2013 NFL Playoff Picks
The 2013 NFL season has kicked off with the Denver Broncos obliterating the defending champion Baltimore Ravens. Here I will make my playoff predictions and explain why I pick each team. I will likely turn out to be wrong just like many other people who will make their predictions before tonight's game, but that won't stop me from trying.
NFC East Winner: Washington Redskins
I believe that the Redskins will once again win the division simply because I don't think that any other team got better than the Redskins in the offseason and the Redskins did. The skins will be welcoming back injured players such as LB Brian Orakpo, DE Adam Carriker, TE Fred Davis, WR Pierre Carcon, S Brandon Merriweather, and of course QB Robert Griffin III. The team is also returning with nearly the exact same starting lineup from the beginning of last year, which will help team chemistry. Since they won seven straight games to win the division with a 10-6 record after suffering a rash of injuries across the team, the return of those players gave the Redskins a number of de facto offseason additions. If the Redskins can perform as well as they did without those injured players, then they should be better with a healthy roster and the continued development of RGIII. Despite the talent the Redskins have on both sides of the ball, the season rests on RGIII. I believe that he will play smarter and keep himself out of harms way when he takes off with the ball. He's too smart of a player and a man to keep putting himself at risk to the detriment of his team. He knows he's too important to the present and the future so I think we'll see an improved RGIII because he'll play smarter, making him an even more dangerous threat to opposing teams.
NFC North Winner: Green Bay Packers
When you have arguably the best quarterback in football in Aaron Rodgers, you'll always have a legitimate chance at a championship. The Packers offense will still put up thirty points a game which will keep them in any game. The state of the Packers rests on their defense, they improved last year, but not enough, and was heavily exposed by the 49ers. I think they'll play tougher on defense and their front seven will be one of the best in the league. Chicago, Minnesota, and even Detroit improved in the offseason, with the exception of Brian Urlacher leaving the Bears, but I don't trust any of them to overtake Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
NFC South Winner: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons added RB Steven Jackson in the offense, which will make their already formidable offense that much more dangerous. He's a duel threat that can make plays in the passing game along with his lasting worth between the tackles. Matt Ryan will continue to prove his status among the best quarterbacks in the league. Their receiving corp is still one of, if not the best in the league with Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez. Their defense is the only question mark on this team, but as long as they hold on long enough, the offense will carry the load as it did last season. I'm tempted to pick the Saints under a returning Sean Payton, but their defense was the worst in the history of the NFL last year so I have a hard time thinking they'll bounce back all the way back to a division title.
NFC West Winner: San Francisco 49ers
The defending NFC champion niners made a huge steal by acquiring WR Anquan Boldin from the Ravens during the offseason. He will be a very valuable target for Colin Kaepernick, especially after the injury to Michael Crabtree, who finally played up to his potential with the emergence of Kaepernick last season. Their defense will still be among the best in the league, Frank Gore will likely have another thousand yard season, the receiving corp looks good, and Kaepernick will continue to shine in his first full season as the starting quarterback. They have a very good chance at making it back to the Super Bowl and may very well win it this time.
WIld Card Teams: Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints
I like the Seahawks, but not as much as a lot of other people do this season. I think they'll miss Percy Harvin a great deal and his absence will not help Russell Wilson in his second season. I believe Wilson himself will have another great season, but his receiving corp isn't that great and it'll hold them back just a little bit. The defense will still be great, Marshawn Lynch will have another good season, but the clock is ticking on his body because of how physical he is as a runner. It won't surprise me if the Seahawks make a deep run in the postseason, but I don't think they'll be better than the 49ers.
As for the Saints, the return of Sean Payton will make a huge difference and will propel the Saints back into the playoffs. Drew Brees is still Drew Brees and their offense will easily put up 30-35 points a game. Their defense can't get much worse after having the worst statistical season in history of the NFL, but the addition of Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator should help a little bit. Will Smith's injury is a huge blow to the defense, but there's no where they can go but up. Sean Payton and Drew Brees will carry the team back to the playoffs.
AFC East Winner: New England Patriots
Despite the many losses in the offeason, Brandon Lloyd to no one, Wes Welker to the Broncos, Rob Gronkowski to injury, and Aaron Hernandez to a murder investigation, the New England Patriots will once again win the division with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm. The addition of Danny Amendola should help alleviate the absence of Welker, but he has to stay healthy for the move to pay off. Amendola has shown a lot of promise, but his constant injuries have held him back. The defense is still young and will improve some more this season. Steven Ridley had a breakout season a year ago and I think his numbers will grow. I believe the Patriots will run the football more this season to help bring more balance to the offense. A common thread to the Patriots recent playoff losses has been the imbalance in their offense. Tom Brady will help make new receivers look like stars and will lead the Patriots to another crown, especially since none of the other teams in the division improved that much in the offseason.
NFC North Winner: Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have a strong defense and a young, talented offense that will boost them to the division title this season. The Ravens have lost a lot of talent, the Browns are still the Browns, and the Steelers are not the Steelers of old. The Bengals have been on their way up and after making the playoffs in consecutive seasons, they're in position to make a good run this year. That run depends on the continued development of QB Andy Dalton. This guy has the tools to be an upper echelon quarterback and I believe that he'll take more steps toward joining that group this season. He has great weapons on offense, a good coach guiding him, and a great defense giving him plenty of chances. This season, he and the Bengals make them count.
NFC South Winner: Houston Texans
Adding future Hall of Famer Ed Reed could be the move that gets the Texans into the Super Bowl. Their defense has been one of the best since being taken over by Wade Phillips, their offense has a smash mouth style that can switch into an aerial assault. Running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate are a formidable one-two punch, and Pro Bowl quaterback Matt Schaub has all the ability needed to get them over the hump. It's up to him to prove that he has what it takes to be the QB they need him to be. The guy consistently puts up great numbers, but he has yet to win the big one. he needs to get over the hump himself and play his best when the lights are brightest. If he does, then the Texans could be hoisting the trophy at years end.
AFC West Winner: Denver Broncos
If Thursday night was a sign of things to come, the Denver Broncos may very well be the best team in the league. Their offense, led by Peyton Manning, can score at will, and their defense made Joe Flacco look like the opposite of his postseason self with a ferocious pass rush, and they didn't even have Von Miller. I don't need to talk about how good they are too much because their performance on Thursday was explanation enough.
Wild Card Teams: Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs
Despite how bad they looked on Thursday, I think the Ravens will make the playoffs again with Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh running the show. Their new additions on defense will prove their worth as the season progresses, Ray Rice will have another great season, and I believe that Flacco will justify his huge contract, despite the amount of talent he's lost on offense. Torrey Smith will have a breakout season, Dallas Clark will provide some veteran stability, and Jacoby Jones will be a very valuable weapon once he's healthy after that ridiculous collision during Thursday's game.
I wanted to pick the Colts to get back in the playoffs because of how much I like Andrew Luck, but I think they'll take a step back this season, despite an improved Luck. I think this years surprise team will be the Kansas City Chiefs. They have a lot of talent on defense, a lot of talent on offense, an experienced quarterback, and a great new head coach in Andy Reid. I think Reid will be rejuvenated in a new city, Alex Smith will continue to improve after finding his footing under Jim Harbaugh, and the talent on both sides of the ball will emerge into a cohesive unit, taking the Chiefs back to the playoffs.