The 2013 NFL regular season kicks off tonight with the Denver Broncos hosting the Baltimore Ravens. Before the madness begins, here are our predictions for the 2013 campaign…
MVP: Aaron Rodgers – It's simple. Rodgers has become the best quarterback in the game and he's only now entering his prime. I won't bet against that, no matter how good things look for Peyton Manning in Denver.
Offensive player of the year: Rodgers — Same deal. The highest-rated quarterback in NFL history will turn 30 this year.
Defensive player of the year: J.J. Watt – After how ridiculously dominant he was in 2012, you'd be trolling if you picked anybody other than the 24-year-old megastar.
Offensive rookie of the year: Tavon Austin – A few receivers are in the running, but there's only one Tavon Austin. He's a star in the making.
Defensive rookie of the year: Kenny Vaccaro — Rare to give it to a defensive back but I don't feel particularly good about any of the front-seven defenders in this rookie class. Vaccaro could be a game-changer for the Saints this season.
Comeback player of the year: Brian Orakpo — On a great team with a solid front seven and tons of pass-rushing support, there's no reason to believe Orakpo won't get back on that superstar trajectory in 2013. Look for him to go sack crazy with Ryan Kerrigan complementing him in that linebacking corps.
1. Denver Broncos
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Indianapolis Colts
4. New England Patriots
5. Houston Texans
6. Miami Dolphins
The AFC is wide open. Look for the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens to disappear after a tough offseason, and same for the Steelers. Cincy and Indy should only get better, while New England and Denver win their divisions by default. Miami and Houston are solid but not spectacular.
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Atlanta Falcons
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. Washington Redskins
6. San Francisco 49ers
The NFC has become so much better than its sister conference. Look for the Seahawks to get the best of the Niners in that division, with Dallas and Washington pulling away in the East. Those teams, though, will cross each other out. I expect Chicago to fall just short yet again, but I don't think the Saints or Giants factor in either. In fact, I'd expect Carolina to finish ahead of New Orleans in the South.
Super Bowl XLIII: Green Bay over Cincinnati
I really think the Bengals bust out this season, but Green Bay has been there and done that. The Pack prevail in a tight game at MetLife Stadium.