By Steve Keating Sept 2 (Reuters) - With no lockouts, no replacement referees no 'Bountygate' and no concussion lawsuit to worry about the spotlight will be back on the field when the National Football League (NFL) season kicks off on Thursday. After a pay-for-pain scandal involving the New Orleans Saints and two labor disputes - one between owners and players and another between the league and referees - blotted the start of the last two seasons, the 2013 campaign is set for a smooth launch with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens visiting the Denver Broncos. ...
Sept 2 (Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 16 teams in the National Football Conference (NFC) ahead of the 2013 National Football League (NFL) season: - - ATLANTA FALCONS Head coach: Mike Smith 2012 record: 13-3 (Won the NFC South after starting the season 8-0 before losing 28-24 to the San Francisco 49ers in second round of the playoffs) Blessed with a well-oiled passing attack effectively orchestrated by quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons have high hopes of going deeper into the postseason after acquiring three-time Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson in March. ...
The San Francisco 49ers are set to build on last year’s run to the Super Bowl, so says a prediction model that simulates the NFL season 50,000 times. In the simulations run by PredictionMachine.com , the most common result was the 49ers beating the Denver Broncos after last season’s disappointing Super Bowl loss in New Orleans. In the simulation, the 49ers won the Super Bowl 20.1 percent of the time – more than any other team - and they are most likely to play the Denver Broncos, who are the AFC’s representative 14.6 percent of the time. It probably says something that although the Broncos are considered the clear favorite in the AFC, they're still predicted to make the Super Bowl only about one of every seven times in this model.
The San Francisco 49ers are set to build on last year’s run to the Super Bowl, so says a prediction model that simulates the NFL season 50,000 times. In the simulations run by PredictionMachine.com , the most common result was the 49ers beating the Denver Broncos after last season’s disappointing Super Bowl loss in New Orleans. In the simulation, the 49ers won the Super Bowl 20.1 percent of the time – more than any other team - and they are most likely to play the Denver Broncos, who are the AFC’s representative 14.6 percent of the time. It probably says something that although the Broncos are considered the clear favorite in the AFC, they're still predicted to make the Super Bowl only about one of every seven times in this model.
The NFL season is approaching and Shutdown Corner is previewing all 32 teams, counting down our power rankings with one team a day until No. 1 is unveiled on Aug. 4, when the preseason kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton. Go to our Facebook page after you read the preview for all airing of grievances; we’ll have a daily discussion there to go with each preview. In 2011, the San Francisco 49ers defied expectations by winning 13 games and advancing to the NFC championship game, which they lost, in overtime, to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The 49ers' turnaround in Jim Harbaugh's first season was due to his conservative, mistake-free approach on offense and a Vic Fangio-coordinated defense that was impossible to run against, created turnovers and wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks. More of the same was expected in 2012 as the 49ers doubled down on Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 NFL draft who had overcome injuries and repeated benchings to, with the help of the 2011 lockout that wiped out that offseason, win the starting job and be the game manager Harbaugh needed him to be for the 49ers to have success in his first season on the job. The 49ers were humming along in 2012, as well, entering their Week 9 bye with a 6-2 record. In Week 10, Smith sustained a concussion in a 24-24 tie to the St. Louis Rams and he was replaced by Colin Kaepernick, a 2011 second-round pick out of Nevada. The rest is history. With Kaepernick under center, or in the Pistol formation, the 49ers became a much harder team for opposing defenses to prepare for. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Kaepernick's threat as a runner gave the 49ers a dangerous option attack. Kaepernick himself ran for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in the final seven-plus games as the 49ers' top quarterback. In the divisional round of playoffs, Kaepernick embarrassed the Green Bay Packers with 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 45-31 win. In the NFC championship against the Atlanta Falcons, Kaepernick was the focus of the defense, which allowed Frank Gore and rookie LaMichael James to combine for 124 yards and three touchdowns, including two by Gore that erased a 10-point deficit in the second half and propelled the 49ers into Super Bowl XLVII and a meeting with the John Harbaugh-coached Baltimore Ravens. The 49ers would come out on the losing of the "Harbaugh Bowl", but if it were not for Kaepernick, the score would not have been as close as it was. Trailing 28-6 early in the third quarter, Kaepernick was excellent in the second half, passing for 163 yards and a touchdown, rushing for 46 yards and a 15-yard touchdown that pulled the 49ers to within two points of the Ravens with 10 minutes to play. That would be as close as the 49ers would get as their final offensive possession would end with three straight incomplete pass attempts to Michael Crabtree and the confetti would rain down on the Ravens and the older of the Harbaugh brothers. As disappointing as the first Super Bowl loss in franchise history was, the 49ers have every reason to expect to be in position to win it all this season. They have a great young quarterback in Kaepernick. Versatile offensive weapons in Gore, James, Vernon Davis and Crabtree, if he can return from a torn Achilles. The 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, an active defensive front featuring the best four starting linebackers in the league and Harbaugh leads an outstanding coaching staff that includes Fangio and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, both of whom could receive head coaching opportunities next offseason. It won't be easy — they will face stiff competition from the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West — but the 49ers have every right to enter the 2013 season as the favorites to win not only the NFC West, but the entire NFC and could very well open up Levi's Stadium by unveiling a Super Bowl XLVIII champions banner.
The NFL season is approaching and Shutdown Corner is previewing all 32 teams, counting down our power rankings with one team a day until No. 1 is unveiled on Aug. 4, when the preseason kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton. Go to our Facebook page after you read the preview for all airing of grievances; we’ll have a daily discussion there to go with each preview. A couple weeks ago, the Seattle Seahawks were my pick to win the Super Bowl. I'm not so sure anymore. There have already been a lot of significant injuries during training camp, but the one that affects the Super Bowl picture most might be Percy Harvin's hip surgery . The Seahawks' offense was going to be really dynamic with Harvin lining up everywhere and presenting impossible matchup problems for the defense. That's why they traded a lot of picks to the Vikings for Harvin this offseason and gave him a $67 million deal. The Seahawks are still good without him – by the end of last season they were one of the strongest teams in the NFL, and they didn't have Harvin then – but nobody loses a player that talented without feeling it a little. Harvin could return late in the season, and that would be a big boost. That's if Harvin is at full speed and on the same page with the rest of the Seahawks' offense, which is hard to project. And keep in mind, the other team in the top two is competing with Seattle for a division title.
COMMENTARY | The 2013 NFL season is just around the corner, which means it's almost time to get together with your pals and draft your fantasy football team.Earlier this summer, I highlighted the best fantasy options on the New York Giants, but now it's time to examine the lesser-known players who could pay huge dividends for your team, because, as we all know, the injury bug is sure to bite at some point during the lengthy NFL season.
The NFL season is approaching and Shutdown Corner is previewing all 32 teams, counting down our power rankings with one team a day until No. 1 is unveiled on Aug. 4, when the preseason kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton. Go to our Facebook page after you read the preview for all airing of grievances; we’ll have a daily discussion there to go with each preview. Seeing as how our last image of Robert Griffin III on a football field was of his knee twisting in a gruesome direction, it's fairly amazing that it seems like a foregone conclusion he'll be in the lineup in Week 1. And with that, Redskins fans can resume hope. Washington paid a heavy price to get its franchise quarterback with the second pick of last year's draft, and the Redskins must feel they got a bargain. Griffin revitalized a franchise. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner showed off his impressive display of skills from a great first game against the Saints on, leading a late-season charge to an unlikely NFC East championship. Mike Shanahan made a mistake leaving Griffin in a playoff game against Seattle when his quarterback obviously was hurting, and Griffin blew out his knee. But with a surprising recovery, everything seems to be back on track for the Redskins and one of the brightest stars the league has.
COMMENTARY | Entering the 2013 NFL season, there's a lot being made of a small situation, and that's who will be Eli Manning's backup this season.
The NFL season is approaching and Shutdown Corner is previewing all 32 teams, counting down our power rankings with one team a day until No. 1 is unveiled on Aug. 4, when the preseason kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton. Go to our Facebook page after you read the preview for all airing of grievances; we’ll have a daily discussion there to go with each preview. We know that some team that had a losing record last year will make the playoffs. It happens all the time in the NFL. It's almost too easy to pick the Panthers, because they're such an obvious breakout candidate. In many statistical measures, Carolina was far better last year than its 7-9 record last season. [Related: Panthers' Greg Hardy entering his contract year ] Carolina finished 1-7 in games decided by less than a touchdown, and a team's record in close games usually evens out over time. The Panthers just were unlucky and didn't win their share. Carolina finished 13th in Football Outsiders' DVOA per-play efficiency metric, the only losing team to finish in the top 14. Of those top 14 teams in DVOA, 12 had double-digit wins (the Giants had nine). Football Outsiders' "estimated wins," which is based on a number of factors, had Carolina at 8.8 wins. That's more than Houston and Cincinnati. SportingCharts.com tracked a simple yards per play differential – yards per play for vs. yards per play against. Six NFL teams finished above plus-0.3: San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Carolina, Pittsburgh and Houston. Pretty good company. There was no other team with a losing record in the top 11. And in regular wins and losses, Carolina went 5-1 in its last six games after everyone stopped paying attention. The Panthers have some momentum going into this season. Carolina will be good this year with some normal luck. Quarterback Cam Newton was tremendous in the second half of the season after everyone tuned out the Panthers. The defensive front seven is one of the best in football. Many people will say they're surprised when the Panthers are in the playoffs this season, but they shouldn't be surprised at all.

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