It's preseason predictions time. The Around The League crew has been rolling through our division previews, and now it's time to break out some awards. We already picked MVPs and DPOYs, and discussed our choices on "The Around The League Podcast." Next up: Final Four and Super Bowl picks.
Gregg Rosenthal's pick: Packers over Patriots
I've made this pick before. There's a lot of ways to outsmart yourself when making preseason predictions, but I always take it back to the quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson always have Green Bay in contention. The defense and running game should be vastly improved to put the Packers over the top in the NFC Championship Game over the Seattle Seahawks.
Choosing my AFC team was much tougher. It came down to New England and the Pittsburgh Steelers in my AFC Championship Game, with Tom Brady ultimately getting tormented in New York instead of tormented by New York in another Super Bowl letdown.
Dan Hanzus' pick: Seahawks over Broncos
Peyton Manning now is 37 years old. How many elite years does he have left? I think it's only one, and he'll make the most of it. The schedule is soft enough early for Denver to survive Von Miller's six-game absence, and Manning will have weapons all over the field. Come the AFC title game, Peyton will best his old nemesis, Tom, in Manning-Brady Bowl IV.
But the NFL's last team standing will be Seattle. Top to bottom, this is the best roster in football, led by a quarterback in Russell Wilson with playoff-hero DNA just beneath the surface. This is a defense that will bully teams, and Percy Harvin looms as a Rivera-like closer if he can get healthy come December. The Washington Redskins will make a surprise run to the NFC title game, but the Seahawks will be too good at home.
Then they'll be too good at MetLife Stadium. Pete Carroll will go crazy.
Marc Sessler's pick: Patriots over Seahawks
It won't be easy. The Patriots will battle growing pains, but Bill Belichick will have his team ready for January. Along the way, we'll be treated to one last high-stakes duel between Brady and Peyton Manning in an AFC title game for the ages.
In the NFC, I expect Seattle to bloom into a superpower, winning the NFC West by a wider margin than many expect. In the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks will host a balanced Chicago Bears squad that isn't the equal of the 49ers but will stun San Francisco in the divisional round. Seattle's feel-good journey will end in The Big Apple. After two heartbreaking Super Bowl losses to the Giants, it's New England's turn to dial up the upset.
Kevin Patra's pick: Packers over Broncos
The Packers' offensive line is the only thing potentially slowing them down in 2013. And if their general manager isn't worried about the group, I won't fret either.
In a star-studded New York Super Bowl, during what could be a snowstorm, I'll take the team with the younger all-world quarterback who regularly plays in the frozen tundra over the aging future Hall of Famer who historically struggles in the elements.
I do see Peyton Manning leading the Broncos to the AFC title with a road win over the New England Patriots. After the Patriots come up just short once again, we will be able to recycle the same questions about Tom Brady/Bill Belichick we've used the past three years. The Packers will march to the Super Bowl after Aaron Rodgers carves up the Seattle Seahawks' secondary in the Fail Mary rematch that actually counts.
Chris Wesseling's pick: Packers over Broncos
I have the Packers knocking off the Seattle Seahawks to earn a trip to New York. While the Seahawks boast the strongest and deepest roster in the NFL, Green Bay has the game's best player. Aaron Rodgers still has plenty of weapons and will benefit from an improved running game and an upgraded defense.
With Von Miller back in the lineup and wreaking havoc down the stretch, the Broncos will squeak past the Houston Texans in the AFC Championship Game. Peyton Manning picks defenses apart all season, exploiting mismatches with Wes Welker and Julius Thomas and taking chances down the field with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. But Green Bay's suddenly stout front seven will force Manning into too many errors in the Super Bowl.