With the 2013 season opener 9 days away, the 2013 NFL season is just around the corner. That being said, many of the traditionally good teams (recently speaking) are being tabbed to have strong seasons: The Patriots are a lock for the playoffs, the Niners are expected to continue their dominance, the Packers are supposed to carry on their winning ways, etc. However, there are teams that have been flying under the radar making moves (or just bringing people back) that stand to have strong seasons. Let’s look at a few of those teams and why they’re poised to make noise in a landscape that has largely ignored them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Adding the best cover corner in the league (even if he is coming off ACL surgery) was not enough for them. They also added markedly-improved safety Dashon Golston, signing him to a 5-year deal. With those pieces and what Tampa already had, the team boasts an impressive secondary. After Doug Martin’s emergence and news of Josh Freeman’s dedicated offseason work, Tampa seems to be full-steam ahead with a full-scale turnaround this season. Schiano gave them an edginess last year that rubbed quite a few people the wrong way, but in the NFL that’s needed to be a successful coach, player, side-of-the-ball, or team. With Vincent Jackson, Mike Ogletree, and Mike Williams, Tampa can go three wide and stretch out defenses only for Martin to rip off a nice run. The team has formidable weapons on both sides of the ball that can make them hard to beat this year, but they should only hope that they don’t fall the way of the 2011 Chargers.
Kansas City Chiefs- With Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, and Alex Smith, the Chiefs actually have an offense that can do damage. They’re not three-headed monster, but they can do damage. Alex Smith is the prototypical game-manager-efficient, smart, and economical-and he has #1 draft pick Eric Fisher bolstering the offensive line with Dwayne Bowe’s playmaking skills, Smith may open up his arsenal a bit. Even if Smith doesn’t, Bowe is the type of player who can make a 35-yard TD run out of a 8-yard checkdown. Don’t forget the fact that Jamaal Charles’ ability to bust open defenses and make big runs will keep defenses honest. After years of playing in one of the toughest divisions in football, Andy Reid should be relieved to be in KC with only one team posing a threat to a successful season, instead of 2 or 3 each year. Kansas City fans now have something to cheer for and a reason to lose those brown paper bags.
Arizona Cardinals- After another dismal season, things are looking brighter in the desert, despite the constant stream of sunlight. Larry Fitzgerald finally has a quarterback that is somewhat befitting of the caliber of receiver that he is. Carson Palmer, despite his problems, should be able to get Larry the ball over the middle, deep, and anywhere in between. He was among the league leaders in passing attempts with the Raiders last year…and that was without one of the best wideouts in the league. He should be among the league leaders in passing attempts again this season, but quite a few of those should be touchdowns to either Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd, who’s looking to capitalize on the potential that he showed while at Notre Dame.
New Orleans Saints- Some are saying that the AFC South will be a two team race between the Panther and the Heavyweight Falcons who have added a ton of talent over the offseason, but these people are forgetting the importance and the value of a good coach. The Patriots have been a shining example of what a good coach can do for an organization for the past decade, while the 49ers have been a recent example of how coaching can revolutionize a franchise. Countless reports from the Saint have told of the sheer joy that players have expressed now the Sean Payton is back at the helm. Payton and Brees have a great relationship and always find a way to do something memorable and innovative. Moreso than anything, these two win games. Since 2006, when Payton and Brees were first paired, they have had a losing record only once over the course of a season. Expect to see something come from the Saints, as they may determine who win the AFC South.