2011 NFL Playoffs: Every Team's Easiest, Toughest Path to the Super Bowl

John SmithCorrespondent IIJanuary 3, 2011

2011 NFL Playoffs: Every Team's Easiest, Toughest Path to the Super Bowl

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 12: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots calls out signals as Dan Koppen #67 and Logan Mankins #70 awaits the snap against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Patriots defeated the
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    It is finally that time of year again.

    It's time to start 0-0 because the NFL Playoffs have arrived.

    There's no waiting til next week—it is win or go home, baby.

    The caliber of the NFL teams this year in the playoffs is truly remarkable.

    There are four to five teams in each conference that have a realistic chance and think that they can go to the Super Bowl in Dallas this February.

    What I did here is list every playoff team's easiest, toughest, and realistic road to the Super Bowl.

    No one said it's going to be easy, but some roads are just easier than others.

    Your path could consist of hosting the fifth and sixth seed, or it could be as hard as playing on the road against the top three seeds.

    One thing is for sure—and this statement can be made every year—the teams that will play in Dallas will truly have earned the right to play there.

    For a ranking of all possible Super Bowl match-ups, click here.

    Note: The "Realistic Road to the Super Bowl takes into account my predictions on who they would play based on who I think will win the other games. I assume in this instance that they win every game that they play in.

AFC Playoff Schedule

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the third quarter of the game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Larry Fre
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Wild Card Round: January 8th and 9th

    No. 6 New York Jets at No. 3 Indianapolis Colts—Saturday, 8:00; NBC

    No. 5 Baltimore Ravens at No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs—Sunday, 1:00; CBS

    Divisional Round: January 15th and 16th

    Higher rated seed at No. 1 New England Patriots—Sunday, 4:30; CBS

    Lower rated seed at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers—Saturday, 4:30; CBS

    AFC Championship Game: January 23rd; 6:30 p.m. CBS

    Higher rated seed at lower rated seed

1. New England Patriots (14-2)

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 26:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a pass against the Buffalo Bills  at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York.  New England won 34-3.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No. 6 New York Jets

         Other possible opponents: No. 4 Chiefs, No. 5 Ravens

    Championship Round: vs No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs

         Other possible opponents: No. 2 Steelers, No. 3 Colts, No. 5 Ravens


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No. 5 Baltimore Ravens

    Championship Round: vs. No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No. 5 Baltimore Ravens

    Championship Round: vs. No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 23:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass during the game against the Carolina Panthers on December 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs

         Other possible opponents: No. 3 Colts, No. 5 Ravens

    Championship Round: vs. No. 6 New York Jets

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Patriots, No. 4 Chiefs, No. 5 Ravens


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No.  5 Baltimore Ravens

    Championship Round: at No. 1 New England Patriots

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs No. 3 Indianapolis Colts

    Championship Round: at No. 1 New England Patriots

3. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

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    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts passes against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December  26, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 6 New York Jets

    Divisional Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

         Other possible opponents: None

    Championship Round: vs. No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Patriots, No. 5 Ravens


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 6 New York Jets

    Divisional Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

    Championship Round: at  No. 1 New England Patriots

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 6 New York Jets

    Divisional Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

    Championship Round: at No. 1  New England Patriots

4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 26:  Quarterback Matt Cassel #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs in action during the game against the Tennessee Titans on December 26, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 5 Baltimore Ravens

    Divisional Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Patriots

    Championship Round: vs. No. 6 New York Jets 

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Patriots, No. 3 Colts


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 5 Baltimore Ravens

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 New England Patriots

    Championship Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 5 Baltimore Ravens

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 New England Patriots

    Championship Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

5. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 19:  Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens looks for a receiver during the game against the New Orleans Saints  at M&T Bank Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Saints 30-24. (Photo by Larry
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs

    Divisional Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Patriots

    Championship Round: vs. No. 6 New York Jets

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Patriots, No. 2 Steelers, No. 3 Colts


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 New England Patriots

    Championship Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 New England Patriots

    Championship Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

6. New York Jets (11-5)

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 12:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets against the Miami Dolphins at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 12, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 3 Indianapolis Colts

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 New England Patriots

         Other possible opponents: None

    Championship Round: at No. 5 Baltimore Ravens

         Other possible opponents: No. 2 Steelers, No. 4 Chiefs


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 3 Indianapolis Colts

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 New England Patriots

    Championship Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers


    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 3 Indianapolis Colts

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 New England Patriots

    Championship Round: at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers

NFC Playoff Schedule

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 27:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons looks upfield to pass during the first half of the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on December 27, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Wild Card Round: January 8th and 9th

    No. 6 Green Bay Packers at No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles—Sunday, 4:30; FOX

    No. 5 New Orleans Saints at No. 4 Seattle Seahawks—Saturday, 4:30; NBC

    Divisional Round: January 15th and 16th

    Higher rated seed at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons—Saturday, 8:00; FOX

    Lower rated seed at No. 2 Chicago Bears—Sunday, 1:00; CBS

    NFC Championship Game: January 23rd; 3:00 p.m. FOX

    Higher rated seed at lower rated seed

1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

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    SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 19:  Running back Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 19, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No. 4 Seattle Seahawks

         Other possible opponents: No. 5 Saints, No. 6 Packers

    Championship Round: vs. No. 2 Chicago Bears

         Other possible opponents: No. 3 Eagles, No. 4 Seattle Seahawks , No. 5 Saints


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No. 5 New Orleans Saints

    Championship Round: vs. No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No. 5 New Orleans Saints

    Championship Round: vs. No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

2. Chicago Bears (11-5)

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears looks for a receiver against the New York Jets at Soldier Field on December 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Jets 38-34.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No. 4 Seattle Seahawks

         Other possible opponents: No. 3 Eagles, No. 5 Saints

    Championship Round: vs. No. 6 Green Bay Packers

         Other possible opponents: No.1 Falcons, No. 4 Seahawks, No. 5 Saints


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

    Championship Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Divisional Round: vs. No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

    Championship Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 6 Green Bay Packers

    Divisional Round: at No. 2 Chicago Bears

         Other possible opponents: None

    Championship Round: vs. No. 4 Seattle Seahawks

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Falcons, No. 5 Saints


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 6 Green Bay Packers

    Divisional Round: at No. 2 Chicago Bears

    Championship Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 6 Green Bay Packers

    Divisional Round: at No. 2 Chicago Bears

    Championship Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

4. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

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    SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 28:  Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to hand off against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qwest Field on November 28, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 5 New Orleans Saints

    Divisional Round: at No. 2 Chicago Bears

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Falcons

    Championship Round: vs. No. 6 Green Bay Packers

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Falcons, No. 2 Bears, No. 3 Eagles


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 5 New Orleans Saints

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

    Championship Round: at No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: vs. No. 5 New Orleans Saints

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

    Championship Round: at No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

5. New Orleans Saints (11-5)

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 27:  Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks upfield to pass in the second half during the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 27, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Ge
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 4 Seattle Seahawks

    Divisional Round: at No. 2 Chicago Bears

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Falcons

    Championship Round: vs. No. 6 Green Bay Packers

         Other possible opponents: No. 1 Falcons, No. 2 Bears, No. 3 Eagles


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 4 Seattle Seahawks

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

    Championship Round: at No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 4 Seattle Seahawks

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

    Championship Round: at No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

6. Green Bay Packers (10-6)

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    GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 26:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers is chased out of the pocket against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field on December 26, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Easiest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

         Other possible opponents: None

    Championship Round: at No. 4 Seattle Seahawks

         Other possible opponents: No. 2 Bears, No. 5 Saints


    Toughest Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

    Championship Round: at No. 5 New Orleans Saints

    Realistic Road to the Super Bowl

    Wild Card Round: at No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles

    Divisional Round: at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

    Championship Round: at No. 2 Chicago Bears

What Will Happen?

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 07:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates after a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgia Dome on November 7, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Wild Card Round: January 8th and 9th

    AFC: No. 3 Indianapolis Colts at No. 6 New York Jets

    AFC: No. 5 Baltimore Ravens over No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs

    NFC: No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles over No. 6 Green Bay Packers

    NFC: No. 5 New Orleans Saints over No. 4 Seattle Seahawks

    Divisional Round: January 15th and 16th

    AFC: No. 1 New England Patriots over No. 5 Ravens

    AFC: No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers over No. 3 Colts

    NFC: No. 1 Atlanta Falcons over No. 5 Saints

    NFC: No. 3 Eagles over No. 2 Chicago Bears

    AFC Championship Game: January 23rd

    AFC: No. 2 Steelers over No. 1 Patriots

    NFC: No. 1 Falcons over No. 3 Eagles

    Super Bowl: February 6th

    Atlanta Falcons over Pittsburgh Steelers

    For a ranking of all possible Super Bowl match-ups, click here.

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