Last time around, my prediction of the Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl rang true, even if I had them defeating the Green Bay Packers and not the San Francisco 49ers. Also, for the second year in a row, the team I predicted would be the absolute worst (which included the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011 and Minnesota Vikings in 2012) actually made it into the playoffs. Another reversal of psychology was how the teams I predicted would lose in the NFC Championship actually crashed and burned instead (which included the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 and Carolina Panthers in 2012). This time around, I hope to hit these nails on the head harder than I did before. In addition, even if the experts attempted to sway me a certain way, I have to head in the direction I intended to in the first place.
So here they are, my 2013 predictions!
New England Patriots (10-6)- The New England Patriots, perhaps the most flawless team of the 21st century, as they only missed the playoffs three times (2000, 2002, and 2008), are dealing with some issues, primarily with the murder accusations from Aaron Hernandez, who was released from the team when news broke out, and Rob Gronkowski, who is dealing with injury issues. The Patriots had the best tight end crew on the entire team and this will be a stinger for Tom Brady and his intentions of having an explosive offense. Fortunately, they still have the mechanics that are needed to win games and they will win in a reconstructing division.
Miami Dolphins (9-7)- The Dolphins have plenty of young talent, led by second year QB Ryan Tannehill. Last season, they made the jump to 7-9. This time around, they should see some crucial improvement to the point that they just miss the playoffs, because there will be wildcards that do a better job. Fortunately, this team is growing under head coach Joe Philbin and underrated offensive coordinator Mike Sherman to the point that they may end up contending with the aging Patriots for the division and spots in the playoffs in future seasons.
Buffalo Bills (6-10)- The Bills we see some improvement under new head coach Doug Marrone. They will, however, only see marginal improvement to the point that they're 6-10. Word on the street says that Jeff Tuel may be the starter come week one of the season, but we'll just have to wait and see. E.J. Manuel and Kevin Kolb are dealing with some physical dilemmas, but we'll just have to see what happens come the start of the season. The Bills have always been poised to strike, but have always fizzled or fell short. If this trend continues, we'll be seeing a coaching change at the end of the 2015 season.
New York Jets (4-12)- The Jets will be the hottest mess come the 2013 season, the hottest mess on the field AND the hottest mess in the media. Both Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith can see themselves unable to perform due to injury, which leads to the scenario of having a backup perform... just like it happened in 2005. Matt Simms did quite a decent job in his preseason game, which leads me to believe he could do something as the starter in the season. Now let's talk about Rex Ryan, who has always been a center of controversy and will be out the door come the end of the season. He may even be gone by midseason. The fact that he put his starting quarterback on the line when he didn't need to leads to the belief that he's so reckless that it's bound to do him more bad than good. AFC Championship appearances in 2009 and 2010 will only be bullet points on Rex Ryan's resume. He will be remembered for turning the Jets into a hotter mess than they were under Eric Mangini and angering fans and viewers with his game time decisions.
Houston Texans (11-5)- The Texans are coming up with players that are now household names. Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt, and free agents Shane Lechler, Ed Reed, and Ben Tate are just naming a few. A few seasons ago, making the playoffs was the task at hand. Nowadays, the top of the division has become a place of residence and they are the hottest team in the division. They will remain the hottest team in the division until the Indianapolis Colts begin to warm up under Andrew Luck, but that should take a few more seasons.
Indianapolis Colts (8-8)- Speaking of the Colts, they will see some form of regression, but still excel statistically and as far as numbers are concerned under Andrew Luck. It's incredibly unfortunate that with all due respect to Chuck Pagano, who fought a battle with leukemia last season, reaching the playoffs had a lot to do with the direction of Bruce Arians, who served as the interim head coach. Under Pagano, they were 2-2 and just 1-2 before he left to get treatment. Now with Arians on the Cardinals, the orchestration of the team will be completely different. I only see this team being average at best, but good enough in what will be a weak division with the exception of the Texans.
Tennessee Titans (4-12)- The most that the Titans can give their fans is running back Chris Johnson, which is why they probably have more fantasy football fans watching their games than actual fans. Johnson, however, may see a trend of inconsistency come the 2013 season and the quarterback has to move the game along in order to keep him on the field. I don't see Jake Locker as a quarterback that can perform such a task. The Titans may need to seek a new direction at the end of the season.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)- The Jaguars are the team I see picking first in the 2014 NFL Draft,
Baltimore Ravens (11-5)- The Ravens lost plenty of players to retirement (like Ray Lewis) and free agency (like Ed Reed), but they still seem to hold the dynamic that makes their team powerful and worthy in the league: an offense that does what it needs to and a defense that does the rest and then some. The Ravens have everything it takes to remain consistently strong year after year and the fact that John Harbaugh's the head coach is only an additional plus in itself, since he has reached the playoffs in each of his five seasons with the team. Making it a sixth will be no issue.
Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)- The Bengals will be right on the Ravens' tail feathers, for they are only developing as a team under QB Andy Dalton and a powerful receiving corp that includes A.J. Green. Playing their final game of the season against the Ravens at home will only increase excitement for how things in the AFC North will turn out. The feature will be the one that develops the most impact and this MAY be it (unless a more bitter battle deserves the spotlight). The large hump they will have to make it over is the postseason bump, where they haven't won since 1990.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)- The Steelers lost some talent (primarily James Harrison and his departure to the Bengals) and it doesn't look like they picked up major talent to the point that it evens things out. The Steelers are seeing one of those slumps that they will just see an average season up ahead. The good thing about this team is that when it sees a stride, it sees a stride, and it strikes. Unfortunately, this will not be that season. The challenge up ahead is that they seem to be the only team in the division that's not growing in some way, shape, or form.
Cleveland Browns (6-10)- Toward the end of last season, the Browns saw some marginal improvement. This time around, it seems like they're warming up under the direction of offensive coordinator Norv Turner. In addition, they have one of the best defensive coordinators in Ray Horton, who was only let go by the Cardinals, because Bruce Arians wanted to bring one of his selections in to do the job. The Browns may be on their way to bigger and better things under second year QB Brandon Weeden. It's only going to be a matter of time. This direction, however, will mean that they remain in last place in the division.
Denver Broncos (14-2)- The Broncos have some hurdles that they're going to have to deal with (including Von Miller's suspension), but if you're going to have a good run, you're going to grab those hurdles by the horns and swing them out of the stadium like they're frisbees. The Broncos are set with talent led by QB Peyton Manning, a strong running back corp, and plenty of targets that include Wes Welker, who came from the Patriots. This should be an exciting team to watch and Peyton Manning is bound to have a strong season.
Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)- It was clear that Andy Reid would immediately pick up a head coaching gig following his departure from the Eagles. You cannot deny a head coach that reached a Super Bowl and four championships. Reid, along with the young talent that includes QB Alex Smith and plenty of others, should really bring this team back on the path of positive strive as opposed to their dreary, 2-14 season led by Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli.
San Diego Chargers (5-11)- The Chargers will see a difficult road to success as they're in the process of heavy rebuilding. It could be easy to say that things will gel for QB Philip Rivers, but he's going to have to deal with a challenging road and that may take awhile to accomplish. Eventually, things may work out for new head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, but in a division with the Broncos and Chiefs that should see success, this isn't the season.
Oakland Raiders (5-11)- I read something about how the Raiders were bound to be the worst team in the league. I disagree, especially if Matt Flynn remains healthy. Flynn is perhaps one of the most flawless backup quarterbacks in the league. He just hasn't had the opportunity to shine, since he was behind Aaron Rodgers while playing for the Packers and Russell Wilson with the Seahawks. This may be where we figure out that Dennis Allen is not the head coach of the future for the team and that he's better off as a defensive coordinator. This is where we realize that Tom Cable and Hue Jackson (especially Tom Cable) just needed an extra season or two in order to make the right direction. The playoff drought for the Raiders (which started in 2002) will continue.
Washington Redskins (10-6)- If RG III is healthy, he will have a stellar second season with a great supporting cast. If RG III isn't healthy, you always have Kirk Cousins, who is a top-notch backup. The Skins are finally establishing themselves since Mike Shanahan and the Skins management made the decision to draft Robert Griffin III and start a franchise with him as their quarterback. That was the difference between Mike Shanahan and his son, Kyle, having a job and not having a job with the organization. The NFC East will still see the trend of ten wins or less, as the last season to see a team in the NFC East with ten seasons or more was 2009.
New York Giants (10-6)- The Giants will see a seasons identical to 2010 and 2012 melded together. They will have powerful wins and painful losses. Unfortunately, their painful losses will catch up with them and these crucial losses will cost them the division title. Eli Manning will still be quite strong, while it will take healthy running backs, a third wide receiver to rise, and the offense being able to create plays in order for the team to score points. Another thing going against them is how the last time a team whose stadium, field, or dome made the playoffs was in 2000, when the Buccaneers reached it.
Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)- There is a lot of hype about how Michael Vick is seeing the possibility of a huge season. Unfortunately, this sounds like hype and nothing more. Vick is vulnerable and while a season like 2010 seems possible, his chances of going down are a bit more likely than they were at that point in time. Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles most consistent wide receiver, will be out for the season, and DeSean Jackson is incredible, but he's not incredibly consistent. The fate of the Eagles and their season will come down to what LeSean McCoy can do.
Dallas Cowboys (6-10)- This is do or die for head coach Jason Garrett, who has been mediocre at best for the team. Mediocre will be the best the team sees come 2013, because the concerns have not been answered thoroughly, which will ultimately be the deciding factor for moving forward. It may take a new generation and some motivation for Tony Romo in order to put this team in the right direction that sees them in the same position that they were during the early nineties.
Atlanta Falcons (9-7)- The NFC South is bound to be that division that has the pieces together and yet things just aren't going to work for them. They are all going to compete against the NFC West, which has become the strongest division in the league and it's just going to be a challenge for this group. The Falcons are the team that is the most arranged in each position and they have the least amount of drama in their background. Matt Ryan should remain powerful and his receiving corp that includes Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez remains intact. It's going to be challenging, but the Falcons will manage to take the most out of the division.
New Orleans Saints (8-8)- It's beyond unfortunate that all of the magic created by the Saints up until the 2011 season was destroyed by the fact that Gregg Williams was paying his players to injure specific opponents like they were on the FBI's Most Wanted list. "Pay to Play" has been common in the general sense, but targeting specific players and body parts is immoral, like Williams has become the Dr. Mengele of the NFL (and yet he's allowed back with the Titans and Pete Rose is dead to Major League Baseball). Drew Brees will continue to demonstrate offensive excellence and the Saints will top the list statistically. Unfortunately, it won't translate to wins in the way they would be searching for. In addition, Rob Ryan's their new defensive coordinator, who does the job well, but always keeps teams from the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)- The Greg Schiano era shows a bit more promise than the Raheem Morris era. Unfortunately, this promise isn't the most extreme. The team is left with not too many sparks that allow them to shine big and it may mean that moving on from Josh Freeman and head coach Schiano is a part of the future. The object is to contend with the top of the division, which is bound to be the Falcons and the Saints and it will take a lot to get there.
Carolina Panthers (2-14)- The Panthers aren't really answering many of their questions. Sure, they have Cam Newton and they have Steve Smith as wide receiver, but their isn't much depth to their team and none of their players really stick out nor WILL they stick out. The Panthers need to bring in some tools that Cam Newton can use and they need players that will provide worth. Unfortunately, the Panthers haven't answered these questions and it may mean they take Ron Rivera out and bring someone new in as the head coach.
Green Bay Packers (13-3)- The Packers lost plenty of players to free agency and they're becoming a bit thinner in their strong areas (primarily wide receiver). The hardest loss was that of Greg Jennings... TO THE VIKINGS! Fortunately, it seems like the Packers always find a way to make those very important plays when they need to make them and they should be bound to have a strong regular season. As for the postseason... that may be another story.
Chicago Bears (10-6)- The hiring of Marc Trestman was the best kind of justice the team could do for Jay Cutler and the rest of the crew, for Trestman's specialty is working with the quarterback and he's bound to make Cutler more than the overrated, underachieving QB he currently is. The Bears missed the playoffs by the decision of a tiebreaker. They will be much better this time around and they will see what they did last season, only with the very important victories intact.
Minnesota Vikings (7-9)- The Vikings won when they needed to last season and they found themselves in the playoffs as a result, as the sixth NFC seed. Unfortunately, they will return to planet Earth this time around, with the realization that Christian Ponder is just okay, Adrian Peterson is fantasy footballer's gold, but just one man, and the heat is only going to be hotter for this crew.
Detroit Lions (3-13)- The Lions are always that team with such a good gel, but they just cannot win the games when they need to. Last time around, they had Matthew Stafford and plenty of good talent, but they went 4-12. I don't see them growing, especially in a division that's only becoming better. Extending Jim Schwartz's contract was a mistake, because Schwartz is the head coach with one of the hottest heads (only behind Rex Ryan by a slight margin) and he isn't the one that's going to extend the long term magic with the team. He had one good season and that will be his only good season.
San Francisco 49ers (12-4)- It is true that Jim Harbaugh has taken the struggling 49ers and put them back on the path to being one of the most consistently powerful teams in the NFL. Between 2003 and 2010, the Niners were lucky to reach .500 and miss the postseason each time. Under the younger Harbaugh, the Niners have rocketed above .500 each season and saw the NFC Championship AND Super Bowl. This will sure be a common trend and they will definitely touch the Lombardi trophy at least once by mid-decade.
Seattle Seahawks (11-5)- The Niners and Seahawks will be the hottest divisional rivalry throughout the decade or at least as long as things gel for both teams. Right now, the Seahawks have plenty of talent PLUS some new additions that are really helping the team. This upcoming season will see them remaining an active presence in the league and Pete Carroll is proving that he can stick around and win with a team.
St. Louis Rams (9-7)- Since they last reached the postseason in 2004, the Rams have struggled regardless what season it may be. Under Scott Linehan, they couldn't sneak past .500. Under Steve Spagnoulo, they reached 7-9 once and were one game away from the playoffs when the NFC West was the weakest division and then struggled in the rest. In Jeff Fischer's first season, they went 7-8-1 and will seek slight improvement by going 9-7 and until the crucial moments of the season, contend for a spot in the playoffs. Drafting Tavon Austin, a wide receiver, with their first round pick, was one of the smartest selections for round one. Sam Bradford needs targets and something to play with and that's what he's finding during the Jeff Fischer era. I say that come next year, they will be playoff bound.
Arizona Cardinals (7-9)- The Cardinals are another team that is seeing an era of strong possibility, which means the NFC West will always be an open field. They have Bruce Arians as their head coach, Tom Moore as an assistant offensive coordinator, and Carson Palmer as their new quarterback. With this being said, once things start to come into place for this team, the NFC West will be a division where everybody finishes with at least an 8-8 record, sometimes even 9-7. This time around, though, the Cardinals need to play with some pieces before they ultimately get everything right.
(3) Houston Texans defeat (6) Kansas City Chiefs, 27-10
(4) New England Patriots defeat (5) Cincinnati Bengals, 44-38 (OT)
(6) Chicago Bears defeat (3) Washington Redskins, 24-18
(5) Seattle Seahawks defeat (4) Atlanta Falcons, 34-24
(1) Denver Broncos defeat (4) New England Patriots, 38-35 (OT)
(3) Houston Texans defeat (2) Baltimore Ravens, 19-13
(6) Chicago Bears defeat (1) Green Bay Packers, 21-14
(2) San Francisco 49ers defeat (5) Seattle Seahawks, 37-28
(1) Denver Broncos defeat (3) Houston Texans, 27-20
(2) San Francisco 49ers defeat (6) Chicago Bears, 28-13
Super Bowl XLVIII
(1) Denver Broncos defeat (2) San Francisco 49ers, 38-34
There you have it, I see the Broncos overcoming their hurdles and instead tuning in to their strengths as they win their third Super Bowl. This would be John Fox's first as a head coach and Peyton Manning's second as a quarterback. Like John Elway, Peyton Manning is seeing what could be a veteran surge toward the later half of his career. Manning is the same age Elway was around the time he won his two Super Bowls before retiring, but Manning seems like the kind of player that would still be around into his forties and not in a Brett Favre kind of way (Manning made his move and this will be his last move). The Broncos were the hottest team in the regular season and they will now be the hottest team in the regular season AND postseason.
The Niners will see another loss in the Super Bowl, but as I mentioned, they will be back throughout the decade and see at least one Super Bowl victory, maybe even two. Colin Kaepernick is only on the rise and if Alex Smith's departure came on the coattails of Kaepernick's talent, then Kaepernick is quite the worthy player.
While last season saw eight coaches being shown the door, all of which occurred after the season's end (THANK GOODNESS), this season is bound to see some departures as well. Those most likely to be shown the door include Rex Ryan (Jets), Mike Munchak (Titans), Dennis Allen (Raiders), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), Ron Rivera (Panthers), and Jim Schwartz (Lions). That's six, with Schwartz being the only one that MAY be safe following a poor season, but if the Lions management was smart, they would let him go. While I predict the Jags as being the worst team of the season, I feel that Gus Bradley will get another chance. If the Jags make the move out of Jacksonville and into Los Angeles or elsewhere, Bradley would be the seventh on the list. If both Ryan and Schwartz depart, that will wrap up what was the failure of the 2008 coaching carousel.
Coaching nominees for the 2014 season will include hot coordinators such as Mike Sherman (Dolphins OC), Jay Gruden (Bengals OC), Mike Zimmer (Bengals DC), Ray Horton (Browns DC), Kyle Shanahan (Redskins DC), Perry Fewell (Giants DC), Pete Carmichael Jr. (Saints OC), Brad Seely (49ers STC), Greg Roman (49ers OC), Vic Fangio (49ers DC), Darrell Bevell (Seahawks OC), and Brian Schottenheimer (Rams OC). I wanted to include Wade Phillips (Texans DC) and Dean Pees (Ravens DC) onto the list, but those who are hunting may overlook them in favor of the talent mentioned above. Those mentioned above are hot coordinators who seem to have the potential to become hot coaches. For Mike Sherman's case, he simply didn't have the greatest chance and deserves another. He was fired after one bad season with the Packers in 2005, was turned down for the Bills head coaching position right after in favor of the mediocre Dick Jauron, and again after the 2011 season, when he was turned down by the Buccaneers in favor of Greg Schiano. If he can help Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense get on the right path, he should see another head coaching gig.
Speaking of another head coaching gig, there is always discussion about whether or not big winning head coaches from the past will return for another coaching gig. This list usually includes Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, and Tony Dungy. My answer to this is no. They all seem content in the both and don't look like they're going anywhere. Dungy's coaching career is complete, Cowher's is just about the same, and Gruden, while the most likely, sounds happy where he is. Perhaps, Mike Holmgren may be a more logical decision if he ever shows interest in returning as a head coach who is granted some power. If for some reason Jason Garrett is let go from the Cowboys, I'm sure that Jerry Jones will pursue a big name. The previous head coach not participating in this season that seems the most likely (and a reasonable selection) to return is Lovie Smith, as he brought the Bears to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season, to the NFC Championship in 2010, and to the divisional playoffs in 2005. He was fired on a 10-6 season, so his reputation is still a decent one. John Fox and Jeff Fischer had similar coaching careers and they're doing quite well in their second gig. While Brian Billick and Marty Schottenheimer are among the other possibilities, they seem to be fading from the view.
The 2013 NFL Season should be filled with some excitement, regardless what I say with these predictions. We'll just have to see how accurate these turn out and whether or not new trends will form or the things that have been happening with regard to my predictions continue to flow in that matter. I will now ask: ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL???