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Super Bowl contenders that could struggle in 2013

  • By Kevin Patra
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Three AFC teams sit atop next week's 2013 NFL Draft, and the conference makes up the entirety of Around The League's top-five weakest rosters. Viewed in those terms, it's not difficult to understand why teams in the conference generally have easy schedules in 2013.

Strength of schedule is a hollow technique to judge how teams will perform during the upcoming season.

2013 regular-season schedule:
» Weekly | Thursday | Sunday night | Monday night

» Harrison: Top 13 games of 2013
» Forgotten classics for 2013 NFL opponents
» Ranking 'Thursday Night Football' games
» Dolphins among teams slighted by schedule
» Easy slate makes Cowboys contenders
» Top five revenge games in 2013

» Movie trailers for biggest games of 2013
» Week 1 impressions
» Will Cowboys make playoffs?
» Eric Decker reacts to Broncos' schedule
» Best and worst fantasy schedules
» Russell Wilson excited to begin 2013 schedule

AFC East
» Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
» Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
» Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
» Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
» Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
» Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
» Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
» 49ers | Cardinals | Rams | Seahawks

SOS doesn't take into consideration offseason upgrades, injuries or any of a myriad other issues. It's merely a statement on the previous season. For instance: The Denver Broncos (13-3) and New England Patriots (12-4) finished as the top two teams in the AFC in 2012. However, the Broncos went into the season with the second-toughest schedule (remember when the Kansas City Chiefs were supposed to be good?), while the Patriots had the easiest schedule.

It's difficult to be able to judge the makeup of a team's schedule in April. However, here are three Super Bowl contenders whose schedules provide the potential for struggles in 2013:

Green Bay Packers

The last time we saw the Packers, they were getting whooped by the San Francisco 49ers, and they'll open up the season against Colin Kaepernick on the road. Getting the bye week so early (Week 4) also won't help a team that has struggled to stay healthy the last few seasons. After the short week on Thanksgiving against the underachieving Detroit Lions, the Packers have to run though the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears. If they are fighting to stay alive, the final month could be bitter cold.

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners begin the season facing four playoff teams in five weeks. Starting off the season with the Packers, then at the Seattle Seahawks (where they got thumped last season), followed by a meeting against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts before taking on a St. Louis Rams squad they couldn't beat last season. The start of the season has the potential to put the Fighting Harbaughs in an early hole.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons get coach Sean Payton in his first game back for the New Orleans Saints. They end the season with a gantlet's gantlet: Traveling to Green Bay in December is never easy; versus the Washington Redskins when Robert Griffin III should be plenty in shape; at San Francisco in an NFC Championship rematch; and finish up against Cam Newton's Carolina Panthers, who Matt Ryan and the Falcons needed a virtual Hail Mary to beat last season at home.

Follow Kevin Patra on Twitter @kpatra.


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