2013 NFL Picks: NFC Odds to Win and Predictions – 49ers,Seahawks the Favorites: Last year, the NFC was kind to the preseason favorites as San Francisco, Green Bay and Atlanta all won their divisions as many expected. However, there were also a few surprises as rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson became instant stars, and while RG3 led the Washington Redskins to the NFC East title, Wilson helped the Seattle Seahawks to a wild card spot. Meanwhile, an MVP season from Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson helped the Vikings reach the playoffs. When the playoffs began, the favorites again had success as the 49ers, Falcons and Packers all reached the divisional round. Top-seeded Atlanta and second-seeded San Francisco eventually played for the NFC title with the 49ers staging an epic comeback to advance to the Super Bowl with a 28-24 win. The 49ers ultimately lost to the Baltimore Ravens, but heading into the 2013 NFL season, San Francisco figures to be among the conference heavyweights yet again. With that in mind, here is a closer look at the top contenders in the NFC.
After being one play away from a Super Bowl title last year, the San Francisco 49ers are as loaded as ever heading into the 2013 season. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick dual-threat ability adds an explosive element to an offense that still boasts a dominant offensive line and a punishing power rushing attack. More importantly, a defense that allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL last year is still stacked with playmakers at every level. Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey was added to a defensive line that already features Justin Smith, and Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith lead one of the best linebacking corps in the league. San Francisco also spent a first-round pick on safety Eric Reid to improve its secondary, and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was added in free agency. The defending NFC champs are as stout as ever on defense and should be better on offense. The 49ers will be tough to dethrone as conference champions.
With Aaron Rodgers still under center and in his prime, the Green Bay Packers should be major players in the NFC again in 2013. Rodgers has thrown 84 touchdowns compared to just 14 interceptions over the past two seasons, and with Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley at his disposal, the Packers’ passing attack should remain potent. More importantly, the running game should be more of a factor this season after running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin were added in the draft. Meanwhile, the Packers continued to upgrade the front seven on the defensive side of the ball by drafting defensive end Datone Jones in the first round, and he will join the likes of Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk and B.J. Raji. The offensive line and secondary could be better, but a high-powered offense and potent pass rush will make Green Bay one of the frontrunners in the NFC.
Quarterback Matt Ryan keeps getting better, and the Atlanta Falcons not only got the playoff monkey off their back last year, but they had an San Francisco on the ropes before letting an early lead slip away. With receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez all back, the passing attack should remain deadly. Meanwhile, the offseason addition of running back Steven Jackson should a little more balance to the offense. On the defensive side of the ball, star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is fully healthy after battling injuries last year, and Osi Umenyiora should help Atlanta’s pass rush. Overall, the Falcons are a little more balanced than the team that went 13-3 last year, and this could be their year in the NFC.
Even with offseason acquisition Percy Harvin going down with an injury, the Seattle Seahawks are still one of the most impressive teams in the NFC. The surprising emergence of quarterback Russell Wilson has added a new element to an offense that still features Marshawn Lynch and dominant power running game. In addition, Seattle is just as big and physical on the defensive side of the ball where Cliff Avril was added to boost the pass rush and corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner lead a hard-hitting secondary. The Seahawks beat up opponents in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and with Wilson as an X-factor, an NFC title is a real possibility
The Dark Horses
Running the ball well on offense and stopping the run on defense has always been a recipe for success in the NFL, and the Washington Redskins ranked in the top five in both categories last year. Even if quarterback Robert Griffin III takes it easy to start the year, the Redskins still have a solid offensive line and running back Alfred Morris, who topped 1,600 yards as a rookie. Meanwhile, the defense welcomes back two of its best playmakers in linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker after both were lost to injury early in 2012. Griffin’s return to form and progression as a passer will ultimately determine if the Redskins can climb to the top of the NFC, but the supporting cast should keep Washington in the hunt while RG3 gets up to speed.
The loss of head coach Sean Payton took a toll on the New Orleans Saints last year, but with the architect of the team’s high-powered offense back in the mix, a big rebound season is certainly possible. After all, quarterback Drew Brees has led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns in two straight seasons and still has plenty of weapons to work with. The defense is still a work in progress, but the same could be said in 2011 when the Saints went 13-3. With Payton back at the helm, Brees and the rest of the staff will be able to return to their normal roles. That fact alone could make the Saints contenders in the NFC.
While the New York Giants completely missed the playoffs last year, many of the same players that helped the team win the Super Bowl in 2011 are still around. Specifically, quarterback Eli Manning is back to lead an offense that features receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz and tight end Brandon Myers as targets. Meanwhile, Jason Pierre-Paul leads a talented defensive front. The problem for New York is that the same core that has delivered two Super Bowls tends to sleepwalk through the regular season. When Manning and the defensive line are playing at elite levels, the Giants can beat any team in the NFL. However, they have to first make the playoffs before they can represent the NFC in another Super Bowl.
The retirement of linebacker Brian Urlacher leaves the Chicago Bears with a leadership void to fill, but they actually bolstered many of their other weaknesses in the offseason. Chicago added tackle Jermon Bushrod and guard Matt Slauson to a porous offensive line and drafted tackle Kyle Long in the first round. Meanwhile, tight end Martellus Bennett was signed to give quarterback Jay Cutler someone to throw to that isn’t named Brandon Marshall. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Julius Peppers and corner Charles Tillman are among the returning playmakers for a solid unit. Inconsistent play by Cutler and the offense remains a concern, but the Bears have put the pieces in place to make a run in the NFC is all the new parts gel quickly.
Odds to win the 2013 NFL NFC
San Francisco 49ers +390
Seattle Seahawks +420
Green Bay Packers +650
Atlanta Falcons +800
New Orleans Saints +1050
New York Giants +1350
Dallas Cowboys +1700
Chicago Bears +1800
Washington Redskins +1800
Minnesota Vikings +2100
Detroit Lions +2100
Philadelphia Eagles +2500
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +2800
Carolina Panthers +2800
St Louis Rams +3500
Arizona Cardinals +5500
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