Can Flacco get the Ravens to the promised land?
It happens all the time. A low seed sneaks into the NFL Playoffs, hovers under the radar, and ends the season hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Well, it doesn't happen all the time. The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts were the best teams all season in 2009, and ended up battling it out for the Super Bowl last season.
However, the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals are a few teams that come to mind in the recent past that made it to the big game out of a Wild Card spot. The Steelers and Patriots were even lucky enough to escape as champs.
With the 2010 NFL Playoffs quickly approaching us, which team has the best chance at pulling off the unlikely and getting to the Super Bowl this year?
Read on for a breakdown of each team and a final verdict:
New York Jets (11-5)
The Jets were many people's preseason favorites to take the next step and get to the Super Bowl. From HBO's Hard Knocks to Rex Ryan's apparent foot fetish, nothing seemed to sideline the hype train for the Jets.
However, after a hot start to the season, Mark Sanchez cooled down, and the vaunted Jets defense was routinely carved up. They still have the talent to make it happen, but with a road showdown against the Indianaplis Colts in the first round, they could easily be looking at an early exit.
Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
Peyton Manning put the Colts on his shoulders again for much of the season, but this time around he threw costly interceptions and was exposed against quality 3-4 defenses.
Indy's defense has also been carved up throughout the season, while their rush offense has bordered on non-existent, and has been inconsistent at best. This isn't a recipe for a Super Bowl team.
Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
This very well might be the most complete wild card team in these playoffs. Joe Flacco has grown into a reliable passer, while Ray Rice and co. still present a major problem for opposing run defenses.
This isn't the Ravens defense of old, as they can be exposed in pass coverage, but they still have one of the most stout run defenses in the game. It'd be a shock if they didn't get out of the first round, but with the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers potentially standing in their way, they arguably have one of the toughest roads to the championship.
Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
The Chiefs have made great strides. Matt Cassel is making good decisions and taking care of the ball, their defense doesn't get pushed around, and they have one of the most explosive (if not the most explosive) backs in football in Jamaal Charles.
Which Wild Card team will win it all?
But even with a home game to start things off, are we really to expect Charles and co. to run all over the Ravens solid run defense? If the run game gets stifled, the season hangs on Cassel, who may have some trouble carrying this team with everything on the line.
Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
The Eagles looked very "super" early on in the season with the Michael Vick show going on full throttle. However, Vick has had issues with reading defenses and recognizing blitzes in recent weeks, making him appear far more human.
If the Vick of old shows up, even for a quarter, the Eagles might not escape the first round, where they face a very talented Green Bay Packers team.
Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Despite being marred by injuries and a weak rush attack, the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers appear to be set-up to make a run at the Super Bowl. Backed by an extremely active and aggressive defense, Rodgers is primed to go off on an Eagles defense that hasn't looked so formidable in recent weeks.
The Packers will need to put some type of running game together to make a real run at it, but there's also a chance Aaron Rodgers is just that good that it may not even matter.
Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Easily the most unlikely of the wild card bunch, the lowly Seahawks actually get a home game. The real question is, will it be Charlie 'Mountain Man" Whitehurst, or the aging Matt Hasselbeck leading this offense?
Actually, the real question is if anyone with a sound mind actually thinks this inept squad stands a chance at getting out of the first round.
New Orleans Saints (11-5)
They aren't much worse than they were last season, yet it appears many experts continue to write them off. Drew Brees is still manning one of the most explosive offenses in the league, but will now have to guide his team through a fairly strong NFC tournament without the help of Chris Ivory or Pierre Thomas.
The Saints have the talent and coaching to overcome any adversity, but a mediocre run defense and possibly sluggish rush offense may kill their repeat bid.
For the NFC, it's going to be the Green Bay Packers. They lack a good running game, but with such an active and efficient defense, it may not matter. This team went toe-to-toe with both the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears, and despite several injuries, could very well end up the ultimate winners when it's all said and done.
In the AFC, it's still all about the Baltimore Ravens when it comes to the wild card teams. The New England Patriots are probably going to be too much for them to handle this time around (the Ravens ousted them in last year's playoffs), but if any AFC wild card team can get it done, it's them.
Overall, I'm taking the Green Bay Packers. That defense is for real. Clay Matthews is scary, and their corners are elite. Aaron Rodgers may have to pick up where he left off in last year's loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but there's no doubt he's up to the task.