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9 Biggest Surprises Of 2014 NFL Playoffs

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2014 NFL Playoffs: 9 Biggest Surprises

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NFL Playoffs have been unlike anything we've ever seen. There have been plenty of surprises along the way, but looking forward to Super Bowl XLVII, it's time to take a look back at a postseason that has been filled with shockers and surprising results.

After a Wild Card round that had a comeback in seemingly every game, the bar was set rather high for the rest of the playoffs, and as we await a Denver Broncos-Seattle Seahawks matchup in two weeks, the rest of the playoffs haven't disappointed in the slightest. There has been no telling what could happen over the course of each game, and as a result, we have been privileged enough to witness one of the more exciting postseasons in recent memory.

Sunday's conference championship games were no exception, as each of the games offered their own brand of excitement and surprise. Regardless of the winners of Sunday's games, we were guaranteed to see a Super Bowl in which a young quarterback on the rise takes on an experienced legend at the position. As everyone already knows, due to Sunday's game results, we have a Russell Wilson vs. Peyton Manning Super Bowl, which is sure to have some surprises in it as well.

These 2014 NFL Playoffs have been anything but predictable, and that's exactly how they should be. We have witnessed first-hand the notion that there are no guarantees in the NFL. It was no easy task to limit the number of surprises, ladies and gentlemen, but here are the 9 biggest surprises of the 2014 NFL Playoffs.

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9. Kansas City Chiefs' Turnaround

Chiefs
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

While the Kansas City Chiefs were certainly expected to improve from being the worst team in the league, the fact the team was able to turn things around so quickly is a direct testament to the type of leadership head coach Andy Reid brings. A playoff appearance just one year into the rebuilding process is a huge surprise for both the Chiefs and the NFL.

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8. Continued Playoff Struggles for the Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

After this year's loss in the playoffs, both head coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton were heavily criticized. Lewis, who has yet to win a playoff game, was criticized for just that, while Dalton was absolutely destroyed for his collapse against the San Diego Chargers in the Wild Card round. This is a team that was expected to make noise, but the Cincinnati Bengals let us down.

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7. Lack of Continuity From 2013 Playoffs

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Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, the Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons all made the playoffs. However, in 2014, none of those teams qualified for the postseason, and three --Washington, Minnesota and Houston -- finished last in their respective divisions, while the Atlanta Falcons tied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the worst record in the NFC South. It's safe to say that the 2014 playoffs have seen massive amounts of change from 2013.

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6. Emergence of Slot Receivers

Slot receivers
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With the emergence of the tight end position over the past couple seasons, the slot receiver, has gone largely unnoticed. However, it's these slot receivers that have become the true security blankets in the NFL, providing a fallback option for every quarterback. They might not put up mind-blowing statistics but slot receivers have been a surprisingly huge part of these 2014 playoffs.

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5. The Return of the Running Game

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Before Sunday's conference championship game, LeGarrette Blount was starting to look like a star in the making. And despite Blount's struggles on Sunday, the fact is that the NFL running game has seen some sort of resurrection during these playoffs. It's the runs, not the passes, that are leading teams to victory. A return to old-school, smash-mouth football has been a big surprise all postseason long.

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4. Youngsters Going Toe-to-Toe With Veterans

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David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

We have seen exactly what happens when the old school meets the new school, and it has been exciting to see. While Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are both among the best the quarterback position has ever seen, the young QBs coming up are becoming more and more dangerous. Just as Super Bowl XLVII can attest, one of the biggest surprises of the 2014 playoffs has been the younger generation going toe-to-toe with the legends we all love.

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3. Richard Sherman's Post-Game Comments

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Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Following the Seattle Seahawks' win on Sunday, cornerback Richard Sherman located his inner Booker T, intensely saying "I'm the best corner in the game, when you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you going to get." Woah there, Richard.

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2. Denver's Defense

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Hidden behind the fact they have a Hall-of-Fame quarterback playing some of the best football of his career is the fact that the Broncos have themselves a pretty good defense. During the 2014 postseason, the Denver defense is only allowing about 290 total yards per game, including only giving up 65 rushing yards per game as well. For a team that has had to rely so heavily upon its offense, it's a pleasant surprise to see the defense make strides.

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1. Matchup of No. 1 Seeds

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Super Bowl will see a matchup of no. 1 seeds. Denver's no.1 offense is set to take on the Seattle Seahawks' no. 1 scoring defense. Not to mention, both Denver and Seattle are the no. 1 seeds from their respective conferences. The last time that happened? 2010, the last time Peyton Manning played in the Super Bowl.