Top Super Bowl Contenders for 2013
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The NFL's free agency signing period begins next week.
Each team will look to upgrade the holes in their roster. Some others will try to find the missing pieces to put them on top.
Still, others should be contenders no matter how free agency plays out.
Here's a look at a few of those teams that will contend for the Super Bowl in 2013.
Russell Wilson had a tremendous rookie year on 2012.
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The Seahawks found their franchise quarterback in rookie Russell Wilson last year.
He first gained attention with his controversial final-play touchdown pass that beat Green Bay on Monday Night Football.
In the playoffs, he twice overcame deficits of 14 points or more.
After falling behind Washington 14-0, Wilson delivered a road playoff victory by a 24-14 score.
After falling behind by 20 in Atlanta, he led the Seahawks to a late lead of 28-27 before the Falcons came back to win.
With their defense, running game and a more experienced Wilson in 2013, the sky is the limit.
Andy Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
Andy Dalton has taken the Bengals to the playoffs the past two seasons.
If that's not a big deal, consider this: The Bengals had not had consecutive playoff appearances in 30 years.
He has a top-notch receiver in A.J.Green who should continue to get better.
The Bengals were patient with head coach Marvin Lewis through all the losing years. Their patience is finally paying off.
While the Bengals may not get the respect and attention that other teams do, they are a legitimate playoff contender.
If we have learned anything the past few years, it's that any playoff team that gets hot can win the Super Bowl.
That's why the Bengals deserve to be on this list.
New York Giants
Tom Coughlin will try to win a third Super Bowl in 2013.
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After winning the Super Bowl in 2011, the Giants failed to make the playoffs in 2012.
December was not kind to them. They were blown out on the road by Atlanta and Baltimore in consecutive weeks to essentially seal their fate.
Even so, the Giants still have a coach and quarterback who have won two Super Bowls together.
Consider also that despite the Redskins revival, the Giants have enough talent to win the NFC East in 2013.
With the Super Bowl being played in their home stadium next year, the Giants will try extra hard to be the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home venue.
Peyton Manning wants to win another Super Bowl.
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That was a win-now move, and the Broncos reaped an immediate dividend.
After a 2-3 start, Manning led the team to 11 straight wins and the top seed in the AFC.
However, their season came to a crushing and sudden stop with their stunning loss to Baltimore in the divisional playoffs.
Even though he will be 37 by the time the season starts, Peyton Manning is still playing at a high level.
That's enough to propel the Broncos once again to the top of a weak AFC West.
Maybe another brother versus brother Super Bowl could happen next season with Peyton and Eli meeting at Met Life Stadium.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady: Another disappointing playoff loss in 2012.
The Patriots lost the AFC Championship Game at home to Baltimore in January. It was another disappointing loss to end their season.
The Patriots won three Super Bowls from 2001 until 2004, but the fourth title remains elusive.
Tom Brady has a new contract extension. He will be 36 when the 2013 season kicks off.
Is the "window of opportunity" closing?
It might be, but as long as Brady is around the Patriots will be Super Bowl contenders.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers came so close in 2012.
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The 49ers nearly made a miraculous comeback in the Super Bowl.
Down 28-6 in the third quarter, they made it a classic before falling 34-31 to Baltimore.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh made the season's defining move by replacing starting quarterback Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick led the team to a division title before running through (and over) Green Bay and Atlanta in the NFC playoffs.
Then came the dramatic Super Bowl comeback that fell short.
With a full season of Kaepernick, leading the team a Super Bowl win becomes a possibility.
Marc Trestman is the new coach of the Chicago Bears.
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Do the Chicago Bears really belong on a list of top Super Bowl contenders?
Maybe. Maybe not.
They certainly have the defense to win a Super Bowl.
They have stars such as Devin Hester and Brandon Marshall, with the possibility of re-signing Brian Urlacher.
Though many seem to hate him, Jay Cutler is a quarterback capable of becoming better.
Cutler may be the main reason the Bears hired Marc Trestman as head coach.
Though he has been out of the NFL for several years—with college teams and in Canada—Trestman is still regarded as a developer of quarterbacks. The Bears hope he transforms Cutler into a Super Bowl winner.
The talent on defense is in place.
The $64 million dollar question is can Trestman be successful in getting the most out of the offense?
If the answer is yes, the Bears really do belong on this list.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers hopes to lead the Pack to another Super Bowl title.
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Entering the 2012 season, the main thing the Packers needed to fix was their defense.
Despite a 15-1 regular season record in 2011, the Packers were dead last in defense.
They improved to 11th last year, but could not contain San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the NFC playoffs.
Like the rest of the NFL, they will spend the offseason trying to figure out how to stop the read-option offenses.
If they are successful, another Lombardi Trophy could be heading home to Green Bay.
The Ravens hold up the Lombardi Trophy.
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Even though they stumbled during the final weeks of the regular season, the Ravens put it all together in the playoffs—all the way to a Super Bowl Championship.
Since then Lewis has retired and Joe Flacco has been rewarded with a rich new contract.
Add that to all the usual distractions that Super Bowl winners face and focusing on a repeat becomes all the more difficult.
It has been nearly a decade since a team has managed to repeat as Super Bowl Champs.
One thing is sure though, the Ravens are the only team in position to do it in 2013.
The Falcons hope to fly high in 2013.
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The Falcons came within a game of the Super Bowl last year.
They blew a 17 point lead in the NFC Championship Game and lost to San Francisco.
They have a solid defensive secondary and a talented offense.
Matt Ryan is the franchise quarterback and Roddy White and Julio Jones are top-tier receivers.
It would be a big bonus to the Falcons offense if they can talk tight end Tony Gonzalez into playing one more year.
The Falcons have been the top seeded NFC playoff team two of the last three years.
With the pieces they have in place, a Super Bowl run is not out of the question.
Can the Texans bring a Super Bowl title to Houston?
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For most of the 2012 season, the Houston Texans looked like the best team in the NFL.
They jumped out to an 11-1 start, including a 43-13 thumping of eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore.
Then they lost three out of four to end the season, dropping from first to third in the AFC.
The Texans ranked seventh in total offense and defense.
They struggled with high-octane offenses such as the Packers and Patriots.
They were blown out by Green Bay 42-24 and New England 42-14. Then they lost 41-28 at New England in the playoffs.
If they can figure out how to stop those teams, they just might win the Super Bowl.