1. Miami Dolphins
OPPONENT: at Cleveland Browns
With all the hype and expectations coming into 2013 it’s easy to forget the Dolphins will not have a chance to breathe out the gate and we will know within the first few weeks whether their offseason success has parlayed into regular season reality. Starting off the season at Cleveland and at Indianapolis, these teams aren’t to be taken for granted…especially the Browns. The Browns are expected to be much improved and with a 5 week schedule that includes games vs. Atlanta, Baltimore and at New Orleans, if the Fins want to be taken seriously they cannot do no worse than 2-3 to be even considered a potential Wild Card contender in the AFC.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
OPPONENT: at Chicago Bears
There are Super Bowl whispers in parts of this country coming from different analysts and fans in regards to this year’s Bengals team. With a projected weaker AFC this season and making the playoff 3 of the last 4 seasons the Bengals have a golden opportunity to take that next step into the upper echelon in the AFC alongside Denver, New England and Houston. A win on the road in Soldier Field vs. a very solid Chicago Bears squad can go a long way of starting that conversation.
3. Atlanta Falcons
OPPONENT: at New Orleans Saints
Seattle and San Francisco may have won the hype war this offseason but Atlanta can change the conversation very fast with a win over the Saints. It’s shocking that for a team that was yards from a Super Bowl berth last season they have been utterly dismissed. The Falcons can reinsert their dominance in the NFC South rather quick on Sunday by winning at the Superdome and keeping their eye on the bigger prize…….a trip to Super Bowl 48.
4. Arizona Cardinals
OPPONENT: at St. Louis Rams
There are realistic expectations that ‘Zona will be very competitive this season. But even more realistic is the fact that the Cardinals cannot go worse then 6-2 at home and have to find a way to get any and all tie-breaking possibilities over the course of the year. Winning in St. Louis vs. a division rival would be a good step forward.
5. Minnesota Vikings
OPPONENT: at Detroit Lions
While I have already predicted that Minny will regress severely in 2013, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen. Coming off a miraculous 10-6 season that was parlayed into a playoff berth, most pundits still believe that the Vikings will not be able to duplicate last year’s success. Also a 8 game stretch from Week 7 thru Week 14 that resembles murderer’s row, the Vikings will be better served grabbing wins especially verses divisonal foes like the Lions early and often.