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SB Nation NFL | September 4, 2013

NFL Season Preview

SB Nation’s 2013



NFC Champs Atlanta

AFC Champs Denver

Super Bowl Champs Denver

Denver has a tough start to its season with Von Miller suspended. Not to worry. Outside of the season opener against Baltimore, the Broncos are not scheduled to face another playoff team from last season until Week 7. Even without Miller, the defense deserves more credit, and has plenty of talent to stop the rest of the AFC. Combine that with the ridiculous offensive firepower at Peyton Manning's disposal, and this team is an easy pick to go all the way.

There is nothing easy about picking a winner in the NFC. The conference has four legitimate Super Bowl contenders and a second tier of teams capable of making a run at it. A total of 29 quarterbacks threw more deep passes than Matt Ryan did last year, according to Football Outsiders. If Mike Smith unleashes the fury of his quarterback's arm, the Falcons could overpower opponents. Turnovers can be a great equalizer in the NFL.

Atlanta has an edge over the rest of the NFC thanks to its corners. Put it all together, and the Falcons will make the franchise's second Super Bowl appearance.

A Broncos-Falcons Super Bowl -- haven't we done this before? Yes, Super Bowl XXXIII. John Elway and the Broncos rolled over the Dirty Birds in that one. This time, another future Hall of Fame quarterback brings a third Lombardi Trophy to Denver.

-- Ryan Van Bibber

MVP Robert Griffin III, QB, WAS

Offensive POY Julio Jones, WR, ATL

Defensive POY Geno Atkins, DT, CIN

Offensive ROY Tavon Austin, WR, STL

Defensive ROY Ezekiel Ansah, DE, DET

Comeback POY Brian Cushing, LB, HOU

Coach of the year Pete Carroll, SEA

Editorial Team
Editor Ryan Van Bibber Blog Content Editor Joel Thorman Fantasy Content Editor David Fucillo Producer / Copy Editor Chris Mottram Managing Editor Brian Floyd
Product Team

AFC North

This time hard knocks pays off

While the AFC North might lack the top-tier titans of the NFC West or a glamorous team like the Packers or Pats, it boasts plenty of top-to-bottom quality. The Ravens and the Steelers have been playing keep away with the crown in the NFL's black-and-blue division. Can a talented young Bengals team put an end to that?

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*Predictions compiled from SB Nation's network of bloggers, are appropriately biased, and are independent of one another


Predicted Record 10-6
Power Ranking 8
Key Facts
Head Coach John Harbaugh
2012 Record 10-6 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions DE Chris Canty, DE Marcus Spears, LB Daryl Smith, DT Brandon Williams, LB Elvis Dumervil, LB Arthur Brown, S Michael Huff, K Matt Elam
Key Departures LB Ray Lewis, S Ed Reed, WR Anquan Boldin, LB Dannell Ellerbe, LB Paul Kruger, CB Cary Williams, C Matt Birk, Dennis Pitta (short term IR) Team Blog Baltimore Beatdown

Dennis Pitta and Jameel McClain are on the shelf. Ray Lewis and Matt Birk retired. Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Bernard Pollard left through free agency, and Anquan Boldin was traded. However, general manager Ozzie Newsome still managed to reload the roster, especially on defense. John Harbaugh’s team can still be a contender.

Record Prediction 10 - 6

The Ravens made it a point to bolster the defensive front so that they could improve against the run. They did just that by bringing Chris Canty and Marcus Spears on board, which allows Haloti Ngata to move inside to nose tackle. The front’s improvement should help the back end, meaning the defense should keep teams from breaking the 24-point barrier.

However, it will be the offense’s responsibility to continue scoring points. Without a No. 2 receiver emerging, it’s tough to assume the Ravens will be able to continue the kind of offensive success they saw during the 2012 postseason.

-- Jason Butt, Baltimore Beatdown
Power Ranking
Average 8 | Highest 3 | Lowest 14

The Ravens made a $120 million bet that Joe Flacco can do more with less this season. He’ll have to. Playing in a tough AFC North means no guarantees that the champs will even get back to the playoffs this year.

Key Fantasy Players
Stud Ray Rice

Another year, another top-five ranking for Rice. Ho hum. He’s going to be a major factor in the passing game with so few options for Joe Flacco to throw to. Feel confident about Rice once again.

2013 Prediction 275 carries for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns, 60 catches for 500 yards and one touchdown
Sleeper Bernard Pierce

Pierce should see more than 100 carries again this season. One of the league’s top backups, he has monster upside if Rice goes down. He is one of the top handcuff options in the league.

2013 Prediction 125 carries for 550 yards, three touchdowns (Must handcuff player)
Bust Torrey Smith

Does Smith have the talent to be a WR2? Sure. But Baltimore doesn’t have any other threatening options in the receiving game. Smith was boom-or-bust last year, and opposing defenses are going to focus on him more with Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta out of the picture.

2013 Prediction 55 catches for 950 yards and three touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 10-6
Power Ranking 9
Key Facts
Head Coach Marvin Lewis
2012 Record 10-6 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions LB James Harrison, TE Tyler Eifert, RB Giovani Bernard
Key Departures LB Manny Lawson, RB Brian Leonard, DT Pat Sims
Team Blog Cincy Jungle

Add Cincinnati to your list of potential Super Bowl teams. The Bengals have one of the nastiest defenses in the game with Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict leading the way. These cats are ready to make the playoffs for the third consecutive year, a franchise first. Who dey? A darn good team.

Record Prediction 10 - 6

The Cincinnati Bengals are returning mostly every starter from last year, while adding impressive pieces on an offense that hasn't broken into the top 20 during offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's reign.

It's the same defense that's ranked inside the top 10 three of the past four seasons. There might be some difficulty securing wins against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, but Cincinnati's schedule favors at least 10 wins this season.

-- Josh Kirkendall, Cincy Jungle
Power Ranking
Average 9 | Highest 4 | Lowest 13

Cincinnati had 45 sacks in 2011, 51 sacks last year. Do we hear 55 in 2013? The sacks will come. What the rest of the football world is wondering is whether or not we can finally put aside the hand-wringing over Andy Dalton.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD A.J. Green

Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns in his second NFL season. He’s Andy Dalton’s most prized weapon. His knee injury in preseason won’t be a problem. Green is second only to Megatron in receiver rankings.

2013 Prediction 105 catches for 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns
SLEEPER Mohamed Sanu

Sanu started to become a red-zone threat in his rookie season, but a foot injury cut his year short. A.J. Green will warrant double-digit targets every game, but Sanu could work his way back to a similar role he served in 2012.

2013 Prediction 40 catches for 500 yards and three touchdowns
BUST BenJarvus Green-Ellis

The Law Firm is the same plodding back he’s always been. Giovani Bernard is going to split time with him, and that workload could shift more toward the rookie further in the season. Green-Ellis isn’t an appealing option anymore.

2013 Prediction 190 carries for 700 yards and five touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 7-9
Power Ranking 25
Key Facts
Head Coach Rob Chudzinski
2012 Record 5-11 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions WR Davone Bess, DT Desmond Bryant, LB Paul Kruger, LB Barkevious Mingo, coaching staff (Rob Chudzinski, Norv Turner, Ray Horton)
Key Departures WR Josh Cribbs, TE Benjamin Watson, CB Sheldon Brown, K Phil Dawson Team Blog Dawgs By Nature

Words you haven’t seen in the same sentence since 1988: The Browns are frisky. Cleveland has a punishing defense and added to it with Barkevious Mingo, who should return from a preseason injury early in the year. Throw in a new head coach, Rob Chudzinski, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and suddenly you have something. The playoffs may be a year away, but this team is on the rise.

Record Prediction 7 - 9

The Browns made a lot of positive moves in the offseason, both in assembling a new coaching staff and adding key personnel on defense. Head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner call an offensive style that is much more suitable to quarterback Brandon Weeden, having him in the shotgun more often and going downfield with his passes. Defensively, Ray Horton brings an attacking unit that is expected to blitz often on third down.

Additions like Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant, and Barkevious Mingo coupled with a better-than-expected transition from Jabaal Sheard, help make Cleveland a threat to wreak havoc on both sides of the ball. They are still projected to finish below .500, as the team is young and still trying to take steady strides forward, rather than jumping beyond expectations.

-- Christopher Pokorny, Dawgs By Nature
Power Ranking
Average 25 | Highest 17 | Lowest 28

Perpetually written off in the division, Cleveland’s defense is approaching the same bruising status as its AFC North rivals. It’s too soon to talk about postseason play, not until the new administration finds a long-term answer at quarterback.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Trent Richardson

Richardson has lost weight, he feels better working with his offensive line, and he’ll be a workhorse for the Browns. Norv Turner does like his workhorse running backs. The sky is the limit for Richardson in his second season.

2013 Prediction 250 carries for 1,150 yards, nine touchdowns, 50 catches for 425 yards and two touchdowns
SLEEPER Brandon Weeden

Cleveland’s new regime can turn Weeden into a potential QB2. Defenses have to respect the run game, and Josh Gordon is a solid No. 1 target in Rob Chudzinski’s vertical offense.

2013 Prediction 340-of-600 completions for 4,000 yards, 20 touchdowns, 19 interceptions
BUST Greg Little

Once a popular sleeper pick, the horizon looks far less promising for Little in 2013. He might see a few extra targets while Josh Gordon is suspended for the first two weeks, but don’t expect much production for your fantasy team.

2013 Prediction 40 catches for 450 yards and two touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 8-8
Power Ranking 14
Key Facts
Head Coach Mike Tomlin
2012 Record 8-8 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions TE Matt Spaeth, CB William Gay, LB Jarvis Jones, RB Le'Veon Bell, WR Markus Wheaton
Key Departures LB James Harrison, WR Mike Wallace, CB Keenan Lewis, RB Rashard Mendenhall Team Blog Behind the Steel Curtain

Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin give the Steelers a chance. Defensively, Pittsburgh should be stout as always with Dick LeBeau running the show. In a weak AFC, the Steelers may contend for the postseason.

Record Prediction 8 - 8

The Steelers are suffering through more injuries and seem no further along in finding answers at the running back position. The offensive line did not appear much better through training camp than they were last year, and it simply may be an issue of inexperience -- three of five starters have less than a year experience at their position.

Defensively, this team will be much improved in terms of playmaking, and that might be enough to go over .500, but in a very competitive division, winning nine games could be difficult.

-- Neal Coolong, Behind The Steel Curtain
Power Ranking
Average 14 | Highest 7 | Lowest 22

Another 30 sacks will make Big Ben the 15th most sacked QB ever. He would still need 152 sacks to break Brett Favre’s all-time record. Either way, the Steelers’ QB already has one more Super Bowl ring than his Packers counterpart does. A little more help from his offense and maybe he’ll have a third one to cushion the blow from all those hits.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Antonio Brown

Mike Wallace took his talents to South Beach, leaving Brown as the No. 1 target for Big Ben. He doesn’t score many touchdowns, which could change in his new role, but he’s a great PPR play.

2013 Prediction 80 catches for 1,080 yards and six touchdowns
SLEEPER Emmanuel Sanders

Sanders is playing with a one-year contract. He needs to prove himself to warrant the payday he wants. With top corners focusing on Antonio Brown, Sanders is a No. 2 option with upside in the Steelers passing game.

2013 Prediction 50 catches for 600 yards and four touchdowns
BUST Ben Roethlisberger

A questionable offensive line and a history of injuries make Big Ben an unappealing option for your lineup. We no longer say if he gets hurt; it’s when.

2013 Prediction 61 percent completions for 3,500 yards, 20 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, one rushing touchdown.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

AFC South

Will Luck stop the Texans?

The Houston Texans have become the steadying force in the AFC South while the rest of the division is in some stage of rebuilding. For the Indianapolis Colts, this process is almost complete, despite starting to rebuild just over a year ago. Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars are comfortable with a slower burn as a new regime evaluates the roster. The Tennessee Titans are still assessing whether they need to blow everything up. The AFC South has become a case of the haves and have nots -- with the latter trying to find their quarterback and move forward.

Read More

*Predictions compiled from SB Nation's network of bloggers, are appropriately biased, and are independent of one another


Predicted Record 11-5
Power Ranking 7
Key Facts
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
2012 Record 12-4 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions S Ed Reed, WR DeAndre Hopkins, S D.J. Swearinger, P Shane Lechler, FB Greg Jones, LB Joe Mays
Key Departures S Glover Quin, LB Connor Barwin, TE James Casey Team Blog Battle Red Blog

Houston finally gave Andre Johnson help by nabbing Clemson standout DeAndre Hopkins. With two viable receivers and Arian Foster, Matt Schaub could push for a Super Bowl. Wade Phillips is still running the defense, so expect another quality year from J.J. Watt and this group.

Record Prediction 11 - 5

Although the schedule features tough games at Baltimore and at San Francisco, as well as home tilts against the Seahawks, Patriots and Broncos, the Texans should benefit from six games in a still down (but improving) AFC South. Although concerns about the right side of the offensive line and outside linebacker remain paramount, this is a talented squad.

Talented enough that a third consecutive AFC South division crown should be in the offing. After that … we’ll see if Houston can manage to get past the divisional round for the first time in franchise history.

-- Tim McHale, Battle Red Blog
Power Ranking
Average 7 | Highest 4 | Lowest 13

Brian Cushing’s return from a torn ACL could turn a mere top-10 defense into top-three unit. Will that be enough to finally get Houston past the Divisional round of the playoffs?

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Arian Foster

The one-time top pick in fantasy drafts is still the top Texans running back, but he has slid a bit. If he can stay healthy, he should be able to remain a viable RB1 option. Of course...

2013 Prediction 320 carries for 1,344 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, nine touchdowns, 35 catches, 300 yards, two touchdowns

Tate's 2012 season was derailed by injuries, but he's just two years removed from a 942 yard, four touchdown campaign. One of the top handcuffs in fantasy, Tate could step in seamlessly if Arian Foster goes down. Speaking of which...

2013 Prediction 120 carries for 576 yards, four touchdowns
BUST Arian Foster

Yes, the top pick is also potentially the biggest bust. Foster had 956 carries the past three years and his yards per carry and receptions dipped to career lows in 2013. He should still produce this season, but there are too many red flags here to trust him as a top five draft pick.

2013 Prediction 320 carries for 1,344 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, nine touchdowns, 35 catches, 300 yards, two touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 11-5
Power Ranking 13
Key Facts
Head Coach Chuck Pagano
2012 Record 11-5 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions RB Ahmad Bradshaw, LB Bjoern Werner, CB Greg Toler, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, OT Gosder Cherilus, S LaRon Landry
Key Departures LB Dwight Freeney, DT Drake Nevis, OC Bruce Arians Team Blog Stampede Blue

Andrew Luck put together four fourth-quarter comebacks last year. His best comeback performance was taking the 11-5 Colts to the playoffs a year after the team won just two games. The offense looks even better this season. Will it be enough to challenge the Texans for division supremacy?

Record Prediction 11 - 5

The Colts won 11 games in miraculous fashion last season. While it might be safe to say that the team will "come back down to earth" in 2013, this team is talented enough on offense to run with just about anybody in the AFC.

Andrew Luck looks poised to make a big leap from year one to year two, and the continued development of dynamic receiver T.Y. Hilton gives Luck yet another weapon along with veteran wideout Reggie Wayne. The question mark is the defense, and whether a pass rush without Dwight Freeney has enough bite.

-- Brad Wells, Stampede Blue
Power Ranking
Average 13 | Highest 5 | Lowest 21

Indianapolis spent big in the spring to improve the talent around its budding superstar quarterback. The Colts will need it because the schedule gets tougher this season, and expectations are high.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Andrew Luck

One of the best quarterback prospects in years, Luck is set to take off in his second season. He has a better supporting cast around him and dominated the preseason. Luck has a chance to finish in the top five among fantasy quarterbacks.

2013 Prediction 350-of-600, 58 percent completions for 4,400 yards 29 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 7.3 yards per attempt, 200 rushing yards, four touchdowns.
SLEEPER Ahmad Bradshaw

Bradshaw had foot surgery in the offseason and usually struggles to practice, but he played 14 games in 2012 and was a quality RB2. He's the undisputed starter in Indianapolis and is something of a value at his fifth round ADP.

2013 Prediction 180 carries for 810 yards, five touchdowns
BUST Coby Fleener

Fleener was a potential sleeper heading into training camp, but he had a disastrous preseason and is competing with Dwayne Allen for snaps. There are better risks to take with your TE2 spot.

2013 Prediction 45 catches for 500 yards and three touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 5-11
Power Ranking 31
Key Facts
Head Coach Gus Bradley
2012 Record 2-14 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions Head coach Gus Bradley, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, general manager David Caldwell, OT Luke Joeckel, RB Maurice Jones-Drew (back from injury), DT Sen'Derrick Marks
Key Departures LB Daryl Smith, CB Derek Cox, DT Terrance Knighton, WR Justin Blackmon (4-game suspension) Team Blog Big Cat Country

Gus Bradley has his work cut out for him. Blaine Gabbert isn’t keeping defensive coordinators awake at night. He has Maurice Jones-Drew back in action and a talented group of young receivers led by Cecil Shorts. Bradley will need to tap into his reputation as a defensive guru to keep the Jaguars competitive through a rebuilding year.

Record Prediction 5 - 11

The Jaguars gutted a lot of their roster and improved in some areas, but big question marks at the quarterback position and pass rusher are going to have an impact on how they fare during the season.

The team was close to winning five games last season and with an improved offensive line and playmakers they should be able to get there this go-round.

-- Alfie Crow, Big Cat Country
Power Ranking
Average 31 | Highest 28 | Lowest 32

The Jaguars sell more tickets than any other team in Florida. By a healthy margin, too. Patience matches passion for fans in Duval. That’s good because this is not going to be a quick fix. But at least the team appears to be on the right track.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Maurice Jones-Drew

Now back from a Lisfranc injury, MJD looked like his old self in preseason and is set to once again carry the Jaguars offense in a contract year. This isn't the first time he's come back from a major injury -- MJD had microfracture surgery before the 2011 season and went on to win the rushing title.

2013 Prediction 300 carries for 1,400 yards, 4.7 YPC, eight touchdowns, 35 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns
SLEEPER Cecil Shorts

Jaguars receivers are probably not high on your draft radar given the questionable quarterback situation. However, with the solid ground game keeping defenses honest, and Justin Blackmon sitting out with an early suspension, Shorts has the talent to run with this opportunity as the No. 1 receiver.

2013 Prediction 65 catches for 1,150 yards and eight touchdowns
BUST Justin Blackmon

Blackmon will start the season on a four-game suspension, so that already kills his early-season fantasy value. A talented deep threat, Blackmon could struggle to put up big numbers in Jacksonville's poor passing game. He's a late-round roster stash at best.

2013 Prediction 60 catches for 750 yards and five touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 8-8
Power Ranking 28
Key Facts
Head Coach Mike Munchak
2012 Record 6-10 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions G Andy Levitre, TE Delanie Walker, S Bernard Pollard, G Chance Warmack, RB Shonn Greene
Key Departures TE Jared Cook and DT Sen'Derrick Marks Team Blog Music City Miracles

Head coach Mike Munchak is going back to what he knows best this year: offensive linemen. His team signed Andy Levitre and drafted Chance Warmack. The Titans also signed Shonn Greene, all with the intention of making Chris Johnson the center of the offense.

Record Prediction 8 - 8

The Titans should be better on offense this year, but they still look really shaky on defense. They are going to try and go back to a power run game that controls the clock. They should be able to accomplish that with the additions on the offensive line and Shonn Greene as a complement to Chris Johnson.

The only problem is that ball control offense doesn’t work if the defense cannot get off the field. This defense hasn’t done enough in the preseason to prove that it will be able to do that on a consistent basis.

-- Jimmy Morris, Music City Miracles
Power Ranking
Average 28 | Highest 23 | Lowest 31

Tennessee has struggled to find itself since the Bud Adams-Jeff Fisher-Vince Young triangle broke up. Another aimless year in 2013 will result in another round of big changes in 2014.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Chris Johnson

Johnson managed to rush for 1,243 yards last season even while making fantasy players tear their hair out. The Titans' offensive line looks much better, and Johnson remains a lethal threat in open space. His feast-or-famine style makes him a shaky RB1, but he's a worthy second-round pick.

2013 Prediction 250 carries for 1,050 yards and five touchdowns, 200 receiving yards.
SLEEPER Kendall Wright

Wright put up nice stats in his rookie year even with the Titans' pass offense struggling. He's the third receiver behind Kenny Britt and Nate Washington, but could quickly find himself an expanded role with Britt's injury concerns. He's worth targeting in the late rounds.

2013 Prediction 55 catches for 550 yards and two touchdowns
BUST Jake Locker

Locker is a gifted athlete, but his accuracy issues have not improved since his days at the University of Washington. The Titans tried helping him out in the offseason by improving his offensive line, but he remains a maddeningly inconsistent passer. Locker shouldn't be drafted outside the deepest of leagues.

2013 Prediction 260-of-450, 58 percent completions for 3,150 yards, 20 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 250 yards rushing and three touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

AFC East

Who will stop the Patriots?

You have to go all the way back to 2008 for the last season that the New England Patriots did not win the AFC East. In fact, the Patriots have won all but two division titles since Tom Brady replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe in Week 2 of the 2001 season. Twelve straight seasons of nine or more wins, 10 division titles, five AFC championships and three Super Bowl wins. Few teams have dominated a division for so long the way Bill Belichick's Patriots have. Can the other three teams break the Patriots' grip on the AFC East?

Read More

*Predictions compiled from SB Nation's network of bloggers, are appropriately biased, and are independent of one another


Predicted Record 6-10
Power Ranking 29
Key Facts
Head Coach Doug Marrone
2012 Record 6-10 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions QB E.J. Manuel, WR Robert Woods, WR Marquise Goodwin, LB Manny Lawson, LB Kiko Alonso
Key Departures QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, G Andy Levitre, DE Mark Anderson, LB Nick Barnett, S George Wilson Team Blog Buffalo Rumblings

Whenever you’re debating between two rookie quarterbacks as your Week 1 starter, things aren’t looking up. Few teams have been hit harder by preseason injuries, but there remains hope in Buffalo. E.J. Manuel looks promising, and with C.J. Spiller in the backfield, the offense could show signs of life.

Record Prediction 6 - 10

The Bills finally went about rebuilding the right way - drafting a quarterback of their choosing, bringing in a young coaching staff and inserting a new GM. There is hope; just not for 2013.

Brand new offensive and defensive systems plus rookie quarterbacks will necessitate an adjustment period, and a likely slow start. If the Bills can improve over the course of the season, that’ll be considered worthwhile progress.

-- Brian Galliford, Buffalo Rumblings
Power Ranking
Average 29 | Highest 23 | Lowest 30

The most exciting offseason move the Bills made was hiring Mike Pettine to be the defensive coordinator. Pettine is a defensive savant that’s made a career of out terrorizing quarterbacks with a plethora of blitzes and stunts. He’s the right man to exact some return on the Mario Williams investment.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD C.J. Spiller

Spiller was already expected to be a workhorse before Buffalo's quarterback situation imploded. Now the Bills will be leaning on him heavily while bringing along questionable rookies. A game changer with the ball in his hands, Spiller is locked in as a top five draft pick.

2013 Prediction 250 carries, 1,420 yards for eight touchdowns, 50 catches for 580 yards and two touchdowns
SLEEPER Robert Woods

The Bills quarterback situation is a mess right now, but Woods has a chance to make the most of it. His route-running and hands could make him a reliable safety valve for E.J. Manuel or Jeff Tuel. Hardly a breakout fantasy star in the making, but Woods could be useful to PPR owners in his rookie year.

2013 Prediction 25 catches for 340 yards and three touchdowns
BUST E.J. Manuel

It's seductive to risk a draft pick on a rookie quarterback after 2012's incredible class, but don't expect history to repeat itself. Manuel is still an incredibly raw prospect as he recovers from knee surgery. A promising roster stash in dynasty leagues, but don't expect any major production for 2013.

2013 Prediction Eight games, six starts, 54 percent completions for 1,105 yards, six touchdowns, eight interceptions, 200 rushing yards, two touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 9-7
Power Ranking 23
Key Facts
Head Coach Joe Philbin
2012 Record 7-9 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions WR Mike Wallace, LB Dannell Ellerbe, CB Brent Grimes, OT Tyson Clabo, DE/LB Dion Jordan
Key Departures OT Jake Long, RB Reggie Bush, TE Anthony Fasano, CB Sean Smith, LB Karlos Dansby Team Blog The Phinsider

Miami spent big in an effort to challenge New England this year. Ryan Tannehill enters his second season with high expectations. Will weaknesses in the secondary and on the offensive line be too much to overcome?

Record Prediction 9 - 7

Miami should be a better team than last year, a team that went 7-9. With all of the additional talent brought in to help Ryan Tannehill, who had a good rookie year overshadowed by three great rookie seasons elsewhere in the league, the Dolphins offense should be more explosive. The defense is going to keep the team in a lot of games this year with a scary defensive line led by Cameron Wake, Paul Soliai, and Randy Starks (who may not even be the starter) all former Pro Bowlers.

Add in Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, Olivier Vernon, Brent Grimes, and Reshad Jones -- not to mention third overall pick Dion Jordan, and Miami will be stout on defense.

-- Kevin Nogle, The Phinsider
Power Ranking
Average 23 | Highest 17 | Lowest 29

Miami tried to re-sign Jake Long, at a reduced price, but lost out to St. Louis in a repeat of the Jeff Fisher sweepstakes. GM Jeff Ireland is hoping that the rest of his offseason acquisitions are enough to overcome the hole at left tackle and challenge the Patriots for the AFC East crown.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Lamar Miller

Miller is locked in as the starter with Reggie Bush out of the picture. There has been talk of him sharing carries with Daniel Thomas, but that should end up being coach speak. Miller is a solid value at the end of the third round.

2013 Prediction 250 carries for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns, 20 catches for 150 yards and one touchdown
SLEEPER Brandon Gibson

Gibson was a serviceable WR4 with the Rams last year, recording 51 catches for 691 yards and five touchdowns. He's the No. 3 receiver behind Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, but could be in line for more targets with Dustin Keller done for the season.

2013 Prediction 50 catches for 600 yards and two touchdowns
BUST Brian Hartline

Hartline was the Dolphins' top receiver in 2012, but that was more by default and he managed only one touchdown. A pure possession receiver, he doesn't offer much upside with Mike Wallace in town.

2013 Prediction 80 catches for 900 yards and four touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

New England

Predicted Record 11-5
Power Ranking 6
Key Facts
Head Coach Bill Belichick
2012 Record 12-4 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions WR Danny Amendola, RB LeGarrette Blount, DT Tommy Kelly, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, WR Aaron Dobson
Key Departures WR Wes Welker, TE Aaron Hernandez, WR Brandon Lloyd, S Patrick Chung Team Blog Pats Pulpit

All the talk this offseason has been about Gronk’s injury, Aaron Hernandez’s life and Tom Brady’s lack of receivers. In a football sense, none of it will matter. Brady will keep the offense clicking along, perhaps just taking a little longer to reach the end zone. New England also has a sneaky-good running game led by Stevan Ridley, bolstered by newly acquired LeGarrette Blount.

Record Prediction 11 - 5

The Patriots will have some growing pains at the receiver position, but this is a group that has more size, athleticism and potential than it did a year ago. With an offensive line and running game that remain intact, along with some guy named Tom Brady playing quarterback, the Patriots will remain an elite offense.

Defensively, the Patriots should continue to make strides in 2013. It’s still a young unit, but if the secondary can remain healthy and players such as Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower can progress as hoped, the unit could surprise some people. The Patriots face a tough schedule, but should be jockeying for playoff position come December.

-- Greg Knopping, Pats Pulpit
Power Ranking
Average 6 | Highest 2 | Lowest 10

New England has won four straight division titles. All signs point to Bill Belichick making it five in a row this season.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Tom Brady

Year after year, Brady always gets the most out of his supporting cast no matter the level of talent. Don't expect that to change at age 36. Brady remains one of the better QB1 players in fantasy.

2013 Prediction 63.5 percent completions for 4,300 yards, 33 touchdowns, nine interceptions
SLEEPER Kenbrell Thompkins

Thompkins is quickly losing his "sleeper" label, as the undrafted rookie is already getting a seventh round ADP after a monster training camp. The Patriots got a lot of ink over the offseason after losing most of their offensive playmakers, but Thompkins could quickly make people forget Wes Welker.

2013 Prediction 65 catches for 800 yards and four touchdowns
BUST Zach Sudfeld

Sudfeld has intriguing upside, but he had an inconsistent preseason and should quickly become fantasy irrelevant once Rob Gronkowski comes back at the end of September. Don't burn a draft pick on him.

2013 Prediction 30 catches for 400 yards and three touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

New York

Predicted Record 5-11
Power Ranking 30
Key Facts
Head Coach Rex Ryan
2012 Record 6-10 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions G Willie Colon, RB Chris Ivory, S Dawan Landry, RB Mike Goodson, LB Antwan Barnes
Key Departures CB Darrelle Revis, DE Mike DeVito, DT Sione Pouha, OG Brandon Moore, LB Bart Scott, TE Dustin Keller, S LaRon Landry, S Yeremiah Bell Team Blog Gang Green Nation

The Jets have an unknown at quarterback and an embattled head coach this season, not exactly the recipe for making the playoffs. The defense could provide some enjoyment with playmakers Muhammad Wilkerson and Antonio Cromartie, but even this unit has its holes. The real question here is when does Geno Smith start, and how does he perform?

Record Prediction 5 - 11

One of the keys to being a surprise team is a favorable schedule. The Jets do not have that. It’s easy to see how a five-game stretch starting in October could send this team into a tailspin from which it can’t recover. The Jets get consecutive games against the Falcons, Steelers, Patriots, Bengals and Saints.

This doesn’t even include the Super Bowl champion Ravens waiting for them on the other side of their bye. This team just hasn’t done enough to improve on offense to make a move.

-- John Butchko, Gang Green Nation
Power Ranking
Average 30 | Highest 27 | Lowest 32

Is Rex Ryan coaching to save his job, or is it already too late? This is a transition year for Gang Green, to put it nicely.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Chris Ivory

Ivory has been limited in camp with injuries, but he's the most talented back on the roster and should see the majority of snaps. Ivory is an RB2/Flex play at best, but the Jets' offense is so bereft of playmakers he becomes the top fantasy player by default.

2013 Prediction 12 games, 190 carries for 900 yards, seven touchdowns
SLEEPER Jeff Cumberland

Somebody has to catch the ball in New York, and Cumberland has the best chance to do that with Geno Smith under center. He could improve his numbers as the main TE option with Dustin Keller gone.

2013 Prediction 35 catches for 410 yards and three touchdowns
BUST Stephen Hill

Hill has good talent on paper, but he continues to struggle with drops and mental mistakes. He's stuck in a hopeless situation with the Jets passing game and should be well off the fantasy radar.

2013 Prediction 45 catches for 500 yards and four touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

AFC West

Stampeding toward a Super Bowl

Most prognosticators have the Broncos winning the division, and it's easy to see why. Still, the Chiefs are just two years removed from a division title and have a new head coach. San Diego also has a new head man on the sidelines and its run of four straight division titles wasn't that long ago. The Raiders ... well they also play in the division.

Read More

*Predictions compiled from SB Nation's network of bloggers, are appropriately biased, and are independent of one another


Predicted Record 11-5
Power Ranking 3
Key Facts
Head Coach John Fox
2012 Record 13-3 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions WR Wes Welker, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, G Louis Vasquez, RB Montee Ball
Key Departures LB Elvis Dumervil, DE Von Miller (6-game suspension), RB Willis McGahee Team Blog Mile High Report

An AFC West title is virtually guaranteed. However, a series of offseason events starting with a fax machine fail, a list of injuries and a six-game suspension for Von Miller leaves the team hobbled. Peyton Manning and a trio of top receivers will have to overpower opponents until Miller can get back on the field.

Record Prediction 11 - 5

How important is Von Miller’s absence through six games? That question, a young running back corps and a tendency to turnover the football has a lot of fans in Denver panicking this preseason.

But the addition of Wes Welker and the adoption of a no-huddle (think breakneck speed) offense will have NFL defenses begging for mercy. This is still an extremely deep team with a lot of talent at wide receiver, in the secondary and on both sides of the trenches. Oh, and the quarterback is pretty talented, too.

-- Kyle Montgomery, Mile High Report
Power Ranking
Average 3 | Highest 1 | Lowest 7

Remember when the NFL world was worried about Manning’s neck being healthy enough to make it through last season? Now, the only one left is whether or not that neck and that arm can go all the way to February this year.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Peyton Manning

There are too many weapons for Manning to choose from, and this is not a bad thing. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker are just a few reasons why the veteran quarterback will shine again.

2013 Prediction 390-of-575, 68 percent completions for 4,770 yards, 39 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
SLEEPER Julius Thomas

Thomas is now the starting tight end in Denver. There aren’t enough targets to go around for everyone in the Broncos offense to live up to expectations, but Thomas has upside after moving up the depth chart.

2013 Prediction 40 catches for 450 yards and three touchdowns
BUST Ronnie Hillman

The Broncos are likely running all season with the dreaded Running Back By Committee. Montee Ball is the current goal line back, and Knowshon Moreno is lingering in the mix as well. Don’t get excited about Hillman’s potential.

2013 Prediction 100 carries for 430 yards and two touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

Kansas City

Predicted Record 9-7
Power Ranking 20
Key Facts
Head Coach Andy Reid
2012 Record 2-14 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions Head coach Andy Reid, general manager John Dorsey, QB Alex Smith, OT Eric Fisher, TE Anthony Fasano, CB Sean Smith
Key Departures General manager Scott Pioli, head coach Romeo Crennel, QB Matt Cassel, WR Jon Baldwin Team Blog Arrowhead Pride

Subtract Romeo Crennel and Matt Cassel, add Andy Reid and Alex Smith and you get hope. Kansas City made a ton of changes to an underachieving group that went 2-14 last year. The Chiefs have talent on both sides of the ball and figure to utilize it much more effectively under Reid. If things come together quickly, Arrowhead Stadium could see a winner.

Record Prediction 9 - 7

The Chiefs addressed their two biggest problem areas from last year in the offseason -- quarterback and head coach.

An improved defense with two solid pass rushers and two good cover corners, along with an easy schedule -- Raiders twice! -- means the Chiefs are going to be competitive late into the season.

-- Joel Thorman, Arrowhead Pride
Power Ranking
Average 20 | Highest 13 | Lowest 26

Kansas City isn’t going to challenge Denver this year. However, the Chiefs’ offseason makeover is more than enough to get them a few more a wins. Four games against the Chargers and Raiders will help too.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Jamaal Charles

Charles is a LeSean McCoy-like weapon for Andy Reid’s offense. The Chiefs plan to get him the ball often. He’s locked in as a top running back for 2013.

2013 Prediction 250 carries for 1,400 yards, eight touchdowns, 40 catches for 350 yards and one touchdown
SLEEPER Dexter McCluster

McCluster is a versatile player who the Chiefs are interested in getting more involved on offense. It’s a long shot for him to make a real fantasy impact, but at least monitor his status.

2013 Prediction 40 catches for 400 yards, three touchdowns, 100 rushing yards
BUST Donnie Avery

Avery is the No. 2 starter in the Chiefs offense (unfortunately), but Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles command a majority of the looks from Alex Smith. He isn’t going to be more than a WR5 at best running deep routes in this offense.

2013 Prediction 45 catches for 500 yards, two touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 4-12
Power Ranking 32
Key Facts
Head Coach Dennis Allen
2012 Record 4-12 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions CB Charles Woodson, LB Nick Roach, LB Kevin Burnett, LB Kaluka Maiava, QB Matt Flynn, DT Vance Walker, DT Pat Sims, LB Sio Moore, CB DJ Hayden, OT Menelik Watson, CB Tracy Porter, CB Mike Jenkins, DE Jason Hunter, CB Tracy Porter, CB Mike Jenkins, DE Jason Hunter
Key Departures FS Michael Huff, LB Philip Wheeler, DE Desmond Bryant, QB Carson Palmer, TE Brandon Myers, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, RB Mike Goodson, FS Michael Huff Team Blog Silver and Black Pride

General manager Reggie McKenzie is in year two of a salary cap purge. His team is still in the middle of a full-scale rebuilding project. The quarterback issue looks like a real problem with Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor struggling through the preseason. A healthy season from Darren McFadden gives Oakland its best hope at staying competitive.

Record Prediction 4 - 12

Whenever pressed about how this Raiders team will play this year, GM Reggie McKenzie's typical response is, "We're gonna win some games." Well, four is "some" and that seems about as much as we can expect from this group. Both offensive and defensive lines are in shambles.

The most winnable games come against the Jaguars in Week 2 and the Jets in Week 11. Of course, the Jaguars and Jets are thinking the same thing right about now. Add a "Did they just do that?" win and a division win, probably against the Chiefs or Chargers in their annual "throw the records out the window" contests, and you have four wins.

-- Levi Damien, Silver And Black Pride
Power Ranking
Average 32 | Highest 30 | Lowest 32

The bad news: Oakland looks like a lock for the top pick in the draft. The good news: Choosing between Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater is an easy way to get the franchise back on track.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Darren McFadden

McFadden is perennially injured, but he’s the best the Raiders have to offer fantasy-wise. Fortunately Oakland is reverting back to a power blocking scheme, which is the right fit for McFadden. If he stays healthy (again, a big if), he’ll be a reliable fantasy back. Keep in mind his offensive line is one of the weakest in the league.

2013 Prediction 12 games, 200 carries for 800 yards, four touchdowns, 40 catches for 250 yards, one touchdown
SLEEPER Jacoby Ford

Ford can be explosive out of the slot, and his return skills boost his value. Oakland wide receivers shouldn’t be high on your list, though.

2013 Prediction 55 catches for 780 yards and five touchdowns
BUST Denarius Moore

Moore’s coaches have been frustrated throughout camp and he has yet to make the jump in maturity. Plus, Matt Flynn isn’t going to be able to get him the ball downfield. Moore’s best bet for fantasy relevance is to be involved in a trade.

2013 Prediction 45 catches for 650 yards and three touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

San Diego

Predicted Record 7-9
Power Ranking 26
Key Facts
Head Coach Mike McCoy
2012 Record 7-9 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions OT D.J. Fluker, RB Danny Woodhead, OT King Dunlap, LB Manti Te'o, CB Derek Cox, WR Keenan Allen
Key Departures OG Louis Vasquez, CB Quentin Jammer, CB Antoine Cason, LB Takeo Spikes, DT Aubrayo Franklin Team Blog Bolts From The Blue

Mike McCoy takes over a threadbare roster that left quarterback Philip Rivers without much help or protection. GM Tom Telesco addressed some of those needs in the offseason, but it could take some time to gel.

Record Prediction 7 - 9

It all depends on injuries because the 2013 San Diego Chargers are very talented but not very deep. The running game will be improved, and the passing game will improve as the season goes along. The offense, as a whole, should end up being less explosive but more consistent.

The defense will be really good to start the season, but one or two injuries will knock them down to earth. It will take a miraculous bit of luck for this team to be as healthy as it needs to be to compete with the Broncos in the AFC West.

-- John Gennaro, Bolts From The Blue
Power Ranking
Average 26 | Highest 20 | Lowest 31

The Chargers should at least be better than the Raiders. San Diego has enough talent on the roster to surprise a few teams, but cleaning up this mess is going to take some time.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Phillip Rivers

The fact that Rivers is potentially the Chargers best fantasy option sheds light on what to expect from the team in 2013. Rivers will finish as a QB2, and he’ll hopefully get back to passing for over 4,500 yards.

2013 Prediction 350-of-540, 65 percent completions for 4,500 yards, 30 touchdowns, 15 interceptions
SLEEPER Keenan Allen

Someone has to catch passes from Philip Rivers, right? Malcom Floyd is always an injury risk. The same can be said for Eddie Royal. Allen could end up moving up the depth chart in year one.

2013 Prediction 35 catches for 430 yards, two touchdowns
BUST Ryan Mathews

Read 2012’s preview for Mathews. Repeat. Another Charger who struggles to stay healthy, Mathews won’t be an every-down back again. His value is suppressed by San Diego’s lack of offense, too.

2013 Prediction 200 carries for 900 yards, four touchdowns, 40 catches for 300 yards, two touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

NFC North

Football in the Midwest is a serious, urgent endeavor.

Three quarters of the NFC North -- Chicago, Green Bay and Minnesota -- finished with at least 10 wins last season, the best showing of any division. Two of those teams made the playoffs. Both of those teams left the postseason on a sour note in one-sided losses. Green Bay is again the favorite to finish the season on top in the NFC North. However, all three of the other teams in the division could challenge the Packers if they can settle some pressing issues.

Read More

*Predictions compiled from SB Nation's network of bloggers, are appropriately biased, and are independent of one another


Predicted Record 11-5
Power Ranking 15
Key Facts
Head Coach Marc Trestman
2012 Record 10-6 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions OT Jermon Bushrod, TE Martellus Bennett, G Kyle Long, LB Jonathan Bostic, LB DJ Williams
Key Departures LB Brian Urlacher, LB Nick Roach, OT J'Marcus Webb Team Blog Windy City Gridiron

Marc Trestman made his name as an offensive guru with Steve Young and the 49ers. He should reinvigorate the Bears offense. Considering they already have a tough defense, this is a recipe for some wins. Most pundits are not picking Chicago as a favorite this season, but if the offensive line holds up, the Bears should be playing in January.

Record Prediction 11 - 5

A first year head coach who hasn't been in the NFL since 2004, Jay Cutler’s fourth offensive coordinator in Chicago alone (Ron Turner, Mike Martz, Mike Tice, and now Aaron Kromer/ Marc Trestman), the possibility of two rookies starting on the offensive line ... on paper it could be rough.

The Bears could end up exceeding last year's win total of 10 games, or they could end up around .500. But that defense is going to crush some folks this season, and the offense could surprise.

-- Dane Noble, Windy City Gridiron
Power Ranking
Average 15 | Highest 8 | Lowest 18

The offensive line received a makeover, and not a moment too soon. Jay Cutler probably won’t have to run for his life this season, so the onus will be on Cutler and new head coach Marc Trestman to get things clicking.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Brandon Marshall

Don't worry about Marshall's hip. He's been a full participant for most of training camp and looked just fine in preseason. He is still Jay Cutler's favorite target and looks like a lock for another 100 receptions. Marshall is one of the safest WR1 bets out there.

2013 Prediction 115 catches for 1,500 yards and ten touchdowns
SLEEPER Marquess Wilson

The rookie fell to the seventh round after a messy divorce from Washington State, but he had the talent to be drafted in the early rounds. Wilson has a chance to earn the No. 3 role if Earl Bennett (concussion) isn't ready to play this season. He's a longshot to produce in 2013, but Wilson is worth a roster stash in Dynasty leagues. He has good long-term upside if he keeps his head on straight.

2013 Prediction 20 catches for 340 yards and two touchdowns
BUST Alshon Jeffery

Jeffery has good talent, but he's a dicey pick in fantasy. Matt Forte will be heavily involved in Marc Trestman's new offense, putting Jeffery third on the pecking order for targets. He could struggle to stand out with Brandon Marshall still in the fold.

2013 Prediction 50 catches for 650 yards and four touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 8-8
Power Ranking 17
Key Facts
Head Coach Jim Schwartz
2012 Record 4-12 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions RB Reggie Bush, S Glover Quin, DE Jason Jones, DE Ezekiel Ansah, CB Darius Slay, G Larry Warford
Key Departures K Jason Hanson, OT Jeff Backus, OT Gosder Cherilus, DE Cliff Avril Team Blog Pride of Detroit

A four-win season was not the follow up to a playoff appearance the Lions and their fans wanted to see. Reggie Bush adds a much needed second dimension to the offense that should help Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Defensively, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are an imposing front. If they can sort out all of the personalities, they could be a force.

Record Prediction 8 - 8

The Lions have made improvements on offense, defense and special teams, and quite truthfully, they weren’t as bad as their record suggested last year.

Expect them to play more like the playoff team we saw in 2011, although with a tough schedule awaiting them, a return trip to the postseason seems unlikely.

-- Sean Yuille, Pride of Detroit
Power Ranking
Average 17 | Highest 11 | Lowest 26

There’s no question whether Detroit has the talent to win football games. They’ve shown in the past that they do. However, disciplinary issues derailed the team in 2012, and if things start to go south again in 2013, Jim Schwartz may not see the end of the year as an employed man.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Calvin Johnson

Just about everyone in the league knew that the Lions would be throwing to Johnson, and all he did was break Jerry Rice's receiving yards record. Megatron is the best receiver alive and should continue producing in Detroit's pass-happy offense.

2013 Prediction 100 catches for 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns
SLEEPER Joique Bell

Bell outplayed Mikel Leshoure in camp and should be Reggie Bush's top handcuff. He also had 52 receptions last year, making him an asset in PPR leagues. Bell is worth drafting in the late rounds as a flex fill-in.

2013 Prediction 95 carries for 450 yards and two touchdowns
BUST Nate Burleson

Burleson missed 10 games with a broken leg last year, and his skills are in rapid decline at age 32. He will likely lose the starting job once Ryan Broyles is healthy. Burleson should be off the fantasy radar in all formats.

2013 Prediction 55 catches for 575 yards and four touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

Green Bay

Predicted Record 11-5
Power Ranking 4
Key Facts
Head Coach Mike McCarthy
2012 Record 11-5 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions RB Eddie Lacy, DE Datone Jones, OT David Bakhtiari, CB Micah Hyde, DT Johnny Jolly, QB Seneca Wallace
Key Departures CB Charles Woodson, LB Desmond Bishop, LB D.J. Smith, RB Alex Green, QB Graham Harrell, OT Bryan Bulaga (IR) Team Blog Acme Packing Company

Green Bay has a great quarterback, excellent coach and talent all over the defense. Logic says Dom Capers’ defense will continue to progress, making Green Bay a tougher team to play. The main issue holding the Packers back from a certain NFC North crown is Aaron Rodgers staying healthy after losing his starting left tackle.

Record Prediction 11 - 5

The Packers added playmakers at defensive end and running back in the draft this season, which should help with the perception that the team lacked "toughness." Eddie Lacy appears ready to bring a physical running game back to Green Bay, while Datone Jones and the return of Nick Perry are signs that the pass rush should be improved. The temptation here is to project an improvement upon the team’s 2012 record.

However, there are still a number of question marks that plague this team. Will Nick Perry become an impact player now that he’s back from injury? Will B.J. Raji ever live up to his expectations after the 2010 season? How will the offensive line function with a rookie manning Aaron Rodgers’ blind side and an undrafted second-year man on his right? Eleven wins for a second straight year seems probable with a Packers team that is better balanced than it has been over the past few years.

-- Evan Western, Acme Packing Company
Power Ranking
Average 4 | Highest 2 | Lowest 8

There aren’t a lot of questions surrounding Green Bay. They have the talent to go out and win the Super Bowl, they just need to go out and do it. A productive running game spearheaded by Eddie Lacy will add another dimension to an already deadly offense.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Aaron Rodgers

Bad offensive line? No running game? No problem for Rodgers. There may be no other quarterback in the league better at making the most of his circumstances than Rodgers. He also may have a running game this year if rookie Eddie Lacy lives up to the hype. Rodgers should be one of the first quarterbacks off the board.

2013 Prediction 68 percent completions 4,200 yards, 40 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 200 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns
SLEEPER Jermichael Finley

Finley has burned fantasy owners in the past, and it's understandable if people will just pass on him this year, but he has an extra incentive to produce in a contract year. In one of the thinnest TE classes in years, Finley is a sneaky value at his seventh round average draft position.

2013 Prediction 55 catches for 650 yards and four touchdowns
BUST James Jones

Jones should have a bigger role in the offense with Greg Jennings gone, but he's extremely unlikely to repeat his 14 touchdown performance from last year. He set a career high with 64 catches, but also had a career low with 12.3 yards per catch. Jones will be more useful in PPR than standard leagues.

2013 Prediction 45 catches for 700 yards and eight touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 10-6
Power Ranking 21
Key Facts
Head Coach Leslie Frazier
2012 Record 10-6 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions WR Greg Jennings, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, DT Sharrif Floyd, CB Xavier Rhodes
Key Departures WR Percy Harvin, CB Antoine Winfield, OT Geoff Schwartz, LB Jasper Brinkley Team Blog Daily Norseman

Minnesota has a very good defense with Harrison Smith and Chad Greenway leading the way. Offensively, Adrian Peterson is the best football player on the planet, but quarterback Christian Ponder still has a lot to prove. Better play from Ponder is the Vikings’ best hope for a return trip to the postseason.

Record Prediction 10 - 6

Minnesota is more than capable of double-digit victories. If quarterback Christian Ponder can take the "step forward" that everyone is hoping for from him this year, a division championship -- and possibly more -- certainly isn't out of the question, either.

-- Christopher Gates, The Daily Norseman
Power Ranking
Average 21 | Highest 14 | Lowest 31

Of the six players before Adrian Peterson who rushed for 2,000 yards or more in a single season -- a feat AP accomplished last year -- none of them hit that mark the next season. In fact, only one of those players even topped 1,400 yards. The Vikings receivers will need to make up the difference, and then some, for another shot at 10 wins.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Adrian Peterson

Even if Adrian Peterson had come in shy of 2,000 yards, he still would have been the clear No. 1 running back by a nice margin. If you are picking No. 1 in your league, don't make it difficult on yourself. Sometimes the obvious answer is the best answer.

2013 Prediction 320 carries for 1,600 yards, 10 touchdowns, 150 yards receiving
SLEEPER Greg Jennings

The former Packers wide receiver is sliding in drafts because of injury issues last year, and switching from Aaron Rodgers to Christian Ponder. Pick your analogy, but that is not a good thing. That being said, this is a guy with three 1,000 yard receiving seasons under his belt. He is not a wide receiver to reach for, but grab him if he slides.

2013 Prediction 65 catches for 950 yards and five touchdowns
BUST Kyle Rudolph

His 2012 fantasy value came almost exclusively from his nine touchdowns. Large touchdown numbers are not easily repeatable, and his 56 percent catch rate does not bode well moving forward.

2013 Prediction 60 catches for 600 yards and five touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

NFC South

Will the Saints come marching back?

The NFC South is a microcosm of the NFL itself: parity on a grand scale. Since its establishment in 2002, no team has won the division in back-to-back years. The division has amassed a total of 16 playoff spots, three NFC Championships, and two Super Bowls in a little over 10 years. The Saints are ready to push for a division title after a lost season, but the Atlanta Falcons are still the team to beat in the NFC South. And just how close are Carolina and Tampa Bay to contending?

Read More

*Predictions compiled from SB Nation's network of bloggers, are appropriately biased, and are independent of one another


Predicted Record 10-6
Power Ranking 5
Key Facts
Head Coach Mike Smith
2012 Record 13-3 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions DE Osi Umenyiora, CB Desmond Trufant, RB Steven Jackson, CB Robert Alford, DE Malliciah Goodman
Key Departures DT Vance Walker, OT Tyson Clabo, OT Will Svitek, CB Brent Grimes, DE John Abraham Team Blog The Falcoholic

Atlanta came up one play short of an NFC Championship last season. The Falcons added running back Steven Jackson to the offense and defensive end Osi Umenyiora on defense to replace Michael Turner and John Abraham, respectively. The only question is whether Mike Smith can help get the Falcons over the hump and to a championship.

Record Prediction 10 - 6

The Falcons probably won’t win 13 games again thanks to a tough schedule and the early struggles of a few young pieces on the offensive line and in the secondary.

But by season’s end, they should actually be a better team than last year with the offense adding Steven Jackson and Mike Nolan’s new defense becoming a turnover-causing machine. It’s fairly safe to predict a playoff berth and another deep run.

-- Dave Choate, The Falcoholic
Power Ranking
Average 5 | Highest 1 | Lowest 7

Atlanta has the big pieces in place to make a Super Bowl run, it’s just about fine tuning at this point. It looks like they’ve done just that by upgrading several positions and giving Matt Ryan a huge contract extension. The Falcons look primed to win right now, which is why we picked them to win the NFC and go to the Super Bowl.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Julio Jones

Jones is only getting better in his third season. He’s been a standout in camp, and he’s the best weapon for Matt Ryan. Another year in Dirk Koetter’s vertical passing game means better numbers for Jones.

2013 Prediction 85 catches for 1,250 yards and 10 touchdowns
SLEEPER Jacquizz Rodgers

While Rodgers will back up Jackson, he still sees action in passing situations and occasional relief work. He’s shifty enough to make something happen on every touch. And with Steven Jackson getting up there in age, there is a chance Rodgers could see even more playing time.

2013 Prediction 110 carries for 400 yards and two touchdowns, 60 catches for 450 yards and two touchdowns
BUST Steven Jackson

Jackson still looks like he can rush for 1,000 yards, but his offensive line isn’t doing him any favors. The Falcons have issues up front. They see a lot of goal line looks. Can Jackson find room in the trenches?

2013 Prediction 220 carries for 880 yards and five touchdowns, 40 catches for 350 yards and one touchdown
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 9-7
Power Ranking 18
Key Facts
Head Coach Ron Rivera
2012 Record 7-9 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions DT Star Lotulelei, DT Kawann Short, S Quintin Mikell, G Travelle Wharton, WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Key Departures RB Jonathan Stewart (PUP), OT Bruce Campbell (IR), CB Chris Gamble, C Geoff Hangartner Team Blog Cat Scratch Reader

Ron Rivera needs to make a move this season with Carolina, or he may be looking elsewhere for employment. Luke Kuechly is an incredible talent to anchor the defense, and with players like Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson, Rivera could have a tough unit. If Cam Newton steps up in his third season, the Panthers could surprise in the South.

Record Prediction 9 - 7

The Carolina Panthers will probably finish a shade over .500, missing the playoffs, and it's a shame. Cam Newton, Steve Smith and Greg Olsen form an offensive nucleus that allows the team to stretch the field, but the lack of a reliable offensive line will be the Panthers' downfall.

If Newton doesn't have time to throw there's a good chance this team could be a lot worse. However, the team's defense led by a front featuring Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Star Lotulelei will be able to get enough pressure to give teams headaches.

-- James Dator, Cat Scratch Reader
Power Ranking
Average 18 | Highest 8 | Lowest 25

They have major building blocks on both offense and defense, but Carolina needs to start filling in the gaps. Cam Newton can come close to doing everything, but he needs help from his skill position players for this offense to really start to hum.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Cam Newton

Newton and the Panthers offense struggled in preseason play, but his upside is unquestionable. If his receivers help him out, Newton’s arm will avoid another regression.

2013 Prediction 330-of-550, 60 percent completions 4,200 yards, 25 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 700 rushing yards, nine touchdowns
SLEEPER Domenik Hixon

Hixon filled in nicely at times for the Giants. Steve Smith is the clear No. 1 target in Carolina, but Hixon can play his way up the depth chart for more targets.

2013 Prediction 70 catches for 1,000 yards and five touchdowns
BUST Brandon LaFell

Last year, LaFell was considered a sleeper. He just doesn’t do enough to warrant more than WR4 value. He’ll likely exceed 44 receptions this time around, but it won’t be by much.

2013 Prediction 35 catches for 500 yards and one touchdown
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

New Orleans

Predicted Record 12-4
Power Ranking 10
Key Facts
Head Coach Sean Payton
2012 Record 7-9 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions CB Keenan Lewis, TE Benjamin Watson, S Kenny Vaccaro, WR Kenny Stills
Key Departures OT Jermon Bushrod, DT Sedrick Ellis, RB Chris Ivory, QB Chase Daniel Team Blog Canal Street Chronicles

It’s the same story in the Big Easy. The offense is going to move the ball consistently and the defense remains unproven. To improve the latter, New Orleans has brought in D-coordinator Rob Ryan. Unfortunately, injuries have left his unit thin as the defense transitions to a 3-4. A playoff berth depends on Drew Brees throwing for 5,000 yards.

Record Prediction 12 - 4

The defense is going to be better, and the offense is always good. The Saints have improved wildly on both sides of the ball this offseason.

The Saints open the season against the Falcons, a heated rivalry game that will serve as a measuring stick for a New Orleans team coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign.

-- David Cariello, Canal Street Chronicles
Power Ranking
Average 10 | Highest 6 | Lowest 4

New Orleans couldn’t claw their way out of a 0-4 start last year, even with Drew Brees being his usual productive self. Some of the same issues remain for the Saints, but at least they have Sean Payton back on the sideline this year.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Jimmy Graham

Graham dealt with a wrist injury in 2012 and still finished with 85 receptions and nine touchdowns. He’s healthy now, and with Sean Payton back, expect the Saints offense to score often. Graham bounces back well in 2013.

2013 Prediction 90 catches for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns
SLEEPER Kenny Stills

Stills' impressive preseason has him at No. 3 on the wideout depth chart. There might not be enough targets to make him valuable now, but one injury could shoot him up the rankings.

2013 Prediction 34 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns
BUST Lance Moore

Moore caught over 1,000 yards in 2012 for the first time in his career. Robert Meachem’s departure played a factor in that number, but Moore is overvalued after that performance. Brees will focus on Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Darren Sproles first.

2013 Prediction 70 catches for 900 yards and eight touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

Tampa Bay

Predicted Record 8-8
Power Ranking 24
Key Facts
Head Coach Greg Schiano
2012 Record 7-9 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions CB Darrelle Revis, S Dashon Goldson, CB Johnthan Banks, WR Kevin Ogletree, DT Akeem Spence
Key Departures CB Ronde Barber, DE Michael Bennett, TE Dallas Clark, DT Roy Miller Team Blog Bucs Nation

Josh Freeman is the quintessential Jekyll and Hyde player, but the defense should be retooled and more effective with Revis Island relocated to Florida. Greg Schiano is a motivator, but unless he can get Freeman to play to his enormous potential, the Buccaneers may be an afterthought come Christmas.

Record Prediction 8 - 8

After fielding arguably the worst pass defense in the NFL, the Buccaneers went on a defensive spending spree this offseason, trading for Darrelle Revis and signing Dashon Goldson.

The NFL revolves around quarterbacks, however, and Josh Freeman's inconsistencies combined with a tough schedule and tougher division will conspire to keep the Bucs out of the playoffs once again.

-- Sander Philipse, Bucs Nation
Power Ranking
Average 24 | Highest 13 | Lowest 27

Until crashing a kneel-down formation starts paying off, Greg Schiano is going to have to push for improvements elsewhere along the roster. Lost in the talk of Tampa Bay’s upgrades this spring was the loss of sack master Michael Bennett.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Doug Martin

Martin's offensive line is back to full strength (assuming Carl Nicks can come back soon from MRSA), and he doesn’t have anyone threatening his workload. He should continue to provide top fantasy points among running backs.

2013 Prediction 340 carries for 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns, 50 catches for 500 yards and two touchdowns
SLEEPER Mike Glennon

If you’re looking for a deep, deep sleeper, Glennon could be your guy. The Buccaneers haven’t committed to re-signing Josh Freeman, which could lead to a changing of the guard if he plays poorly. Glennon is next in line.

2013 Prediction Spends the season on the bench
BUST Mike Williams

Williams has caught 65, 65 and 63 passes in his first three seasons. The receptions will be the same. Can he sustain the touchdowns? Another boom-or-bust receiver, Freeman’s inconsistent play hurts his value.

2013 Prediction 65 catches for 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

NFC East


RGIII carried Washington to a division title last season. He's primed to do it again, but anything can happen in a wide open NFC East. Players like DeMarcus Ware, LeSean McCoy, Robert Griffin III and Jason Pierre-Paul may be among the league's elite at their respective positions, but no team in the NFC East packs the kind of top-to-bottom talent to truly stand toe-to-toe with teams like Seattle and San Francisco. There's reason for optimism across the division, though, because every team looks to be executing on a solid plan while assembling talent that can fit on a Super Bowl contender.

Read More

*Predictions compiled from SB Nation's network of bloggers, are appropriately biased, and are independent of one another


Predicted Record 10-6
Power Ranking 16
Key Facts
Head Coach Jason Garrett
2012 Record 8-8 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions C Travis Frederick, LB Justin Durant, S Will Allen
Key Departures RB Felix Jones, DE Marcus Spears, CB Mike Jenkins, LB Victor Butler Team Blog Blogging The Boys

"America’s Team" has big expectations every year. It’s meeting those expectations that’s been the biggest problem in the Jason Garrett era. This year, Bill Callahan will run the offense. Monte Kiffin is remaking the defense, but it’s been a long time since he's had much success. Will there be more changes in Dallas after this season?

Record Prediction 10 - 6

Dallas had one very big issue coming into the offseason: the offensive line. The Cowboys made a few personnel changes along the line and so far in training camp and in preseason games that unit looks markedly improved. On defense the change to a 4-3 Tampa-2 defense is also working well, already producing turnovers in the preseason, which is something Dallas’ defense was very poor at doing last year.

Linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are poised to excel in this scheme. The Cowboys offense has an array of weapons at the skill positions, with Dez Bryant ready for a huge year. If the offensive line produces and the team can stay away from crippling injuries that doomed their defense last year, Dallas should have a very good year.

-- Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys
Power Ranking
Average 16 | Highest 10 | Lowest 22

Is this the year that Tony Romo finally gets fans and the media off his back? Dallas will have to do better than 8-8 for that to happen.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Dez Bryant

Bryant’s off-field issues are currently on the backburner. He took over in the second half of last season, and every writer has raved about his work in training camp and preseason. Expect huge numbers.

2013 Prediction 100 catches for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns
SLEEPER DeMarco Murray

Murray looks poised for a breakout year. So many fantasy owners are down on Murray, he’s a value pick in most drafts now. If he can somehow manage to stay healthy, which has been a frequent issue, he’ll explode.

2013 Prediction 230 carries for 1,100 yards, seven touchdowns 30 catches for 200 yards
BUST Miles Austin

There’s nothing exciting about Austin’s 2013 outlook. He played in all 16 games last year, but those troublesome hamstrings could flare up at any time. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are preferred targets for Tony Romo.

2013 Prediction 60 catches for 900 yards and four touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

New York

Predicted Record 10-6
Power Ranking 12
Key Facts
Head Coach Tom Coughlin
2012 Record 9-7 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions DT Cullen Jenkins, DT Mike Patterson, LB Dan Connor, TE Brandon Myers, OT Justin Pugh
Key Departures RB Ahmad Bradshaw, DE Chris Canty, LB Chase Blackburn, TE Martellus Bennett, RB Andre Brown (short term IR) Team Blog Big Blue View

The Giants have a default setting of 9-7. One year it was good enough for the Super Bowl; the next year it was the mark of a championship hangover. More than anything the defense needs a rebound year from its pass rushers to overcome a suspect secondary and linebacking trio.

Record Prediction 10 - 6

The Giants seem to be forever stuck somewhere between eight and 10 wins per season. The defense looks improved from last season when it was 31st in the league, especially if Jason Pierre-Paul (back surgery) is healthy.

Eli Manning has a host of receiving options, and an explosive running back in David Wilson. The Giants are driven by the desire to be the first team to win the Super Bowl in their home stadium. They may fall short of that goal, but they should make the playoffs.

-- Ed Valentine, Big Blue View
Power Ranking
Average 12 | Highest 7 | Lowest 17

They may have a championship pedigree, but the Giants have questions that need to be answered before they seriously contend for another title.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Victor Cruz

Cruz wasn’t as explosive as his 2011 form, but he caught 10 touchdowns and 86 catches last year. He’s a model of consistency with Eli Manning under center.

2013 Prediction 90 catches for 1,350 yards and twelve touchdowns
SLEEPER Rueben Randle

Victor Cruz suffered a preseason injury. Hakeem Nicks is constantly hurt. There’s going to be a chance for Randle to step up at some point.

2013 Prediction 40 catches for 600 yards and five touchdowns
BUST Brandon Myers

Everyone raved about Martellus Bennett’s potential last season. Are we going to make the same mistake with Myers? He’s a talented tight end, but he’ll be a middle-of-the-road option in the Giants offense.

2013 Prediction 60 catches for 650 yards and five touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 7-9
Power Ranking 22
Key Facts
Head Coach Chip Kelly
2012 Record 4-12 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions OT Lane Johnson, TE Zach Ertz, DT Bennie Logan, DT Isaac Sopoaga, LB Connor Barwin, CB Bradley Fletcher, S Patrick Chung, CB Cary Williams
Key Departures WR Jeremy Maclin (IR), WR Arrelious Benn (IR), DT Cullen Jenkins, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Team Blog Bleeding Green Nation

Who is Chip Kelly and what will he do to professional football? Kelly inherited a talented offense that should thrive in his fast-paced approach. The Eagles will have to be good on that side of the ball to overcome a depleted defense.

Record Prediction 7 - 9

The Eagles are going to score a lot of points no matter who their QB is. Throughout the preseason the Eagles were in the top six in rushing yards, passing yards and total yards, despite running a rather vanilla version of Chip Kelly’s offense, which will most certainly look a lot like the one he ran at Oregon. The Eagles are loaded at RB, they have a nice compliment of WRs and TEs, and their OL has the potential to be special, as long as they stay healthy.

Conversely, they’re going to give up a lot of points. The weak link of the defense appears to be the secondary. The CBs might be OK, but "OK" is probably their ceiling, while their safeties continue to be a position of weakness since they lost Brian Dawkins to Denver almost five years ago. Expect a fun team to watch, but one that should view eight wins as a success.

-- Jimmy Kempski, Bleeding Green Nation
Power Ranking
Average 22 | Highest 14 | Lowest 28

At the very least, the Eagles will be fun to watch this season. Give Chip Kelly another year, and this team should be right back in the mix for a division title.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD LeSean McCoy

Shady is the best player Chip Kelly has to work with. McCoy has a coach who actually likes to run the ball, a lot. He will likely surpass his career-high in carries.

2013 Prediction 280 carries for 1,400 yards, 10 touchdowns, 60 catches for 500 yards, three touchdowns

One of the most volatile players in recent years, Vick played well throughout preseason and convinced Chip Kelly to keep him in the starting role. Vick’s ADP puts him in the 100s, which is huge value if he continues to thrive in the new offense.

2013 Prediction 240-of-400, 60 percent completions for 3,000 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 90 carries for 675 yards, three touchdowns
BUST DeSean Jackson

Jackson’s value is up as the only receiving threat in the Eagles offense. However, fantasy owners seem to be overvaluing him after Jeremy Maclin’s injury. Jackson hasn’t topped 60 receptions since 2009.

2013 Prediction 60 catches for 1,000 yards and five touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, one punt return touchdown
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 11-5
Power Ranking 11
Key Facts
Head Coach Mike Shanahan
2012 Record 10-6 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions S Bacarri Rambo, TE Jordan Reed, CB David Amerson
Key Departures LB Lorenzo Alexander
Team Blog Hogs Haven

RGIII is healthy and ready to start in Week 1. The question now is whether or not he can start 16 games. If he does, Washington has a good shot at repeating as division champs. On the defensive side, the team welcomes back stud end Brian Orakpo to compliment Ryan Kerrigan.

Record Prediction 11 - 5

Continuity is king if teams want to field a consistently successful team, and with 23 of 24 starters returning, all the tools for a return trip to the playoffs are there for Washington. RGIII is healthy and Kirk Cousins has proven to be a solid backup.

So long as Trent Williams and Barry Cofield stay healthy, the team goal of winning the Super Bowl carries water. Fred Davis and Brian Orakpo are welcome additions back into the lineup after being out for the majority of 2012.

-- Kevin Ewoldt, Hogs Haven
Power Ranking
Average 11 | Highest 5 | Lowest 16

We’re predicting an MVP year from RGIII in 2013. But it will take more than that for Washington to achieve Mike Shanahan’s goal of a Super Bowl win.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Alfred Morris

Alf will top 300 carries again. Mike Shanahan’s offense is notorious for producing in the ground game, and this year will be no different.

2013 Prediction 320 carries for 1,500 yards, 10 touchdowns, 50 receiving yards
SLEEPER Leonard Hankerson

Pierre Garcon looks healthy, but if his toe injury flares up again, Hankerson could step in to have a huge impact. He has all the physical tools to make an impact. He just needs to find consistency.

2013 Prediction 40 catches for 550 yards, two touchdowns
BUST Fred Davis

Davis didn’t catch a single touchdown in the seven games he played last season. Fantasy owners are getting excited about his sleeper potential again, but he’ll probably finish with right around 50 receptions. Nothing special.

2013 Prediction 50 catches for 600 yards, two touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

NFC West

Laughing stock no more

Last season the NFC West boasted a pair of playoff teams and the NFC Champs. The 49ers are fresh off a Super Bowl appearance and are one of the favorites to win the Lombardi Trophy this season. Seattle is neck-and-neck with the 49ers according to oddsmakers. The Rams have the potential to surprise, and the Cardinals are getting better.

Read More

*Predictions compiled from SB Nation's network of bloggers, are appropriately biased, and are independent of one another


Predicted Record 9-7
Power Ranking 27
Key Facts
Head Coach Bruce Arians
2012 Record 5-11 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions QB Carson Palmer, RB Rashard Mendenhall, OT Eric Winston, S Yeremiah Bell, LB Karlos Dansby, CB Jerraud Powers, DE John Abraham, LB Jasper Brinkley, LB Lorenzo Alexander
Key Departures S Adrian Wilson, S Kerry Rhodes, QB Kevin Kolb, LB O'Brien Schofield, G Adam Snyder, CB William Gay, RB Beanie Wells, LB Paris Lenon, CB Greg Toler, LB Daryl Washington (4-game suspension), G Jonathan Cooper (IR) Team Blog Revenge of the Birds

New head coach Bruce Arians comes to the Cardinals after a season with the Colts and is seen by many as one of the best coaching hires of the offseason. His vertical offense will be a welcome sight, and with Carson Palmer replacing Kevin Kolb at quarterback, the Arizona passing attack should improve. The defense is undervalued and should make life tough on opponents, but breaking .500 will be hard in this division.

Record Prediction 9 - 7

The Cardinals have a new coach, new GM and half of the roster has been turned over. They added an established quarterback in Carson Palmer to run Bruce Arians’ offense, which is designed to get big chunks of yardage.

The defense returns its core of young stars. Despite a tough division and a tough schedule, the talent is there to contend in the NFC West. However, with the Seahawks and the 49ers, nine wins won’t be enough to get to the postseason. But it is enough to give fans something to build on.

-- Jess Root, Revenge of the Birds
Power Ranking
Average 27 | Highest 30 | Lowest 20

A new coach and a new quarterback are getting all the attention. Don’t overlook Arizona’s defense. That group led the Cardinals to a 5-0 start last season.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Larry Fitzgerald

Fitz will be the biggest benefactor of Palmer's edition. He's still an elite receiver who just turned 30, and should easily vault back into WR1 status with a real quarterback throwing to him. Expect a bounce-back season.

2013 Prediction 90 catches for 1,300 yards, seven touchdowns
SLEEPER Michael Floyd

The Cardinals finally have a real quarterback in Carson Palmer, and a coach who loves to throw it down the field in Bruce Arians. Floyd has real breakout potential as a WR3.

2013 Prediction 60 catches for 800 yards, four touchdowns
BUST Ryan Williams

Williams barely made the roster after struggling with injuries in training camp again. He's stuck behind Rashard Mendenhall and has to compete with Stepfan Taylor, Andre Ellington and Alphonso Smith for snaps. On top of that, the Cardinals offensive line is still a complete mess. Avoid him at all costs.

2013 Prediction 8 games, 80 carries for 280 yards, two touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

San Francisco

Predicted Record 13-3
Power Ranking 1
Key Facts
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
2012 Record 11-4-1 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions WR Anquan Boldin, S Eric Reid, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, K Phil Dawson, DT Glenn Dorsey
Key Departures S Dashon Goldson, TE Delanie Walker, QB Alex Smith, DE Ricky Jean-Francois, DT Isaac Sopoaga, Michael Crabtree (short term IR) Team Blog Niners Nation

Jim Harbaugh has built a tough, talented team in his two years with San Francisco. Armed with Colin Kaepernick from Week 1, the 49ers are a deserving favorite for a Super Bowl run this season. Their biggest issue may be at wide receiver, where San Fran is hurting without both Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Is Anquan Boldin and an other-wordly running game enough to fill the void?

Record Prediction 13 - 3

The 49ers biggest question marks this offseason were wide receiver and cornerback, and a few key additions may very well have provided the Super Bowl runners-up with some answers.

If the 49ers can get consistency from those two units, the sky really is the limit for this team.

-- David Fucillo, Niners Nation
Power Ranking
Average 1 | Highest 1 | Lowest 5

We spent the last month talking about what San Francisco doesn’t have, and taking for granted what it does have, which is a defense loaded with some of the game’s best players. Put it all together, and the 49ers at the top of the power rankings to start the season is a no-brainer.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Colin Kaepernick

The quarterback took the league by storm in 2012 with his dynamic run/pass combination. Defenses will adjust, but with a smart coaching staff behind him, Kap has the physical tools to climb into rarified fantasy QB air.

2013 Prediction 320-of-500, 64 percent completions for 3,500 yards, 24 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 900 rushing yards, eight touchdowns
SLEEPER Kendall Hunter

Hunter will spell Gore frequently to keep the 49ers bell cow back healthy. That creates decent bye week value. His real sleeper value is in the fact that Gore gets nicked up here and there, and could start to fall by the wayside. Hunter is first man up if that happens.

2013 Prediction 120 carries for 540 yards and four touchdowns
BUST Frank Gore

While Gore has generally avoided the catastrophic injuries he suffered at The U, he gets continually dinged up in ways that seem to slow him down a little here and there. He turned 30 this offseason. Is this the year the wheels fall off?

2013 Prediction 200 carries for 950 yards and seven touchdowns, 25 catches for 200 yards and one touchdown
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images


Predicted Record 11-5
Power Ranking 2
Key Facts
Head Coach Pete Carroll
2012 Record 11-5 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions WR Percy Harvin, DE Cliff Avril, DE Michael Bennett, RB Christine Michael, TE Luke Willson, QB Tarvaris Jackson
Key Departures LB Bruce Irvin (4-game suspension), QB Matt Flynn Team Blog Field Gulls

You have to look hard to find any weaknesses on this roster, and whatever you find would still be nitpicking. Expectations are high for Russell Wilson in year two, even without Percy Harvin for the first part of the season. With a defense loaded with Pro Bowlers, the Seahawks are another easy pick for a deep run into the playoffs.

Record Prediction 11 - 5

The Seahawks are a talented team and would normally have the capability and talent to go 13-3 or possibly even 14-2, but they have a very difficult schedule and play in the league's toughest division.

There are going to be some close match-ups, injuries will happen, they'll lose games they shouldn't, and will likely regress in some areas, but ultimately 11-5 is a safe bet for a team that will likely return to the playoffs.

-- Dan Kelly, Field Gulls
Power Ranking
Average 2 | Highest 1 | Lowest 8

The only question the Seahawks have to answer is whether or not they can beat the 49ers for a division title this year. Circle Week 2 and Week 14 on your calendar, when those two teams play, and don’t be surprised if they meet again in the NFC Championship.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Marshawn Lynch

Lynch has scored double digit touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, and he averaged 5.0 yards per carry in 2012. Seattle’s offensive line might not have the most talent in the league, but the starters and young and capable of creating huge lanes for Lynch with zone blocking. Beast Mode is in for another big year.

2013 Prediction 300 carries for 1,500 yards, 14 touchdowns, 150 receiving yards
SLEEPER Golden Tate

It’s a contract year (whether you buy into that upside or not) for the 25-year-old. Tate has been a training camp standout, and several Seahawks writers are pegging him as a breakout candidate. His stock continues to rise as Russell Wilson’s best target in the passing game.

2013 Prediction 50 catches for 750 yards and six touchdowns, 50 yards rushing
BUST Sidney Rice

An injury-prone wideout, Rice finally played 16 games last season for the first time since 2009. He didn’t play the entire preseason, though, and while it was precautionary, it’s worrisome he’ll revert to his old ways. Even when healthy, Rice’s fantasy ceiling isn’t high.

2013 Prediction 65 catches for 950 yards and nine touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

St. Louis

Predicted Record 8-8
Power Ranking 19
Key Facts
Head Coach Jeff Fisher
2012 Record 7-8-1 | 2013 Schedule
Key Additions OT Jake Long, TE Jared Cook, WR Tavon Austin, LB Alec Ogletree
Key Departures RB Steven Jackson, WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandon Gibson Team Blog Turf Show Times

The only knock against St. Louis is the division it resides in. The Rams snagged the premier playmaker in the draft, Tavon Austin. Chris Long leads a defense that tied for the league best sack mark last season. Unfortunately, they have to contend with the Seahawks and 49ers who are simply better right now.

Record Prediction 8 - 8

From here, .500 feels like a disappointment. The Rams receivers have less than 1,400 career receiving yards between them. Their running backs have amassed a grand total of 529 career rushing yards. Only four teams since 1990 have fielded a group with so little experience at both positions, and none of those teams had as little as the Rams. Another thing to note about those four teams, according to Football Outsiders, all of them had a losing record that year. The Rams defense will be fine, even with question marks at safety. Where St. Louis needs to improve most is on offense.

They haven’t averaged more than 19 points per game since 2006. Nevertheless, the Rams offense should improve this year. Jared Cook and Chris Givens are playing like legitimate receiving threats and have already formed a psychic connection with Sam Bradford, who has a real left tackle for the first time in his career. Jeff Fisher’s team still has a year to go before it can stand on equal footing with the 49ers and the Seahawks in a tough NFC West.

-- Ryan Van Bibber, Turf Show Times
Power Ranking
Average 19 | Highest 12 | Lowest 29

No more excuses for Sam Bradford. The Rams have finally given him some talent to work with, and they’ll need to see something better than 2012’s 18 points per game if St. Louis is ever going to get back above .500.

Key Fantasy Players
STUD Sam Bradford

Bradford has been a middling fantasy option up to this point, but the Rams spent the offseason upgrading his offensive line and receivers. It's now up to him to prove he can take the next step in his fourth NFL season. Bradford may not be an elite fantasy player, but he has a chance to become a low-end QB1 you can be secure starting every week.

2013 Prediction 61 percent completions for 3,800 yards, 23 touchdowns, 14 interceptions
SLEEPER Benny Cunningham

Cunningham won't get many touches in his rookie year, but Dynasty players should keep an eye on the UDFA. He's currently sitting above Zac Stacy on the depth chart and has some intriguing long-term potential. Someone to watch if Daryl Richardson goes down.

2013 Prediction 45 carries for 200 yards
BUST Isaiah Pead

Pead had another inconsistent preseason and will start the regular season on a two-game suspension. He remains someone worth monitoring in Dynasty, but there is very little fantasy value here, even as a handcuff to Richardson.

2013 Prediction 90 carries for 350 yards, four touchdowns
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images

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