As you've seen, it's prediction day here at MtD. Predictions are a frugal thing, so don't be offended by my choices. It's all in good fun. Of course if you have your own, toss up a FanPost. Also, Matthew Fairburn dished on his predictions here and UkRedskin has his here.
After the jump, my picks for the AFC and NFC title games, a Super Bowl winner, some quick 2013 NFL Draft predictions and a few reader entries for the No. 1 pick in April.
AFC Championship game: Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Playing in the AFC South, the Texans should coast through much of the regular season and get home field advantage through the playoffs. No one seems to be expecting much out of the Steelers this year, but Ben Roethlisberger will always keep them in contention. Outside, non-Baltimore and New England picks for this game are Cincinnati and Kansas City.
NFC Championship game: San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers Call me a sucker for old-school football. I like offenses that feature the run game and stout defenses. That's San Francisco, and for that I love them. That's despite Alex Smith, who may not even be the team's starting quarterback a year from now. Yes, the other choice is Green Bay. Obvious pick is obvious. But Aaron Rodgers is so very good. If their defense can do anything this season, they should coast to this game.
Super Bowl: San Francisco 49ers vs. Houston Texans
Winner: Houston Texans
The Texans have a lot of the same elements as the 49ers, but they're just better in more areas. Sure, they don't have Patrick Willis, but the 49ers don't have a quarterback anywhere near as good as Matt Schaub. If you assume he plays more than 10 games this year, it could be big things for the Texans. If they can win a Super Bowl a decade after joining the league, it should be damning for those teams that can't even make it there (I'm sadly looking at you, Cleveland Browns).
Top five 2013 NFL Draft order:
1. Arizona Cardinals - Easy explanation: John Skelton, starting quarterback. Easier explanation: D'Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie, starting offensive tackles. Despite having the NFL's best wide receiver, the Cardinals seem to be several years away from being a good team.
2. Cleveland Browns - The Browns have 15 rookies on the roster, including their starting quarterback and running back (who missed the entire preseason). They also have what looks like one of the league's toughest schedules. Add an impending suspension for cornerback Joe Haden and you've got the makings of yet another long season for Cleveland.
3. Miami Dolphins - It seems as the discontent grows in Miami, the talent on the roster diminishes. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is promising, but he has one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL. Sorry, we're not buying into the Legedu Naanee hype.
4. Oakland Raiders - The Raiders are deep in the midst of a roster turnover. While doing so, they're relying on Carson Palmer playing like it's 2006 and Darren McFadden's health holding out. It's hard to imagine both, or even one, of those things happening.
5. St. Louis Rams - This century (!), a conference has only had four of the first five picks once. That was 2010 with St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Washington. So it's unlikely the AFC will have four of the first five picks in 2013. Because of that farfetched theory, lets go with St. Louis for the fifth pick. We'll learn a lot about St. Louis in Jeff Fisher's first mustachioed season, namely how good quarterback Sam Bradford is. If Bradford struggles, they'll be picking this high. If he doesn't, I'll look foolish. Regardless, neither would be a first.
First overall pick: The easy choice for the Cardinals is Matt Barkley. But how good of a fit would he be in Arizona's vertical offense? Instead, lets go with Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech, for now. It's true, he struggled Monday night. And he's unpolished. And he plays in the less-challenging ACC. And that he's running a pistol, zone-read offense. But this is not who I would say Arizona should pick. It's who I think they will pick after Thomas explodes during the offseason process – which will probably include more tutelage from George Whitfield. Whitfield has worked wonders in the past with Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger and could do it with a specimen like Thomas. So there you have it.
Offensive rookie of the year: Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Perhaps this is just wishful thinking because I have Martin as RB1 on my MtD fantasy team. More precisely, however, is that Martin has a chance to get a large amount of carries on a team whose offensive line is built to run block. Martin will also work the check down with quarterback Josh Freeman. All of that leads to a lot of yards and just enough touchdowns (and hopefully a fantasy football title for me, which is most important).
Defensive rookie of the year: Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots: Bill Belichick's defense is starving for someone to generate a pass rush. That person won't be Rob Ninkovich or Jermaine Cunningham. Jones could be a double-digit sack guy this season. If he is, he'll be an awards frontrunner.
Late-round rookie with biggest impact: Rokevious Watkins, G, St. Louis Rams, 5th round pick: The Rams have already penciled Watkins into the starting lineup at left guard. By season's end, he could be one of the team's top two offensive linemen if given consistent starting reps. This prediction could be blown quickly, though, if Watkins struggles and gets replaced by backup center Robert Turner.
On Twitter, I asked people to predict who would have the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Below are some responses. Sorry for all the me in there. I didn't think it was picking up the whole thing when I generated the embed code.
@mockingthedraft I believe it'll be hard to look beyond the Jags. Ascending division, best player held out, pumped money into LRob, bad HC.— Infemous (@infemousss) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft Arizona and they will select Matt Barkley QB USC— Will Foy (@WillFoy518) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft Have to be the Cards or the Browns. Lack of offense becomes very difficult to overcome— Slow Cheetah (@RHCPanther) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft The Browns, coming from a Cleveland fan. Rookie starting QB RB RT. Beat up defense, young coach, young team, tough schedule— Robert Nero (@RobertNero23) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft I wouldn't be surprised by Arizona, it's a shame Fitzgerald isn't somewhere with a decent team.— Lloydie (@mclloyd10) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft Browns— Chris (@YourSFGiants) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft Dolphins.— Pat White (@ASportsGuru) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft Arizona and they will select either Barkley or Bray.— Dejay (@thatdejay) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft The Dolphins— Giorgos Kassakos (@Greek_QB) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft Cardinals— Joey Reynolds (@JoeReynolds24) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft Miami dolphins— Bruce Da Juice (@BBdaram) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft Arizona Cardinals— Tyler Rusty (@Time4aRing) September 5, 2012
@mockingthedraft Dolphins or Browns— Jason Love (@Ooonooo904) September 5, 2012