The 2014 NFL playoffs are finally here and 12 teams are left standing, all vying for a chance to become the next Super Bowl champions.
Every journey to the big game in New Jersey this February will be different, with some roads being much easier than others. However, any team that has the will and determination to rattle off a winning streak can be crowned champion, regardless of what the odds say.
Those odds are still worth noting and knowing, though, whether you plan to use them to bet on a potential champ or just to assess the chances of your favorite team making a title push.
Let’s take a look at the complete schedule for the upcoming postseason, highlight the odds of each team remaining winning the Super Bowl and check out my bold predictions for how the playoffs will shake out.
|Round||Date (Time)||Visitor (Seed)||Home (Seed)||Broadcast/Stream Info|
|Wild Card||Jan. 4 (4:35 p.m. EST)||Kansas City Chiefs (5)||Indianapolis Colts (4)||NBC|
|Wild Card||Jan. 4 (8:10 p.m. EST)||New Orleans Saints (6)||Philadelphia Eagles (3)||NBC|
|Wild Card||Jan. 5 (1:05 p.m. EST)||San Diego Chargers (6)||Cincinnati Bengals (3)||CBS|
|Wild Card||Jan. 5 (4:40 p.m. EST)||San Francisco 49ers (5)||Green Bay Packers (4)||Fox|
|Divisional||Jan. 11 (4:35 p.m. EST)||Lowest NFC Seed||Seattle Seahawks (1)||Fox|
|Divisional||Jan. 11 (8:15 p.m. EST)||Highest AFC Seed||New England Patriots (2)||CBS|
|Divisional||Jan. 12 (1:05 p.m. EST)||Highest NFC Seed||Carolina Panthers (2)||Fox|
|Divisional||Jan. 12 (4:40 p.m. EST)||Lowest AFC Seed||Denver Broncos (1)||CBS|
|AFC Championship||Jan. 19 (TBA)||TBA||TBA||CBS|
|NFC Championship||Jan. 19 (TBA)||TBA||TBA||Fox|
|Super Bowl XLVIII||Feb. 2 (6:30 p.m. EST)||TBA||TBA||Fox|
|Seattle Seahawks||11-4||Super Bowl Runner-Up|
|Denver Broncos||11-4||Lose in AFC Championship|
|San Francisco 49ers||7-1||Lose in NFC Wild Card Round|
|Carolina Panthers||10-1||Lose in NFC Championship|
|New England Patriots||10-1||Super Bowl Winners|
|Green Bay Packers||14-1||Lose in NFC Divisional Round|
|Philadelphia Eagles||14-1||Lose in NFC Divisional Round|
|Cincinnati Bengals||18-1||Lose in AFC Divisional Round|
|Kansas City Chiefs||22-1||Lose in AFC Wild Card Round|
|New Orleans Saints||25-1||Lose in NFC Wild Card Round|
|Indianapolis Colts||25-1||Lose in AFC Divisional Round|
|San Diego Chargers||33-1||Lose in AFC Wild Card Round|
Biggest Disappointment: San Francisco 49ers Falter in Wild Card
The Niners had an incredible season in a loaded NFC West, winning 12 games behind an elite running game and a dominant defense. Unfortunately, they are saddled with the No. 5 seed in the conference thanks to the 13-win Seattle Seahawks. That means a Wild Card Weekend road trip to Green Bay to take on the Packers in what may be one of the coldest games to ever be played.
According to Anna Fogel of NESN.com, the projected high at Lambeau Field on Sunday is a mere 2 degrees. It gets worse, however, as the expected low is down to minus-18 degrees with a wind chill making things feel close to minus-30 degrees.
In that kind of weather, throw all conventional knowledge and expectations out the window. While the Niners would undoubtedly win this one if was in a neutral territory and conditions were better, the combination of bitter, extreme cold weather and a rowdy crowd will doom them to an early playoff exit.
San Francisco is just 1-5 straight up away from Candlestick Park over its last six playoff contests. The team has struggled in recent years when forced to play on the road in the postseason, and the outcome should be a familiar one in a game that will be played in arctic temperatures.
Remember, Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb are back in action, and that alone should be enough to swing the game into Green Bay’s favor. While the two were clearly rusty in the season finale against the Chicago Bears, they connected on a critical 48-yard touchdown in the waning moments that secured a playoff berth for the Packers.
NFL on ESPN noted that Green Bay, unsurprisingly, is a better team when its starting signal-caller is on the field:
Green Bay is 6-3 when Aaron Rodgers starts this season and 2-4-1 when anyone else starts at QB.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 3, 2014
While Rodgers was in the lineup when the Packers faltered on the road to the Niners to open the 2013 campaign, things are much different now. The NFC North champions lost by only six points in that game and now have weather and home-field advantage (traditionally given a value of at least three points by bookmakers) in their favor.
Don’t be surprised when the Packers pull the upset and knock out the Niners in what should be one of the most intriguing and coldest games of all time.
Biggest Surprise: New England Patriots Win Super Bowl
The Pats may not be the offensive juggernaut of years past, but they are a gritty, determined team that can beat anyone in the NFL when they are firing on all cylinders.
Even head coach Bill Belichick admitted this group is competitive, although in his usual cryptic nature, he declined to elaborate on where it ranks amongst teams he has overseen, per Howard Ulman of the the Associated Press (h/t SouthCoastToday.com):
We've had other tough, competitive teams. I don't know where one ranks or the other ranks but I certainly think this team has shown examples of that many times. ... I think we're going to need it going forward.
Being able to adapt to the situation at hand and close out games is what separates the wheat from the chaff in the playoffs, and no team has done that better than New England in 2013.
The team earned seven of its 12 wins by a touchdown or less and was in position to tie or take the lead in the final moments of each of its four losses.
Quarterback Tom Brady deserves much of the credit for his team’s success in these contests, stealing victories and displaying his poise by engineering a number of scoring drives in the last minute.
Will the Pats win the Super Bowl?
Even more impressive, Brady has been doing it all without five of his top receiving options from last year. Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd and Danny Woodhead are all no longer playing for this team (although Gronkowski is just injured and should return next season) and left Brady with an unfamiliar, inexperienced receiving corps at the start of 2013.
He not only survived, but he also thrived after a rough start. While Brady’s numbers aren’t amazing, he has been getting the job done and has his offense looking more than capable enough to win a Super Bowl.
The road is tough, with an AFC Championship showdown in Denver likely, but this determined, persistent club can get the job done.