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2013 NFL Playoff Predictions: Broncos, Patriots Lead a Top-Heavy AFC

Updated on June 7, 2014
Future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are poised to take their teams to the top of the AFC.
Future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are poised to take their teams to the top of the AFC. | Source

While the AFC won't be as exciting to watch as the NFC, a conference in which excellent teams may miss the playoffs, there are plenty of things to watch for in 2013. Can Big Ben Roethlisberger take the Steelers back to the postseason? Will the Kansas City Chiefs thrive under Andy Reid? Will the offseason spending of the Miami Dolphins reap rewards? Let's take a look at some predictions as to who will excel this season in the NFL.

1. Surprise, Surprise: Broncos Dominate the AFC West

Peyton Manning may have one last chance to win a Super Bowl.
Peyton Manning may have one last chance to win a Super Bowl. | Source

Here's Why:

If you haven't heard it anywhere else, you'll hear it here: the Broncos are stacked. Peyton Manning, one of the all-time greats, is throwing to Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and newly-acquired Wes Welker. Rookie tailback Montee Ball is poised for a breakout season. The painful memories of the 2012 AFC Divisional Playoff Game defeat will lead Von Miller and Champ Bailey to work hard to establish their defense as the best in the NFL. While the loss of veteran Elvis Dumervil in the offseason to a fax issue may hurt, don't look for the Broncos to mourn him in 2013. Rather, look for them to easily win the AFC West and end the regular season with a record as high as 14-2.

2. Patriots Explosive Runners and Takeaway Defense Excel

With almost an entirely new receiving corp, quarterback Tom Brady will still capture the AFC East.
With almost an entirely new receiving corp, quarterback Tom Brady will still capture the AFC East. | Source

Here's Why:

It's no secret: Tom Brady is a winner. Wes Welker is gone. Brandon Lloyd is gone. Aaron Hernandez is gone. No one has any idea when Rob Gronkowski will be back on the field, but none of that will matter. Running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will keep the offense moving while Brady helps new receivers Danny Amendola and rookie Aaron Dobson post excellent stats. The defense will give up yards, but there are so many opportunities for the "bend but don't break" Patriots to make a fumble recovery or a pick-six that you can never fully count them out. While the Dolphins have made some impressive moves, don't take a second look; the Patriots still own the AFC East, at least for one more year.

3. Ravens Win a Competitive AFC North Title

Reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco will attempt to convince critics why he's worth the big contract.
Reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco will attempt to convince critics why he's worth the big contract. | Source

Here's Why:

While the Ravens certainly lost some great defensive players in the offseason, General Manager Ozzie Newsome was prepared. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will be missed, but the departures of Paul Krueger and Bernard Pollard (among others) are replaceable. Tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receiver Torrey Smith are expected to improve. Ray Rice is Ray Rice. Free agent pickup Elvis Dumervil will pair up with a healthy Terrell Suggs to create a havoc-wreaking Ravens pass rush. Joe Flacco is inconsistent, but knows how to take a team to the playoffs. It may not always look pretty, but expect the winners to keep on winning.

4. Texans Keep AFC South Thanks to Improved Secondary and Passing Game

Defensive end JJ Watt is one of the most exciting players in the NFL.
Defensive end JJ Watt is one of the most exciting players in the NFL. | Source

Here's Why:

You thought the Texans defense was good last year? The acquisition of Ed Reed and the return of inside linebacker Brian Cushing will bring a powerful veteran presence that the Texans may have lacked last year. With rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins expected to start, he may be the rookie pass-catcher to watch in 2013; he's a great fit for the Texans offense and head coach Gary Kubiak will teach him how to excel. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster will remain among the best at their position, and incumbent Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt will remain as dominant as ever. The Colts have some great players, but don't expect them to oust the Texans out of the AFC South Title.

5. Andrew Luck and the Colts Return to the Playoffs

Sophomore passer Andrew Luck will look to take his team back to the AFC playoffs in 2013.
Sophomore passer Andrew Luck will look to take his team back to the AFC playoffs in 2013. | Source

Here's Why:

Although Bruce Arians' deep passing offense will be missed, the Colts still have all the talent to make the playoffs with a West Coast offensive system. In fact, the new system is sure to eliminate the number of interceptions sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck posted last year, who is also sure to develop into an even more prominent leader. While Reggie Wayne won't post the same excellent numbers he did in 2012, look for the dynamic wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Coby Fleener to improve. The offseason pickup of Ahmad Bradshaw can provide the Colts with a three-down bruiser running back, with a solid backup in Vick Ballard if Bradshaw's injury history catches up to him. While the defense may still be relatively porous, expect the power players on offense to lead Chuck Pagano's team to the 2013 postseason.

6. Dolphins' Investment Pays Off

Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill is expected to improve upon the potential he showcased in 2012.
Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill is expected to improve upon the potential he showcased in 2012. | Source

Here's Why:

I don't see the Dolphins winning a playoff game this year, but they are certainly poised to make it to the postseason. An underrated defense, which now pairs draft pick Dion Jordan with the dangerous Cameron Wake, will keep games close enough for the developing Ryan Tannehill to shine. While Mike Wallace is a mostly overrated receiver, he will keep opposing defense backs busy; he's not a guy you want to see uncovered in the back of the field. The departure of Reggie Bush will allow for a more consistent running game, and the Dolphins may be able to show enough strength to challenge (but not beat) the Patriots for the AFC East.

Honorable Mentions:

Teams who have the potential to make the postseason in 2013 are:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: Big Ben is back, the defense is still fearsome, and rookie Le'Veon Bell will give the Steelers a running game far superior than the one they displayed in 2012. If the offensive line improves (which is almost certain), look for the Black and Yellow to return to the playoffs.
  • Kansas City Chiefs: The defense will be better in 2013, though not unbelievably so. Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe will post better stats this year. I believe both new head coach Andy Reid and new starting quarterback Alex Smith have seen the better part of their careers. However, Kansas City has the personnel to form a threatening passing attack; if Reid and Smith can write off the critics and do what they do best, the Chiefs will be a serious contender in the AFC.
  • Cincinnati Bengals: While questions about third-year quarterback Andy Dalton's potential are valid, the Bengals have made the playoffs for two years in a row. AJ Green is one of the league's best receivers, and the rookie tandem of tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard can alleviate some of Dalton's shortcomings. The Bengals quietly boast one of the best defensive units in the NFL, and I can only see them improving in 2013. There are a few questions on offense, but don't be surprised if the Bengals keep doing what they've been doing.

Who will win the AFC North?

  • 21% Baltimore Ravens
  • 21% Pittsburg Steelers
  • 50% Cincinnati Bengals
  • 9% Cleveland Browns
584 people have voted in this poll.

This poll is now closed to voting.

User Poll: AFC North Champion

The AFC North has become the most competitive division in the AFC, with intense rivalries all around. I believe a maximum of only two AFC North teams will make the postseason in 2013; which AFC North team will guarantee themselves a playoff berth by winning the division? Comment below with your thoughts!

If You Liked This Article...

Check out my 2013 predictions for the NFC here!

You can also find my evaluation of the 2013 New England Patriots offense here and a small opinion piece on New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning here!

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    • kkingcrabb profile image

      Billy Joseph Ethridge 4 years ago from Georgetown, S.C.

      Sam I am a realist and an honest to goodness football fan. I try not to let my emotions get in the way of making judgment calls, so if my team stinks I will tell you they stink. People tend to get offended at times, because you know if I will admit my team stinks that I am not afraid to tell you if your stinks or not as well. I am a true fan of the game, and loyal to my Clemson Tigers and Miami Dolphins through thick and thin.

      On another note we will be fine at TE Dion Simms and Charles Clay will do nicely and them being under the radar will only help to get them open.

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      As a Florida State fan, I can safely attest to the respect Hopkins garnered across the ACC as a wide receiver for Clemson. I hope he will get an opportunity to show what he can do in Houston, and I think that will elevate the passing game for the Texans. I would definitely take Shane Vereen over Ben Tate, but Foster is one of the best backs in the league and could possibly be better without the heavy workload bogging him down every season.

      The Dolphins look like contenders, but your assumption seems very safe. I thought Dustin Keller looked very good in the offseason and he will be missed on the field in Miami this year.

    • kkingcrabb profile image

      Billy Joseph Ethridge 4 years ago from Georgetown, S.C.

      I see the addition of future pro-bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins making the difference this year for Houston. If they double team Andre Johnson all year like they did last year Hopkins will be invited to Hawaii. The Texans have an impressive receiving core, a very strong run game, and one of the best defenses in the league. I would take Arian Foster and Ben Tate over any RB the Patriots have. The weak link is Schaub on this offense but with the defense they have and the playmakers on offense He will shine like a superstar in Houston this year.

      Unfortunately I am a Dolphins fan I would love to be talking about them right now, but they have a lot to prove to me this year.

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      Glad you agree with me about Denver!

      As for your Patriots comment, I don't believe it. If you've watched the New England Patriots this season, you'll see that Tom Brady has built a very impressive rapport with his new receivers, rookies and veterans alike. I'm sure he will remain upright for a sufficiently long period; in 2012, the Patriots O-line allowed only 27 sacks and was ranked #6 in the league. That doesn't even mention New England's great running back corp of Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Legarrette Blount and how effectively the Patriots bend-but-don't-break defense worked last year; the unit ranked 9th in the entire league in that category and can be expected to improve in yards allowed in 2013.

      As for the Houston Texans...well, we all know how they played against the Patriots last year. I like them a lot, especially with Brian Cushing back to working with JJ Watt on the defensive side of the ball this year. We'll ultimately see how it works out, but I would be surprised if teams like the Texans made the Patriots stumble that much this season.

    • kkingcrabb profile image

      Billy Joseph Ethridge 4 years ago from Georgetown, S.C.

      I agree that Denver is the team to beat this season, not just in the AFC but the NFL. Denver is my pick to win it all this season. This brings me to your number 2 the New England Patriots. Without Hernandez, Gronkowtski or Welker, Brady is left with the task of finding chemistry with his new receivers. The offensive line is also suspect and with Brady's aging knees he will be spending a lot of time on his back during the regular season. The defense has also taken a step back. I do not expect the Patriots to have a losing season this year but no way are they the number 2 team in the AFC which belongs to the Houston Texans nor the NFL, that belongs to the 49ers. Even Baltimore is a better team than the Patriots heading into 2013.

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      Seem like solid predictions to me, Gggg.

    • profile image

      Gggg 4 years ago

      East

      Pats- 10-6

      Dolphins- 8-8

      Bills-5-11

      Jets-3-13

      North

      Ravens-11-5

      Bengals-9-7

      Steelers-7-9

      Browns-5-11

      West

      Broncos-13-3

      Chiefs-9-7

      Chargers-8-8

      Raiders-2-14

      South

      Texans-11-5

      Colts-9-7

      Jags-4-12

      Titans -4-12

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      Sorry "Deez Nuts" for my insanity. How do your visions of the 2013 AFC playoff squad differ?

    • profile image

      Deez Nuts 4 years ago

      whoever wrote this article is out of their mind.

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      You're right. Sorry for the mistake. The 2013 New England-Baltimore game has been really easy to forget about.

    • profile image

      AJG 4 years ago

      "The painful memories of the 2012 AFC Championship Game will lead Von Miller and Champ Bailey to work hard to establish their defense as the best in the NFL. ".....Were the painful memories watching Baltimore and New England play in the AFC Championship game......Denver lost in the 1st round to Baltimore.....remember??????

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      toptendeals, I almost totally agree with you. I would be surprised for them to win their division, but they will most certainly contend this year and I wouldn't be shocked if they actually beat the Patriots at least once. I thought the Dolphins were a playoff team last year, so perhaps this year they'll make the next step.

      I also applaud you for sticking to your team, even through the tough times. I always respect fans who support their teams through thick and thin. I'm a Packers fan but I've never experienced the horrible/forgettable seasons of the 1970s and 80s.

    • toptendeals profile image

      Jason Benedict 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida

      With Cameron Wake and the traded up draft pick of Dion Jordon Brady is going to have a tougher time with division rival Dolphins.

      I have been a long time dolphins fan. It's been a rough several years. Certainly I'm no fair weather fan. It will make success only sweeter. I think it's going to be a great year for the Dolphins. I predict playoffs and I believe they can win their Division. They wont get any further than that this year though.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 4 years ago

      Well Brady's the good clutch quarterback that can pull through when you need him to. All he really needs is a good defense and the Patriots will be able to win 14 no question.

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      And sorry about the link, newenglandsun. The first hub it suggests titled "Tom Brady Set Up for Failure in 2013?" is the one I was referring to. There's no question that Brady can make mediocre receivers great, and no one should be doubting that Gronkowski and Bellicheck will keep the offense moving. A number of players are gone, but I would be shocked if any other team won the AFC East this year.

      Also, I like that you mentioned how the good the Patriots D used to be. I think a lot of people forget about that in the "Brady Brady Brady" rants.

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      I would be incredibly surprised if the Patriots get higher than 12 wins this season. I see them reaching around 10 or 11. I think the Colts overperformed last year, what with Chuck Pagano's illness and everything. They'll still make the playoffs and challenge the Texans for the AFC South, but it's difficult to imagine them above 11 wins and the AFC Championship game. It would certainly be beautiful to see Viniateri to kick another clutch field goal.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 4 years ago

      Sam,

      "http://sambartz.hubpages.com/hub/Tom-Brady-Set-Up-...

      -oops, that page doesn't exist. Any way, we could look at the Patriots passing attack when Tom Brady first arrived which was NOT compiled of great receivers then. Given, they had a FAR better defense then they do currently. In other words, Tom Brady has the ability to carry the Patriots great lengths regardless. To beat Brady, you would have to take Brady out. Let's see, Wes Welker is still functioning.

      Never mind, Welker's a Bronco now. Wow, the Broncos are going to be good this year! Going back to the Patriots real lineup though they have Julian Edelman and Michael Jenkins. These aren't the best obviously, but for Brady's technique, they are sufficient targets. Not to mention, they have Rob Gronkowski at tight end. This guy is good. Patriots are going to be performing as usual next season. No way to slow them down.

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      BLACKANDGOLDJACK, sorry for my Pittsburgh typos. I will be more mindful of that in the future. Additionally, New Fort Bitchy is actually a favorite around here in addressing the name of our area.

      I was a bit surprised the Steelers didn't sign Bradshaw as well, however I can understand why they would be concerned about his health.

      Heath Miller had a great season in 2012 and I hope he can return to the field in a timely manner. While we'll have to wait and see if either of them can develop into a #1 WR, I thought both Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown showed flashes of potential.

      In regards to your comment about Tom Brady, I have also written an article about the Patriots passing offense here: http://sambartz.hubpages.com/hub/Tom-Brady-Set-Up-... It was written before Hernandez was released by the Patriots, however, and also makes no mention of Tim Tebow. I highly doubt he'll post anything close to career highs in 2013.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 4 years ago

      Or one of his other no-name receivers. Come on, it's Tom Brady for crying out loud!

    • BLACKANDGOLDJACK profile image

      BLACKANDGOLDJACK 4 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      newenglandsun, who is Tom Brady going to throw it to? Oh, I know. Tim Tebow at tight end.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 4 years ago

      EDIT: "Steelers will probably end up with a 10-6 record but lose to the Patriots in the divisional round."

      CORRECTION: "Definitely lose to the Colts in the Wild Card by a score of 28-14."

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 4 years ago

      The Patriots have Tom Brady. That's all they need for a 14-2 season, which they'll probably get. Broncos will either get the first seed with a 15-1 record or the second seed with a 13-3 record. I don't foresee the Broncos making it past the divisional round. Texans and Ravens will probably end up with 11-5 record. Colts will get a 12-4 record and make it to the Super Bowl after an upset win over the New England Patriots. Bradshaw has a way of doing that to the Patriots if Super Bowl 46 is any evidence. Steelers will probably end up with a 10-6 record but lose to the Patriots in the divisional round.

      Scientific evidence favors the Colts to topple the 49ers in the Super Bowl this year with a late 4th quarter field goal to win the game from Adam Viniateri - 23-20.

    • BLACKANDGOLDJACK profile image

      BLACKANDGOLDJACK 4 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Sam, please quit spelling Pittsburgh as Pittsburg. Pittsburg is in Kansas. How would you like it if I spelled where your from as Fort Bitchy?

      I wish the Steelers would have signed Bradshaw. He's better than what we got, not counting the rookie Bell. We'll have to wait and see what Bell can do, but I'm optimistic.

      The biggest issue in my opinion for the Steelers is the pass receiving game, what with Wallace gone and the return of Heath Miller a question mark. They were the Steelers top two receivers last season

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      @BLACKANDGOLDJACK I think a lot of people are sleeping on the Steelers, which is odd to say because they're the Pittsburg Steelers for crying out loud. They certainly will do better than 8-8 this season. There's no way they're going to have the same disasters with the o-line and run game that they had last season.

    • Sam Bartz profile image
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      Sam Bartz 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      @newenglandsun If I'm not mistaken, it was the Steelers who didn't want Bradshaw. http://www.steelersdepot.com/2013/06/free-agent-ah...

      Additionally, in my opinion it was the best way to go. The Colts need a veteran who can crash past defenders and Bradshaw needs a team who can give him a starting job. He's still 27 years old.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 4 years ago

      B&GJ, he picked the COLTS over the STEELERS! HA!

    • BLACKANDGOLDJACK profile image

      BLACKANDGOLDJACK 4 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Of course, I'm picking the Steelers, but I always pick the Steelers. One game last season meant the difference between the Ravens or the Steelers making the playoffs. It should be a dogfight between the Bengals, Ravens, and Steelers as usual.

      I think the Patriots just might crash and burn. The loss of Hernandez and Kronk for who knows how long could really hurt. And Amendola is susceptible to injury.

      Texans and Broncos are probably a lock. And Luck, I figure him for the sophomore jinx.