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2013 NFL season prediction roundup

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  September 6, 2013 10:58 AM

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Is doubt finally lingering?

For the better part of a decade, Patriot fans have had blind faith in their team. In Bill We Trust. As long as thereís Brady. The Patriot Way. But as the Patriots get set to open the 2013 campaign, there is an uncertainty that has to be acknowledged even by the most stalwart defenders of the throne.

Aaron Hernandez is in jail. Rob Gronkowski is a ticking time bomb. Danny Amendola may or may not be Wes Welker, who only scored twice in his debut with the Broncos (but we should focus on the fumble, right?) Stevan Ridley has Blue Bonnet hands. And Bill Belichick has the youngest roster in the NFL at his disposal with 14 rookies.

Super Bowl favorites? Talk to me in November.

As it stands now, the Patriots are a jumbled question mark, units that need time to gel and work together, a process that isnít going to happen overnight. As a teacher, Tom Brady is more drill sergeant than daycare provider, and if you cross him the wrong way, you might as well be wearing cement boots and rowing a canoe downstream. See Lloyd, Brandon.

The AFC East is a cake walk, but the rest of New Englandís schedule is littered with challenge in Atlanta, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Denver, Baltimore, Houston, Tampa Bay, and Cincinnati. Donít expect the Pats to plow through it.

This could be Belichickís most challenging season in years, certainly the biggest transitional year since 2009. Is this group up to the task of playing in New York come February. No.

Not yet. Weíll see in November though.

Who they're picking....

Boston.com staff: Chad Finn and Gary Dzen have the Patriots going 13-3, Zuri Berry, 12-4, Erik Frenz, Adam Kaufman, and Steve Silva, 11-5, Matt Pepin and yours truly, 10-6.

Boston Globe staff: Only Jim McBride has the Pats in the Super Bowl, beating the 49ers. Dan Shaughnessy has them going 12-4, Chris Gasper, Shalize Manza Young, and Michael Whitmer, 11-5, and McBride, 10-6.

ESPN.com: Nobody on the 12-person panel picks the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Adam Schefter and Matt Williamson have New England in the Super Bowl, losing to Seattle and Green Bay, respectively.

Peter Schrager, Foxsports.com: Has the Pats losing to the Broncos in the divisional round, the Texans beating the Falcons in the Super Bowl.

Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. ďIf Iím right, and the Patriots win the AFCís top seed, this will be Bradyís shining moment, getting the Pats to the top of a tough conference with virtually entirely new skill players.Ē

Greg Bedard, Sports Illustrated: Patriots lose to the Steelers in the AFC title game. Bedard has the 49ers winning the Super Bowl.

CNNSI.com staff: Four of the seven have Green Bay winning the whole thing.

USA Today staff: None of the six-member panel has the Patriots winning the AFC title, which goes to the Broncos, unanimously.

Yahoo! sports staff: Scott Pianowski has the Patriots beating the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

SB Nation: Denver wins the Super Bowl.

Rich Levine, CSNNE.com: Falcons beat the Texans in the Super Bowl.

ProFootballTalk.com: Josh Alper and Mike Florio both have the Broncos beating the Patriots in the AFC title game.

Vinnie Iyer, The Sporting News: Has the Bengals beating the Patriots in the AFC divisional playoff game.

How we saw it last year:
AFC East: Patriots
AFC North: Steelers
AFC South: Texans
AFC West: Broncos
Wild cards: Chiefs, Ravens
NFC East: Giants
NFC North: Green Bay
NFC South: Panthers
NFC West: 49ers
Wild cards: Lions, Bears
Patriots fall to Ravens in AFC Championship game.
Super Bowl: Packers over Ravens

How we see it this year:
AFC East: Patriots
AFC North: Steelers
AFC South: Colts
AFC West: Broncos
Wild cards: Bengals, Chiefs
NFC East: Giants
NFC North: Packers
NFC South: Saints
NFC West: 49ers
Wild cards: Falcons, Lions
Patriots fall to Chiefs in wild card game.
Super Bowl: Broncos over 49ers.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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