NFL Playoff Odds 2014: Picking the Best Dark-Horse Candidates to Win It All

Alex EspinozaCorrespondent IIIJanuary 2, 2014

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 29:  Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 29, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Once you reach the NFL playoffs, any team is a threat to get hot and go all the way. Just look at the New York Giants of 2011, who sneaked into the playoffs with a 9-7 record and minus-six point differential before catching fire and winning Super Bowl XLVI.

With the 12-team postseason field set, oddsmakers have weighed in on the Super Bowl chances for each of the remaining contenders. Let's take a look at the updated Super Bowl prospects for each playoff team, followed by three dark-horse clubs that have the best chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in New York.

Latest Super Bowl XLVIII Odds
Seattle Seahawks12/5
Denver Broncos14/5
San Francisco 49ers7/1
New England Patriots17/2
Carolina Panthers10/1
Cincinnati Bengals20/1
Green Bay Packers20/1
Philadelphia Eagles20/1
Kansas City Chiefs30/1
Indianapolis Colts30/1
New Orleans Saints30/1
San Diego Chargers50/1


Philadelphia Eagles

After Week 8, the Eagles were hurting with a 3-5 record, and rookie Matt Barkley was forced to start due to injuries to Nick Foles and Michael Vick.

From that point on, though, this team has been among the NFL's elite, winning seven of its final eight contests in the regular season to streak in the postseason. The Eagles locked up their spot in Week 17, handing the Dallas Cowboys a 24-22 defeat to win the NFC East crown in coach Chip Kelly's first year on the NFL sidelines.

The Eagles possess arguably the top quarterback-tailback duo of any team in the postseason with Foles (2,891 yards, 27 TDs, two INTs) and LeSean McCoy (2,146 yards from scrimmage, 11 TDs), one which makes them a threat to put up big numbers against any defense.

But it's the development of their own "D" which makes the Eagles such a prime candidate for success. Under first-year coordinator Bill Davis, the defense has given up a respectable 21.4 points per game in its past eight, giving the Eagles a well-rounded identity at the right time.

Philadelphia is slated for a Saturday home matchup with the New Orleans Saints (8:10 p.m. ET, NBC) in the first round and would have to travel to Carolina and/or Seattle to get out of the NFC, but the Eagles certainly have the ability to make it happen.


Indianapolis Colts

The Colts spent most of the 2013 season doing a Jekyll/Hyde act, beating the NFL's elite one week before laying an egg the next.

But to wrap up the season, Indianapolis earned three straight wins by a combined margin of 78-20. That mini-streak was highlighted by a 23-7 effort against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 16, and those two teams will have a rematch in Indy in the Wild Card Round on Saturday (4:35 p.m. ET, NBC).

While blowout losses to the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals may be cause for concern for the Colts, they are also the only NFL team to defeat both top playoff seeds, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, this season.

Everyone knows about the ability of Andrew Luck on the offensive side of the ball, but it's their recent stinginess on defense behind NFL sack leader Robert Mathis (19.5) that makes this team one to watch in January.


New Orleans Saints

As the sixth seed in the NFC, the Saints better get used to life on the road. Up first is a Wild Card matchup in Philadelphia, and it won't get any easier going forward.

When you think of the Saints, you think of offense, but what's notable about this year's team is that first-year coordinator Rob Ryan has turned defense into the strength of the club. New Orleans finished the regular season ranked fourth in points allowed (19 per game), better than its 10th-place standing in points scored (25.9 per game).

The key for the Saints will be to find some consistency in the running game, since they have the worst-ranked rushing attack (25th, 92.1 ypg) of any team left in the postseason. With Drew Brees under center and the passing game humming, New Orleans has become very one-dimensional. Pierre Thomas (529 yards, two TDs) and Mark Ingram (386 yards, one TD) are the team's leading rushers, an indication of the low production all year.

If the Saints can find some balance on offense to go with their formidable defense, they're built to make a run at their second Super Bowl in five years.