With the Wild Card Round in the books, only eight teams remain with hopes of making the Super Bowl and ultimately lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
The Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles looked like potential upset picks to make the Super Bowl thanks to dynamic offenses, but after the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints pulled off upsets as the No. 6 seeds in their respective conferences, the odds look wide open once again.
Before the divisional round of the playoffs officially kicks off, here are the updated Super Bowl odds for each of the eight remaining teams:
|San Francisco 49ers||11-2|
|New England Patriots||15-2|
|New Orleans Saints||14-1|
|San Diego Chargers||14-1|
Odds provided by Bovada
Super Bowl Favorite: Seattle Seahawks
During the regular season, the Seattle Seahawks were dominant at home outside of one loss against a hungry Arizona Cardinals team. To get to the Super Bowl, the Seahawks will simply need to hold court on their home turf.
After dominating all season without him, the Seahawks might get yet another boost on offense with the possible return of Percy Harvin. Russell Wilson believes his receiver will be ready for the divisional round, according to NBC Sports:
Russell Wilson believes Percy Harvin is "ready to go" http://t.co/yJzVyuyPjq— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 3, 2014
With the No. 1 overall defense, the No. 4 rushing offense and a cool-headed Wilson at the helm, the Seahawks are built for the playoffs and could ride all the way to a Super Bowl win.
Dark-Horse Team: Indianapolis Colts
For anyone who doubted the Indianapolis Colts heading into the playoffs, their 28-point comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs should serve as enough evidence that this team has what it takes to win the ultimate prize.
The Colts leaned heavily on the arm of second-year quarterback Andrew Luck in the second half to take down the Chiefs. Luck responded, going 29-of-45 with 443 yards, four touchdowns and an epic fumble recovery that kept the Colts in contention.
As for his teammates, it doesn't appear anyone lacks confidence in the former No. 1 overall pick. Offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus told Bob Kravitz of the USA Today exactly what he thought of his quarterback:
Andrew kept saying, "Stay with me, stay with me." He willed us to this win.
This is what I say about Andrew: There's a little piece of all of us in that kid. When he makes a tackle, he's got Robert Mathis in him. When he's recovering a fumble and diving into the end zone, he's Donald Brown. There's a little piece of all of us in him. We believe in this guy, and he believes in us. He's going to be a very special player for us for a long time. He already is.
It doesn't appear anything can phase this team when their backs are against the wall. Going against an equally explosive New England Patriots offense featuring Tom Brady, Indianapolis will face yet another tough test.
But after the challenges the Colts have overcome to this point, winning the Super Bowl doesn't seem like an obstacle they can't conquer.
Team with No Shot: San Diego Chargers
I am a graduate of N.C. State University and grew up watching Philip Rivers play for the Wolfpack and the San Diego Chargers. I'm well aware of what he's capable of, and I know he is putting together the best statistical season of his career.
But the other side of the ball is what's worrisome. The defense was able to force four turnovers against Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals, but the Chargers pass defense still ranks as the worst in the AFC.
While the odds look stacked against them, the Chargers have had success against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Rivers era, as ESPN's Numbers Never Lie points out:
Peyton Manning is 0-2 in the playoffs vs Rivers-led @chargers teams.— NFL AM (@NFL_AM) January 6, 2014
Who Will Win the Super Bowl?
In the two games the Chargers played against Manning in the regular season, they allowed him to throw six touchdowns and an average of over 300 passing yards. The second game went San Diego's way because they kept Manning off the field for the majority of the game, but the Broncos know that game plan now and will construct a different plan of their own going into the divisional round.
If San Diego can find a way to defeat the Broncos for a third straight time in the playoffs, this might be a team to consider. But a win against the Bengals in the Wild Card Round when Dalton threw two interceptions and fumbled on a play in which he wasn't even touched isn't convincing enough to see the Chargers as Super Bowl contenders.