NFL Playoff Picture 2014: Reviewing Road to Super Bowl XLVIII

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2013

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 15:  The Augur hawk flies out on the field before the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers on September 15, 2013 at Century Link Field in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

As the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos know if they can defend their home field they won't be denied a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. 

This means that the road to the Super Bowl in both conferences will go through loud stadiums that are prone to bouts of unpredictable weather. It's going to be a fun postseason. 

Take a look at the brackets and schedule for the postseason, and then I'll delve further down the path to New York. 

2014 NFL Playoffs Schedule
RoundDate (Time)Visitor (Seed)Home (Seed)Broadcast/Stream Info
Wild CardJan. 4 (4:35 p.m. EST)Kansas City Chiefs (5)Indianapolis Colts (4)NBC
Wild CardJan. 4 (8:10 p.m. EST)New Orleans Saints (6)Philadelphia Eagles (3)NBC
Wild CardJan. 5 (1:05 p.m. EST)San Diego Chargers (6)Cincinnati Bengals (3)CBS
Wild CardJan. 5 (4:40 p.m. EST)San Francisco 49ers (5)Green Bay Packers (4)FOX
DivisionalJan. 11 (4:35 p.m. EST)Winner of 49ers-PackersSeattle Seahawks (1)FOX
DivisionalJan. 11 (8:15 p.m. EST)Winner of Chargers-BengalsNew England Patriots (2)CBS
DivisionalJan. 12 (1:05 p.m. EST)Winner of Saints-EaglesCarolina Panthers (2)FOX
DivisionalJan. 12 (4:40 p.m. EST)Winner of Chiefs-ColtsDenver Broncos (1)CBS
AFC ChampionshipJan. 19 (TBA)TBATBACBS
NFC ChampionshipJan. 19 (TBA)TBATBAFOX
Super Bowl XLVIIIFeb. 2 (6:30 p.m. EST)TBATBAFOX
Source: NFL.com

 

The Favorites

It should be no surprise that the Seahawks and Broncos are the two favorites to reach the Super Bowl at every place with odds, like Bovada, that I have looked. 

Both teams posted 13-3 records on the season and lost just once at home this year. The Broncos did so behind Peyton Manning and an offense that rewrote the record books. 

The Seahawks did so with the NFL's No. 1 defense that has pulled in a combined 11 interceptions in the last three games and is led by a secondary nicknamed the "Legion of Boom." 

It is not an enviable task ahead for any team to go into the stadium's of those two accomplished teams and knock them off. 

 

The Other Wild Card Round Couch Potatoes

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 29:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots gestures in the red zone during a game with the Buffalo Bills in the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 29, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Joining the Broncos and Seahawks with first-round byes are the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers.

Of the four top seeds, the Patriots are the only team to go undefeated at home this season. That includes a 34-31 comeback win over the Broncos in Week 12 in one of the season's more memorable games. 

That narrow margin would suggest that home field may be the difference-maker should the Broncos and Patriots meet this postseason. The Patriots' mediocre .500 record on the road only helps support that perception. 

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 29:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 29, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers will get at least one home game, and they dropped just one home game all year. That was a 12-7 defeat by the Seahawks way back in Week 1, which was part of a 1-3 start to the season for the Panthers.

Carolina has dropped just one game since that poor start in a stretch that includes wins over fellow playoff teams the 49ers, Patriots and Saints. 

 

The Rest 

It is easy to look at the stats and records of the top seeds and become convinced that it will be one of the top four teams that eventually hoists the Lombardi Trophy, but the last three Super Champions have all come from teams seeded outside of the top two. 

In fact, only two No. 1 seeds have won the Super Bowl since the turn of the millennium. Four No. 2 seeds have accomplished the feat in that time span. 

So, recent history tells us the Super Bowl champions will come from my "The Rest" group. 

 

AFC

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 22:  Quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts passes during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts host the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening round of the playoffs. The Colts just waxed the Chiefs, 23-17, in Kansas City in Week 16. 

Should they win that game, they will advance to Denver to take on the Broncos. The Colts beat the Broncos earlier this season. That game was in Indianapolis, but with the Colts beating their last three opponents by the combined score of 78-20, there is a chance the Colts are peaking at the right time. 

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 29:  Domata Peko #94 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates during the 34-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium on December 29, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

On the other side of the AFC bracket, the Cincinnati Bengals will host the San Diego Chargers in the opening round. The Bengals haven't dropped a home game all season. Should they extend that home winning streak, they will advance to play the Patriots, and the Bengals beat the Patriots in Week 5 when they held the Pats to just six points. 

 

NFC

One team getting a lot of Super Bowl consideration is the fifth-seeded San Francisco 49ers. They have won six straight games, and that includes a win over the Seahawks. 

Unless the Saints advance to the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers will not host a playoff tilt, but this team's 6-2 record on the road this season is as good as its home mark. 

If the 49ers can go into Green Bay and win in the opening round, they will travel to Seattle. The 49ers have struggled in Seattle in recent seasons, however, and lost 29-3 in Seattle in Week 2 of this season. 

A matchup between the 49ers and Seahawks in the divisional round isn't the only potential scenario that pits divisional foes against each other. 

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 22:   Greg Hardy #76 of the Carolina Panthers goes after Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints during their game at Bank against the Carolina Panthers of America Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If the Saints can go into Philadelphia and beat the Eagles, they will return to Carolina to take on the Panthers. Of course, the Saints went just 3-5 on the road this season, so there is reason to believe they won't beat the Eagles, and the Eagles look to be dangerous. 

Philadelphia has won seven of its last eight games and actually has a better road record at 6-2 as the away team this season.