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Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Updated: December 23, 6:18 PM ET
Thirteen predictions for 2013

By ESPNBoston.com

Along with a new year, there are new hopes and expectations for our sports teams in Boston. And, of course, there are predictions -- good and bad. With help from each of our beat writers, we've come up with our top 13 predictions for Boston sports in 2013. Feel free to toss around our hits and misses on the comments page.

RED SOX

sox1. The Sox will be a playoff team. Throughout this offseason, one of the most discussed topics in Red Sox Nation is whether this team will contend in 2013. General manager Ben Cherington has made solid additions to the roster, starting with new manager John Farrell. If the Red Sox can remain relatively healthy, they should have success and will contend in the postseason in 2013.

2. Lester and Lackey will come up big. The biggest factor for the Red Sox will be the starting rotation. Lefty Jon Lester will rebound from a disastrous 2012 season, and he'll return to form in 2013. As important as Lester's contributions will be, fellow starter John Lackey will have a big year, too. The veteran right-hander missed the entire 2012 season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and is motivated to prove himself in 2013.

3. Ellsbury will rebound, then bolt. Boston fans should enjoy watching Jacoby Ellsbury in a Red Sox uniform in 2013 because it will be his last. The center fielder will become a free agent after the season, and he'll be one of the most coveted players next winter. Because of his pending free-agent status, Ellsbury will have a big year for the Red Sox, and he'll produce in a similar fashion as he did in 2011. -- JOE McDONALD

CELTICS

celtics4. The Celtics will make a playoff charge. Despite a roller-coaster start to the 2012-13 campaign, the Celtics have too much talent to yo-yo their way through an entire 82-game campaign. Much like last season, expect the Celtics to find the right combinations, start playing better basketball, and (finally) take flight. That will culminate in a strong playoff run, where health will likely dictate just how far this team marches. Boston has played a lot of discouraging basketball over the first two months of the season, but it has about four more months to get things right. All that talent and all the big-game experience make Boston a dangerous team in the playoffs.

5. An X factor will emerge for the Celtics. One thing has been clear early in the 2012-13 campaign: The Big Three can't do this alone. Boston needs more support from its role players, and -- despite inconsistencies to this point -- expect someone to make a leap and become this team's X factor. Who will that be? The crystal ball isn't that clear. Maybe Avery Bradley returns to provide his familiar defense but also elevates his all-around game to another level. Maybe Jeff Green or Courtney Lee finally puts it all together. Someone makes a jump and aids Boston's late-season charge. -- CHRIS FORSBERG

PATRIOTS

pats6. The Patriots will reach Super Bowl XLVII. The Patriots were my 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.

7. Wes Welker will sign a new contract. It was a bizarre, at-times-tenuous 2012 offseason between the Patriots and Welker in contract negotiations, but he may be having his best season ever this year. He will continue to be an offensive linchpin, and look for the two sides to come to a multiyear agreement this offseason. -- FIELD YATES

BRUINS

bruins8. The Bruins will trade David Krejci to Phoenix or Anaheim. If to Phoenix, it will be for defenseman Keith Yandle, and if to Anaheim, it will be for winger Bobby Ryan. There was plenty of offseason chatter surrounding these proposed deals, and there had been in previous summers and leading into trade deadlines. Usually where there's smoke, there's fire.

9. The Bruins will trade Tim Thomas. If there is hockey this season, Tim Thomas will announce he'll play and the Bruins will trade him to Colorado in exchange for a prospect and third-round pick. If there's no season, the Bruins will trade Thomas for a late-round pick. The Bruins will do everything possible to get some return for a two-time Vezina Trophy winner and the goalie who carried his team on his shoulders to the Stanley Cup in 2011. The lockout should actually help GM Peter Chiarelli do this since Thomas won't be the only rusty goalie. -- JAMES MURPHY

COLLEGES

10. BC will win more than two games. Nine days after new athletic director Brad Bates fired Frank Spaziani, he hired Steve Addazio to lead the Eagles' football program. The fiery former Temple head coach and Florida offensive coordinator (and interim head coach) continues to remodel the BC program, starting with new coordinators Ryan Day (offense and quarterbacks coach) and Ron Brown (defense). While by no means facing an easy task rebuilding the BC program, it would be shocking if Addazio didn't squeeze at least three wins out of the Eagles' roster in 2013.

11. No Massachusetts teams will go dancing in March. For four of the six Division I men's basketball schools, this isn't going out on much of a limb. Boston University isn't eligible for the America East postseason since it's leaving for the Patriot League in 2013-14, so an NCAA tournament berth is a long, long shot. It's been a long time since Holy Cross (2007) and Northeastern (1991) made the Big Dance. Boston College is mired in a rebuilding phase, last making the tourney in 2009. UMass (last in the Dance in '98) and Harvard probably have the best chance, but even they face long odds. UMass has to contend with an improved Atlantic 10, now featuring No. 25 Butler and Virginia Commonwealth. Harvard is trying to contend without Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry and might not have the depth and experience to beat teams like Princeton. -- JACK McCLUSKEY

HIGH SCHOOLS

12. The new statewide football playoff plan will take effect and be a smashing success. There will be some kinks to iron out, but the first year determining six state champions will win over its prior critics once the drama of Week 7 hits. It gets more teams to the table, so what's not to love?

13. Central Catholic will win the boys' basketball Division 1 state championship in March. Following the Red Raiders' near-upset of famed national powerhouse St. Anthony (N.J.) this past Friday, our good friend Malcolm Smith made a bold prediction: Central will hoist state championship hardware at season's end (its third state championship in six seasons and fourth since 1999). After digesting that statement, we're going out on the same limb. There was no trickery to Central's game plan on Friday night -- it matched both tempo and physicality with the Friars. It is the most well-conditioned, versatile and complete team in Massachusetts. The four-point loss to one of the nation's most dominant high school programs reinforced all of these things. -- SCOTT BARBOZA and BRENDAN HALL