Our experts make their playoffs, Super Bowl and award predictions, with more thoughts on what we can expect in 2013

By Tom Mantzouranis
September 03, 2013

Peter King's Predictions

AFC Wild Card Divisional Conference Super Bowl Conference Divisional Wild Card NFC
1. Patriots 1. 49ers
 Bengals def. Texans  Saints def. Packers
2. Broncos 2. Falcons
Broncos def. Bengals  49ers def. Saints
 3. Bengals 3. Packers
 Patriots def. Broncos  Patriots def. Seahawks  Seahawks def. 49ers
  4. Colts  4. Giants
 Patriots def. Ravens  Seahawks def. Falcons
 5. Ravens  5. Seahawks
  Ravens def. Colts  Seahawks def. Giants
 6. Texans  6. Saints


Tom Brady, Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Johnson. Tom Brady, Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Johnson.

Player Awards

MVP—Tom Brady

If I'm right, and the Patriots win the AFC's top seed, this will be Brady's shining moment, getting the Pats to the top of a tough conference with virtually entirely new skill players.

Offensive Player of the Year—Chris Johnson

Defensive Player of the Year—Geno Atkins

Offensive Rookie of the Year—Eddie Lacy

Defensive Rookie of the Year—Tyrann Mathieu

Awards like this go to guys who make lots of plays. Mathieu has been diving all over Cards' practices, making circus interceptions and proving to the front office that it made a smart choice with this risky pick.

Coach of the Year—Sean Payton

Comeback Player of the Year—Robert Griffin III

Greg Bedard's Predictions

AFC Wild Card Divisional Conference Super Bowl Conference Divisional Wild Card NFC
1. Patriots 1. Seahawks

Steelers def. Ravens Giants def. Falcons
2. Texans

2. Packers

Patriots def. Chiefs 49ers def. Seahawks
3. Steelers 3. Giants

Steelers def. Patriots 49ers def. Steelers

49ers def. Giants
4. Chiefs 4. Buccaneers

Steelers def. Texans Giants def. Packers
5. Broncos 5. 49ers

Chiefs def. Broncos 49ers def. Buccaneers
6. Ravens

6. Falcons


Ben Roethlisberger, Terrell Suggs, Tavon Austin. Ben Roethlisberger, Terrell Suggs, Tavon Austin.

Player Awards

MVP—Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben has long been underrated for his regular-season play. If the Steelers surprise and take the AFC North, it’s time to give him the award.

Offensive Player of the Year—Calvin Johnson

Defensive Player of the Year—Terrell Suggs

Offensive Rookie of the Year—Tavon Austin

Defensive Rookie of the Year—Star Lotulelei

Coach of the Year—Andy Reid

Comeback Player of the Year—Brian Cushing

Darrelle Revis is the runaway preseason favorite, but Cushing will do more.

Jenny Vrentas' Predictions

AFC Wild Card Divisional Conference Super Bowl Conference Divisional Wild Card NFC
1. Patriots 1. Packers

Texans def. Chiefs Saints def. Seahawks
2. Broncos 2. 49ers

Patriots def. Steelers Packers def. Falcons
3. Texans 3. Saints

Broncos def. Patriots Packers def. Broncos Packers def. 49ers
4. Ravens

4. Giants
Broncos def. Texans 49ers def. Saints
5. Steelers 5. Falcons

Steelers def. Ravens Falcons def. Giants
6. Chiefs

6. Seahawks


Tom Brady, Ziggy Ansah, Tavon Austin. Tom Brady, Ziggy Ansah, Tavon Austin.

Player Awards

MVP—Tom Brady

Offensive Player of the Year—Adrian Peterson

Defensive Player of the Year—Luke Kuechly

Offensive Rookie of the Year—Tavon Austin

Defensive Rookie of the Year—Ziggy Ansah

Coach of the Year—Bill Belichick

Are there really people who think the Patriots will have a down year? You’d have to credit the coach if this is yet another Patriots-level-of-good season, in the wake of one of their star young players being indicted for murder.

Comeback Player of the Year—Alex Smith

Smith was the NFL’s most accurate passer last season, with a completion percentage above 70 percent—until he was sidelined with a concussion in November, and Colin Kaepernick ran away with the 49ers’ starting QB job. A fresh start with a talented Chiefs roster, and a head coach who has long admired Smith, could be the recipe for a comeback.

Robert Klemko's Predictions

AFC Wild Card Divisional Conference Super Bowl Conference Divisional Wild Card NFC
1. Texans

1. Seahawks

Ravens def. Bengals Redskins def. Lions
2. Broncos 2. Falcons
Colts def. Texans Seahawks def. Redskins
3. Ravens 3. Lions

Colts def. Broncos Seahawks def. Colts

Seahawks def. Falcons
4. Patriots

4. Giants
Broncos def. Ravens Falcons def. 49ers
5. Colts 5. 49ers

Colts def. Patriots 49ers def. Giants
6. Bengals

6. Redskins


Peyton Manning, Geno Atkins, DeAndre Hopkins. Peyton Manning, Geno Atkins, DeAndre Hopkins.

Player Awards

MVP—Peyton Manning

And what a swan song it will be. For the 16 weeks before it gets too cold in the Rockies for a man of advancing years and receding strength to properly grip a football, Manning will treat us to one final dance with greatness. Good night, sweet Sheriff.

Offensive Player of the Year—Marshawn Lynch

Defensive Player of the Year—Geno Atkins

Offensive Rookie of the Year—DeAndre Hopkins

Defensive Rookie of the Year—Matt Elam

No disrespect to Ed Reed, one of the all-time greats, but Elam will remind Ravens fans of what they’ve been missing in either safety position for a year now.

Coach of the Year—Chuck Pagano

Comeback Player of the Year—Brian Cushing

Your Super Bowl Predictions










Andy Benoit's Ten Things to Watch

Rise of “two tights”

Study Up

Everything you need to know about all 32 teams and their prospects for the 2013 season, courtesy of Andy Benoit.

You can also check out everything The MMQB learned on the road with our Postcards From Training Camp.

New England’s success with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez over the past two years opened a lot of eyes. The two dynamic, movable chess pieces created glaring matchup problems and invaluable flexibility with formations. The duo is no more, obviously, but there will be others popping up around the league. The Bengals, Cowboys, Titans, Eagles, Cardinals and Rams all made significant offseason moves to give themselves a dual tight end offense. Couple this with the handful of teams that already had that, and roughly half the league will regularly be playing “two tight” in 2013.

Read-option smackdown

We’ll see how many offenses stick with the read-option once unblocked defensive ends figure out they can drill the quarterback even when he hands off.

More pistol

Even if the read-option abates, pistol sets should surge. Offenses are realizing that pistol is essentially a quicker version of the shotgun, only with more play-action capabilities. It doesn’t always require the quarterback to run. Heck, even Peyton Manning’s Broncos experimented with the new set in August.

More   S  –  P  –  R  –  E  –  A  –  D

NFL offenses will continue to stretch horizontally. Some will even do it on nearly a fulltime basis. Four intriguing storylines from four different teams that are transforming their once-traditional systems into spreads: A.) How will the Rams use Tavon Austin? B.) How will Chip Kelly’s play designs function on NFL fields, where tighter hashmarks leave less perimeter space to work with? C.) Can Philip Rivers prosper by throwing more quick-hitter type passes? D.) Can Jay Cutler?

A premium on man coverage

Offenses will continue to spread, and they’ll continue to use more hurry-up. The hidden benefit of hurry-up is it’s a great way to combat complex defensive looks. When the ball is snapped immediately, the defense doesn’t have time to disguise anything and is forced to play reactively.

Schematically, man coverage is the simplest way to defend spread sets and the hurry-up. It nullifies the spacing issues that most spread designs aim to exploit and requires minimal presnap communication. What’s more, in man coverage, defenders can pick up receivers immediately off the line of scrimmage, as opposed to a few yards downfield. That combats the quick strike throws that spreads and hurry-ups are largely built on.

Breakout stars

On offense, it’s Packers wideout Randall Cobb. Mike McCarthy will employ a variety of tactics—including presnap motion and backfield alignments—to get the shifty, versatile third-year pro in space. Expect Cobb to have around 1,500 yards from scrimmage as the fulcrum of Green Bay’s offensive attack. On defense, it’s Everson Griffen. The fourth-year Vikings defensive end has sensational speed and pliable body control. He can play anywhere along the defensive front. If afforded enough playing time, Griffen will have a 15-sack season.

Randall Cobb and Everson Griffen. Randall Cobb and Everson Griffen.

Super Bowl stepbacks

Losing key passing targets Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta and overhauling half the defense (with some good changes but also some bad) will prevent the Ravens from defending their Lombardi Trophy. 7-9 seems a likely record. The other Harbaugh-coached team is also poised to take a step back. The losses of Randy Moss and Delanie Walker—two middle-of-the-road contributors but highly unique mismatch creators—put more strain on a passing game that’s led by a young star who, granted is supremely talented, but far less polished than people realize. 10-6 seems likely in San Francisco.

Big changes on D in Big D

One-Minute Drills

Peter King has everything you need to know about every team entering the 2013 season, in sixty seconds.

It’s can be difficult to transition from a multipronged hybrid 3-4 scheme to a more traditional 4-3 zone scheme. That’s what the Cowboys, who replaced defensive coordinator Rob Ryan with aging legend Monte Kiffin, are aiming to do. If Kiffin makes this a Seahawks type 4-3 zone (which would mean hybrid press-man concepts for outside corners), the Cowboys can flourish. If he makes it a Tampa-2 style zone, they could flounder.

High-flying Falcons

It’s hard to envision anyone stopping this offense. Julio Jones is poised to become a top-5 caliber receiver. All the other weapons are back, only with the running back position upgraded from Michael Turner to Steven Jackson. Orchestrating it all is burgeoning star Matt Ryan and coordinator Dirk Koetter, one of the shrewdest play-callers in football.

Worst to first?

In each of the last 10 seasons, at least one team has won its division after finishing last the previous year. The contenders this season: Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Arizona. If forced to pick one, the choice here would be Cleveland. The Browns could have a playmaking defense, and their offense, though deprived of aerial weapons and depth, at least has the right style of players for Norv Turner’s highly accomplished system.

Odds and Ends

Most intriguing storyline

I'm interested to see if Chip Kelly can resuscitate the flagging career of Michael Vick. And I'm interested to see how many plays Kelly can squeeze out of a 60-minute football game. Eighty? Ninety? With his penchant for running a hurry-up offense ("I think his offense is going to look a lot like the K-gun the Bills ran with Jim Kelly," said Tony Dungy, whose son played for Kelly at Oregon), Kelly is going to keep it fun. I've said this is going to be the most interesting coach to watch come out of college football since Jimmy Johnson to Dallas in 1989, and I believe he'll turn the Eagles around. Maybe not this year, but he's too smart to take longer than a year to figure out how to win in the pro game. —Peter King

Breakout player to watch

Talk Back

What do you think of our predictions? Email us or find us on Twitter and let us know your thoughts.

Jared Cook. After spending his first four seasons jailed by quarterback play (Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker), the rest of the NFL will finally get to see the full potential of a player who has enormous talent that has been underutilized. At 6-6 and 248 pounds with long arms, Cook has a huge catch radius down the field, and the speed to turn short passes into long gains. He’s a matchup nightmare—too fast for linebackers, too big for defensive backs—yet the Titans could never take advantage. Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will, especially in the red zone, where Cook should get a ton of targets. —Greg A. Bedard

Team that will surprise, for good or bad

Detroit Lions. Watching the Packers against the Seahawks in the third week of the preseason, specifically with an eye on Bryan Bulaga’s replacement at left tackle, David Bakhtiari, solidified my feeling that the Lions will win the NFC North. They’ve got the kind of defense that can now keep up with Green Bay, especially if Jason Jones continues to play like a top-15 end and Louis Delmas can stay on the field and off the trainer’s table. Reggie Bush will diversify the offense, Ryan Broyles will come back from his second ACL tear to have a strong second half, and Jim Schwartz will keep his job. Mark it eight, dude. —Robert Klemko

Toughest schedule

Atlanta Falcons. By playing the Jets, the Falcons get one easy win, but even the Bills should be better on Dec. 1 at the end of the season and with E.J. Manuel back. Their own NFC South will be improved and a dogfight. Add in the Patriots, Seahawks, Packers, Redskins and 49ers, and you have a brutal slog from start to finish. —Greg A. Bedard

Easiest schedule

Kansas City Chiefs. If they get good quarterback play out of Alex Smith, the Chiefs have winnable games until Week 7 against the Texans, and that’s at home. The toughest games down the stretch will be two against the Broncos, on the road at the Redskins and home to the Colts. Very manageable if the Chiefs can build some momentum. —Greg A. Bedard

Best game of the season

49ers at Redskins, Nov. 25. A couple years down the road, will Colin Kaepernick vs. RG3 be the NFC’s version of the AFC’s Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning battle royales? This will be the first time these two bright young faces of the NFL play each other. Each charmed the NFL last season with his talent by arm and by foot; they’ll be even more fun to watch together. —Jenny Vrentas

Coaches on the hot seat

made famous by the 1940 Alabama Crimson Tide —Robert Klemko

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