NFL Playoff Picture: 4 Lower Seeds That Could Sneak into the Championship Games

Adam OdekirkContributor IIDecember 19, 2011

NFL Playoff Picture: 4 Lower Seeds That Could Sneak into the Championship Games

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    It's a tale as old as time, but inevitably there always seems to be that pesky team that was supposed to fall away early in the playoffs that finds themselves in the conference championship game.

    This year has plenty of potential "party crashers" in the mix and any one of them might be Cinderella when the clock strikes midnight in the conference championship game.

    Here are a few lower seeds that could wear the glass slipper and run to the conference championships.

Pittsburgh Steelers/Baltimore Ravens

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    Due to the sheer dominance of both teams, the loser of the division is going to be a fifth seed in the AFC playoffs.

    Whichever team it is, they will be as strong a Super Bowl contender as anyone else in the AFC playoff picture.

    Therefore, the term "sneak" may not be the most accurate word for their road to the Super Bowl. Everyone will see these two coming, but they will have to do it on the road if they want to make it to the AFC Championship game.

Denver Broncos

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    When the Broncos are controlling the game and playing their unorthodox style, they are never out of any game.

    Their loss to the Patriots had a lot to do with the Patriots' great play, but it also had uncharacteristic turnovers for Denver and no big plays from the defense and special teams.

    A trip to Denver is never something that teams relish in the playoffs, and a Denver team that controls the ground game and minimizes mistakes can certainly make a surprise appearance in the AFC Championship game.

Detroit Lions

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    The Detroit Lions had a chance to lose today, but much like they did early in the season, they found a way to rally and avoided that fate.

    If Calvin Johnson is ready to get his second wind and help Matthew Stafford lead the charge into the playoffs, they are a scary team to face offensively. Combine that with Ndamukong Suh looking to rehabilitate his image in a positive way on defense, and the Lions are a scary playoff matchup again.

    If Jim Schwartz's team has really grown up, and if they are ready to put their foolish play behind them, then the NFC Championship game could be their destination.

New York Giants

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    it was an embarrassing loss today for the Giants, and it might be the nail in the coffin for them. However, it also might not be.

    The Giants still have a chance to win their division and make the playoffs as the fourth seed, and if they do they might be a scary matchup for any team with the displeasure of meeting them.

    Eli Manning can win games on his own (most of the time) and if the Giants' defensive front takes over a game like they have been known to do, it could be a recipe for a magical run to the NFC Championship for the Giants.