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Who will the Bengals beat in the Super Bowl?

Sorry, Matt. You may take the next step, but there will be no ring for you.

The NFL season begins Sunday — yes, you read that right, Sunday – when 13 games are contested across the country. With that important note in mind, there’s still time to submit Super Bowl predictions. So here’s mine: Bengals 27, Falcons 19

As is the case with any season the Bengals appear to have a team that can be 8-8 or better, I’m picking them to win the Super Bowl. Why? Because if they somehow do hoist the Lombardi, I don’t want to be a Bengals fan who said they couldn’t or wouldn’t before the season started.

Does that mean I think the Bengals will win the Super Bowl? Not exactly. But if they do, don’t think I won’t be saying “I told you so.”

That left me with the question of who I’d pick to lose to Cincinnati in the big game. There were a number of interesting teams (more on that below), but I like the somewhat-under-the-radar Falcons to make a strong push this season.

Atlanta is a team, many are saying, is a trendy pick or that “a lot of people” are picking. Really, the only talking head I’ve heard pick Atlanta to win the NFC is former Colts GM Bill Polian. Ryan is poised for another solid season, and solid is enough, with a number of weapons around him and a division that should be there’s for the taking.

New Orleans won’t be bad, but don’t expect them to be all that they have been without head coach Sean Payton. Tampa Bay and Carolina are a year or two away. That leaves Atlanta to again win the South and take that extra step the team hasn’t taken since 1998.

Quickly, here’s how I eliminated the other teams.

NFC EAST: They’ll beat each other up (like always) and any of them could miss the playoffs. Most Super Bowl runners-up need to make the playoffs to play in the game.

NFC WEST: No thanks. San Francisco takes a small step back after a huge 2011 season and no one else should threaten.

NFC NORTH: NFC’s best division and league’s second best (behind the AFC North). I really like the Bears this year, and they would have been my pick if not for the Falcons. I prefer Matt Ryan (and the dome) to Cutler, and went with Atlanta for that reason.

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