With championship favorites like the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots still in contention and looking to make a Super Bowl splash, the eight remaining teams will help make the divisional round memorable.
Here are the latest odds on each remaining franchise and a breakdown of the top team in each conference.
|San Francisco 49ers||5/1|
|New England Patriots||8/1|
|New Orleans Saints||12/1|
|San Diego Chargers||14/1|
Denver Broncos (13-3)
The Denver Broncos are the most explosive team remaining in the playoffs. While the Seattle Seahawks are the betting favorite to win the Super Bowl, quarterback Peyton Manning’s previous Super Bowl victory makes the Broncos the safer wager.
Which team has the better chance of making the Super Bowl?
There are questions about the defensive abilities of a Denver unit that gave up 24.9 points per game this season, but there will be veteran players like Champ Bailey who understand that it’s time to step up.
The questions aren’t just limited to the defense, though, as ESPN’s Trey Wingo points out:
The three teams in AFC standing between Denver and a Super Bowl appearance..are the three teams that beat the Broncos in the regular season.— trey wingo (@wingoz) January 6, 2014
The Broncos can’t take San Diego lightly this weekend, as the Chargers have one of the more dangerous offensive units in the league as well. With these AFC West division rivals splitting the season series, the rubber match will determine the better overall team.
Manning is playing at an elite level right now, and San Diego won’t be able to keep pace with the vaunted offense. Denver will beat the Chargers and continue to march toward a Super Bowl berth.
Predicted Final Score: Denver 38, San Diego 24
Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
The Seattle Seahawks may not have the same offensive firepower that Denver boasts, but the franchise has the most talented defensive unit in the league and one of the most consistent rushing attacks.
Those two factors make Seattle a serious Super Bowl contender.
While there were other defensive units that came up big in 2013, none could match the Seahawks statistically or physically. Not only is Seattle’s defense heralded as one of the hardest-hitting groups in the NFL, but the team has also racked up 44 sacks, 28 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles and 112 pass deflections to prove its greatness.
The Seahawks have allowed just 14.4 points and 273.6 yards per game. Even Arizona Cardinals defender Darnell Dockett understands the toughness of the team’s defense:
The only team that can beat seattle at home is Us and maybe 49ers.. So if Green Bay win, seattle goes to Super Bowl! Mark my words!!💯— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) January 4, 2014
Seattle plays the high-powered offense of the Saints in the divisional round, and while the team fully expects to stifle Drew Brees, there is no doubt that New Orleans will manage to score at least a few points.
That’s where Marshawn Lynch plays his role.
As seen in Lynch’s previous games against the Saints (including the 2011 postseason), the powerful running back has the ability to plow through arm tackles and make defenders look silly with his strength.
If the team’s fourth-ranked running game lives up to the expectations against New Orleans (averaged 136.8 yards per game), the Seahawks should have no trouble winning in front of the rowdy fans at CenturyLink Field.
Predicted Final Score: Seattle 31, New Orleans 27
*All stats via NFL.com.