Hours away from the start of the new NFL season and it’s time for some predictions. Last season I correctly picked 6 division champions, all 4 of them from the AFC (Patriots, Ravens, Texans and Broncos) and 2 from the NFC (Packers and 49ers). I kind of went against the odds last year, because prior to 2012 season there’s been only 25 teams out of 72 who managed to repeat as division champions. Before I get into specifics for this season, let’s first look at the number of new division champions in the NFL, starting with 2002, when NFL realigned its divisions.
Since then, there has been an average of 4.9 new division champions. In other words, there has been an average of only 3.1 teams as repeat champions. There’s never been more than 4 repeat champions, except for last season, which was in that regard out of the ordinary. In 2012, there’s been a record high of 6 teams who managed to defend division crown. Only Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins were new division champions. Could be the last season was just an anomaly, but I personally think we could see another low number of new division winners in 2013.
AFC East: New England Patriots 11-5
Just like last season I believe the Patriots are a lock to win the division. They might not win 12 games and probably won’t reproduce as high turnover ratio as +25, but I just can’t see any of their division rivals Miami, Buffalo or New York, to come up with an upset and steal the division away from the Patriots.
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals 10-6
It will be a battle between the Ravens, the Steelers and the Bengals with the Browns looking to spoil the party. A tough call to make, but I’m leaning towards the Bengals. Cincinnati is a very talented team, especially on defense which could make the difference. Unlike many experts and analysts I don’t see them making it all the way to the Super Bowl. The Ravens and the Steelers could also make the playoffs out of AFC North as wild cards.
AFC South: Houston Texans 12-4
I actually think the one team that will improve the most out of AFC South will be the Colts, but I also expect them to win fewer games compared to last year and even miss the playoffs in the end, which means the Texans will repeat. The Titans and the Jaguars? Not even close.
AFC West: Denver Broncos 12-4
Lots of room for improvement in this division too, at least for the Chiefs and the Chargers. But it will be Denver who will win the division, not sure if they can repeat 13-win season, but 11-12 sounds reasonable and more than enough to take the division.
NFC East: Washington Redskins 10-6
I see only two real contenders in this division, the Redskins and the Giants. I’m picking dangerously high number of repeat division winners, but the way I see it, the Redskins will be another team to repeat in 2013 with New York Giants just missing a spot in the playoffs yet again.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers 11-5
Tempted to pick the Bears for the division crown. The Packers lost starting LT and will have to adjust, but a big question mark hovers over Bears’ offensive line too. And Aaron Rodgers is much better QB than Jay Cutler … I’m almost 100% certain the Vikings won’t make it back to the playoffs, the Lions will have a better season but they too won’t be playing come January.
NFC South: New Orleans Saints 10-6
The Falcons seem to have a better all around team compared to any of the NFC South members, but this season, the Saints, the Panthers and also the Buccaneers will make the Falcons earn the division title. This could end up being ‘highest scoring’ NFL division and having said that I think the Saints will handle that sort of situation the best. The Panthers could be the surprise team of 2013 and be in the mix for the playoffs.
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks 11-5
I’d like to see the 49ers 3-peat as division champions, but in a highly competitive division, I expect the Seahawks to win the division this year. The 49ers should earn the wild card spot, as for the Rams and the Cardinals, they’ll have to wait at least another season to qualify for the postseason, which doesn’t mean the Seahawks and the 49ers will have an easy task playing against them.
Predicted 6 playoff teams in 2013, wild card teams in italic, new division winners in bold.
AFC: Patriots, Bengals, Texans, Broncos, Ravens, Steelers
NFC: Redskins, Packers, Saints, Seahawks, 49ers, Falcons