2. Carolina Panthers (12-4 in 2013)
Early in the 2013 season, people in Carolina were calling for head coach Ron Rivera’s job. But when an 11-1 finish followed a 1-3 start, the tune changed, as “Riverboat Ron” became the toast of the town in Charlotte. But that stretch was a bit of a mirage, the result of a lot of close victories over some pretty mediocre opponents; it certainly can’t be expected again. In the NFC South, expect the Falcons to bounce back and the Panthers to fall back to earth; they played way over their heads in 2013.
1. Seattle Seahawks (13-3 in 2013)
People remember the dominating performance the Seahawks had in Super Bowl XLVIII and forget some of the close calls they had throughout the season. It took a miraculous pick-six in Week 4 to beat Houston, a late rally to win 14-9 in St. Louis and a furious comeback to beat the previously winless Buccaneers in Week 9. If either of those games go the other way, San Francisco probably goes to the Super Bowl. So with all of the distractions that come with being the champs, look for Seattle to stub their toe a few times and finish 10-6 — which won’t get it done in football’s best division.
Buck Stanton is a former agent and current sports business writer for various web sites, publications and newspapers. He believes that emotion is for suckers and statistics never lie.
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