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Who Will Be 2013’s Surprise Teams in the NFL?

Posted on July 28, 2013 by Dean Hybl
With head coach Sean Payton back on board, Drew Brees and the Saints will look to return to the top of the standings in 2013.

With head coach Sean Payton back on board, Drew Brees and the Saints will look to return to the top of the standings in 2013.

Every season one thing you can count on in the NFL is that there will be teams that you expect to do well that will struggle and there will be teams that are expected to be bad, but will make a run toward the playoffs.

In the world of online football betting, everyone is trying to figure out which teams will be the surprise teams for the upcoming season because as all who do follow the NFL are aware from past history that there will be some.

Last season four teams that had posted losing records the previous season made the playoffs and there are many seasons when five or more such teams have made the leap.

As we look toward 2013, the question is which teams can do what the Colts, Seahawks, Redskins and Vikings did last season? Here is a look at some of the top contenders to rise from the ashes:

New Orleans Saints – 2012 Record: 7-9

It may not really be fair to include the Saints on this list. After all, they were 13-3 in 2011 and played the 2012 season with their head coach suspended and under the cloud of “Bountygate”.

With Sean Payton back on the sidelines and Bountygate now a distant memory, it would be of little surprise if the Saints are back in the playoff hunt in 2013.

Another distraction entering the 2012 season was the contract status of quarterback Drew Brees and with that no longer an issue, you can expect him to be back to his Pro Bowl best.

The Saints had a generally quiet off-season with their biggest acquisition being new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He will have a tough task making the New Orleans defense a playoff caliber unit as they allowed the most yards and second most points in the league last year.

While the offense will certainly be potent and probably good enough to get New Orleans back above .500, the defense must be better if the Saints want to make a deep playoff run.

Kansas City Chiefs – 2012 Record: 2-14

Following a 7-9 campaign in 2011 the Chiefs were a popular pick to take the next step in 2012. Unfortunately for them, the next step proved to be over a cliff as they posted the worst record in the NFL.

Alex Smith will look for a fresh start guiding the Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith will look for a fresh start guiding the Kansas City Chiefs

Now, with a new coach and a new franchise quarterback to add to a roster that many thought was very talented a year ago, it would seem logical that the Chiefs could be significantly better this season.

It is true that Andy Reid had grown stale in Philadelphia after more than a decade of mostly success, so it is possible that a change of scenery could get his juices flowing again and lead to a quick turnaround.

However, whether the Chiefs are successful in 2013 could likely have more to do with quarterback Alex Smith than with his head coach.

Smith has been a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback the last two seasons in San Francisco, but you certainly have to read something into the fact that Jim Harbaugh never really trusted him as the long-term leader for his offense.

If Reid can take the things that Smith does well and capitalize on them, he has proven that he can be a solid starting quarterback.

The Chiefs have some weapons surrounding Smith, including receiver Dwayne Bowe and running back Jamaal Charles. They also have improved their offensive line with the addition of the top pick in the draft Eric Fisher.

Defensively, the Chiefs should be better in 2013. They signed free agent Sean Smith and their defensive secondary could be one of the most talented in the NFL.

I don’t see the Chiefs competing with the Broncos for the AFC West title, but they could certainly finish ahead of the Chargers and Raiders.

Philadelphia Eagles – 2012 Record: 4-12

While Andy Reid could breathe new life into the Kansas City Chiefs, his replacement, Chip Kelly, could do the same thing in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Eagles are counting on new coach Chip Kelly to help turn them around in 2013.

The Philadelphia Eagles are counting on new coach Chip Kelly to help turn them around in 2013.

The Eagles were considered to be among the more talented teams in football over the last couple seasons, but they posted a 12-20 record and were labeled as under achievers.

Now with Kelly bringing his fast paced offense from Oregon there are some that think he can resuscitate the team and get them back into contention.

Of course part of the challenge will be at quarterback where Michael Vick has been below average the last two seasons and Nick Foles was inconsistent as a rookie. Kelly is familiar with rookie Matt Barkley, but it would be a surprise for him to emerge as the starter.

If one of the quarterbacks can take control of the offense, it will help Kelly install his up-tempo offense that was so successful at the college level. Some don’t believe his style can translate to the NFL, but the offense in the NFL has been excessively influenced by changes in the college game in recent years, so this could be the next evolution.

The Eagles benefit from being in a division where there doesn’t seem to be one dominant team. Any of the four teams could put things together and emerge as the best team in the division, but predicting which team that will be at this stage is a crap shoot.

It seems likely that the Eagles will win more than four games, but whether Kelly can get them ready for the playoffs in just one season is questionable.

Miami Dolphins – 2012 Record: 7-9

The Dolphins were a middle-of-the-road team last season and made a lot of changes in the off-season. However, whether they actually see an improvement in their record in 2013 could really boil down to whether second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill is capable of being a top-level NFL quarterback.

In his second season, Ryan Tannehill will look to lead the Dolphins back to the playoffs.

In his second season, Ryan Tannehill will look to lead the Dolphins back to the playoffs.

He will have a number of new weapons to work with as gone are Reggie Bush, Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano. They have been replaced by Lamar Miller, Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller. Whether that is an improvement or simply shuttling deck chairs will be interesting to discover.

The defense also made some changes that seem to be more parallel than providing an upgrade.

There is a lot of optimism in Miami, but if Tannehill doesn’t improve on his 12 touchdown pass rookie season it could be tough for the Dolphins to emerge as a playoff contender.

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