September is here and that means one thing, and one thing only.
Football is back.
We have had to deal with preseason football for the past month or so, and while it is nice to see everybody back on the field, it does not feel like real football quite yet. Rosters are inflated, pointless players are on the team (Tebow), and the starters don’t get a full games worth of playing time. However that is now behind us, and we can now turn our full attention to the 2013 regular season.
A lot will transpire over the next five months, and even though it is impossible to predict the events that will unfold, us bloggers still try to do this very thing.
Here are my predictions for the 2013 NFL season (feel free to comment below whether you agree with me, or not).
Aug 29, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) walks off the field after a win over the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots: 11-5
Miami Dolphins: 8-8
Buffalo Bills: 5-11
New York Jets: 2-14
There has been a lot of hype surrounding the Dolphins and their offseason acquisitions, and I think that they will be a much improved squad in 2013. However they still don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Pats, and this will result in another banner year for New England in the AFC East.
Aug 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) watches on the sidelines during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6
Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-7
Baltimore Ravens: 7-9
Cleveland Browns: 6-10
For some reason, the Cincinnati Bengals have flown under the NFL radar this offseason. This is a very talented bunch, as they are led by a top 10 defense, and an improving offense, quarterbacked by rising star Andy Dalton. The Steelers are a seasoned group, and they will give the Bengals a run for their money, but I feel that Cincinnati is much too talented of a team to let the Steelers take the division. As for Baltimore, they are the defending champs so you can’t count them out, but they lost a lot of key guys over the offseason, and they didn’t do enough to replace them (Lewis, Boldin, Pitta).
Aug 24, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a pass during warm ups before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Indianapolis Colts: 11-5
Houston Texans: 10-6
Tennessee Titans: 6-10
Jacksonville Jaguars: 3-13
This division is going to be fun to watch simply because it is going to be a tight, two man race between the Texans and the Colts all season long. We know that the Texans will be there on defense, and Arian Foster will always produce, but the question marks surrounding them fall solely on quarterback Matt Schaub. If he can come through in the big moments, then the Texans may find themselves playing in February, however if he cannot, Houston will probably exit the playoffs rather quickly once again.
We all know about Andrew Luck and his incredible rookie campaign in 2012. We now get to find out if he can reproduce this magic of a year ago in 2013. He has the weapons, and he has the coach. It will be fun to see how he performs with added pressure now that the league knows what he is about. In my opinion the Colts have an easier schedule than Houston does, so that is why they get the edge in the division.
Aug 29, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Cardinals won 32-24. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos: 12-4
Kansas City Chiefs: 10-6
San Diego Chargers: 6-10
Oakland Raiders: 2-14
The Broncos will roll through the regular season, relying heavily on Peyton’s arm and a plethora of weapons he has to play with. However come playoff time, Denver will struggle because of a weak secondary, and a non-existent running game. Patriots fans know all too well the struggles of a one dimensional offense, and in the playoffs this will come back to bite you. The Chiefs are my surprise team of the year, as I have them bouncing back from a horrible 2012 season, to make the playoffs here in 2013. They have a lot of young talent on offense and defense, as well as a coach that has a successful resume coaching in this league. That is a recipe for success in my mind, and this Kansas City team will be a squad to keep an eye on, as the season progresses.
AFC Playoff Standings:
1. Denver Broncos (12-4)
2. New England Patriots (11-5)
3. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
5. Houston Texans (10-6)
6. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
Aug 24, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) runs to catch a pass in warm ups prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Redskins: 9-7
Dallas Cowboys: 9-7
New York Giants 8-8
Philadelphia Eagles: 7-9
The NFC East will be the most entertaining division to watch all season long. There is no clear cut favorite to take the division crown because all four teams are relatively equal in talent level. The Eagles and Redskins both need some work on the defensive side of the ball, while the Cowboys and Giants are still a bit uneven on offense. I give the Redskins the slight edge over the other three squads because I believe that they have a slightly easier schedule than everybody else. I am not a big fan of Robert Griffin III, but I think he is close to becoming the best quarterback among these four teams. I still give Romo the nod because of experience, but the gap is closing quickly.
Aug 29, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) warms up before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers: 11-5
Minnesota Vikings: 10-6
Chicago Bears: 8-8
Detroit Lions: 7-9
The Packers have ruled this division for the last couple of years, largely due to the fact that their quarterback’s level of play has been far superior to the rest of the division. I think that this will hold true yet again, but Green Bay will have to hold off Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings throughout the season. The Vikings are built to take down Rodgers and the Packers with their solid defensive front, and exceptional running game. Their quarterback, Christian Ponder still has a lot of improving to do, but he is definitely coming along. The x-factor here will be how the Packers offensive line holds up for Rodgers and their running attack, because if that o-line falters, then that whole offense will crumble.
Aug 24, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Falcons: 13-3
New Orleans Saints: 9-7
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7-9
Carolina Panthers: 4-12
In my opinion, as of right now the Falcons are the best team in the NFL. They have the quarterback, the offensive line, the weapons, and an improving defensive unit. I don’t see any scenario where the Saints and that putrid defense of theirs is able to overtake the Falcons in the NFC South.
Aug 29, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during warmups prior to the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers: 12-4
Seattle Seahawks: 11-5
St. Louis Rams: 9-7
Arizona Cardinals: 5-11
If you play in the NFC West, then you better be one tough dude. All four of these teams have very good defenses, and the only way to separate yourself, is to elevate your offensive play. The Niners and Seahawks have shown that they can do this, with young quarterbacks leading the way. The Niners have a much better supporting cast on offense than Seattle does, and this is why I think they get the division crown. As for the Rams, I think that their defense is a top 10 unit in this league, but their offense has been lagging behind for the last few years. I think this changes this year because of improved play from Sam Bradford, and a solid arsenal of weapons he has to throw to.
NFC Playoff Standings:
1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
2. San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
3. Green Bay Packers (11-5)
4. Washington Redskins (9-7)
5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Aug 16, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; An NFL Heads Up logo is affixed to the helmet of New England Patriots defensive end Jake Bequette (92) prior to a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
AFC Champion: New England Patriots
Throughout this “turbulent” offseason in Foxboro, analysts have thrown out a million different reasons as to why the Pats will fail in 2013. However, most of these “football experts” have failed to recognize reasons why this team will succeed. The obvious one is they still have the best quarterback, and best coach in the league in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Whenever you have two guys of this caliber on your team, you will be just fine. But I think the Pats have gotten even better this offseason, despite losing guys like Welker, Lloyd and Hernandez. They added free agent Danny Amendola, who from I have seen, could be even better here in New England than Welker was. They also brought in a plethora of rookie receivers that could bring back an explosive offense, an element to the team that has been missing since the Randy Moss days. Their defense is improving, and by the end of the regular season, this defensive unit could be one of the top groups in the NFL. Their front seven is always solid, and their secondary is slowly getting better. The final factor in choosing the Pats over the Broncos is the running game. The Patriots have it, the Broncos don’t. New England can deploy their main back Stevan Ridley, who is one of the best young running backs in the league. Then they have Shane Vereen, who can explode any time he touches the ball. Finally, “the big man” LeGarrette Blount can come in and deliver some physicality near the goal-line, or in short yardage situations. As I mentioned earlier, one dimensional offenses get exposed in the postseason, and having a solid running game to lean on will be huge for Brady and the Pats come playoff time.
Aug 24, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; An Atlanta Falcons helmet showing the Heads Up logo sitting on the field prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
NFC Champion: Atlanta Falcons
I have been debating the Falcons and the Niners for this spot for a long time. What ultimately made me put the Falcons over San Francisco is the quarterback situation. Colin Kaepernick is a very good young quarterback with an immense amount of potential, but despite playing in the Super Bowl last year, I still trust Matt Ryan much more in the playoffs.This may be “discriminating” against non-traditional quarterbacks a little bit, but seeing Ryan calmly drop back, make the right read and deliver the ball where it needs to be (most of the time) as opposed to seeing Kaepernick run around the field makes me want to pick the Falcons over the Niners. The Niners defense is much better than Atlanta’s defense is, but I see the Falcons defensive unit improving as the year goes on, to try and catch up to their electrifying (and balanced) offense. The combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones in the pass game will be a lot for opposing defenses to handle. But then you throw in running back Steven Jackson, and you might as well call it quits. If their offensive line holds up, records may fall in the upcoming 2013 season.