NFL Analysis: Final 2013 Predictions

TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis has been going full-bore through the month of August, completing previews on all 32 teams individually, as well as a separate overview on each of the eight divisions, exploring their betting odds, recent history and including links to the team previews of its members. Now it’s time to tie everything together into one last preseason preview.

Below are the links to each of the eight division overviews. I have included my pick of each team’s final W-L record for the 2013 season. One thing to note is this—in each team’s preview, I make a prediction for how they will fare against the Over/Under win prop number posted for them in Las Vegas. It’s possible that what you see here may contradict with those predictions. It’s not an accident, and not because I’m trying to have it both ways.

I simply feel that Over/Under picks on an individual team, and league-wide predictions like this, are a different animal. In the former you play the percentages—pick which side of the line there’s the most room to maneuver and go with it. I never, with a win prop, make a pick that requires an extreme—a 12-win or 12-loss season for example.

Whereas a league-wide prediction like this isn’t about percentages, it’s just trying to thread the needle and hit the bullseye. We know there are teams who will win 12, and those that will lose that many, and I’ll try and pick them. The combined record of every team in this little exercise has to equate to 256-256, whereas no such exactness is required in the win props.

With those differences clarified, let’s get on with the 2013 NFL season. Here’s my final predictions, with the projected playoff bracket and how it will play out below, as we start The Road To New York City, and the Super Bowl in February. Where you see ties in the standings, the teams are listed in my order of preference.

New England: 12-4
Buffalo: 6-10
Miami: 5-11
NY Jets: 5-11

Pittsburgh: 10-6
Baltimore: 10-6
Cincinnati: 10-6
Cleveland: 3-13

Houston: 10-6
Indianapolis: 8-8
Tennessee: 4-12
Jacksonville: 3-13

Denver: 11-5
Kansas City: 7-9
San Diego: 6-10
Oakland: 2-14

NY Giants: 10-6
Washington: 10-6
Dallas: 9-7
Philadelphia: 7-9

Green Bay: 11-5
Minnesota: 9-7
Detroit: 7-9
Chicago: 6-10

Atlanta: 11-5
New Orleans: 10-6
Tampa Bay: 8-8
Carolina: 7-9

San Francisco: 11-5
Seattle: 11-5
St. Louis: 9-7
Arizona: 8-8

Editor’s Note:
In the original article, an error omitted Seattle from the playoff projections in favor of New Orleans. This was never intended, and was simply an oversight. Hence, the crossed-out edits you see below. 

1st round
(3)Pittsburgh over (6)Cincinnati
(5)Baltimore over (4) Houston

(3)Atlanta over (6) New Orleans (6)Washington over (3) Atlanta
(5)Washington Seattle over (4) NY Giants

2nd Round
(5)Baltimore over (1) New England
(3) Pittsburgh over (2) Denver

(5)Washington over (1) San Francisco
(2)Green Bay over (3) Atlanta (5) Seattle

Conference Championships
Pittsburgh over Baltimore
Washington over Green Bay

Washington over Pittsburgh

Two points should be made about the projected playoff bracket. The most obvious is why a team that’s lower seeded would be projected to win. It’s not that it can’t happen of course, but it typically is something that takes a lot for me to do when projecting something four months out.

I see New England and Denver padding their records against lousy divisions, and they really aren’t that much better than the teams of the AFC North. In the case of Washington, I think it will take them a little bit to get their sea legs as Robert Griffin III works his way into form and that will cost them just enough to finish behind the Giants. But we’ve seen in recent years that it’s the peaking team, not the higher seed, that wins in the postseason and I believe Washington will be peaking.

The Super Bowl pick is a bit off the wall—actually it’s rather far off the wall. And I’ll admit the fact I’m a Redskins fan who also has fond memories of living nine years in Pittsburgh played a role—but a small, tiebreaking role.

I really see this as a year when all the favorites look vulnerable, and I think we’re going to see a Super Bowl matchup that will look, at least from the lens of September 3, 2013, as a little crazy. I like San Francisco, Seattle, Green Bay, New England and Denver. They’re solid football teams. None of them shout “Super Bowl” to me. Think 1999, the year St. Louis played Tennessee. The Titans were a wild-card who got on a roll. The Rams were a #1 seed, but if you backtrack to August, no one thought they had a prayer and no one had even heard of Kurt Warner. I see 2013 in the same vein.

So while I’m not going to the barricades to defend a Redskins-Steelers pick for the Super Bowl in New York, I will stand on this—2013 will be a year it’s worth betting a dark horse, or even a longshot to be in the Big Apple. Let’s play ball.