Over the past three years, it's become a normality for the Super Bowl winner to play in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
A team, not worthy of a first-round bye, catches fire and rides that fire all the way through the playoffs. In 2010, the sixth-seeded Green Bay Packers barely edged their way into the win-or-go-home competition. Embodying a road-warrior mentality, the Packers, led by all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers, took down higher-seeded teams before handling the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in the Super Bowl.
Similar stories held true for the New York Giants (2011) and the Baltimore Ravens (2012) in their respective Super Bowl champion seasons.
Due to this most recent trend, everyone is wondering who that next team will be to catch fire. If recent history holds true, that team should be one of the eight featured in next week's Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
When a new coach rolls into town, some transitional struggles are to be expected. With Chip Kelly's high-powered, yet complicated offense and a quarterback switch to Nick Foles, the Eagles look primed and ready to make a run.
Since Foles has taken over, he's been brilliant. Foles has 27 touchdowns in comparison to just two interceptions on the season, and the Eagles are soaring with him under center. Since his first start against Oakland, Philadelphia is 7-1, with their lone loss coming against the Vikings in Minnesota.
Because they won the NFC East, they get to host the New Orleans Saints this coming Saturday. Though a tough draw, taking on a Saints team at home, instead of playing in New Orleans, is a huge break for Philadelphia.
The Saints are just 3-5 away from the Superdome this year and have noticeably struggled in outdoor venues. The matchup between these two could end up being a shootout, but Foles and the Eagles have to have the upper hand heading into this one.
The Colts, quietly, have had one of the best seasons in the NFL this year.
The list of teams Indianapolis has defeated is impressive. They routed San Francisco on the road, and they beat the Broncos and Seahawks at home. Fortunately for them, they draw an opponent in the first round whom they beat just two weeks ago.
In their Week 16 matchup with the Chiefs, the Colts defense looked dominant against Alex Smith and the Kansas City air attack. Robert Mathis and the Colts' pass rush got to Smith five times and forced him into some bad passes. Smith finished with 153 yards passing and one interception.
Getting Kansas City at home will be huge for the Colts. If they can start off well with a win against the Chiefs, they could go on a run.
San Francisco 49ers
Owning the NFL's longest current winning streak, no one seems more ready for a playoff push than the San Francisco 49ers.
Riding a six-game winning streak, including a win against division-rival Seattle, the 49ers have looked like a Super Bowl-caliber team. Thanks in large part to the insertion of Michael Crabtree.
The entire offense has opened up with a plethora of weapons, and second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick looks more comfortable than he has all season.
The one difference between them, and the other two teams listed above, is that the 49ers have to take to the road immediately, starting this Sunday in Green Bay.
Green Bay is another team capable of writing a playoff fairy tale reminiscent of their 2010 Super Bowl year. Rodgers returned from a broken collarbone yesterday and led the Packers to the playoffs in a win-and-in game against the Chicago Bears.
Though a tough matchup for the 49ers in the Wild Card Round, it's one they are capable of winning. This will be the fourth time these two teams have matched up in the last two seasons. San Francisco won the first three games comfortably.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!