Three predictions for 2013

As we welcome a new year, ESPN Boston writers have checked their crystal balls and are making some bold predictions. Here are three for the Patriots:

1. Patriots reach Super Bowl XLVII. The Patriots were this scribe's pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl before the season, and the team has affirmed that belief with a strong regular season. With an improving defense complementing the best offense in the NFL, the Patriots look ready for another run at a ring.

2. Wes Welker signs a new contract. It was a bizarre, at-time tenuous 2012 offseason between the Patriots and Welker in contract negotiations, but he may be having his best season ever this year. He continues to be an offensive lynchpin, and look for the two sides to come to a multi-year agreement this offseason.

3. Hernandez, Hightower break out. Looking for early candidates to be improved in 2013? Look no further than tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Hernandez has already shown himself to be dynamic, but a full season on the field will boost him to another level. Hightower, meanwhile, is quietly becoming a steady force for the Patriots, and will further blossom in year two.

Check out ESPN Boston's 13 predictions for 2013 by CLICKING HERE.