Every year, I go team by team and game by game and sketch out my predictions for the NFL season. I don’t always publish my prognostications, but I like to return to them next year and see just how wrong I was. Let’s see how laughable this forecast appears at the conclusion of the 2013 season.
|New York Giants||9-7|
The Giants have the quarterback, coach, and organizational stability to contend every year. They will defeat Washington in the last week of the regular season to clinch the division title. Washington will take a step back as they face a tougher schedule and deal with RG3’s recovery from knee surgery. The Cowboys have some talent but lack depth and possess one of the league’s most dysfunctional front offices. The Eagles could show improvement, but I feel they need another year to bolster their defense and truly implement Chip Kelly’s offense.
|Green Bay Packers||9-7|
The bears have improved the line and talent around Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. Coach Marc Trestman will infuse new life into this offense and this team. The Lions will bounce back behind top talents Calvin Johnson and N’Damukong Suh and a last place schedule. Aaron Rodgers will do his best to buoy the Packers, but his line can’t protect him and the defense can’t protect his leads. Adrian Peterson can’t single handedly carry the Vikings to the playoffs two years in a row. Expect a big drop off in Minnesota.
|New Orleans Saints||10-6|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8-8|
The Falcons impressed me with their playoff run last year. I think they have what it takes to make a serious championship run this year. The Saints will bounce back with Sean Payton at the helm, but a lackluster defense and a tough division will keep them out of the playoffs. Similarly, Tampa Bay and Carolina will improve, but poor coaching and the division will keep them from reaching their goals this season.
|San Francisco 49ers||11-5|
|St Louis Rams||8-8|
The 49ers have the best coach, quarterback, and overall talent in the division, but no Super Bowl loser has returned to the title game since the early ’90s Bills and no Super Bowl loser has won the following year’s championship since the immortal ’72 Dolphins. The emotional letdown, the Super Bowl hangover, will keep San Francisco from performing at full power this year, but I am already predicting their victory at the conclusion of the 2014 season. The Seahawks will take advantage of the Niners letdown to fully realize their power and claim the league’s toughest division. The Rams and Cardinals will show significant improvement. The play of quarterback Sam Bradford will limit the Rams. The Cardinals finally have a legitimate starting QB in Carson Palmer, but I question the hire of Bruce Arians.
|New England Patriots||10-6|
|New York Jets||2-14|
The Patriots have entered a period of transition, a period of retooling, but until coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady fail to win ten games, I’m not gonna pencil them in for anything less. Many critics like the Dolphins, but I don’t trust Tannehill at quarterback and I wouldn’t hire their front office to buy my groceries. They continually make bad decisions in free agency. Outside of running back CJ Spiller, the Bills have exactly nil to get excited about. The Jets have an above average coach, but their dreadful front office has built the least talented team in football.
The Bengals have talent and depth at every level of the roster. I remain unconvinced by QB Andy Dalton and coach Marvin Lewis, but they have more than enough talent to clinch the division. The Ravens endured a lot of roster turnover following their Super Bowl run, but they kept their most important piece, coach John Harbaugh. Harbaugh and the team’s pride will prevent them from sliding too far. The Steelers have just looked old the last couple of years and they have difficulty keep Roethlisberger upright for more than twelve or thirteen games. The Browns will show marked signs of improvement, but they remain at least a season and a quarterback away from contending for a playoff spot.
The championship window has closed for the Texans, but they can still pace this weak division. The Colts can’t maintain the emotional high of playing for a sick coach this year, but improvement from Andrew Luck will keep them from sliding too far. The Titans and Jagaurs both need at least a couple of drafts to rebuild and cut dead wait before they can expect to approach .500.
|Kansas City Chiefs||9-7|
|San Diego Chargers||5-11|
The Broncos look stronger on paper than any team in the conference. They should easily conquer their division. The Chiefs always had the talent, but now they have an adequate quarterback and coach. The new regimes in San Diego and Oakland will need at least a couple of years to rebuild their respective programs.
Seattle over Detroit, San Francisco over New York, New England over Kansas City, Baltimore over Houston
Atlanta over San Francisco, Seattle over Chicago, Denver over Baltimore, Cincinnati over New England
Atlanta over Seattle, Cincinnati over Denver
Atlanta over Cincinnati
In the NFC, Seattle still feels a year or two away and San Francisco has the Super Bowl hangover. The Bears look good, but I can’t imagine a title run in Trestman’s first year. That leaves the window open for the Falcons. They are the right team at the right time.
In the AFC, the Broncos have the best team on paper, but John Fox has too much of the Marty Schottenheimer gene. His steady conservatism will win a lot of regular season games, but it lacks the necessary edge in the playoffs. That leaves the AFC wide open. The Bengals have the youth and talent to make an unexpected deep run like the Ravens did last year.
As much as I hate to laud the pretty boys, you can’t win a championship without a game changing quarterback. Matt Ryan exceeds Andy Dalton by orders of magnitude. The Atlanta Falcons follow Matt Ryan to their first Super Bowl championship.