The preseason is over, and the rosters have been trimmed down to a slim 53 men. All 32 teams in the National Football League believe they have what it takes to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and be crowned Super Bowl Champions this winter. Of course, not all can be champions. But with the start of the regular season fast approaching it is now time to look into the crystal ball and tell the world what teams have what it takes to make the postseason and eventually accomplish their goal of becoming world champions.
Although nothing can be said for certain due to the incalculable number of twists and turns the average football season undergoes, the following is my best guess as to how 2013 will play out in the NFL.
AFC East Winner: New England Patriots
Offseason drama aside, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still equal an easy divisional title. The rest of the division is just too weak to seriously compete with them this season.
AFC West Winner: Denver Broncos
Kansas City is a sexy pick to go from worst to first, however Peyton Manning will have a thing or two to say about that. The future Hall of Famer has his eyes set on another Super Bowl appearance before his time is up in the NFL.
AFC North Winner: Cincinnati Bengals
Other than questions surrounding whether or not Andy Dalton can lead a team to a title, the Bengals have one of the most well rounded rosters in the league. Not to mention they are loaded with young talent such as AJ Green, Gio Bernard, and Tyler Eifert on offense. This team will put up points, and already has proven to have a stout defense.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh look like shadows of their former self, could this be the year both miss the playoffs?
AFC South Winner: Houston Texans
Andrew Luck surely will improve even more in his sophomore season, and could give Houston a run for its money. Arian Foster and a superb defense will hold off their challengers for at least another year, bringing home the divisional crown once again.
Wild Card 1: Indianapolis Colts
The switch to an offense similar to what Luck ran at Stanford will only help this team continue to develop. The roster still has a few holes they need to shore up before they can make the jump from Wild Card to Divisional Champs however.
Wild Card 2: Kansas City Chiefs
NFC East Winner: Dallas Cowboys
In what appears to be one of the worst divisions in the NFL, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will find their way to the top. Why not the Dallas Cowboys, who have a stable quarterback situation, quality wide receivers, and an improving defense? It’s really a four way coin flip here.
NFC West Winner: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers took a hit when Michael Crabtree was lost for the year, and Frank Gore could succumb to Father Time at any point this season. The defense is going to be dominant, and Kaepernick should be able to make enough plays this year to once again fend off the Seahawks for the divisional title.
NFC North Winner: Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is without question the best quarterback in the division, add in a great stable of offensive weapons and a defense that can only improve from last year and you have the usual result in the North. Packers win. Cutler and Ponder are not on the same level as Rodgers, and will be too inconsistent for their team’s to unseat the Cheeseheads this year.
NFC South Winner: Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan got the monkey off his back and won a playoff game for the first time in his career a season ago, and if not for an unfortunate collapse could have made it to the Super Bowl. A perennial contender that added a big time running back in Steven Jackson this offseason and there is little doubt they can hold off New Orleans and the return of Sean Payton.
Wild Card 1: Seattle Seahawks
Seattle is no doubt one of the best teams in the NFL, it is just a shame for Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks that they are stuck behind the 49ers in the West. Funny to think this division was a laughingstock just a few years ago…
Wild Card 2: New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton’s return may not boost the team to the divisional title, but Drew Brees will be able to guide his team to the playoffs thanks to another 5,000 yard passing season. So what if the team doesn’t have a defense?
AFC Title Game: Bengals over Broncos
Cincinnati appears ready to take a step forward this year after losing in the Wild Card round the past 2 seasons. The offense is more dynamic than ever thanks to several young additions, while the defense is going to be dominant. Peyton Manning may be one of the All-Time greats, however he has a knack for throwing bad interceptions in big games. There’s a reason he is 10-10 in the postseason over his career.
NFC Title Game: Packers over 49ers
A rematch from last year’s Divisional round, this time Green Bay has done its homework. The offense of the Packers will put up points without a question, and here’s a vote that the time Dom Capers and company spent with Texas A&M this offseason finally prepared them to stop the read-option of Colin Kaepernick.
Super Bowl: Packers over Bengals
The Bengals have a defensive advantage without a doubt. Rodgers will be under pressure throughout the night, but he’s Aaron Rodgers and he has beaten the AFC North in the Super Bowl already. Look for him to pass Brett Favre on the Super Bowl victories list with his second ring. Andy Dalton will be out dueled by the better quarterback in what very easily could become a shoot out. Vince Lombardi will once again return home to Green Bay.
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express