona Cardinals.
Also, the 49ers play a brand of football that can succeed in any environment. They are a run-first offense that leads the NFL in rushing. Also, they play outstanding defense.
The 49ers are third in the NFL in points allowed, fourth in yards allowed per game and sixth in yards allowed per play.
On top of this, the 49ers can draw on their experience from their run to the Super Bowl last season. Also, they have the clutch veteran and Super Bowl champ Anquan Boldin in the mix this year:
Observation after one quarter: Anquan Boldin appears ready to win a second straight Super Bowl. #49ers— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) December 29, 2013
That gives San Francisco the kind of consistent attack that can run off four straight playoff wins.
No. 2: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks locked up the NFC's No. 1 seed on Sunday, and they make for an intimidating opponent in the noise factory that is their stadium.
Seattle has lost just once all season at home. Giving hope to the rest of the NFC, however, is the fact that the loss came in Week 16.
Who will win the Super Bowl?
In Week 17, the Seahawks were dominant at home. Led by a defense that didn't allow the St. Louis Rams to pass 100 yards of total offense until deep into the fourth quarter, the Seahawks prevailed, 27-9.
Still, the Seahawks are far from invincible. The offense has been struggling. Russell Wilson turned in four of his seven lowest QBR rankings for the year in the final four games of the season, and Marshawn Lynch has failed to reach the century mark in rushing in each of his last six games.
Seattle's defense has looked great to finish the year, but as we saw in the Week 16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals when Carson Palmer was intercepted four times, that defense can't get the job done alone.
So, even though the Seahawks will get the 49ers in Seattle and the 49ers have looked terrible in Seattle in recent years, it is those late-season offensive struggles that have me placing them below the 49ers.
No. 3: Denver Broncos
With Peyton Manning leading the highest-scoring regular-season offense in the history of the NFL, the Broncos will enter the playoffs with the ability to outscore any team.
Not only are the Broncos the highest-scoring team, but they rank first in yards per game and red-zone scoring percentage, and they are second in yards per play and third-down conversion percentage.
Defense is another story. The Broncos are 22nd in points allowed and yards per game. They are also 18th in yards allowed per pass. With a pass rush that is 20th in sack percentage, Denver has struggled against the pass all season.
Just as concerning is the fact that the run defense has tailed off. After spending the first part of the season among the league leaders, the Broncos are eighth in rushing yards allowed per game and 10th in yards allowed per rush.
The Broncos have the ability to hoist the Lombardi, but their defense also leaves them vulnerable.
All odds according Bovada on Dec. 29. All stats via TeamRankings.com on Dec. 29, 2013.