Keeping Score

TIME’s Fearless Sports Predictions for 2013

Forecasting the Super Bowl winner, the NBA champion and an historic upset

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Chris Keane / Reuters

Miami Heat small forward LeBron James smiles as his team takes on the Charlotte Bobcats in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 26, 2012

A year ago, we made 15 sports predictions for 2012 and promised to report back a year later to assess our performance. We know you’ve been anxiously anticipating this moment and, well, we can say we exceeded our very low expectations.

We went 3 out of 5 in the “No Duh” category, forecasting a Miami Heat title, a Usain Bolt gold in the 100 m in London and Spain’s Euro 2012 victory. (The Green Bay Packers and Texas Rangers failed to win the championships we pegged for them.) In “Huh, Maybe,” we went 2 out of 5 — we prefer “hitting .400” — ain’t too bad, right? (Harvard did make its first NCAA men’s basketball tournament since the Truman years, and Albert Pujols did disappoint in Anaheim: yes, he hit 30 home runs, but finished with career lows in home runs, on-base plus slugging and wins above replacement, a sabermetric measure of overall value, after signing a $250 million free-agent deal. If only Tiger Woods won that major we swore he’d win.)

We’re probably most proud of hitting .400 in the “C’mon, Really Dude?” category. The geographically challenged Big East, which was recruiting schools like San Diego State, actually did add a team from the east, Temple. Although we did not anticipate that the conference will likely die very soon. Also, college football did actually add a playoff.

But my, were we wrong in thinking that Andrew Luck would actually suck in the NFL.

These predictions are all stupid wild guesses. But we still say they’re fun. So we’ll try do better than 7 for 15 — a .467 batting average! — this year and present TIME’s fearless sports forecast for 2013.

(MORE: TIME’s Fearless Sports Predictions for 2012)

No Duh.

1. The Miami Heat repeats as NBA champions. This isn’t looking so obvious right now, as the Heat has been fighting with the New York Knicks for the top record in the Eastern Conference. Plus, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers are loaded. Still, we’re betting on LeBron and Co. saving their best ball for the playoffs.

2. Manchester United wins the English Premier League title. After just falling short on the last day of last year’s regular season — rival Manchester City needed a last-minute miracle to beat Queens Park Rangers and take the title — Manchester United, currently in first place, will cruise to another championship. Having Robin van Persie surely helps.

3. Alabama beats Notre Dame in the BCS title game. We see the Irish keeping the deficit in single digits. Notre Dame, however, will still lose.

4. Rory McIlroy wins his first Masters title. The world’s top-ranked player hasn’t fared so well at Augusta: his top finish was a tie for 15th, in 2011. This year, the phenom takes the green jacket.

5. Baylor repeats as national women’s basketball champions. The Bears, led by once-in-a-generation center Brittney Griner, a 6-ft.-8-in. force who dunks with ease, have already lost once this season: Baylor fell to Stanford, 71-69, in a tournament in Hawaii, ending the Bears’ 42-game winning streak. Don’t expect another Baylor defeat: Griner, the most dominant post player in women’s history, will end her college career with another title.

Huh, Really?

1. There’s no clear-cut Super Bowl favorite this year, so our projection can fit in this category. Denver is a fashionable pick, given how well Peyton Manning has rebounded this season. But we have a feeling that the Atlanta Falcons will shed their reps as playoff underachievers and hoist the Super Bowl trophy in New Orleans in February.

2. A decade later, Serena Williams completes a second slam. The old knock on Williams — “she doesn’t care enough about tennis” — couldn’t seem more ridiculous now. It turns out that her less-than-rigorous tournament schedule, and outside “distractions” like an interest in fashion, may have prevented the sort of burnout that consumes so many young tennis stars. Coming off a 2012 season that saw her win Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open, look for Williams to keep rolling: she’ll take the Australian and French Opens — she’s only won the French once — replicating the “Serena Slam” (four consecutive Grand Slam titles over two calendar years) she pulled off in 2002 and 2003.

3. Woods wins another major. This will be annual, until Woods takes his first major since the sex scandal that derailed his personal life and shook up his career. He has to win one at some point, right?

4. The NHL lockout ends, just in the nick of time to save season. Because no pro sport can withstand two full lost seasons within eight years. No one would be that dumb. Right? Right?

5. For the second time in 18 seasons, the New York Yankees miss the playoffs. With the Toronto Blue Jays stockpiling big names like Jose Reyes and National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, the Baltimore Orioles coming off an excellent regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays always a threat and the Boston Red Sox likely to improve on their 2012 disaster under Bobby Valentine, the old, expensive Yankees will get squeezed out of the American League East postseason picture. You could even argue this one belongs in “No Duh.”

Come On, Really Dude? 

1. A No. 16 seed will beat a No. 1 seed in March Madness. It’s never happened since the men’s tournament expanded to 64 teams back in 1985, though UNC Asheville came pretty close last season, sticking with Syracuse until the final minute before falling 72-65. Might as well make this an annual too, so that when it does happen, we can say we called it.

2. Tim Tebow joins the Jacksonville Jaguars … and makes the playoffs. Take that, New York.

3. Lance Armstrong does a mea culpa on performance-enhancing drugs.

4. Robert Griffin III will actually suffer a sophomore slump. (After saying that Luck would fail this year, we’re staying away from that guy.)

5. Leo Messi scores fewer than 90 goals in 2013. Ridiculous, we know.

MORE: TIME’s Favorite Sports Moment of 2012. What’s Yours?

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