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2013-2014 NFL Preview

Finally, the NFL season has kicked off, and all is right in the world. There are plenty of rookies poised to make an impact (Eric Reid, DeAndre Hopkins, EJ Manuel) and fresh faces in different places (Percy Harvin, Anquan Boldin, Darrelle Revis). My job is to inform you about who will be hot and who will not. Beginning with arguably the toughest division in football, the NFC West; I believe the 49ers are still the best team in the division and possibly all of football, but the Seahawks are nipping at their heels. The Rams and Cardinals are both much improved but I see this as a two-team race with Seattle making the playoffs as a wild card. The NFC North is a pretty stacked division as well, but I see the Packers as the team to beat. I am picking the Bears as my other wild card team when considering the acquisition of Reggie Bush to the Lions. The Vikings made the playoffs last year but until they get a quarterback, I will not consider them a threat. Adrian Peterson can't do it all on his own, although he carried them to the playoffs last year. The NFC East contains my first surprise pick to come out as the division winner. I cringe as I say this (or write this) but I am picking the Cowboys to finally realize their potential and make their first playoff appearance since 2009. The Giants have issues with running backs and on defense, especially in the secondary. The NFC South is another tough division to call. The Saints have Sean Payton back, which is a huge upgrade when you consider last year's play-calling. But the class of the division will still be Atlanta, especially when you take into account the addition of Steven Jackson to shore up the running game.

The AFC is not quite as strong as the NFC, but there are a group of teams that could hang with any team in the NFC. With the AFC South comes my most shocking choice to win their division. I may be biased, considering the Titans are my favorite team, but I am going with them as my division winners. They have made huge additions to their O-line, in the receiving corps and on defense. They brought former Saints defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, who employs a very aggressive blitz-happy defense that puts a lot of pressure on quarterbacks and forces a lot of turnovers. I know most people are picking the Texans, and I agree they will make the playoffs as a wild card. Next comes the AFC East, and the Patriots continue to be the class of the division. The Broncos are the number one team in the early season power rankings in the AFC West. I believe this could be the Broncos' year. They were "oh so close" last year, and word out of Denver is that Peyton Manning looks even better this year. As my other wild card, I am taking the Chiefs. People cannot underestimate the addition of Andy Reid as their head coach. Even though they won only two games last season, their roster is full of talent and Reid may be the winning ingredient. And now, Browns fans, comes the AFC North. Although the Ravens are fresh off a Super Bowl win, I don't see them making the playoffs this year. Baltimore has lost too many vital pieces, most of which were also team leaders like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Anquan Boldin. Along with the loss of many key players on both sides of the ball, is the fact that I simply don't trust Joe Flacco. He is too inconsistent. While he was big in key moments during the playoffs last year, there were too many times when he would just throw it up to Boldin or Dennis Pitta who would just outfight the defender for the catch. He will not have the luxury of throwing to either of them this season. I believe that this is the year of the Bengals. Cincy has many weapons and they will not have to suffer from the under-utilization of the running game due to the emergence of running back Giovanni Bernard. Pittsburgh is simply not what they used to be. Last but certainly not least, are the Browns. I'm sorry, but this is not the season that Cleveland turns it around. Their offensive line is among the worst in the league, and Brandon Weeden does not have enough help on the outside. There it is football fans, you are allowed to use the knowledge I've bestowed upon you in Vegas, as long as I get a cut (just kidding).

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