(RNN) - The teams that finished at the top of the NFL standings may be most people's favorites for the Super Bowl, but history shows at least one Wild Card can crash the party.
Denver and Seattle ensured home field advantage for themselves throughout the playoffs and will await their respective conferences' lowest winning seeds from Round One. The No. 1 spot has not been the road to success many hoped though, as only one since 2000 (New Orleans in 2009) ended its season hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
In that same timeframe, six of the NFL's champions have come from the Wild Card round. One only has to look at 2011, when the NFC's No. 4 seed New York Giants put together a run, to see this weekend's teams have more than a puncher's chance to make it to MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2.
Head coach Andy Reid helped the Chiefs go from one of the worst teams in 2012 to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth in his first season at the helm. Alex Smith, also in his first year with the team, has been a steady hand at quarterback - 23 TDs with seven interceptions - while the KC defense allowed the fifth-fewest points in the NFL.
Running back Jamaal Charles had another stellar year on the ground while becoming even more of a threat in the passing game. The speedster finished with 693 yards on 70 catches to go along with 1,287 yards rushing, and 19 total TDs.
It's a credit to how good a quarterback Andrew Luck is that the Colts (11-5) make their second straight playoff appearance. In his first year in the league, his coach missed most of the year while battling cancer. In his second, he lost leading receiver Reggie Wayne and got little help from the running game, even after the team traded for former No. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson.
On Indy's defense, Robert Mathis showed he was one of the best pass rushers in the league by totaling 19.5 sacks. Jerrell Freeman is an undersized linebacker, but he has emerged as a big playmaker - he led the team with 126 tackles and six forced fumbles.
In the upside down NFC, the Wild Card teams with the two best records are playing on the road this weekend, a by-product of division winners getting the nod over number of wins. Much of the talk on the Saints has been their struggles on the road (3-5 vs. 8-0 at home), but four of their five losses also came against some of the best scoring defenses in the league - Seattle (1), Carolina (2), New England (10) and St. Louis (13).
Drew Brees passed for an astounding 5,000-plus yards for an even more astounding third-straight year. He has tight end and 6'7" matchup nightmare Jimmy Graham to throw the ball to and one of the better defenses he's ever had backing him up, thanks to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Philly (10-6) rebounded from a 3-5 first half of the season as the team got more familiar with head coach Chip Kelly's offensive scheme. Michael Vick started the season under center, but Nick Foles became the team's quarterback after Vick's injuries allowed him to showcase his skills. The second-year pro threw 27 touchdowns compared to only two interceptions.
The Eagles were the most susceptible team to the pass, although the defense has improved as the season wore on. Cornerback Brandon Boykin grew into a real ball hawk with six interceptions on the year, including the one that effectively ended the season finale against the Cowboys and won the division.
Phillip Rivers and the Chargers (9-7) got their playoff berth thanks to an overtime win in their last game of the year. The QB will try to put points on the board against one of the stingiest defenses from the AFC.
Ryan Mathews shook off a disappointing season a year ago to rush for more than 1,200 yards, including four performances in a row of 99 yards or more. His success coincided with the four-game winning streak San Diego had to pull off to get into the postseason. He has been designated as questionable for the game but said he will play.
Cincinnati (11-5) holds an 8-0 record in front of its home crowd in 2013, and there's a high probability of snow to add to the discomfort of its warm-weathered opponent. Andy Dalton's impressive season went a bit under the radar, but he finished with nearly 4,300 passing yards and 33 TDs. His only downside is he can throw interceptions in bunches - he had five games with two or more.
A.J. Green remains the Bengals' top playmaker. The receiver caught 98 passes this season, including 11 for scores. The team also got some explosive plays from rookie running back Giovani Bernard, and he and Benjarvus Green-Ellis give the team a solid ground game.
This games serves as the most ridiculous example of a team getting an unearned advantage by virtue of a bad division. The Niners, at 12-4, are forced to travel to the 8-7-1 Packers' Lambeau Field to play - temperatures are expected to be around minus-10 for kickoff.
However, Green Bay's record is not an accurate reflection of the current team; quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed six games to injury and wideout Randall Cobb missed 10. The duo returned in time to knock off the Chicago Bears in the final week and earn the division title.
The loss of the franchise QB may have been a blessing in disguise, though. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy showed he could be an offensive centerpiece while they were away, and he gives the team the most balanced attack they've had in years.
The 49ers come in on the strength of a defense that is in the top 10 in rushing and passing yards allowed. Colin Kaepernick did not put up the kind of big numbers many expected after his run to the Super Bowl a year ago, but he still possesses a cannon arm that can find receivers far down the field.
A rushing attack led by Frank Gore will also challenge a Green Bay defense that was among the NFL's worst against the run.
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