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2013 NFL Season Predictions: Seahawks, Packers Top Powerful NFC
It's June. You know it. I know it. Even Scooby Doo has the same probability of selecting a Super Bowl champion as I do. However, I've made projections based on the released 2013 regular season in an attempt to see which teams will be competing for the Lombardi trophy. Try not to take it too seriously; I tried not to spend too much time on most regular season games. Rather, I hope it stimulates conversation among NFL fans who are hungry for the opening kickoff. Look for my AFC and playoff predictions within the next week.
1. Seattle Finishes #1 Seed, Ousts 49ers for Division Title
The NFC West has become a stacked division. The 49ers will return as a mostly intact NFC Champion team. The Seahawks have made all the right moves in the offseason. Carson Palmer will look to lead a dangerous Cardinals squad and Sam Bradford will continue to improve the Saint Louis Rams. At least this year, while the Rams and Cardinals may both certainly turn into 9-7 teams, neither will be able to match the power exerted by the Seahawks and 49ers. The Niners will definitely land above .500, but a slightly depleted receiving corps leaves several question marks going into 2013. Defensive coordinators will spend the summer studying Kaepernick's ability to run the read-option and contain him in the pocket, while Wilson will benefit from the presence of natural playmaker Percy Harvin and sack machine Cliff Avril. Seahawks will land around 12-4 and will be the team to beat in the NFC playoffs.
2. Packers 2010 Defense Returns, Running Game Elevates Offense
The Packers are almost a guarantee to win the NFC North. The Bears will look better offensively but will struggle for a while under a new coaching staff to make a run for the division championship. The Vikings and Lions will both be better than they were in 2012, thanks to improved quarterback play from Christian Ponder and Detriot's new rushing/receiving threat in Reggie Bush; however, neither organization will be able to challenge a dominant Packers team. Either or both of the new Packers running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin will contribute to a revitalized running game. The Packers defense has the opportunity to return to their impressive show in 2010 thanks to recoveries in both the secondary and the front line. If all goes as planned, the team in Titletown will regain confidence virtually everywhere - special teams, running the ball, sacks, and interceptions alike.
3. Falcons Will Return with a Vengeance in 2013
The Falcons were a few moments away from a Super Bowl appearance last year. If Michael Turner had been able to contribute more to the Falcons team (besides failing to fall into the end zone), it would have been Atlanta, not San Francisco, representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. At 29 years old, Steven Jackson is no spring chicken; regardless, he seems to be able to run for at least 4 yards per carry with a hefty workload and can potentially learn the secrets of the Fountain of Youth from new teammate Tony Gonzalez. With his skillset in a pass-happy Falcons attack, Mike Smith will have the missing piece he craved for on offense. The Falcons may not have the same regular season success they enjoyed in 2012; a revamped secondary in Tampa Bay, the return of Sean Payton to New Orleans, and a developing Cam Newton will make the NFC South a more competitive division. Regardless, look for them to reach at least 11 wins and reach the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
4. Dallas Cowboys Win a Tight NFC East
The Cowboys have had issues in the past few years, offering up two measly 8-8 seasons in the past two seasons. Look for a healthy defense and an improved leadership role from Tony Romo to take them (barely) to the top of the NFC East. It will not be pretty and it won't be expected with the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and Philadelphia Eagles in the running, but with capable playmakers on both ends of the Cowboys bench, it certainly isn't an outrageous expectation for them to make a run for the NFC playoffs. Tony Romo has been paid and will attempt to give the Cowboys legacy a facelift in 2013.
5. Minnesota Vikings Boast Elite Defense, Improved Passing Game
The departure of Percy Harvin was a necessary evil. Although he was in the run for an MVP award before his high ankle sprain, both Harvin and the Vikings organization weren't pleased with the results being made. His trade to the Seahawks gave the Vikings some excellent additions through the 2013 NFL Draft, including Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes and Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Both have opportunities to make an impact as starters this season. The Vikings defense has been getting more and more impressive in the past few offseasons and can make a splash this year. If Christian Ponder continues the same level of play he displayed in the second half of the 2012 season, the Vikings can reach double-digit wins again in 2013.
Oh yeah, and two words: Adrian. Peterson.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Make a Strong Case for the NFC South
The Bucs had a legitimate chance for a wild card spot last year. Featuring the best run defense in the NFL, along with superstars in wide receiver Vincent Jackson and running back Doug Martin, a 6-4 Bucs team was a brilliant sight to see in Raymond James Stadium. However, the team ended 7-9 for two main reasons: Josh Freeman's erratic play and a horrid pass defense. In a contract year with a stable coaching staff for the first time in his NFL career, it will be up to Freeman to put together all the flashes of brilliance he displayed in 2012. The additions of former 49ers safety Dashon Goldston along with Revis will allow for the Bucs to make some key stops and keep games winnable for the Tampa team. The Buccaneers could prove to be a dangerous, 10-win team in 2013.
This list has almost certainly led a few readers to roll their eyes in aggravation; this section will be devoted to teams that can make it into playoff contention with some added aggression.
- San Francisco 49ers: If Colin Kaepernick can maintain the skills he showcased in 2012 without his main receiver Michael Crabtree on the field, along with a defense that refuses to give up big plays in the air (see: 2012 Super Bowl), the Niners can certainly make a case for a spectacular postseason run.
- New Orleans Saints: Head coach Sean Payton is back, and Rob Ryan is in town to address a porous Saints defense. Putting the pieces together can get the Saints back into the playoffs.
- New York Giants: You can never count Eli Manning out of the playoffs until Week 17 is over. There is obvious talent in the Big Apple; if wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul can get healthy, look for a sleeping Giants team to ravish the NFC East.
- Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer's no Kurt Warner, but improvement at the quarterback position can help push a refreshed Rashard Mendenhall, a hungry Larry Fitzgerald, and a powerful young defense into playoff contention.
Which NFC team will make a run for the Lombardi trophy in 2013?
- 9% Detroit Lions
- 9% St. Louis Rams
- 49% San Francisco 49ers
- 18% New Orleans Saints
- 15% New York Giants
This poll is now closed to voting.
User Poll: Who'd I Miss?
What's the #1 team I didn't include in my NFC playoff hunt? Vote here or comment below to make your case heard.