The first weekend of the NFL playoffs weren’t as crazy as they have been in recent memory, considering home teams that don’t earn a first-round bye are often susceptible to upsets by hungry road teams.
In this case, the three higher-seeded and favored teams that had home-field advantage prevailed, as did the lone road favorite — the Seattle Seahawks — to advance to the divisional round.
So now, we’re down to eight teams left in the running for Super Bowl XLVII. With that in mind, here’s a look at how each team stacks up in the run to New Orleans.
No. 1 seed Denver Broncos
Storyline: The Broncos are the sentimental favorite with Peyton Manning having a shot at his second title while capping a remarkable comeback from four neck surgeries.
Why they can get to New Orleans: They’ve won 11 straight games. Part of the reason is Manning and their fourth-ranked offense, but don’t forget a defense that’s actually ranked higher at No. 2.
Why they’ll come up short: The Broncos are on a collision course with Tom Brady in the AFC title game.
No. 2 seed New England Patriots
Storyline: What’s a Super Bowl in New Orleans without the Patriots? They’re trying to get to their eighth Super Bowl and fourth in the Big Easy.
Why they can get to New Orleans: If Brady and the NFL’s top-ranked offense can get the job done against the Broncos, they’ll be here.
Why they’ll come up short: They rank 25th in total defense and are 29th against the pass, which could be a problem vs. Manning.
No. 3 seed Houston Texans
Storyline: They’ve fallen a long way in a short period of time and are still trying to shake the cobwebs from a poor finish.
Why they can get to New Orleans: The offense and defense are good enough, with both ranking seventh in the league, so they have the talent.
Why they’ll come up short: They lost to the Patriots, 42-14, on Dec. 10 in a game that wasn’t that close —and guess who they get Sunday?
No. 4 seed Baltimore Ravens
Storyline: Like the Texans, they kind of fell apart late in the season and cost themselves a chance at a bye, so they’re paying for it now.
Why they can get to New Orleans: They’re riding the emotion of Ray Lewis’ return, which could take them a long way.
Why they’ll come up short: They rank around the middle of the pack on offense and defense, which is not a good combination on the road.
No. 1 seed Atlanta Falcons
Storyline: They earned the No. 1 seed, but were shaky in doing it in a jumbled-up NFC playoff race. The question is, can they take advantage of it?
Why they can get to New Orleans: They have an offense, especially in the passing game, that can cause a lot of problems if they’re on that day.
Why they’ll come up short: Their defense is kind of sketchy. They rank 24th overall and are 21st against the run and 23rd against the pass. If they don’t stop the run, they’re in trouble.
No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers
Storyline: They bounced back from a bad loss to the Seahawks and managed to win the West. But they can make a good run because of their defense.
Why they can get to New Orleans: A solid running game that ranks fourth and a defense that can be nasty at times will carry them a long way.
Why they’ll come up short: They’re 23rd in passing offense, so they could be in trouble if someone can make them one-dimensional.
No. 3 seed Green Bay Packers
Storyline: Lots of people are jumping on their bandwagon and for good reason — especially if the running game can help quarterback Aaron Rodgers out.
Why they can get to New Orleans: The offense hasn’t been as good as it has been the last couple of years, but they have a chance with Rodgers.
Why they’ll come up short: If the offense struggles early against the tough 49ers, it could be a very long night.
No. 5 seed Seattle Seahawks
Storyline: They’re trying to follow the Packers and New York Giants as a wild-card Super Bowl winner, so the precedent has been set.
Why they can get to New Orleans: They can run the ball effectively and the defense is big and bad, which the Washington Redskins can attest to.
Why they’ll come up short: Another road game or two might be too much to ask of them even though the Packers won three straight on the road in 2010.
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