Super Bowl 2013: Dark Horses Capable of Making a Run to New Orleans

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 30:  Jacoby Jones #12 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the football upfield during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
John Grieshop/Getty Images

Don't bet on the favorites to make the Super Bowl this year.

With the amount of parity in the league, it's hard for a team to create a huge talent gap between its competitors. The NFL playoffs are littered with teams that looked unbeatable only to reach an ignominious end when it counted the most.

The 18-1 New England Patriots of 2007 are perhaps the best illustration of this when they suffered their lone defeat of the season at Super Bowl XLII.

Times have changed very little in some respects, as the Patriots are once again favorites to lift the Lombardi Trophy. A Peyton Manning-led team, this time the Denver Broncos, is once again thrown in there as well.

However, here are three teams with the ability to defy the odds and get to Super Bowl XLVII.


Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals have flown under the radar for much of the season.

They created some buzz early in the season, starting with a 3-1 record. Then Cincinnati turned around and lost four games in a row, including defeats to the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns.

Now the Bengals are one of the hotter teams in the league. They've won their last three games and seven of their last eight.

Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have the experience of losing to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card Round last year. Now the two teams meet again, only this time the Bengals are much improved.

Their offensive line is better this time around, and Cincinnati has one of the best pass rushes in all of the league.


Seattle Seahawks

There probably isn't a hotter team in the NFL than the Seattle Seahawks. A little over a month ago, the playoffs were nothing more than a pipe dream.

However, that was before the Seahawks won five games in a row, including a demolition of the San Francisco 49ers.

It's true that a rookie quarterback has never led his team to the Super Bowl, but it would be incorrect to think that Russell Wilson is the catalyst of the offense. While Wilson has been outstanding this year, right now he manages the game and lets Marshawn Lynch take over.

The Seahawks also have a solid defense that forces plenty of turnovers. Their turnover margin of 13 was tied for forth in the league.


Baltimore Ravens

Conversely to the previous two teams, the Baltimore Ravens are coming into the playoffs ice cold. They've lost four of their last five games.

The Ravens' opponent for the Wild Card Round, the Indianapolis Colts, presents a favorable matchup considering the 18 interceptions thrown by Andrew Luck.

There's also the return of Ray Lewis, who will retire at the end of the season. He could provide the spark for the Ravens to play inspired football.

Much like the Baltimore defense as a whole, Lewis has seen his talent wane over recent years, but there's still enough in the tank for one more run at the Super Bowl.