As the 2013 NFL Season creeps closer, the Place to Be Nation staff has you covered with complete team by team coverage and predictions. Visit the full archive here.
Just about one year ago, Head Coach Pete Carroll shocked the football world when he named third round draft pick Russell Wilson the starting QB over high priced restricted free agent Matt Flynn. The questionable move easily paid off, with Wilson delivering an outstanding season, which ended in a heartbreaking playoff loss in Atlanta. The Seahawks have reloaded and now look to make their first Super Bowl since the 2005 season. If Wilson can avoid the sophomore jinx and the defense continues to play at an elite level, Seattle, and their massive home field advantage, just may be the team to beat, not just in the NFC, but also in the entire NFL.
Key Additions & Losses
Additions: Percy Harvin (WR, MIN), Cliff Avril (DL, DET), Michael Bennett (DL, TB), Antoine Winfield (CB, MIN)
Losses: Marcus Trufant (CB, JAX), Matt Flynn (QB, OAK), Leroy Hill (LB, FA), Leon Washington (RB, NE), Gus Bradley (DC, JAX)
Even though Wilson had an all-star season, he still lacked that one big playmaking WR, a guy that could take over a game if needed. Insert Percy Harvin, late of the Vikings. There were times in Minnesota when it seemed like Harvin was the only guy on the field. There were also many times when he couldn’t stay on the field, often due to a serious migraine problem he had been battling for years. Unfortunately, it looks like Seattle fans may not find out what he can add to the offense for quite a while, as hip surgery may keep Harvin on the sidelines for the entire 2013 campaign. Over on defense, Seattle added a few key pieces to an already dominant force. Seattle’s defense was young, aggressive and hard hitting last year, playing with passion, confidence and a chip on their shoulder. Now they add stud linemen Cliff Avril, who racked up 29 sacks across his last three seasons in Detroit, and Michael Bennett, who had a breakout season in Tampa Bay with nine sacks and two forced fumbles in 2012. They also imported CB Antoine Winfield, who will nicely complement the tremendous, and brash, CB tandem of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
Seattle didn’t lose too many valuable on field pieces in the offseason, which further strengthens their championship case, with CB Marcus Trufant being the biggest name to have left. The team flipped Flynn to Oakland and said farewell to long time RB/KR Leon Washington. However, their biggest loss may have come from the sidelines as DC Gus Bradley left town to become the Head Coach in Jacksonville. Bradley led a Seattle unit that finished in the top five in total defense. The talent is still there, but it will be interesting to see how they rebound from losing their coordinator.
San Francisco (Week Two), ATLANTA (Week Ten), SAN FRANCISCO (Week Fourteen), NEW YORK GIANTS (Week Fifteen)
NFL schedulers wasted no time in delivering a key NFC West showdown as the 49ers travel to the Pacific Northwest, where the Seahawks are dominant. That will be an early battle to establish position in the division. Things settle down from there, but ramp back up in week ten, when Seattle travels to the Georgia Dome for a rematch of the NFC Divisional Round from a year ago. This could be a huge battle, because a loss here could damage either team in what should be tight divisional races. And then, week 14 kicks off a brutal back to back that sees the Seahawks travel to the Bay Area for a huge rematch with the Niners and then cross country to the Meadowlands for a late season date with the Giants.
Player to Watch
While his teammate Richard Sherman gets more media coverage due to his loud mouth and brash style, Brandon Browner often gets overlooked as the steady workhorse of the backfield. Despite missing four games due to suspension last season, Browner has nine interceptions over the last two campaigns. If the Seahawks defense is going to continue to dominate, Browner will have to have another great season. When a team gets elite cornerback play, it opens up the rest of the defense to play aggressively and allow their corners to play on an island. Last year it was Sherman that dominated the headlines, but in 2013 Browner will look to change that trend.
Better or Worse
2012 Finish: 11-5, Second Place, Lost in NFC Divisional Round
2013 Predicted Finish: 12-4, NFC West Champions, – in Playoffs
Last year, Seattle came out of nowhere to contend for a suddenly strong NFC West and go two rounds into the playoffs. This year, they enter as a favorite. I think the division will come down to the last couple of games, but in the end Seattle will edge the Niners out to win the crown and a playoff bye. From there, at a minimum, they will surpass last year’s Divisional Round loss, but more to come in our playoff predictions.
Expectations are high in Seattle, as the team now has a bulls-eye squarely on its back. There will be no surprising the league in 2013, the Seahawks are one of the league’s elite teams. The key here is Russell Wilson staying healthy and progressing instead of regressing, as many second year players do. Pete Carroll will rally the troops as always, and the defense will continue to be stout and effective. If Harvin can make it back, the offense may be on par with the defense. We haven’t even mentioned Marshawn Lynch yet, a running back that put his name in upper echelon at the position over the last two seasons. With the best home field advantage in the league, an all pro QB, a high quality coach and dominant defense, 2013 could very well be a season that sees the Seahawks bring a Super Bowl trophy back to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in team history.
– Justin Rozzero
After a disappointing and injury filled 8-8 season with the worst record of Coach Mike Tomlin’s tenure, the Steelers look to regroup and head back to postseason glory. With a ton of turnover from their last Super Bowl run, the Steelers will once again be doing the retooling on the fly act. Can they pull it off with the latest round of defections, and the possible defection of Troy Polamalu in the coming offseason?
Of course, first things first, and the last time the Steelers did finish 8-8 in 2006, they bounced back with two straight double digit win seasons, and the 2009 Super Bowl. Do they have what it takes this year, as they will have many new pieces in their mix, and they’ve mostly have come via the entry draft.
Key Additions & Losses
Additions: Jarvis Jones (DE-OLB, First Round Georgia), Le’Veon Bell (RB, Second Round Michigan State), Marcus Wheaton (WR, Third Round Oregon State)
Losses: James Harrison (OLB, CIN), Rashard Mendenhall (RB, ARI), Mike Wallace (WR, MIA)
The Steelers are again looking to rebuild via a youth movement, as opposed to adding key pieces from the free agent market. While Tomlin’s crew have had experience in this way of building a roster, it will be interesting to see this season as several of Ben Roethlisberger’s big weapons are gone, as well as a big leader of the modern day Steel Curtain. Sure the case can be made that with the year the players exiting had, it is addition by subtraction, but the youth movement, blended with the veteran talent still left, should make for an interesting campaign.
Bengals (Week 2), RAVENS (Week 7); Patriots (Week 9), Ravens (Week 13), BENGALS (Week 15), Packers (Week 16)
For the most part the Steelers have a soft schedule. Of course early big games against teams that finished ahead of them in the division, including the defending champions, will go a long way in determining the direction of the season. The cream of the NFC North, Bears at home in week three and at Minnesota for week four, are also big early match ups. The Patriot game in New England in week nine should also be a key game, as well as a late season visit to the Frozen Tundra against the Packers.
Player to Watch
Bell was looked upon to continue the legacy of Steeler rushers that goes back to the halcyon days of the 1970s. But on Thursday the rookie running back was placed on the shelf with a foot injury and is expected to miss the first 6-8 weeks of the season!
Regardless, look for him to be a workhorse, and a frequent offensive weapon for the Steelers when he returns.
Better or Worse
2012 Finish: 8-8, 3rd AFC North
2013 Predicted Finish: 10-6 2nd AFC North, Wild Card
Things should even out with the Ravens taking a step back with their losses this year. The Steelers should be able to rebound significantly with their soft schedule and get right back into the thick of things for the Wild Card slots. They can overtake the Bengals for the top spot in the division, but it still is a tall order. Sometimes baby steps are what you need when you are rebuilding on the fly like the Steelers are.
In the last 21 seasons, the Steelers have done a good job of not staying down too long after seasons of .500 or worse. There is no reason to suspect that this will be any different. While outside of last year, they haven’t finished 8-8 since Bill Cowher’s final season, there is no reason to doubt “The Steeler Way” at this point.
– Steve Rogers