There is just over one week left before the 2013 NFL season kicks off on Thursday, September 5, when the Baltimore Ravens face-off against the Denver Broncos to kick off the NFL season. With last year being one of the most exciting seasons in a while, with some major shifts in the NFL's power rankings, 2013 looks to pick up where it left off. With that in mind, we're gonna take a look at the top ten questions entering the 2013 NFL season.
Who wins the AFC West? The Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers look like they are again two of the best teams in the league. The Seahawks narrowly lost to Atlanta to miss out on the NFC Championship Game. The Niners were able to beat Atlanta, but lost to the Ravens in the Super Bowl. Both are among the early favorites to make make a serious run at the Super Bowl and should be among the most dangerous teams in the league.
Both teams have QB's that were basically rookies last season, yet both have the athleticism and talent to be among the leagues best. Both franchises have fans that have been revitalized, and are eager to win a Super Bowl title. And lets not forget about the rest of the division, as the Rams and Cardinals both look to be more dangerous than last season. But most fans will agree the division will come down to the Niners and Seahawks. They will face a similar schedule, and will face each other twice, so the better team will have the opportunity to win out.
Can the Ravens get Back to the Playoffs? - The Baltimore Ravens are the defending Super Bowl champions but they have lost a lot of the team from last season. While Joe Flacco was given a huge six-year, $120.6 million contract, many of the names from last year's championship team have either retired, been traded or signed elsewhere. The Pittsburgh Steelers, still one of the NFL's best run franchises, still have Ben Roethlisberger at QB, a number of talented veterans and some young talent as well.
Both the Ravens and the Steelers could end up winning the division, but at preseason, its the Cincinnati Bengals that are getting all the hype. While they have the unproven Andy Dalton at quarterback, they have one of the leagues best receivers in AJ Green as the centerpiece of what should be one of the best offenses in the league. Even the Browns have made some moves, and could prove to be a difference maker as far as how the division shakes out. This is really one of the more open divisions in the country, and given the success of the Steelers and Ravens in the past few years, could prove very interesting.
Can the Chicago Bears score? - With a new head coach in Marc Trestman and an intense focus on the offense, the Bears are giving Jay Cutler all the tools he needs if he is going to lead one of the leagues best offenses. In the final year of his contract with the Bears, Cutler will have extra incentive to prove he is an elite quarterback. If Cutler isn't able to get the Bears to the post-season, it looks like he could be on the way out. On the other hand, the Bears could end up getting back to the playoffs, and could contend for a title. With the Packers and Aaron Rodgers the cream of the crop in the division, Cutler has a lot to prove in 2013.
Who wins the NFC East? - With all four NFC East teams looking like they will be good, top to bottom this might be the most competitive division in football. Led by sophomore QB Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins are relevant for the first time in ages and actually won the division last year, the only NFC East team to make the playoffs. The Eagles were the division's weak spot last year but have brought in a new offense under coach Chip Kelly, who knows a thing or two about offense.
The Giants and Cowboys have similar teams as they did last year. 9-7 was not enough to get the Giants into the playoffs, and the Cowboys once again imploded on Week 17 to miss out on a wildcard spot. This division could go to anyone, and seeing who wins out is going to be one of the more interesting aspects of the season.
Can Tampa Bay Make the Playoffs? - Similar to the Bears, Josh Freeman has been given a large assortment of weapons to put the Bucs in a position to succeed. He's got a tough division to contend with, as the Falcons and Saints should be able to score with anyone. But Josh Freeman has had some big plays in the past, and with an assortment of talented offensive players around him, many are expecting the Bucs to contend for not just a playoff spot, but the division as well.
How will the Patriots Manage 2013? - With Tom Brady and Bill Belichick another year older and an offense that is vastly different from last year, there are a lot of football fans predicting this is the beginning of the end for this Patriot era. But they aren't the first to bet against Brady and Belichick. Even with the loss of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots still figure to have a talented offense. Nobody has been better at getting the most from unknown players, and until he doesn't, not many people will bet against Belichick. This Patriots season might be the most trying since Tom Brady went down in week one in 2008.
Can Andrew Luck Keep it Going? - After garnering as much hype as anyone before taking a single NFL snap, Andrew Luck came in and led the Colts to the playoffs following a 2-14 season. Now, the Colts have to prove it wasn't a fluke and see if Luck can continue what was an impressive rookie campaign.
Will Sean Payton Pick up Where the Saints Left Off?
- With Head Coach Sean Payton back calling the shots, New Orleans fans are hoping the team can bounce back from a tough 7-9 record that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Drew Brees Payton reunion should be good news for the Saints, one of the NFL's most prolific offenses the past few season, but they are facing some very tough competition in the NFC South.
Will the Texans take a step forward, or back? - The Texans ended up as the three seed in the AFC with a 12 - 4 record. After failing to miss the playoffs in their first nine years as a franchise, the Texans again lost in the second round. Entering 2013, Texans fans want this team to do better, and a Super Bowl appearance is quite possible for the franchise. Seeing wether the Texans are ready to make the leap to perennial powerhouse or if they will regress some will be something to keep an eye on this season.
How will the new-look Kansas City Chiefs Perform? - The Chiefs have made the playoffs three times since 1998, and have been among the worst-performing franchises in the NFL despite some talent and a dedicated front office. During the off-season, the Chiefs took on two recent castaways who have some real NFL achievements in head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith.
Reid coach the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX, where they lost to the Patriots, while Smith got the 49ers to the 2011 NFC Championship, where they lost 20 - 17 to the Giants. Both of these guys are eager to prove they still have plenty left in the tank and would like nothing better than to get the Chiefs to the playoffs. It's a lot to ask from a team that went 2 - 14, but stranger things have happened in the NFL.