2013 NFL Season Predictions

Parity has ruled the NFL for over a decade but this might be the most up-for-grabs season in recent memory. There doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut favorite for several divisions and while the NFC is somewhat top-heavy, the AFC is a crapshoot.

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Fade Material: Super Bowl XLVI Prediction

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (L) talks to head coach Bill Belichick during the NFL AFC Divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos in Foxborough, Massachusetts, January 14, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Technically the Giants aren’t favored for Super Bowl XLVI but they might as well be.

New York doesn’t have the most marketable player (that would be Tom Brady) or the most wins between the two teams this season, but the Giants are the hotter squad and have already proven that they won’t cower to New England in any situation. They have the pass rush to once again slay Brady, a vastly underrated passing game and a quarterback in Eli Manning that doesn’t get nearly the respect he deserves for what he does for this New York team.

From a betting standpoint things look awfully good for the Giants as well. They’re 5-1 against the spread in their last six games versus the Patriots, 8-0 ATS in their last eight playoff games as an underdog and 8-1 ATS in their last nine playoff games overall. New England, meanwhile, is 1-7 against the number in its last eight playoff games and 1-6 ATS in its last seven playoff games as a favorite.

Every bone in my body says that the Giants are going to win tonight. But I don’t think they will.

I think the Giants have managed to become overconfident the past few weeks and an overconfident Giants team is a losing Giants team. I think Rob Gronkowski is healthier than people think and he’ll have a big game. I think Bill Belichick will once again take away what an opponent does best and in this case, that’s the Giants’ passing game. I think Tom Brady will have one of those Tom Brady-esq games where he throws for 375 yards and three touchdowns all while being unstoppable in the fourth quarter. I think the Patriots will win.

I’m siding with my gut over my head: Patriots 23, Giants 20.

Super Bowl XLV Prediction: Steelers vs. Packers

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws a pass against the New York Jets in the second quarter in week 8 of the NFL season at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on October 31, 2010. The Packers defeated the Jets 9-0. UPI /John Angelillo

When I saw that oddsmakers had made the Packers 2.5-point favorites for Super Bowl XLV, my immediate reaction was: “Pittsburgh’s an underdog? Ha! Give me the Steelers…you’re welcome.”

Why wouldn’t you take the Steelers on Sunday? They’ve played in two Super Bowls the past six years and won them both. They have a more experienced head coach who oversees a more experienced quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger is 2-0 in the “big one” and thanks to Dick LeBeau’s guidance, Pittsburgh’s defense often resembles an immovable force.

But then I got to thinking: Tom Brady lost in the Super Bowl, as did Peyton Manning and Brett Favre. Bill Belichick has lost in the championship, as has Mike Holmgren, Bill Cowher and even Tom Landry.

Experience flies out the window once that ball has been kicked off the tee at the start of the game. What football essentially comes down to is execution, avoiding mistakes and beating the guy across from you.

Both of these teams can execute. Both of these teams can limit mistakes and both of these teams have the players on each side of the ball that can win individual battles. Which team will accomplish those three feats on Sunday is anyone’s guess, and that’s the great thing about this particular matchup – it’s so even.

But when you get down to the brass tacks, the Steelers have a big problem along their offensive line. Losing Maurkice Pouncey hurts, but having two offensive tackles that are below average pass-blockers is a bigger problem when you consider the Packers finished second in the league in sacks. Granted, Pittsburgh finished first in that category but I have more faith in Green Bay’s O-line protecting Aaron Rodgers than I do the Steelers’ front five protecting Big Ben.

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Five ways the Packers beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers speaks to the media inside Cowboys Stadium for the Green Bay Packers session of Media Day ahead of Super Bowl XLV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers in Arlington, Texas, USA, 01 February 2011. The Super Bowl XLV will be played on 06 February 20111 EPA/TANNEN MAURY fotoglif966652

I’m not a NFL coordinator and therefore won’t act like I hold the secrets on how either team can win Super Bowl XLV. (Wait a minute – I don’t hold any secrets? What the fu…)

When it comes down to it, putting together a solid game plan is only half the battle. The players still have to execute and avoid mistakes and a great scheme won’t save a team that turns the ball over and commits penalties. But here are five ways the Packers can get the upper hand on the Steelers and take home the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday. (Don’t worry Pittsburgh fan, I’ll do one for the Steelers, too.)

1. Get the Steelers’ base defense off the field.
Mike McCarthy is a smart guy but he’s not going to throw anything at Dick LeBeau that the defensive coordinator hasn’t already seen in his 35-plus years of coaching. That’s why it’s important that McCarthy doesn’t overthink things. Yes, James Starks gives Green Bay’s offense more balance. But James Starks isn’t going to win Super Bowl XLV – not when Pittsburgh is allowing just 61.6 yards per game. The strength of the Steelers’ defense is its front seven. When LeBeau can keep his base on the field, he can disguise his pressure and be as aggressive as he wants to be. When opposing teams have had success against Pittsburgh, they’ve forced the Steelers into their nickel package early. That’s why the use of three-and-four receiver sets is vital for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers has an outstanding release and he knows how to get the ball out of his hand quickly. Keeping a running back in to block will be key, as LeBeau will probably drum up pressure in efforts to keep Rodgers out of rhythm. But if the Packers can keep nickel back William Gay on the field and successfully attack Bryant McFadden (who was burned by Braylon Edwards earlier this season and who also has been dealing with an abdominal injury), then Green Bay should have plenty of success offensively. They certainly have the weapons to attack Pittsburgh’s secondary.

2. Shut down Mendenhall.
Excuse the simplicity of this point but it’s important: the Packers must stop Rashard Mendenhall because quite frankly, he may be the key to whether or not Pittsburgh wins on Sunday. When Mendenhall rushed for over 80 yards this season, the Steelers were 6-1 (which includes their win over the Jets in the AFC title game). In their four losses this year, Mendenhall rushed for only 79 (vs. Ravens), 71 (Saints), 50 (Patriots) and 99 yards (Jets). And in those losses, only once did he carry the ball over 20 times (against Baltimore in Week 4). Everyone saw what happened when the Packers took a two-touchdown lead against the Falcons in the Divisional Round: Michael Turner was rendered useless and Atlanta’s offense became one-dimensional. Green Bay’s run defense ranks a respectable 11th, but they’re allowing 107.7 yards per game this season. If Mendenhall rushes for a C-note, then the Packers could be in trouble because that could mean that the Steelers have control of the tempo. But take Mendenhall out (either with good offensive play or stout run defense) and Green Bay may win easily.

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Predicting the unpredictable: NFL Playoff Projections

Eli ManningI fully believe that I would have a better shot of winning the lotto, reading a woman’s mind and fully comprehending what the Coen brothers were trying to convey in “No Country for Old Men” than predicting what will happen over the final three weeks of the 2008 NFL Season but I’m going to give it a shot anyway. (Seriously, that badass character in “No Country” just walks away at the end and we have no idea what happens to him?)

Here’s what we know: The Titans are the AFC South Champions, the Giants won the NFC East and the Cardinals have already claimed the NFC West.

Now grab your Advil because this is what we don’t know:

Three teams still have a shot to win the NFC South (Buccaneers, Panthers and Falcons), as well as the AFC East (Jets, Dolphins and Patriots). Barring a complete collapse, the Broncos will win the AFC West while Steelers have a slim one-game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North and the Vikings have a one-game lead over the Bears in the NFC North.

These teams are still alive for Wild Card berths in the AFC: Ravens (9-4); Colts (9-4); Jets (8-5); Dolphins (8-5), Patriots (8-5) and Chargers (5-8). (San Diego still has a shot because Denver hasn’t closed out the AFC West, but we can pretty much write the Chargers off at this point.)

These teams are still alive for Wild Card berths in the NFC: Buccaneers (9-3); Panthers (9-3); Falcons (8-5); Cowboys (8-5); Eagles (7-5-1); Bears (7-6); Saints (7-6); Redskins (7-6); Packers (5-8). (As of this writing, the Panthers and Buccaneers still have to play on Monday night, with the winner taking a one-game lead in the NFC South.)

Now that all of that has been sorted out, it’s time for the fun to begin. I will stick my neck out for all fans to chop it off and predict the rest of the NFL season – playoffs included. Get your pen and paper ready to jot down notes. The over/under of times someone calls me a moron in the comment section has officially been set at 47.

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