For years it was “sasquatch in the city – like” rare for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the No. 1 seed in the NFC to both reach the Super Bowl in the same postseason. But recent football history has turned rarity into ordinary, as in the past three seasons the top seeds in each conference have made the big game (Denver vs. Carolina in 2016, New England vs. Seattle in 2015, Denver vs. Seattle in 2014).
This year, the Patriots have the No. 1 seed in the AFC and they are heavy favorites to get to the Super Bowl for the seventh time under Bill Belichick. They are without their second best player, in Rob Gronkowski, but the Pats’ road to Houston is a pretty one nonetheless. In the divisional round they will host one of the following three teams/quarterbacks: Brock Osweiler/Tom Savage (Houston), Matt McGloin/Connor Cook (Oakland), or Matt Moore/Ryan Tannehill (Miami). Far from a murderers’ row of signal callers there, and it would certainly be a tall order for any of them to win in Foxboro against a healthy Pats squad.
Meanwhile in the NFC, No. 1 Dallas’ road to Houston is significantly tougher. The Cowboys will host either Aaron Rodgers’ Packers, Eli Manning’s Giants or Matthew Stafford’s Lions in the divisional round. Not only will the competition be stiff one way or another, but Dallas’ lack of postseason experience could very well come into play. No rookie QB has ever won a Super Bowl, and while Dak Prescott’s inaugural NFL campaign has been otherworldly, the postseason is an entirely different animal.
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The No.5-seeded Giants are the obvious sleeper in the NFC as the GMen have not only had previous postseason success in Green Bay, but they’ve also slayed the conference’s top dog – Dallas – twice this season. New York’s defense hasn’t allowed a team to score more than 25 points on them in a game since Week 3 (a 29-27 loss to Washington), and the unit looks like it is getting hot at the right time.
In the AFC, keep an eye on the No. 6-seeded Dolphins. While beating the Pats in Foxboro would classify as a miracle, Miami could very well upset No. 3 Pittsburgh this weekend. The Steelers’ defense is mediocre at best (16th in pass defense, 13th in rush defense) and Miami back Jay Ajayi had his breakout game in a Dolphins win over Pittsburgh earlier this season (204 yards rushing in a 30-15 Miami win).