With Tom Brady and the Patriots beginning a postseason run that fans hope concludes with a fourth Super Bowl victory on February 3 in New Orleans, it is fair to say old acquaintances are in no danger of being forgotten in the new year.
Still, the annual flip of the calendar always brings the unexpected in the sports world—for instance, not even the most diehard Yankees fan had the Red Sox pegged for 69 wins in 2012. So with the awareness to expect the unexpected without disregarding the logical, here are 10 predictions for 2013.
Rob Gronkowski will score the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl
The Patriots’ affable all-world tight end returned in the regular season finale against the Dolphins after missing five games with a broken forearm, catching his 11th touchdown pass of the season. His health is crucial to the Patriots’ championship hopes—no one needs a reminder that had he been fully healthy in the Super Bowl last year, the Patriots likely would have overcome the Giants.
As it was, he was just feet away from hauling in Brady’s Hail Mary on the final play. This year, no such desperation will be required.
Mike Napoli will wind up with the Red Sox on a two-year deal
Napoli, the erstwhile Rangers’ slugging catcher/first baseman and a longtime tormentor of Red Sox pitchers, agreed to a three-year, $39-million deal with the Red Sox on Dec. 3. But he is yet to sign, reportedly because of some concern the ballclub has about the condition of his hip.
At this point, neither team nor player has a better Plan B, and the belief here is that the deal gets done by the end of January, ultimately a year shorter than the original terms.
As for how he will produce, lets pencil him in for 25 homers—the halfway point between his 2011 and ‘12 seasons.
Tyler Seguin will lead the NHL in goals
Yes, of course, that’s presuming that some semblance of a 2012-13 season can be salvaged, not to mention whether the Bruins can lure Seguin back from the hockey heaven of the Swiss-A league, where he has 25 goals in 29 games at last check for Biel.
Sure, we’re being facetious about getting him to come back, but the belief that Seguin, who leaped to 29 goals in his second NHL season last year, can be a force once and if the NHL resumes is completely serious.
His young legs and rust-free skill and speed will be a huge advantage upon return. Next
Nathan Horton will return to health and form
We don’t need another caveat here presuming that the NHL itself returns to health and form, too, right? OK, good. Maybe this one is closer to optimistic thinking than an actual prediction, but here’s hoping Horton, so clutch during the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run in 2010-11, can stay healthy after missing 34 games plus the playoffs last year after suffering another concussion and dealing with the afteraffects.
His agent said in November he’s good to go. Let’s hope it’s true, for good-guy Horton’s sake, and for the Bruins’, too. Next
Courtney Lee will be traded
Yeah, not exactly a reach there, given the redundancy the struggling Celtics have at shooting guard, especially once Avery Bradley returns. Lee, sharp defensively and a dependable 3-point shooter in the past, has struggled in his first season with the Celtics, shooting just 30.6 percent from beyond the arc.
He still has appeal because of youth and past performance, and the hunch here is that he’s packaged along with Brandon Bass, possibly even Jared Sullinger, and draft picks to acquire someone to collect more than an occasional rebound. Next
John Lackey will win at least 14 games
No, that’s not the optimism of the new year talking there. As unlikeable as Lackey has been, and he is the lasting symbol of the beer-and-chicken brigade, it’s apparent he was pitching through a serious injury in 2011, and probably was damaged goods when he was signed after the 2009 season. He’s returning from Tommy John surgery in ‘13, and while Fenway may not be the best ballpark for him, he’ll be as healthy as he has been since his Angels days ... when he averaged just under 14 wins over his final six seasons. Next
Kevin Garnett will retire at season’s end
I’d love to be wrong on this one, and given that Garnett just signed a three-year, $34 million deal over the summer, maybe I will be. But should the Celtics fail to turn it around after their 14-16 start, it’s hard to imagine a player of such pride and accomplishment wanting to end his career mired in mediocrity, especially one who has made in the vicinity of $300 million in his career and who nearly called it a career after last season. Next
The Red Sox will not trade Jacoby Ellsbury
The enigmatic center fielder, who sandwiched two injury-abbreviated seasons around a truly spectacular 2011 in which he was runner-up for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, is a free-agent after the season, and with Scott Boras as his agent, testing the market is all but an inevitability if he stays healthy. He would seem a prime candidate for a midseason deal if the Red Sox aren’t contenders, but with a bolstered roster and the appeal of the second wild-card, the Red Sox will probably be in the hunt as the trade deadline arrives and passes. Next
David Ortiz will have another very productive season
Miguel Cabrera, the winner of the 2012 American League Most Valuable Player award and the Triple Crown, had an OPS of .999 last season. David Ortiz, the Red Sox’ now-37-year-old designated hitter, had an OPS of 1.026. The catch, of course, is that he did it in just 90 games, missing all but one of the Red Sox’ final 72 games after injuring his Achilles’ tendon July 16. Durability will remain a question with Ortiz as he ages, but it’s worth remembering he was one of the best hitters in the AL when healthy last year, and should be among the best again. Next
Wes Welker will return to the Patriots
Maybe it’s because it’s simply hard to imagine the Patriots offense being so productive without the tough, extraordinarily productive slot receiver. Or maybe it’s the belief that Tom Brady, having watched Deion Branch depart after the ‘05 season and fail to be replaced in ‘06, will plead to keep Welker around. But it’s difficult to believe that the business-is-business approach will allow Welker, who benefits from playing here as much as the Patriots benefit from having him, to depart via free agency after this season. He’s where he belongs. Both sides should recognize that. Back to the beginning
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