Analysis  

 

2013 NFL predictions: Falcons, Packers, 49ers will reign in NFC

  • By NFL.com
More Columns >

On the cusp of the 2013 NFL season, our analysts provide their predictions, including the winners of individual awards, playoff teams for each conference and picks for Championship Sunday/Super Bowl XLVIII.

NFC EAST

Judy Battista: New York Giants. In an up-for-grabs division of flawed teams, Eli Manning's steadiness and durability give the Giants a narrow edge over the Washington Redskins.

Gil Brandt: Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were outscored by opponents in 2012, but that should not happen again with their new defensive staff. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant should have big years, and the running game is much improved.

Albert Breer: Giants. With the other clubs in the division facing some form of transition (caused by injuries, staff turnover, etc.), the time seems right for this model of consistency to bounce back in a big way.

Bucky Brooks: Cowboys. Tony Romo and coach Jason Garrett finally get it right in the Big D by avoiding the costly turnovers and time-management miscues that have killed the team in previous years.

Jeff Darlington: Washington Redskins. Too many people define the Redskins' season by how it ended: with Robert Griffin III injured. But the seven-game win streak they put together down the stretch didn't come about by accident.

Elliot Harrison: Redskins. Robert Griffin III will prove that 2012 was no fluke, playing great football late to best the Cowboys and Giants for the NFC East crown. RGIII's knee? It'll be a distant memory.

Daniel Jeremiah: Cowboys. For once, it seems like this Cowboys team is flying under the radar. Tony Romo will cut down on his turnovers and the defense will be fundamentally sound under new coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Kimberly Jones: Giants. An improved defensive line makes the difference -- as long as JPP is JPP.

Brooks: The case for pace
The Eagles and Patriots are among the many teams speeding up offensive pace. Bucky Brooks reveals the trend's benefits. More ...

Ian Rapoport: Cowboys. No, seriously, this is the year. Really. Jason Garrett has given up play calling to be the leader he can be. The new defensive staff, meanwhile, will turn in some takeaways.

Adam Schein: Philadelphia Eagles. Surprised? Don't be. Nine wins might equal a title in this mediocre division. I believe in new coach Chip Kelly, and I think LeSean McCoy is in line for a fantastic season.

Michael Silver: Cowboys. Though it defies much of what I believe on a logical level, I just have a feeling that, after some close calls, it's the Cowboys' turn.



NFC NORTH

Judy Battista: Green Bay Packers. The addition of a running game will balance the offensive attack and insulate Aaron Rodgers. As long as he's upright, the Packers are a threat.

Gil Brandt: Detroit Lions. Signing running back Reggie Bush was a great move and will help significantly, while fellow free-agent addition Glover Quin will be a boost to the secondary. Detroit, which has a good home schedule, really shored up its defense through the draft.

Albert Breer: Packers. Having Aaron Rodgers is probably worth 10 wins to start with. And that's good, because the Packers are facing more questions than they have in a few years.

Bucky Brooks: Chicago Bears. The Bears finally have an offense with the potential to match the explosiveness of their turnover-driven defense. That's a scary thought for opponents accustomed to facing the one-dimensional outfits characteristic of the Lovie Smith era.

Jeff Darlington: Packers. No matter how much success he has, Aaron Rodgers will always carry a chip on his shoulder. This year will be no different.

Elliot Harrison: Packers. Offensive line issues in Chicago and Christian Ponder issues in Minnesota will allow the 10-5-1 Packers to win the NFC North again.

Daniel Jeremiah: Packers. This Packers roster has some holes, but Aaron Rodgers is the difference-maker in the division.

Kimberly Jones: Packers. The 49ers and Redskins will present two early tests for the Packers' improved defense.

Ian Rapoport: Bears. The only body language we'll be judging Jay Cutler on will be his method of putting on a division championship hat.

Adam Schein: Packers. Aaron Rodgers will be the NFL MVP. Rodgers and Mike McCarthy are the best QB-coach combo in the game. The defense will be better than last year's version.

Michael Silver: Bears. With new coach Marc Trestman in charge of the offense, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and friends are poised to put together breakout seasons in a competitive division.



NFC SOUTH

Judy Battista: Atlanta Falcons. Steven Jackson adds a running element to a superb offense. Early games against the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots will reveal plenty about the pass defense.

Gil Brandt: Falcons. Any of the four teams in this division could win it. Adding Steven Jackson will help the running game, while Matt Ryan keeps getting better. This is the best team I watched in training camp.

Albert Breer: Falcons. The Falcons need to get their lines in order. If they can, this parity-laden division, which has been so competitive the past half-decade, shouldn't feature much of a race.

Bucky Brooks: Falcons. The Falcons' offense will emerge as an unstoppable force, with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez zipping across the turf on the perimeter and Steven Jackson punishing opponents between the tackles.

Jeff Darlington: Falcons. No, the Falcons still don't get enough respect. After this year, it'll be time for that to finally change.

Elliot Harrison: Falcons. Coach Sean Payton's return to New Orleans doesn't compensate for a defense that must create turnovers. Steven Jackson provides leadership and versatility at tailback.

Daniel Jeremiah: Falcons. History says there will be a new champion in this division, but I'm not buying it. The Falcons will score a ton of points and coordinator Mike Nolan's defense will create more turnovers.

Silver: Prophecies for 2013
Michael Silver peers into his crystal ball, making eight predictions about this season. Who will be named MVP? More ...

Kimberly Jones: Falcons. Gotta think Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez have another run in them.

Ian Rapoport: Falcons. This is another juggernaut with no weaknesses. Matt Ryan will continue to expand his playoff résumé, thanks to the best receiving tandem in football and Atlanta's improved cover corners.

Adam Schein: Falcons. Steven Jackson will prove to be the most important pickup of the offseason, providing Matt Ryan and the high-powered passing attack with some needed balance.

Michael Silver: Falcons. The Matty Ice-fueled offensive machine looks even better with Steven Jackson in the fold. The Falcons will fend off a challenge from the revived New Orleans Saints.



NFC WEST

Judy Battista: San Francisco 49ers. This is a toss-up, but the Niners get the nod over the Seahawks because of gentler road scheduling, which could give them home-field advantage.

Gil Brandt: 49ers. This was a very close call between the Niners and Seahawks, but the Niners play just two road games at 10 a.m. PT versus the Seahawks' five.

Albert Breer: 49ers. Last season, Colin Kaepernick shined over a couple months -- which is different from making it work for 16 games. Good thing he has the best talent in football around him.

Bucky Brooks: Seattle Seahawks. Behind a menacing defense and a steady playmaker in Russell Wilson, the Seahawks will outlast the 49ers and Rams in the toughest division in football.

Jeff Darlington: 49ers. One of the league's deepest and most talented rosters will make the 49ers contenders for years.

Elliot Harrison: Seahawks. Seattle will narrowly win the division on tiebreakers with an 11-5 record. The Seahawks lean on the running game, home-field advantage and a repeat performance by the defense.

Daniel Jeremiah: Seahawks. This will prove to be the most difficult division to play in, but the Seahawks are up for the challenge. No sophomore slump will befall Russell Wilson.

Kimberly Jones: 49ers. Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick and the defense. Need any more reasons?

Schein: The best division in football
Adam Schein says one division is head and shoulders above the rest. The crazy thing? It was a punch line in 2010. More ...

Ian Rapoport: 49ers. In a division where everyone will beat each other up, this is a tough call. San Fran will be left standing.

Adam Schein: 49ers. Jim Harbaugh's team is the most complete in the NFL.

Michael Silver: Seahawks. This team of ultra-confident players with chips on their shoulders will be good from the jump; it'll be even better down the stretch if Percy Harvin can return to turbocharge the offense.



NFC WILD CARD 1

Judy Battista: Seattle Seahawks. The only thing keeping them from the division title: the five road games that start at 10 a.m. PT. But an all-world defense makes Seattle a Super Bowl contender.

Gil Brandt: Seahawks. Seattle is coming off an 11-win season in which it captured five victories in a row. The Seahawks will play at Houston, Indianapolis and Atlanta.

Albert Breer: Seahawks. It's rare that football's two best teams are in the same division, but that might be the case with the Niners and Seahawks in the NFC West this year -- and for a few years to come.

Bucky Brooks: San Francisco 49ers. Colin Kaepernick will silence the critics with a solid full campaign as the starting quarterback while guiding the 49ers back to the tournament for the third consecutive season.

Jeff Darlington: Seahawks. The NFC West will produce some ridiculously good drama, and the Seahawks will hang with the 49ers to provide the best of it.

Elliot Harrison: 49ers. Colin Kaepernick will get hot over the second half of the season, while tight end Vernon Davis will produce much more than he did in 2012, sending San Francisco to an 11-5 mark.

Daniel Jeremiah: 49ers. This is one wild-card team you don't want to see in the postseason. I would love to see the Niners and Seahawks match up for a third time.

Harrison: Picking the All-Pros
Elliot Harrison looks into his crystal ball to fill out an All-Pro roster for the season to come -- and some names might surprise. More ...

Kimberly Jones: New Orleans Saints. Coach Sean Payton returns; quarterback Drew Brees never left.

Ian Rapoport: Green Bay Packers. Take away Aaron Rodgers' left tackle after watching his best receiver leave in free agency? No matter. The Packers work with whoever is on the field.

Adam Schein: Seahawks. The Seahawks are loaded -- but thanks to Percy Harvin's injury, they'll fall a game short in the NFC West and settle for a wild-card berth.

Michael Silver: 49ers. I think the Niners are one of the two best teams in football. Unfortunately for them, the other one also plays in the NFC West.



NFC WILD CARD 2

Judy Battista: New Orleans Saints. Sean Payton and Drew Brees with chips on their shoulders? That will provide lots of cover for a rebuilding defense.

Breer: Rams tackling vital issue
St. Louis isn't shy about gambling on potential risks, but Albert Breer says the team has a well-constructed plan in place. More ...

Gil Brandt: St. Louis Rams. The Rams had the best intra-divisional record in the West last season at 4-1-1, and they're among the youngest teams in the league. Sam Bradford will get a big boost from rookie receiver Tavon Austin, and also reap the benefits of two key additions in free agency (offensive tackle Jake Long and tight end Jared Cook). Jeff Fisher does a great job coaching.

Albert Breer: Arizona Cardinals. Crazy? Not really. Arizona's 4-0 start last year was pushed by a handful of front-line players, and since then, new general manager Steve Keim has deftly filled out the team's middle class.

Bucky Brooks: Washington Redskins. A strong defense and powerful running game is the recipe for postseason success, which is why the Redskins' last-minute entry to the playoffs will prompt observers to brand RGIII and Co. dark-horse contenders.

Jeff Darlington: Saints. Sean Payton might be the best active coach in the NFL, and he's coming back as poised and energetic as ever. His attitude was awesome this offseason.

Elliot Harrison: Dallas Cowboys. Dallas will ride what is arguably the NFC's easiest schedule to a 9-7 record and a wild-card berth. Minnesota will fall at New York and at Dallas to lose on tiebreakers, while St. Louis will fail to match the 4-1-1 divisional record it achieved in 2012.

Daniel Jeremiah: Redskins. Robert Griffin III's knee is a concern, but backup QB Kirk Cousins is very capable, and this defense is very underrated. Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo will harass opposing signal-callers on a weekly basis.

Kimberly Jones: Seattle Seahawks. Don't sell Russell Wilson short again.

Silver: My Super Bowl pick
In his debut column for NFL.com, Michael Silver immediately gets down to business, picking a Super 
Bowl XLVIII winner. More ...

Ian Rapoport: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A drastically improved secondary and a rare power running game propels the Bucs, who take advantage of the fact that the NFC West teams all cancel each other out.

Adam Schein: Saints. Sean Payton is back -- and he'll kick you-know-what and take names.

Michael Silver: Saints. On paper, I don't see the Saints as one of the six best teams in the NFC. The reunion of Sean Payton and Drew Brees, however, will help New Orleans overcome those holes.



Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15