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2013 NFL team-by-team record predictions

The Seahawks are on the verge of breaking ahead of the 49ers in the NFC West. (USATSI)
The Seahawks are on the verge of breaking ahead of the 49ers in the NFC West. (USATSI)

As the 2013 season draws near, NFL Insider Pat Kirwan predicts how all 32 teams will finish.

* playoff teams

AFC East

There are a lot of teams in transition in the AFC East. Some in positive ways, and others, not so much.

Buffalo is in rebuild mode and heading in the right direction. The Dolphins are improving, but they aren't quite ready for the upper echelon just yet.

The Jets have significant obstacles to overcome and Rex Ryan is under pressure to right the ship. As for the Patriots, they could still wind up atop the division despite having troubles of their own.

AFC East: Pat Kirwan's 2013 Projected Team Records
PlaceTeamProjected RecordPat Kirwan's Take
1.*
New England
New England
11-5Don't be fooled by the loss of most of their productive receivers from last season. Tom Brady has done a fine job of training new ones and the running game looks very good. On defense, look for more pressure on QBs from the front seven and the usual high number of turnovers created. No team has more takeaways over the past three seasons than the Patriots. Division rivals aren't ready to challenge for the title.
2.
Miami
Miami
7-9Offseason moves created lots of hype, but it feels like this team is a bit overvalued right now. Ryan Tannehill has to significantly improve his touchdown-pass production if Miami is to reach the playoffs this season. Playoff teams in 2012 averaged 27 TD passes. Tannehill had 13. Lamar Miller hasn't convinced me that he can replace Reggie Bush, and it doesn't appear that Jonathan Martin is up to the standard set by Jake Long at left tackle. The defense will be solid but the non-division schedule is tough (Colts, Falcons, Saints and Ravens during the first five weeks).
3.
Buffalo
Buffalo
6-10I really liked what I saw from EJ Manuel during my camp tour. He has leadership traits to complement excellent passing and escape skills. The Bills will present problems when Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are on the field together, and the young receivers will be much improved in the second half of the season. The defense needs production from corner Jarius Byrd (just signed his tender after holding out) and a healthy Kyle Williams up front. The Bills will spoil someone's road to the playoffs as they point toward a 2014 playoff run of their own.
4.
N.Y. Jets
N.Y. Jets
4-12Coach Rex Ryan is on the hot seat, There are QB issues. There are three new coordinators. And 2012 first-round pick Quinton Coples (ankle) is out for a month. Not only that, nobody knows when their top receiver, Santonio Holmes (Lisfranc foot injury), will return.

AFC North

The long-suffering Browns are on the right track, but they're up against formidable competition in the AFC North.

The Steelers are far from finished, but if that offensive line doesn't stay healthy, all bets are off in Pittsburgh. The Bengals have reinvented themselves as a playoff-quality team and will remain a threat in 2013.

As for the reigning champions, the Ravens will try to recoup from losing many big names in the offseason.

AFC North: Pat Kirwan's 2013 Projected Team Records
PlaceTeamProjected RecordPat Kirwan's Take
1.*
Baltimore
Baltimore
10-6As the Ravens prepare to defend their Super Bowl title, keep in mind they were a 10-6 team last year and this division is very tough. Last season, they avoided Ben Roethlisberger in both games and still split with the Steelers. The losses of TE Dennis Pitta (hip injury) and Anquan Boldin (traded to 49ers) can't be underestimated. In the playoffs last season, they combined for 36 catches, 543 yards, seven TDs and 29 first downs. That's hard to replace. After watching the defense in camp, I think it will be better than last season.
2.*
Cincinnati
Cincinnati
10-6The Bengals have been to the playoffs the past two seasons. A lot of people think this is the season they win the division and make a deep playoff run. They have quality depth on defense, a game-breaking wide receiver in A.J. Green and coaching stability. Ultimately, success depends on QB Andy Dalton. I like Cincinnati as a wild-card playoff unit, but scoring only 49 points in their final three games (16.3 points per game) will not get them very far.
3.*
Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh
10-6Lots of people have proclaimed the Steelers dead and gone, but I don't subscribe to that theory after being at camp. There are questions on offense: A suspect running game, a quarterback who takes too many sacks and a weakened receiving group. After talking with many Steelers, the overriding theme from them was a sick feeling in their gut over missing the playoffs. Pittsburgh needs to create more turnovers on defense and not rely on its No. 1 ranking in 2012. I have concerns about offensive line depth, because with an injury or two, they will have Big Ben running for his life. Even with all that, I like the Steelers to rebound from last season.
4.
Cleveland
Cleveland
5-11If the Browns were in the AFC East I would pick them for second place at 8-8. Residing in the AFC North means wins are hard to come by. I really liked what I saw from Brandon Weeden at camp, and Norv Turner will work wonders with this offense once Josh Gordon returns from suspension. New defensive coordinator Ray Horton will come off the bus blitzing, and that has players excited. The last coaching staff paved the way by playing more rookies than any NFL team last season, setting the foundation for a good team. Watch out a year from now!

AFC South

Andrew Luck should keep the Colts in contention for years to come, but until the Indianapolis defense improves, the team will struggle at times. The Colts' biggest rival in the AFC South is still the odds-on favorite to win the division.

The Texans might end up a better team than their record or stats will indicate in 2013 due to a difficult schedule. They should still be able to take the division title.

The Titans' hopes are pinned squarely on Jake Locker, even though Chris Johnson should be more productive this season. As for the Jaguars, Blaine Gabbert's development continues to be the biggest issue in Jacksonville.

AFC South: Pat Kirwan's 2013 Projected Team Records
PlaceTeamProjected RecordPat Kirwan's Take
1.*
Houston
Houston
10-6Some believe this is a 13-win team. I like them, especially with DeAndre Hopkins at WR opposite Andre Johnson, but I see them going 2-3 in their first five games. That means they'd have to win out to reach 13 wins, and the schedule includes Denver and New England later in the season. Owner Bob McNair felt his team lacked mental toughness last season. Players I spoke with took that to heart and intend to fix that issue. Their tough schedule will harden this team. While they may not be No. 7 in offense and defense again at the end of the season, they will be more playoff ready.
2.
Indianapolis
Indianapolis
9-7With Andrew Luck under center, the Colts should have a winning record every season for the next decade. The rush defense has to improve. All three division opponents averaged more than 100 yards a game rushing against the Colts, and that's a lot of stress on your defense. The Colts went out and got some run stuffers in free agency and the draft, but so far in the preseason they are still giving up more than 100 yards a game.
3.
Tennessee
Tennessee
6-10The same way Miami is counting on Ryan Tannehill, there is plenty of weight on Titans QB Jake Locker's arm. Look at the Detroit game (378 yards passing, 2 TDs and no INTs) before he missed a month as the top end. But in his final six games of 2012, we saw a young man not ready for prime time (2-4 record, four TD passes and nine INTs). Chris Johnson had what some termed a bad season, but still gained 1,243 yards and will surpass that number behind an offensive line improved by addition of Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack.
4.
Jacksonville
Jacksonville
3-13There's a lot of work to do, and it may take a few years. The team already named Blaine Gabbert the starting QB over Chad Henne. Gus Bradley is the third coach in three years to make that announcement, and it feels like Gabbert could break the record for "coach killing." The defense isn't much better. I just hope young owner Shahid Khan gives Bradley the time and flexibility to build this team the right way.

AFC West

Are the Chiefs poised for a comeback with new leadership and with Alex Smith under center? Time will tell, but for now, the Broncos are the clear favorite here.

Peyton Manning returns after a 2012 campaign that proved he still had plenty left in the tank. Add Wes Welker to the mix and a solid run game, and the rest of the AFC West might spend 2013 playing catch-up.

The Chargers might be in trouble if Philip Rivers' supporting cast doesn't step up. And the Raiders' seems destined for a forgettable 2013 effort.

AFC West: Pat Kirwan's 2013 Projected Team Records
PlaceTeamProjected RecordPat Kirwan's Take
1.*
Denver
Denver
11-5There are no more questions about Peyton Manning's health or arm strength. The addition of Wes Welker makes the Broncos' three-WR package impossible to stop. A stable of good running backs, plus Manning staring at two high safeties trying to contain the aerial attack, means the run game should produce very good numbers. The problems are on the defense, with Elvis Dumervil gone to Baltimore and Von Miller suspended for six games. So the Broncos may have trouble slowing down QBs. Bad news: The first two games are against Joe Flacco and Eli Manning. Good news: Four of the first six are at home and only one (Oakland) game is opposite a division opponent.
2.
Kansas City
Kansas City
9-7It was only a matter of time before the Chiefs' new regime showed Jonathan Baldwin the door. They didn't draft him and swapping him for 49ers headache WR A.J. Jenkins was a fair deal. Alex Smith will run an efficient dink-and-dunk attack, and if Jamaal Charles stays healthy, the offense will be decent. The defense will be better because NT Dontari Poe has stepped up, and that should clean up a run defense that was ranked 27th in 2012. If the Chiefs jump to eight wins, it would be a big success. If they go 6-2 before the bye, expectations will rise.
3.
San Diego
San Diego
6-10Injuries are mounting, and there are real questions about the offensive line's ability to protect Philip Rivers. Ryan Mathews has not played like a first-round pick, and this offense is being reduced to the Rivers to Antonio Gates show. The defense is solid up front and should repeat last year performance (No. 6 vs. the run). It's a shame San Diego did not keep OLB Shaun Phillips with Melvin Ingram (knee) out for the season, and Larry English looking like a disappointment.
4.
Oakland
Oakland
2-14It's going to be a long season. This club had to purge the roster for salary cap reasons and didn't have resources to buy talent. Charles Woodson is back in a Raiders uniform to provide leadership, but it will fall on deaf ears once losses mount. It's almost unfair to evaluate Dennis Allen and his staff in this situation. Raiders fans are loyal, but this season will test Raider Nation.

NFC East

The team with the most to prove in the NFC East is probably Philadelphia, under first-time NFL head coach Chip Kelly. But unless the Eagles surprise, the NFC East is a three-team race this season.

If the Redskins' defense can do a better job stifling the productivity of opposing offenses, it would go a long way toward helping them contend for the division crown.

The Giants are in much the same boat, needing to shore up defensive efforts and lessen the burden on Eli Manning's offense.

In Dallas, the name of the game is protecting Tony Romo, and adjusting to some different looks on defense.

NFC East: Pat Kirwan's 2013 Projected Team Records
PlaceTeamProjected RecordPat Kirwan's Take
1.*
Washington
Washington
9-7When I was at camp, it was clear the Redskins practice faster than a year ago when the Shanahans were figuring out how to build an offense around Robert Griffin III. Alfred Morris proved he is a special back as a rookie, having some of his best days vs. division opponents. In six division games, Morris touched the ball 149 times (24.8 per game) for 770 yards (128.3 yards per game). The defense is better with Brian Orakpo back, but issues remain in the secondary. Last season, the Redskins gave up 1,719 yards in six division games. Repeating that kind of that performance could leave Washington outside of the playoffs.
2.
N.Y. Giants
N.Y. Giants
9-7The Giants are a solid rebound team and have a history of reaching the playoffs with Eli Manning at QB. The division is up for grabs and should be a three-team race. Their run defense was poor last season, so they added defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson and drafted Jonathan Hankins to bolster the middle. I'm not sure their pass rush can return to recent Super Bowl vintage, and if they don't, the secondary will get exposed as it was last season (No. 28 vs. the pass).
3.
Dallas
Dallas
8-8There's a lot to like about the skill positions, and Tony Romo takes more heat than he deserves. The offensive line is a big question mark and the running backs have to stay healthy. Monte Kiffin is installing a new defense, and rest assured that they will play fast with a simple system everyone should understand. Don't expect all the "Tampa 2" coverage we saw when Kiffin was in Tampa Bay. He now has the corners to play more man to man, and this defense will resemble Seattle's. The basis is the "3 technique" defensive tackle, and I'm not sure this club has solved that issue with its present personnel.
4.
Philadelphia
Philadelphia
5-11There's a new coach with zero NFL experience in Chip Kelly. And watching his new college principle-based offense will be very interesting. It's made for Michael Vick, but can he stay healthy? The defense has not looked good enough to win in their conversion from a 4-3 to a 3-4. I expect plenty of hybrid 4-3 looks to better suit the available personnel, but this side of the ball is a work in progress. What intrigues me most: How much fast-paced, hurry-up offense can Kelly run in November when fewer than 40 men can even practice on a Wednesday?

NFC North

Jay Cutler should be extra-motivated this season since it's a contract year for him. If Chicago can diversify it's offense, they could threaten for the NFC North title. But the Packers remain the team to beat, even if their vulnerability seems more apparent.

Having Aaron Rodgers under center will always give Green Bay a shot at success, but they have to protect him better in 2013.

Even with another big year from Adrian Peterson, the Vikings will need to see improvement from Christian Ponder and from the defense if they want sustainable success.

Over in Detroit, the addition of Reggie Bush should be a positive for the Lions' offense, even if it remains one of the NFL's most pass-happy.

NFC North: Pat Kirwan's 2013 Projected Team Records
PlaceTeamProjected RecordPat Kirwan's Take
1.*
Green Bay
Green Bay
10-6Protecting Aaron Rodgers was a priority coming into the season because he has taken a lot sacks the past few seasons. Then, right away, they lost their best offensive tackle, Brian Bulaga, and now things look worse than last season. The Packers like to throw the ball close to 600 times a season, but that may have to change. GM Ted Thompson did a fine job in drafting running backs Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin to balance the attack. The defense had a nightmare day in a 45-31 loss to the 49ers in the playoffs, completely unable to stop the "Pistol" offense. Some Packers defenders assured me that issue has been resolved. We'll find out soon, because San Francisco and Washington are the first two games.
2.
Chicago
Chicago
9-7If the Bears win the division, it will be because of Jay Cutler. New coach Marc Trestman will get the most out of Cutler, who also is in a contract year. This offense simply can't go back to pitch and catch between Cutler and Brandon Marshall. They need Alshon Jeffery to deliver, and the offensive line has to open up running lanes and, more important, protect Cutler. The defense will be good enough to win, despite Brian Urlacher's retirement. The Oct. 10th game at home vs. the Giants could be a tiebreaker for a wild-card spot.
3.
Minnesota
Minnesota
8-8Time for Christian Ponder to be more than a guy who hands off to Adrian Peterson. Some call him a system QB, and 18 TD passes last season was far off the average (27) for playoff teams. The defense generated only 10 interceptions last season, so they need rookie CB Xavier Rhodes to step up quickly.
4.
Detroit
Detroit
8-8Last season was a major disappointment and I believe this team is better than its 4-12 mark in 2012. But how much better? Reggie Bush will put up very good numbers in this offense, receiving as much as running. No team threw as much as Detroit over the past two seasons, and that trend should continue. On defense, they want to pressure the QB with the front four and avoid blitzing, which means rookie DE Ziggy Ansah needs to play like a veteran. DT Nick Fairley played well down the stretch last season, and he and Ndamukong Suh should be very disruptive inside. Questions remain in the secondary. Can they stay healthy? Is rookie CB Darius Slay ready for prime time?

NFC South

All signs point to the NFC South being the Falcons' division to lose, but make no mistake: They'll have to beat some solid competition to get there.

The Saints return with head coach Sean Payton leading the troops and Rob Ryan directing the defense. They'll be in the hunt.

Carolina finished strong in 2012 and performed well against the Falcons and the Saints, which could be a sign of good things to come for the Panthers.

As for the Buccaneers, quarterback Josh Freeman needs to be more consistent and his line could help the cause by protecting him better.

NFC South: Pat Kirwan's 2013 Projected Team Records
PlaceTeamProjected RecordPat Kirwan's Take
1.*
Atlanta
Atlanta
11-5The Falcons are expected to make a serious Super Bowl run. Otherwise, TE Tony Gonzalez would have stayed retired. Steven Jackson gives them a power back. Add Jackson to a great set of wide receivers (Julio Jones, Roddy White) and this team should score more than the 419 points recorded in 2012. The defense was 24th last season, struggled against the run and hasn't looked much better this preseason, yielding 145 yards a game. I like them to win the division but the Saints will be right there.
2.*
New Orleans
New Orleans
10-6The Saints will rebound with coach Sean Payton back from his yearlong Bountygate suspension. The offense will be balanced and the run game will be a factor. Payton has to keep new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan from blitzing too often because this secondary can't be left on an island too many times a game. They gave up more than 300 yards passing eight times last season. The hope is rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro and veteran Keenan Lewis (Pittsburgh) will improve the back end.
3.
Carolina
Carolina
8-8The Panthers finished strong last season, winning the final four games. They swept the Saints, putting 79 points on the board. They also split with Atlanta and feel they will be in the race this season. Don't underestimate the Panthers; this team can rush the passer, has a QB who can run and throw (Cam Newton had 4,610 total yards & 27 touchdowns). However, they want to improve in the secondary. They didn't draft for the secondary but did beef up the defensive line with Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. In six division games last season, offenses threw for 1,700 yards and rushed for 676 yards (almost 400 yards of offense) in six division games vs. the Panthers.
4.
Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay
6-10There's something about this team that is not in harmony. I like the skills of quarterback Josh Freeman, but he's as inconsistent now as he was last year. The receiving weapons are there, the running back is dynamic but the line protection is questionable. The defense stopped the run last season, but couldn't stop the pass. They hope veterans Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson and rookie Johnthan Banks can fix their secondary. The coverage will be better, though I'm not convinced the pass rush will be there.

NFC West

The 49ers fell short in the Super Bowl, and they seem determined to avenge that loss in 2013. In order to do that, they'll have to go through the Seahawks, a team that looks to be much improved for 2013.

The Rams did surprisingly well against NFC West opponents in 2012 and could be a bit underrated. Meanwhile in Arizona, the Cardinals regroup with a new head coach in Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer at quarterback.

NFC West: Pat Kirwan's 2013 Projections
PlaceTeamProjected RecordPat Kirwan's Take
1.*
Seattle
Seattle
11-5On my Seattle stop (a day before seeing the 49ers), I saw a building full of real athletes -- powerful backs, big corners, fast receivers and plenty of pass rushers -- led by QB Russell Wilson. The difference when comparing this team to the 49ers: Seattle's defense can stymie the 49ers' offense with man to man coverage. The Niners scored 26 points in two games against the Seahawks last season and Seattle looks better this season.
2.*
San Francisco
San Francisco
11-5The biggest thing I came away with when watching this club is the sheer power in its defensive front seven, which can dominate the line of scrimmage. But the secondary is a question mark. They need a big year from rookie safety Eric Reid. Offensively, the line can run block with the best, plus they utilize so many exotic formations and personnel groups that they are difficult to stop. Frank Gore is the top back, but he's not alone as Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James will get a bigger share of the carries. Colin Kaepernick has only 10 starts but handles himself like a veteran. Without WR Michael Crabtree (Achilles), the passing game will struggle.
3.
St. Louis
St. Louis
8-8The Rams could be a surprise team, like the Lions and Panthers. Not many teams go 4-1-1 in the division and wind up with a losing record, though the Rams pulled it off in 2012. I expect Sam Bradford to have a solid season and improve on his 21 TD passes. The defense led the NFL with 52 sacks last season and is poised to do it again.
4.
Arizona
Arizona
6-10The Cardinals will be better with Carson Palmer under center and Bruce Arians calling plays. If Palmer could lead the 2012 Raiders to the NFL's eighth-best passing yardage total in 2012, what will he do with Larry Fitzgerald and Co.? There are finally two decent offensive tackles, with Levi Brown back and Eric Winston recently signed. The defense has been simplified and should be better if Darnell Dockett returns to 2011 form.
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