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The previous NFL season was one of surprise and intrigue. Two rookie quarterbacks (Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson) led their respective teams (Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks) to the playoffs, and ended up facing each other. Wilson’s Seahawks ended up emerging from that contest, and almost made it to the NFC title game.
FAVORITES TO WIN NFC CHAMPIONSHIP:
While the Seahawks didn’t make it quite that far last year, they’re facing solid odds to do just that in 2013 (9/2 odds). With the addition of explosive weapon Percy Harvin and all the same pieces back for their nasty defense, there’s little reason to doubt Seattle taking that next step. That is, unless you think the NFC team with the best title game odds will top them.
That would be none other than Seattle’s bitter NFC West division rival, the San Francisco 49ers, who are the favorites at 15/4. The 49ers did lose wide receiver Michael Crabtree for at least a big chunk of 2013 to a torn Achilles injury, but still have one of the deepest and most balanced rosters in the league.
Colin Kaepernick gets to start from week one on for the first time in his career, while former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin will try to help the team he beat in last year’s Super Bowl get back to finish the job they started. It won’t be easy, but few can say the 49ers aren’t built to make a strong run for a third straight season. After all, so far they’ve done nothing but make it to NFC title game’s under head coach John Harbaugh through two seasons.
While the 49ers and Seahawks are heavy favorites to be the last NFC team standing, it’s quite clear that we could be facing an epic NFC playoff run in 2013. After all, while those two teams are definitely elite, it’s hard to praise teams like the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons any less (who are facing 13/2 and 15/2 odds, respectively).
However, the top four isn’t always the same every year, and only a fool would bank on the playoffs going exactly the same two years in a row. That could very well mean another team knocking on the door pushes through and surprises the NFL world, rather than just allowing the teams with better odds to enforce their will.
NFC Champ Dark Horse For 2013-2014?:
Three teams that are shaping up to be not so quiet dark horses for the 2013 NFC Championship game are the New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and the Washington Redskins.
Even if you hate the Giants, it’s hard to refute their ability to sneak into the playoffs and make deep runs on a whim. Their defense is always ready to rock come playoff time, and it’s pretty obvious at this point in his career that Eli Manning is built for clutch situations. The Giants have to avoid or endure late season collapses to make it into post-season play usually, but that’s what makes them such a great sleeper pick in the first place.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
If it’s not New York’s year (again), then why not the New Orleans Saints? They had to go through an entire season without the brilliant mind of head coach Sean Payton, and despite a horrendous 0-4 start, they actually still had a shot at the playoffs. With Payton back in the saddle, their offense should be much more efficient in 2013, and the sky is the limit. After all, this was a legit Super Bowl contender prior to the “Bountygate” allegations last off-season, so there’s little reason to think the Saints can’t be just that again.
While the Saints are on the up and up again, they still have to prove they’re going to make it to the NFC’s original round of six. The Washington Redskins, on the other hand, are fresh off of an appearance in the NFC’s tourney last season, and appear to be very much on the rise.
Washington’s playoff hopes rest squarely on the status of quarterback Robert Griffin III, though, so when and how he plays will absolutely decide just how much success they find in 2013. With that said, a healthy (and normal) RG3 could mean huge things for the Redskins this year. After all, this was a team that was lost at 3-6 in 2012, and went on a seven game tear to shock everyone.
If the Redskins can start the season with their main man under center and avoid another slow start, reaching the NFC title game certainly won’t be outside the realm of possibilities.