At the start of the 2014 NFL season, many pundits predicted that the final four teams left in the NFL playoffs would be familiar names. Now that the regular season ended on Sunday, barring any upsets, the NFL could have one of the greatest conference championship weekends of all time.
In the AFC, New England gained the No.1 seed, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Their victory over the No.2 Denver Broncos broke the tie, and if those teams were to meet in the AFC Championship, Peyton Manning would have to lead the Broncos to a road victory.
New England doesn’t have a clear path to the title game, however. By virtue of winning the AFC North, Pittsburgh earned the No.3 seed, and they’ll play No.6 seed Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round. If Baltimore pulls off the win, the Ravens would head to New England for the Divisional round. New England has had plenty of trouble with the Ravens in the past.
The Cincinnati Bengals are the third team from the AFC North to make the playoffs and they will visit the No.4 Indianapolis Colts this weekend. The Bengals had a chance to win the division on the final day of the season, but a loss to Pittsburgh dropped Cincinnati to No.5.
The NFC playoffs have quite a few surprises throughout the division. Seattle and Green Bay were picked to be at the top, and they made it as the first two seeds on the final day of the season. Seattle won the head to head battle and earned the overall No.1 seed.
The No.2 Green Bay Packers can really utilize their bye week by getting Aaron Rodgers healthy. Depending on how things fall in the Wild Card, the Packers could be facing one of the best offenses in the NFL or one of the worst.
The No.3 Dallas Cowboys still had a chance to earn the No.1 spot, but they lost out on a couple tie-breakers when Seattle and Green Bay finished with the same record. Still, the Cowboys earned at least one home game against the No.6 Detroit Lions. Matthew Stafford and the Lions were the other team in contention for a playoff bye. Instead, they finished as the final playoff spot and would have to win three road games to the NFC.
Carolina was part of the lowly NFC South. Throughout, it was evident that some team would have to separate themselves from the rest of the division, and Carolina finally did that in the final month. The Panthers finished off Atlanta and snatched the No.4 seed. The win gives Carolina a home game over the injury riddled Arizona Cardinals. Despite having a losing record, Carolina will likely be the favorite in their playoff game.
Five playoff teams finished the season with a (12-4) record, including all four conference leaders. None of the teams are unbeatable, so home field advantage could come into play more than ever. Every team had at least 10 wins except for Carolina. However, the Panthers are tied with Pittsburgh ,and Dallas, for the second longest winning streak behind Seattle.