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August 30, 2013 / galatianssixnine

2013 NFL Regular Season Predictions

As I write this, I am overwhelmed with the excitement of the NFL Preseason. What excitement, you ask? The excitement I am experiencing alone in my apartment with an Arby’s sandwich and seven completed mock fantasy drafts.

I decided that the best way to channel that excitement would be to start cracking at my official predictions for the 2013 NFL Season. I likely will go over this and change my mind again and again over the next few weeks, but by the time I post this, it will have my stamp of approval.

Last year, I correctly predicted seven out of eight division champions. That, BY FAR, is the best I’ve done in the few years I’ve done this, and I likely will come nowhere near that again. But feel free to read, disagree, agree, and share your own opinions. After the season ends, I will revisit my predictions and eat crow/pat myself on the back.

As always, I will go the most in-depth for the NFC South because that’s the division I know the most about (and let’s be honest…I’m pretty darn accurate every year with those teams). It will be the longest section by far.

Remember, I mostly go by gut feeling, which is influenced by the knowledge I have of each team. I don’t go very in-depth or statistical because I’m lazy. It’s just for fun. Now let the games begin!

AFC North

Bengals

Browns

Steelers

Ravens

For real?? Did I just put the two OHIO teams at the top of the division?? What am I thinking??

Here you have the Bengals, who have been on the rise but haven’t yet won their first playoff game under Marvin Lewis (how is he still their coach??), but I think they are in the best position to finally stake their claim in the division. I’m taking a risk because (let’s be honest) they’re the Bengals. They’ll probably find a way to embarrass me. Still, I can’t deny an improved defense, and an offense that includes Andy Dalton and AJ Green. This division looks to be in for a rough one, so the Bengals may take it by default and become the only team in the North to make the playoffs.

'Merica

‘Merica

Then there’s the Browns. There’s a few factors that are pushing me to take a risk on them. One of those factors is that I bet a Browns fan that the Bucs would have a better record. So naturally, I just dug my own grave because I never win bets. But more than that, their defense actually is looking pretty dang good on paper. They loaded up on draft picks on that side of the ball, and honestly, I expect big things from a healthy Trent Richardson. This all falls on the shoulders of Brandon Wheedon. He’s looked good in the preseason so far (I know), and he actually had shown signs of life last year. In a division that I don’t have much respect for this season (can you tell?), I can see them winning 8ish games.

The Ravens have all the makings of a former-champion-gone-bad. They signed Flacco to a nasty-rich deal that makes me want to slap my grandmother. They lost Ray Lewis. They lost Ed Reed. They lost Anquan Boldin. They lost Dennis Pitta. Last year, they really looked like they were collapsing just before the playoffs began, but a few lucky plays here and there, combined with Ray Lewis threatening to murder his teammates’ families unless they won a Super Bowl his final year, resulted in a run and a shiny trophy. I just don’t see it this year. John Harbaugh is a heckuva coach, though. They haven’t missed the playoffs since he joined them…but this just might be the year.

The Steelers…Tomlin is still a great coach, and Roethlisberger is still a good QB. Their run game is still up in the air (figuratively), they lost Mike Wallace, and their defense hasn’t been the same in a few years…and is getting older. But they’re the Steelers. They’re never mediocre for more than a few seasons, right? They have to be competitive because otherwise no one else in Pittsburgh has anything to live for. So I could very well be eating a ton of crow by season’s end.

AFC East

Patriots

Dolphins

Bills

Jets

Now this is more like it. No craziness here. The Patriots are king and will be until someone takes them down. Brady is a football god. Belichick is a football god. Tim Tebow is best friends with actual God.

The Dolphins are a sleeper pick that aren’t actually sleepers, because everyone is choosing them as their sleeper pick (wrap your mind grapes around that for a bit). Now I don’t think they’ll be

That Tannehill is so hot right now.

That Tannehill is so hot right now.

all-world. I still think they have a ways to go. But they finally are heading in the right direction. I liked what I saw out of Tannehill his first year. The Mike Wallace addition should help them if he can stop being a doofus. Lamar Miller may shine as their newest running back. Their D has been very solid the last couple of years (7th in points allowed last year), and while they changed things up a bit, it seems like they’ve upgraded. And aside from the Patriots, this division will be a walk in the park. I see them picking up a wild card spot.

Hooray! The Bills no longer have Chan Gailey so I didn’t predict them to finish last! Actually, they can think the M-E-S-S Jets Jets Jets for that. EJ Manuel intrigues me. While I think he was a HUGE reach in the first round, he may be decent. Maybe. But come on. It’s the Bills.

The Jets. You know why they’re last. Thanks for Revis.

AFC West

Broncos

Chiefs

Chargers

Raiders

Peyton Manning. Wes Welker. Demaryius Thomas. Von Miller. Should I go on? It should be obvious why I have Denver in first place. I know Miller is suspended for six game, but he’ll be back and everyone will move on.

The Eagles have Chip Kelly now??

“The Eagles have Chip Kelly now??”

Call me crazy, but I think the Chiefs will be back. Both Andy Reid and Alex Smith escaped teams that had high pressure situations, and both will be better for it. Reid’s West Coast system is perfect for Smith, who has a high completion percentage and a high IQ. Sure, Charles is banged up again, but I think they’ll be okay even if he goes down. I also think they got better on defense this offseason

The Chargers are finally over the Norv Turner curse. But because of this, we have no real idea how this team will be in 2013. Phillip Rivers has been on a steady decline the last few years, and he was clearly missing Vincent Jackson last year. It’s also a put-up-or-shut-up year for Ryan Mathews. So far he has been nowhere near the player a lot of us thought he would be.

The Raiders are another team we don’t really know about. Matt Flynn is now their QB (?). Darren McFadden can’t stay healthy. They have a bunch of no-names on both sides of the ball. It doesn’t look great for the silver and black this year…much like the last ten years.

AFC South

Texans

Colts

Titans

Jaguars

That is one intense fart.

That is one intense fart.

Some may put the Colts ahead of the Texans, but not me. I still think the Houston is the team to beat in the AFC South. They still need to get over that hump, yes…but they still have a dynamic offense, and the best defensive player in the NFL (in my opinion) in JJ Watt. And hey, Ed Reed may still have some dominance left in the tank.

Before you go gaga over the Colts, bear in mind that they had one of the easiest schedules in the NFL last season. Also, they actually scored less points overall than their opponents. Luck is still great, and should get better, but they still have a lot of key pieces missing in their team, specifically on defense and the running game. I see them actually losing less games this year.

The Titans are the Titans. They’re putting a lot of their hope into Jake Locker progressing as a young quarterback. Chris Johnson, I believe, will be back to putting up big numbers…at least numbers you’d expect from the fastest running back in the NFL.

Then there’s the lowly Jaguars. I almost always have them higher than they end up, largely due to the influence my roommate has in convincing me that they are better than they actually are. He’s the biggest Jags fan I know, and even this year he told me how he’s hopeful for 3-5 wins this year. They have a new coach (again) and a new GM, and “rebuilding” is the theme this year. This is a make-or-break year for Blain Gabbert…either he gets better, or they look QB in next year’s draft. I loved the Denard Robinson pick, by the way. Their “OW” may be their shining light this year.

NFC North

Bears

Packers

Vikings

Lions

Ladies.

Ladies.

It seems like every year I go back and forth on the Packers and Bears. I landed on the Bears, simply because I feel like they’re a more complete team. Sure, the Pack still has Aaron Rodgers…but what much else do they have? They still have no run game, they lost Greg Jennings (not that he was much of a factor last year), and their defense is not as good as Chicago’s (even though Urlacher retired).

And sure, the Bears have a brand new head coach…but maybe that’s exactly what Chicago needed. I’ve never been a Lovie Smith fan. They upgraded their O-line so Cutler will actually have time in the pocket. This may be more of a gut thing, but what’s a predictions list without a roll of the dice?

The Vikings have the best player in the NFL at running back. He literally put the team on his back and carried them into the playoffs last season. Yet, I still just don’t have that much confidence in Christian Ponder. I don’t think any team in the North will have a losing record. This division will be tight towards the end.

I do believe that the Lions will be better than last season. But how much better? That’s the million dollar question. Stafford absolutely needs to stay healthy, and he needs to get the ball to Megatron. It took the until mid-season to hook up for a TD pass and catch. Their run game got a lot more interesting with the acquisition of Reggie Bush. He’s definitely a player that can make a difference. Can they overcome the rest of the teams in the division? I’m not too sure…

NFC East

Cowboys

Redskins

Giants

Eagles

Sounds about right.

Sounds about right.

I’m an idiot. Seriously? The Cowboys? The same Cowboys that always have so much talent, but never actually play to the level at which they’re capable? The same Cowboys that choke year after year? Yes. I’m an idiot. But honestly they’re the team in this division that I see have the least amount of question marks. If Murray stays healthy, and their defense lives up to their potential, they could easily take this division. Admittedly, for Dallas, those are indeed big “ifs,” but I’m a sucker.

This Redskins prediction rides solely on whether or not RGIII can stay healthy. He’s the best QB in the division, and if they lose him for any significant time, it can really hurt them. Then there’s the whole sophomore slump possibility. The thing is, those two questions are big enough to not put them first. I love RGIII. I really do. And if anyone is intelligent and gifted enough to overcome the adjustments defenses are going to make against him, it’s him. They should make the playoffs if he does.

The Giants‘ defense scares no one. Last year they were 31st in points allowed. Of course, this team loves to win Super Bowls, then suck, and then squeak into the playoffs and win another Super Bowl. This is a very hard team to predict, but comparing them to the two I mentioned above them, they just don’t hold up talent-wise. They may have a good passing attack, but who knows which Eli we’ll get this year.

The Eagles have the same problem that I accurately predicted last year…their QB can’t stay healthy. If Vick goes down, that’s all she wrote. Chip Kelly’s new potentially-gimmicky offense may make some ESPN headlines, but ultimately this just is not a very good team overall.

NFC West

49ers

Seahawks

Cardinals

Rams

Poor little guy. Still can't figure out how to take the muzzle off.

Poor little guy. Still can’t figure out how to take the muzzle off.

This one is tough. A lot of people are predicting the Seahawks to take over this year, and I don’t blame them. Their defense is stout, and Russell Wilson is my favorite of the young QBs (which may be slightly influenced by the fact that I predicted him to have a big year last year). The 49ers have been had a good number of key injuries this year too. Then there’s Kaepernick, who hasn’t even played a full season yet, and has to face defenses that have spent an entire offseason gameplanning against the read option/pistol offense. Yet, I still can’t bring myself to take the ‘Hawks over the ‘9ers. Why? Because of Jim Harbaugh. He’s one of the best coaches in the NFL and has given me zero reason to doubt his ability to gameplan and scheme his way to the playoffs. He has done wonders for this team, and until I’m proven wrong, I have to take the 49ers.

As for the rest of the division, I actually see Carson Palmer doing okay with the Cardinals. He now has a top wide receiver to throw to in Larry Fitzgerald, and he’s no longer playing behind the worst offensive line in the league. They may actually make some noise outside of the first few weeks of the season this year.

Then there’s the Rams. Steven Jackson left for a reason. They’re just not winning anytime soon. I see an 8-8 record at the very best for them. And that’s pretty optimistic.

NFC South

Falcons

Buccaneers

Panthers

Saints

Okay, the moment you’ve all been waiting for (or just skipped down to).

"High five, guys...I finally can see a playoff game."

“High five, guys…I finally can see a playoff game.”

The Falcons are still the team to beat in this division, and I’m sure few people will argue. They still have a high-powered offense that only got better with the addition of Steven Jackson. Roddy White and Julio Jones will both have over 1,000 yards receiving again, and Tony Gonzalez (my favorite Falcon) will once again play at a very high level in spite of his age. Matt Ryan just got paaaaaid and has few distractions keeping him from finally being mentioned in the elite class. They may actually lose more games this year (a lot of their wins last year came in the final minute, and a few bounces went their way), but they still are the absolute favorites in this division.

They aren’t without their blemishes, though. Their offensive line has looked very shaky thus far, partly thanks to injury. Their stud QB and Pro Bowl RB may have some difficulty doing what they do best in part because of the pocket collapsing around them. They also don’t have a great defensive line. Sure, they got Osi Umenyiora…but that could potentially just be a slight upgrade (if any) from John Abraham. They say the game is won and lost in the trenches…if that’s true, Atlanta could be in trouble. Their secondary is also a huge question mark, in my opinion. They could lose some tight games because of some blown coverages or getting beat outright over the top. I see an 11-5 or 12-4 season for them.

Here I go again, predicting the Bucs to finish second. Everyone you ask that knows about this team will tell you…it’s all up to Josh Freeman. The weapons are there- Vincent Jackson (who was a top 5 receiver last year), Mike Williams (who was mere yards away from reaching the 1k mark), and Doug Martin (who could be a top 3 RB this year). They upgraded their defense significantly by adding Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson, Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis, and shut-down rookie corner Johnthan Banks. Freeman has no excuse to suck.

One may say that if your biggest question mark is your quarterback, then your team is in big trouble. And that person is probably right. But let me drop some truth bombs for a second before we conclude just how big a question mark Freeman is…

  • Josh set franchise records in passing yards and passing touchdowns last year.
  • The Bucs lost five games last year because the secondary blew the lead in the final minutes.
  • Josh was a top ten QB in passing yards, passing TDs, and passing yards per game.
  • Halfway through the season last year the Bucs were a top 5 offense.
  • They still ended the season as a top 10 offense.

The problem last year was not Josh Freeman. The problem last year was a secondary that was mere yards away from being the worst secondary in NFL history. That will not happen this year with a healthy Revis and Goldson. Freeman threw the ball way more than he should have because the team was always playing from behind late in games…which led to more picks, and the terrible stretch of December games where he threw 6 TDs and 10 INTs. Simply put- if the Buccaneers had any secondary AT ALL last year, they would have been a playoff team. This year they have a secondary.

Again, Freeman has no excuse. Especially since this is a contract year. I think he finally gets there. Is he a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees? No. Nor will he ever be. But he absolutely can be a Ben Roethlisberger or Eli Manning. Yeah, he can be inconsistent…but he has proven over and over again he can be clutch and perform at a high level. The biggest weakness on this team is the unproven D-line. There’s a lot of young draft picks that need to step up in a big way and get to opposing QBs. If they do, watch out. They should have a 9-7 or 10-6 record.

"My impression of our upcoming season lulz."

“My impression of our upcoming season lulz.”

On to the Panthers. Once again, everyone is high on Cam Newton. Once again people are predicting them to finish higher than they should because of one player. Well, two now. They do have a future Pro Bowler in linebacker Luke Kuechly. The problem? The rest of the team! No run game, no receivers outside of old man Smith, and no secondary. Ron Rivera has done nothing to help this team. I think their saving grace will be a read option offense. Cam is a prototypical QB for that kind of scheme. He is super athletic and can throw very well. Again he’ll put the team on his back, but again his teammates will let him down. They did better than I thought they would (slightly) last year, so maybe they’ll do that again. I’d give them a 9-7 ceiling, but they could be as low as 7-9.

The Saints are the same kind of story. Everyone is so enamored with the Saints high powered offense, that they forget about the other side of the football. They just lost Will Smith for the year, and even with him their D was shaky. They have Sean Payton back as their head coach, and now have Rob Ryan as their DC. But look at what Ryan did with a much more talented Dallas defense…exactly. Brees will still be ridiculous, as will Jimmy Graham. Their offense is good enough to steal a few games late. But I just don’t see them making the playoffs. Like the Panthers, I see them in the 7-9 to 9-7 range.

And there we have it. Where do you agree? Where do you disagree?

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