With the playoffs finally set and kicking off officially on Jan. 4, just 12 NFL teams have hopes of achieving the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl.
Teams such as the San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers backed into the playoffs thanks to Week 17 wins. Then there are clubs such as the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, whose playoff chances were never in question as they clinched the No. 1 seed in their respective conference.
Prior to the Wild Card Round on Saturday afternoon, here are the odds for each team to win the Super Bowl and a quick analysis of how it will or won't happen.
All Super Bowl odds courtesy of Bovada.com.
|San Francisco 49ers||7-1|
|New England Patriots||9-1|
|Green Bay Packers||12-1|
|New Orleans Saints||20-1|
|Kansas City Chiefs||25-1|
|San Diego Chargers||40-1|
Seattle Seahawks (11-4)
Why They'll Win It: The Seattle Seahawks are comprised of one of the best offenses and defenses in the NFL, ranking No. 1 overall in total defense and fourth in rushing offense. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will play every game at home, too, after clinching home-field advantage, and it is certainly an advantage the Hawks have in front of their home crowd.
According to Will Brinson of CBS Sports, Wilson isn't the least bit nervous about their chances:
“Nothing’s going to fluster me. Never will, never has.” - @DangeRussWilson— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) December 29, 2013
Why They Won't: While the odds are slim that the Seahawks will falter on the road to the Super Bowl, they could run up against a more experienced playoff team such as the Denver Broncos or New England Patriots in February. Before they get there, teams like the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers could knock them off, as the Seahawks did show signs of weakness at home against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16.
Denver Broncos (3-1)
Why They'll Win It: Peyton Manning is having the best season ever at the quarterback position. He broke both the touchdown and passing yards records for a single season and has led the Broncos to the best record in the AFC. With a balanced attack—four different receivers have 10 or more touchdowns—Denver has the tools to get Manning his second Super Bowl ring.
Why They Won't: The defense has been much worse this season than it was last year, and the team currently ranks 19th in the NFL in total defense. As great as Manning has been in the regular season, his playoff woes have been chronicled for years. In his 16-year career, Manning has reached the Super Bowl just twice.
As ESPN's Numbers Never Lie points out, Manning hasn't exactly had much luck advancing in his last five playoff appearances:
In the playoffs Peyton Manning has been one-and-done 8 times, including 4 of his last 5 appearances. pic.twitter.com/X7yyoiCBz2— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) December 30, 2013
San Francisco 49ers (7-1)
Why They'll Win It: Experience is certainly on the 49ers' side. San Francisco made the Super Bowl last season and arguably looks like the best NFC team entering the playoffs. With a defense that ranks third overall in the NFL and an offense that boasts names such as Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore, the 49ers could avenge last year's loss in February.
Why They Won't: San Francisco has come a long way since its loss in Week 2 of the regular season against the Seahawks, but that game was certainly a reminder of what Seattle is capable of at home. In order to make the Super Bowl, the 49ers will have to win in Seattle, where they've been outscored 71-16 in their last two visits.
New England Patriots (9-1)
Why They'll Win It: If the New England Patriots have proven anything over the last two weeks, it's that they can still win without Rob Gronkowski, who's out for the season. With Tom Brady behind center and Bill Belichick on the sidelines, the Patriots certainly have playoff experience.
SportsCenter's official Twitter account pointed out just how much experience the Pats have on their side with Belichick as a coach:
Crazy Stat of Day: Since Bill Belichick was hired by Patriots in 2000, there have been 111 different head coaches in NFL. (via @EliasSports)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 30, 2013
Why They Won't: The aforementioned loss of Gronkowski means New England is down one of its most reliable targets. With players like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins—rookies with no playoff experience—expected to pick up the slack down the field, it will catch up to the Pats. Plus, their defense ranked 15th in the AFC during the regular season.
Carolina Panthers (10-1)
Why They'll Win It: Carolina has one of the most feared defenses in the NFL and an offense that can more than get the job done in the postseason. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis have led a defense that ranks second overall in the NFL and has brought the team from 1-3 to the playoffs.
As for the offense, Cam Newton has proven he can put the team on his back and can play in pressure situations, regardless of whom he has to pass the ball to, such as in Week 16 against the New Orleans Saints.
Why They Won't: Under coach Ron Rivera, the Panthers have played in as many playoff games as I have—none. Despite the fact that both sides of the ball can dominate nearly any game, the experience of clubs such as the 49ers and Packers could mean an early exit for Carolina if it can't overcome those obstacles.
Green Bay Packers (12-1)
Why They'll Win It: The Packers have benefited from quite a bit of luck to get to the playoffs at 8-7-1, but they are finally healthy heading to the postseason. With Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb returning to a team that was already being carried by Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson, the Packers have the offense to make it to the Super Bowl.
Why They Won't: The one downside of the Packers losing Rodgers for eight games this season is that they lost the chance for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. With the road to the Super Bowl going through either Carolina or Seattle—who are a combined 14-2 at home this season—the chances of getting to February look slim for Green Bay.
And as Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel discusses, the health of linebacker Clay Matthews, who had a second surgery on his thumb, is a key storyline for the defense.
Cincinnati Bengals (16-1)
Why They'll Win It: At times, the Cincinnati Bengals have looked like one of the strongest teams in the AFC. With offensive playmakers such as A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard paired with a defense that ranks No. 1 in the conference, the Bengals have the tools to achieve the ultimate goal of wearing a Super Bowl ring.
Why They Won't: The inconsistent play of Andy Dalton has been a catalyst for the Bengals' success and lack thereof this season. In the final game of the season, Dalton threw four interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens but was bailed out by his defense, as ESPN pointed out on Twitter:
Andy Dalton is keeping the Ravens' playoff hopes alive - one interception at a time.— ESPN (@espn) December 29, 2013
If the Bengals falter in the playoffs, it will likely be due to Dalton's up-and-down play.
Philadelphia Eagles (16-1)
Why They'll Win It: Nick Foles has been a crucial component for the Eagles this season, but with a durable running back like LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia has one of the best backfields in the playoffs. McCoy not only finished with the most rushing yards in the NFL this season, but his 1,607 yards also set the Eagles rushing record, as their official Instagram account reported:
That type of tandem means the Eagles can run up the score on nearly any opponent in the NFC, bring those talents to the Super Bowl and pull off an improbable run.
Why They Won't: For all of their explosive playmakers on offense, the Eagles lack that type of talent on the defensive side. The Eagles rank last in total defense among other NFC playoff contenders and are ahead of only the Packers in scoring defense. When Philadelphia faces one of the top four teams in the NFC—who also are all top four in the NFL in total defense—those defensive woes could cost it a shot at lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
New Orleans Saints (20-1)
Why They'll Win It: The Saints have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL thanks to Drew Brees, and the fourth-best defense in the NFL in both yards and scoring. With Brees yet again playing at a high level this season, he could win the second Super Bowl of his career with New Orleans.
Why They Won't: For everything the Saints have accomplished this season as an 11-5 team, most of that success has come in the Superdome. Unfortunately, New Orleans is the No. 6 seed and will not be able to host a playoff game.
At 3-5 on the road, the Saints look like a much different team than they do in New Orleans. As Steve Keeley of Fox 29 in Philadelphia points out, those road woes have been evident in the playoffs as well:
Saints playoff facts...New Orleans has never won a road playoff game. O-5 all-time, 0-3 in Drew Brees/Sean Peyton era @fox29philly— Steve Keeley (@KeeleyFox29) December 30, 2013
Kansas City Chiefs (25-1)
Why They'll Win It: The Kansas City Chiefs have had one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history after going 2-14 last season and finishing 11-5 this year. That nine-win difference is thanks in large part to Andy Reid, but on the field, it's all about the success of the defense and Jamaal Charles.
Why They Won't: Simply put, the Chiefs haven't looked good against playoff-caliber competition. Kansas City played six games against teams that made the playoffs and finished 1-5—though one of those games was without its starters against San Diego.
As John Buccigross of ESPN reported, the Chiefs' recent record in the playoffs looks even worse:
Chiefs lost 7 straight playoff games, tied for longest streak NFL history-last playoff win-1993 Divisional Game at Oilers-Joe Montana was QB— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) December 30, 2013
Indianapolis Colts (28-1)
Why They'll Win It: The Indianapolis Colts have multiple weapons on offense that can get the job done in the playoffs. With Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and a running back tandem of Donald Brown and Trent Richardson, the Colts can certainly pull off a few upsets to make the Super Bowl.
Why They Won't: While Indy's struggles this season without Reggie Wayne due to an ACL injury have been well documented, the real issue is the defense. Ranking 20th in the NFL this season in yards allowed, the Colts defense has been pushed around all season and won't hold up in the playoffs either.
San Diego Chargers (40-1)
Which team will win the Super Bowl?
Why They'll Win It: Oh, San Diego. After getting off to a mediocre start to open the season, the Chargers rattled off four straight wins to close out and clinched a playoff spot with the final seed in the AFC. Their chances look slim, but with Philip Rivers at the helm, the Chargers are capable of anything.
Why They Won't: Like a few other teams in the playoffs, the Chargers are void of a defensive corps that can carry them to February. Ranking last in the AFC in passing yards and 13th in total yards per game, San Diego's offensive fireworks won't be enough to overcome a lackluster defense.