The path to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 has been laid for 12 teams.
While the quest for a Lombardi Trophy is never simple, the Baltimore Ravens showed fans a year ago that anything is possible once a team qualifies for the postseason.
Much of the attention was on the top dogs this year. As great as the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos were, the more intriguing stories will be the teams that slip in and make noise in the playoffs.
The odds reflect the standings more than anything, which means savvy bettors have an inside line if they have a good feeling about an underdog. Here is when and where to catch every postseason clash, followed by full odds and two teams that fans and bettors alike would be wise to key a watchful eye on as the playoffs begin.
|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|
|San Francisco 49ers||7/1|
|New England Patriots||17/2|
|Green Bay Packers||20/1|
|Kansas City Chiefs||30/1|
|New Orleans Saints||30/1|
Note: Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider.
AFC Underdog to Watch: Indianapolis Colts
Yes, the AFC South champs may be one of the best bets to make this postseason.
First of all, the Indianapolis Colts have shown they can compete with the big boys. Knock quarterback Andrew Luck and his team for playing down to competition all year, but they have shown up against the best. In the playoffs, there are no teams to play down to—which is nothing but good news for the Colts, as NFL Network's Scott Hanson illustrates:
The @Colts went 4-0 vs Broncos, Seahawks, 49ers & Chiefs. Those teams were a combined 49-11 against the rest of the NFL.— Scott Hanson (@ScottHanson) January 2, 2014
Perhaps most importantly, the playoffs are about momentum and getting hot at just the right time.
It is hard to find a hotter team than the Colts. Indianapolis has won four of five, but more importantly, the defense has finally put together a coherent streak and only surrendered 20 total points in its last three games.
While young names such as Luck and receiver T.Y. Hilton have become the talk of Indianapolis, veteran linebacker Robert Mathis has his team on the right track, as he told Kevin Bowen on the team's official site:
We want to win a Super Bowl. Point. Blank. Period. Getting to the playoffs is an accomplishment but that’s not what we signed up for. We signed up for New York, so that’s our goal. That’s our only goal.
The first opponent for Indianapolis is Kansas City, which the Colts defeated in Week 16, 23-7. This time, the bout takes place in Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts figure to notch a win over a Chiefs team that lost five of seven to close the season.
After that, Indianapolis could run the table.
NFC Underdog to Watch: Green Bay Packers
While not entering the postseason with great momentum, the Green Bay Packers have plenty working in their favor as they host the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field in the Wild Card Round.
Then again, that depends on one's definition of momentum. After all, the Packers just won the NFC North title in Week 17 on the road against the Chicago Bears after Aaron Rodgers made his much-anticipated return and lobbed a touchdown pass with 38 seconds left to receiver Randall Cobb—who also made his return in the same game.
While a bout with San Francisco is a tough test, Green Bay has the pieces to go the distance. The Packers have moved away from their pass-only approach thanks to rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who had 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
Lacy, in tandem with a fresh Rodgers and Cobb, gives the Packers enough firepower to match any offense that qualified for the postseason.
While a leaky defense is an issue, it is hard to hate Green Bay's chances with a former MVP and Super Bowl MVP under center, especially if that quarterback is outstanding in the elements, as ESPN points out:
Aaron Rodgers is 12-4 in NFL games played in freezing temps; among active QB with at least 3 such starts, only Tom Brady is better (25-5).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 3, 2014
With Rodgers in tow, Green Bay may pull off four in a row through a newly found balanced offense.