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Teams Most Likely to Improve in 2013

Now that the 2012 NFL season is in the books, it’s time to look at the teams with the brightest outlook in 2013. Some may have suffered last year because of injury woes, while others just faced a brutally hard schedule. Some may have great draft picks lined up this April, and one team is getting a suspended head coach back (guess who that is?). However, all of them have one thing in common: they are set to be dramatically better next season than they were last. Let’s take a look at some of these improving teams, and what their odds are of exceeding their win expectations.

New Orleans Saints, Finished 7-9

I don’t think that there has ever been a team more poised for a monster comeback than the New Orleans Saints. Their 2012 certainly couldn’t have gone any worse; several of their best defensive players, their head coach and their general manager were all suspended for large chunks of time following the Bountygate scandal, and they never truly recovered. Their defense was one of the most putrid in the league, but they still finished at a respectable 7-9, and after getting Sean Payton back, this team is going to have an epic chip on their collective shoulders. Drew Brees and company are going to be throwing all over the field next year, and with the likely return of defensive end Will Smith and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, the Saints’ D should be at least slightly shored up. Look for them to totally flip the NFC South script and win it by finishing 10-6 or 11-5.

Cleveland Browns, Finished 5-11

Despite their poor record, the Browns were one of those teams that no one wanted to play in 2012. Their offense struggled to move the ball, but their defense was quite stout, and Cleveland found themselves in just about every game they played. Of course, Brandon Weeden must improve if the Browns want to make a real playoff push, but if he can develop into even an average NFL quarterback, there’s no reason to think the Browns can’t reach a .500 record. Unfortunately, they’re in the AFC North, one of the toughest (if not the toughest) division in football. They will have to face the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens twice, and the Bengals and Steelers are perennially in the playoff discussion as well. That fact alone could set back the Browns’ development as a team, but I like them to finish 8-8 this year.

Philadelphia Eagles, Finished 4-12

As ever, the talent was there in Philly this season, but the execution was sorely lacking. Pretty much everyone agreed that it was time for Andy Reid to go, and now that he’s meandered down to Kansas City, the Eagles should at least be reinvigorated by the coaching change. And what a change it was: the Eagles brought in former Oregon Ducks offensive mastermind Chip Kelly to harness the particular talents of their skilled, though inconsistent, quarterback. I fully expect them to implement the zone option offense that Seattle and Washington used so effectively this season, and Michael Vick could be truly devastating running it. I love the Eagles to finish 8-8 this year.

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