Top 15 NFL Teams Heading Into 2013

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Top 15 NFL Teams Heading Into 2013

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs start this weekend but anyone can predict what is going to happen over the next month; we strive for more at Rant Sports. We are all ready looking forward to the 2013 NFL season. So, just for a moment, forget about who is going to win the Super Bowl and come find out who the top 15 teams are heading into next season. First some background on the criteria I use when evaluating football teams and their chances for success.

The first one is ownership/front office; if the owner is stable and the front office consistently makes the right moves, then a team has a shot to be good over a long-period of time. Look around the league at the teams that are good year in and year out, and you will find an owner/front office that is on the same page.

Secondly is the head coach; is the coach someone who just gets it? Is the coach on the same page with his front office while at the same time, able to connect with the players? The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the best franchises in all of sports and they have had three coaches in their history. Now you have to hire the right guy but the point is this, stability wins. Take a peek at the teams that struggle every single season and then tell me how many coaches they’ve had in the last 10 years? Probably more than three!

The last thing to consider when ranking teams is their situation at quarterback. There is no single position in sports more important than quarterback in the NFL. If a team has an elite quarterback, then they will be contenders regardless of what the rest of the team looks like. On the contrary a team can be loaded at every other spot, but if they do not have a quarterback then they have little chance to win big. The position is just that important in the game today; the rules dictate offense and the quarterback runs the offense.

So as we proceed through the top 15 teams heading into the 2013 season; remember we are looking at the front office, the head coach and the quarterback.

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15. Pittsburgh Steelers

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Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost hard to place the Steelers this low but in reality they are somewhat lucky to be on the list. They are an aging team with major salary cap issues facing them this offseason. However they still have one of the best coaches in Mike Tomlin, and a quarterback who knows how to win. As long as those two are on the sidelines in the Steel City, then they have a shot in any given season.

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14. Minnesota Vikings

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

This one was hard for me; the Minnesota Vikings are definitely headed in the right direction but there are still doubts about quarterback, Christian Ponder. In addition to the questions about Ponder; head coach Leslie Frazier has not proven himself over the long haul either. However the Vikings have Adrian Peterson and that allows Ponder and Frazier to grow into their roles. The Vikings are on the cusp of being a very good team, but they are also on the cusp of falling back. 2013 will be interesting; which way will they go?

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13. Cincinnati Bengals

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Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

If the Cincinnati Bengals were any other team with the talent they have; they would be ranked higher. They are the Bengals, however, and you never know what dumb decision the front office is going to make. They have a promising young quarterback in Andy Dalton and AJ Green is a top five wide receiver. The Bengals also have a very good front seven on defense and can run the ball. The questions going forward are will the front office continue to upgrade the talent, and does head coach Marvin Lewis know what to do with it? If those questions are answered, then the Bengals have a shot to be good for a while.

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12. Baltimore Ravens

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Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens are the poster child of a team that has everything but the quarterback, and it’s holding them back. Ozzie Newsome is one of the best personnel men in the business and Jon Harbaugh has proven to be a very good head coach. The Ravens still have more than enough talent on defense and their running game is great with Ray Rice. If Joe Flacco can ever live up to his potential then the Ravens are a threat but until then, they are a good team who will never get over that final hurdle.

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11. Houston Texans

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Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans were considered by everyone to be the best team in the NFL for most of the 2012 season, but then came December. They struggled down the stretch and a big part of that was the play of the quarterback. Matt Schaub is a good player but he’s not great, and he did not play well late in the season. Because of that and a defense that wore down as the season progressed; ranking the Texans any higher would be a mistake.

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10. Washington Redskins

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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

This could very well be too low for the Washington Redskins; they have a Super Bowl winning coach and one of the most dynamic young quarterbacks to come along in quite some time. Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III are a match made in heaven, and there are a lot of wins in their future. If Shanahan and General Manager, Bruce Allen can upgrade the talent on defense then the Skins are going to be a force.

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9. Indianapolis Colts

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011 the Indianapolis Colts were 2-14 and now they are a top 10 team going into 2013. That’s how important an elite quarterback is and make no mistake; Andrew Luck is all ready elite. He makes throws that veteran quarterbacks cannot make in their dreams. In addition to Luck; the Colts are solid in the front office and we do not need to tell you about head coach Chuck Pagano. From Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck; count your blessings if you are a Colts fan.

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8. New Orleans Saints

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints did not make the playoffs this season and had one of the worst defenses in NFL history, but guess what? They get one of the best head coaches in the league back next season in Sean Payton. If you don’t think that will make a difference, then you haven’t seen the Saints play with Payton on the sideline. They do need to upgrade the defense in the offseason but if they do; the Saints will be back among the league’s best in 2013.

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7. Atlanta Falcons

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Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Falcons be higher, possibly but until they prove they can win in January I just can’t do it. They could win the Super Bowl this season and that would certainly change things but it is January 1st, not February 3rd and as of right now the Falcons do not get the benefit of the doubt. Matt Ryan has the tools to be one of the game’s best quarterbacks but he too has to prove it in the playoffs.

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6. San Francisco 49ers

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

There was a big part of me that wanted to rank the San Francisco 49ers higher based on their head coach, Jim Harbaugh and their defense but the quarterback situation is too dicey. The Niners have obviously made the commitment to Colin Kapernick who has looked great at times; and terrible at other times. If Kapernick plays more consistently, then the 49ers will be a very good football team. Like the Falcons, the Niners could win the Super Bowl this season and if they do then this ranking would be far too low.

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5. Seattle Seahawks

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the surprise, maybe even the shocker of the top five. The Seattle Seahawks are loaded on defense, they run the ball extremely well and they have Russell Wilson. Wilson does not have the prototypical size of an elite quarterback but he has everything else. He is accurate, makes plays with his feet and will beat you with his head as well. Wilson is only a rookie; imagine how good he will be when he figures out what he is doing. Pete Carroll is also proving to be a quality NFL coach and the front office continues to draft well. The Seahawks also have the best home-field advantage in sports; they are here to stay folks.

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4. New York Giants

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I know the New York Giants failed to make the playoffs and they were more up and down then the stock market, but they have as much talent as anyone. Eli Manning is still one of the best big game quarterbacks in football and the defense is better than it showed this season. The Giants will be motivated by their lackluster play this season and head coach, Tom Coughlin is still one of the very best.

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3. Green Bay Packers

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers did not have the magical regular season that they had in 2011, but they still have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and Mike McCarthy as their head coach. As long as those two are in those positions, then the Packers are always going to be there in January, Their defense is better than they showed in 2012; they were ravaged by injuries and the front office will always do whatever is necessary to keep the Pack on top.

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2. New England Patriots

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The last time I looked at the New England Patriots; Bill Belichick was still the head coach, Tom Brady was still the quarterback and the team was still owned by Robert Kraft. As long as that is the case, the Patriots should be in the top two going into any season. The defense has been a liability over the past couple of seasons but even that is getting better and with one more off-season, Belichick will likely have that corrected as well. Every year people try to write off the Patriots and every year they are right there in January. Nothing is going to change as long as those three men are hanging around the Boston area.

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1. Denver Broncos

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Take you shots; tell me I am biased with this pick! You know what, you’re right! I admit that this is a completely biased pick but I believe I can also back it up. John Elway has proven his ability to evaluate talent and put a team together. Yes he signed Manning, which anyone could do, but he also added so many role players that have been big for the Broncos. Elway has also had two very solid drafts and hired the perfect coach for the Broncos in John Fox. The Broncos also have Manning and a defense; both will be even better in 2013. It was my belief before 2012 that the Broncos would be good this season and challenge for championships in the two or three years after that. They are well ahead of schedule and that’s why they should be considered the best team heading into 2013.

There’s my list but the best thing about rankings like these is that there is no wrong answer; it’s all about opinion. I’ve given you mine so let’s hear yours. Which teams would make your top 15 heading into 2013?

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