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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

#NFL 2013 Season Preview - The Postman's #SuperBowlXLVIII Picks

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE 
2013 SEASON PREVIEW
- AFC and NFC Team Predictions plus SuperBowl XLVIII Picks below -
By The Postman, September 3 2013

Let me be up front right from the start: these NFL Predcitions are 'gut' picks... there's no way I've been able to devote the time that I do for the NRL coverage you read here on www.wdnicolson.com but last year I tipped the NFL like a genius... somehow.

Yes I watch some games week to week and see most of the Highlights but I don't study it like I do the NRL... yet I tip a whole lot better, well at least last year I did.

WEEK ONE NFL PICKS

Using Yahoo! Sports Pro Football Pick'em I managed to finish in the 98th percentile (so Top 2%) of tipsters across the world... completely surprising myself by using the rule of thumb I (for some reason) refuse to back entirely in my NRL Tipping (that is pick favourites and then pick favourites and then, and only then... pick favourites and maybe one or two gut picks - which doesn't hurt you as much with up to 16 NFL games a week v 8 NRL games).

So I might be bang on with a few teams or no where near any of them... but still, it might be worth measuring your view with mine - after all that is all Previews/Predictions are - a chance to see how someone else sees what you see and then completely ignore how they see it.

Teams are ranked in order of projected finish but please note - graphics with team records are NOT mathematically sound, ie this is about what we think that team will finish near record wise, we have not gone through every game to get an even split on the WINS/LOSSES across the 32 teams - so there are actually more losses than wins if you tally up all the 'predicted' records. Basically we've gone a bit conservative on the really good teams so instead of 13-3 they might be 11-5 - still atop their division but 13-3 seasons are tough to say 'that's gonna happen' at the best of times.

You can join the Pro Football Pick'em League I'm in here which is a 'SPREAD' competition (Tony Kornheiser's Radio Show Group - so if you join best you are somewhat familiar with who TK is and possibly his radio show or PTI). | Group ID#: 35104 | Password: andy | Or just join the regular Pick'em Overall league.
I'll be tweeting my NFL picks every week via @wdnicolson

So below are our best guesstimates...
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
AFC EAST 
New England Patriots - Tom Brady stays healthy = Playoffs. As for a SuperBowl appearance... maybe beyond the defence, not Brady even without a few old favourites to throw to.
Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill is only in his 2nd year so easy on the expectations but they'll need to beat the Bills in their two games to be the 2nd best team in the division.
Buffalo Bills - Like the new kid at QB and EJ Manuel's offensive weapons but Mario Williams may want to show up this season at Ralph Wilson Stadium to collect his pay-cheque.
New York Jets - Awful... Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith = doesn't matter. This team stinks (even with a defence that doesn't)... Rex Ryan may not last the season if they aren't anywhere near .500 by the halfway mark.
AFC NORTH
Baltimore Ravens - Defending champions and Joe Flacco got PAYED. But Ray Lewis retired, Ed Reed went to the Texans and a number of other starters won't return (moved on or injured)... so can they defend their title? Of course they can, they won it last year so give them that respect that earned.
Cincinnati Bengals - Having watched them on Hard Knocks this pre-season - they automatically become mine and everyone else's 'next big tip' as a team to get to the SuperBowl... it'll come down to how good Andy Dalton is at getting the ball to his array of talented offensive players.
Pittsburgh Steelers - Perennial contender but this will be Ben Roethlisberger's finest season since his last SuperBowl run if they make playoffs. He's that influential that he could get them in as a wildcard even if the AFC North already has two teams qualified.
Cleveland Browns - Can't rate them unless one of the other three teams in the AFC North take a huge step back this year... but stranger things have happened in the NFL. And teams can surprise no matter the quality of their division in previous season.
AFC SOUTH 
Houston Texans - Is Matt Schaub an elite QB? Didn't show he was in the playoffs last year and no amount of Arian Foster or JJ Watt can overcome their QB's lack of big play ability... sadly, because they have some fantastic pieces in place for a SuperBowl run.
Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck can play and they made the playoffs in his rookie year... but repeating the dose might be tough unless they beat the Texans for the AFC South title.
Tennessee Titans - Jake Locker is better than Blaine Gabbert... well maybe. They could end up with 5 or 6 wins again but they don't look like a major threat to the Texans or Colts.
Jacksonville Jaguars - Yikes... they've got MJD and... gulp, Blaine Gabbert. Yikes... a win or three might brighten things up but this looks like a team that can't win regularly.
AFC WEST 

Denver Broncos - Peyton Manning is a winner... whether or not he's going to end up a multiple SuperBowl winner is another matter. If they start the season strong down Von Miller - their weak division means they should get a bye in the first week of the playoffs. Then... over to you Peyton.
San Diego Chargers - Read somewhere that somehow Philip Rivers is playing his 10th season... it seems much longer ago that the Chargers were the sexy SuperBowl pick... yet it was only 2009 that they last played playoff football and Rivers was considered a top flight QB. Can't see them beating the Broncos in the AFC West and if they can't do that I don't believe they'll be a wildcard team.
Kansas City Chiefs - Andy Reid and Alex Smith are nice shiny new pieces but how good can Smith be? He's got some options to throw to and hand off to... but I'm not a fan. The defence might rise with Reid offering a new voice at the top but I don't buy the playoff talk.
Oakland Raiders - Got a soft spot for the Raiders but they look to be very ordinary... again. Here's hoping for more than last year's 4 wins... but that might be pushing it. How good is Terrelle Pryor really? I mean he's only beating out Matt Flynn at QB for crying out loud...
= AFC PICKS = 
Divisional Winners
AFC EAST: New England PATRIOTS
AFC NORTH: Cincinnati BENGALS
AFC SOUTH: Houston TEXANS
AFC WEST: Denver BRONCOS
WildCards: Baltimore RAVENS Pittsburgh STEELERS
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
NFC EAST
New York Giants - They should win the NFC East if Eli Manning's receiving corps stays healthy... I'll take a great passer over the RG3 love affair down the road to win the division please. Are they good enough on defence to stop anyone in the playoffs? I'm not sure but Eli will get them there. 
Washington Redskins - Does everything revolve around how well RG3's knee has healed? You betcha. He's good, no doubts there, but is he that good? If his knee is fine we may find out how good he really is but if it isn't 100% (big ask) then the Redskins might just miss out on a wildcard spot.
Dallas Cowboys - Dallas is my team... they won when I was young and impressionable and they won a lot. Pity that's not the case anymore... they've got one win in a playoff game since 1996. I'd like to think Tony Romo and his offensive weapons can get the Cowboys to a 9-7 record and maybe a sniff at a wildcard spot but I reckon they'll fall a game short. Prove me pessimist Cowboys.
Philadelphia Eagles - Chip Kelly is an offensive genius huh? Good luck with that... Michael Vick was once a game changer but an offensive powerhouse with him at QB? Not so sure about that... Not sure they will push their way into the playoff picture this year.
NFC NORTH 
Green Bay Packers - Aaron Rodgers makes his team click... defensively they still have a question mark or three but Rodgers is so good that as long as that arm holds up - Green Bay will score some points. But they've failed to return to the SuperBowl in the last two seasons after winning the whole box and dice in 2010... over to Mr Rodgers to be even bigger come playoff time.
Detroit Lions - Calvin Johnson is a genius and Matthew Stafford will throw it to 'Megatron' as long as his wide receiving machine is healthy but if the Lions want to make the Packers look nervously over their shoulders they need the Suh/Fairley combo on defence to give opposing QBs nightmares when they play them. Could be a wildcard team.
Minnesota Vikings - Adrian Peterson is THAT good but Christian Ponder... well not so good. He doesn't stink but he's got to be a game changer when Peterson isn't making headway... this is going to be a keenly fought division so they simply have to win early to be a chance.
Chicago Bears - I've seen some NFL writers put the Bears down as a team on the rise but I just can't see it. I don't rate Jake Cutler and I've got no idea what to expect from their new CFL coach... I could be way off with the Bears but right now - it's NFC North basement for me.
NFC SOUTH
Atlanta Falcons - Had their breakthrough playoff win over Seattle last year but then blew a 24-14 lead over the 49ers at halftime in the NFC Championship Game... how do you recover from that? Matt Ryan and his plethora of receiving threats need to step it up a notch and I think they can... all the way to the SuperBowl this year.
New Orleans Saints - Drew Breeeeeeeeeeees.... can play. Sean Payton... evidently can coach because the Saints fell apart without their SuperBowl winning coach on the sidelines last year. They'll score some points and score some more... but how their defence is able to play when Brees can't throw 3+ TDs a game will determine their SuperBowl chances... If they win the NFC South I think they can make the SuperBowl.
Carolina Panthers - Watched them beat the Ravens in the pre-season and even that didn't excite me... Cam Newton - not sold on him being a match winner when his team needs him to be, rather a guy who can run with momentum every other game and get the Panthers to 6-7 wins. Can't see them being better than the Falcons or Saints but they might be a touch better than the Bucs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - When NFL writers are prognosticating that a 3rd round pick is pressuring the incumbent QB who got his team to a 10-6 record just 3 seasons ago.. you know the team is not completely sold on Josh Freeman. The kid is however sold on his own ability so if he's really that good - time to prove it in a division that will eat him alive if he's not... any good.
NFC WEST 
San Francisco 49ers - Quality with a capital Q. Sure they got nervous in the SuperBowl and incredibly went pass happy on the goal-line with the game there to be won against Baltimore but they got there by winning big games and backed themselves... will they make the same mistake again? Not in the regular season where I expect them to see off Seattle for the NFC West title and vie with the Falcons for the NFC top seed. Plus Kaepernick is my Fantasy QB where only TDs counts so they've gotta be good!
Seattle Seahawks - There's been a common whisper amongst NFL writers that the Seahawks may have peaked last year and that was their chance at a SuperBowl run... I'm not about to write them off but it will be hard for QB Russell Wilson to backup his late season surge facing a full 16 game schedule with pressure coming from every corner of the field to shut him down. That defence better be as good as it was last year otherwise the Rams might push them...
St. Louis Rams - Really like some of the pieces coach Jeff Fisher has put in place on both sides of the ball - but their playoff chances come down to Sam Bradford being better than the best he's shown in 3 season in the NFL. He fires and the Rams can worry the two favourites in the NFC West... but I didn't say they will.
Arizona Cardinals - Carson Palmer better learn that getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald as often as possible is the Cardinals only avenue to success this season... their defence will play well but how Palmer runs this offence decides just how far back they are in the NFC West come the end of the season.
= NFC PICKS =
Divisional Winners
~ NFC EAST: New York GIANTS
~ NFC NORTH: Green Bay PACKERS
~ NFC SOUTH: Atlanta FALCONS
~ NFC WEST: San Francisco 49ERS
~ WildCards: Seattle SEAHAWKS New Orleans SAINTS

==PLAYOFF PROJECTIONS== 
==AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME== 
PATRIOTS over BENGALS
Tom Brady or Andy Dalton? I know who I want throwing the ball in an AFC Championship game...
==NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME== 
FALCONS over 49ERS
Falcons get revenge for last year's NFC Championship implosion... Matt Ryan picks the 49ers' CBs apart.
=====SUPERBOWL XLVIII===== 
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 34
 Defeat
ATLANTA FALCONS 23
In the end it comes down to whether or not you think the Brady/Belichick partnership can put the disappointment of losing their last 2 SuperBowl appearances behind them and remember what it took to win 3 in 4 years in the early 2000s.
Or conversely, can the Falcons find the self belief needed to beat a team that may just doubt themselves if things don't go their way in the 1st half...
I'll lean towards the Patriots... just can't back against Tom Brady.
=========
During 2013 I will be reading Peter King's 'THE MMQB' Website every week - I suggest you do the same.
Who are your SuperBowl picks? 
Comment below.

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