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Which isn’t to say that Simms forecasts doom for the Atlanta Falcons, who lost the NFC Championship Game to the 49ers in a most devastating, Falcons-like way. He likes the way the organization has constructed its roster to take advantage of recent trends. “Think about what they’ve done: They built their football team around their QB [Matt Ryan] and receivers [Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez]. Who do all the rule changes benefit more than anybody else? Quarterbacks and receivers,” Simms notes.

Still, he ranks the Falcons just a notch ­below the Seahawks and the 49ers in a slightly subelite group of would-be contenders that includes the Green Bay Packers (defensive issues), Chicago Bears (offensive inconsistency) and all four NFC East teams: “The Giants, [Philadelphia] Eagles, [Dallas] ­Cowboys and [Washington] Redskins — any of them could finish first or last. It’s the most wide-open division.” He culls his two potential surprises from the NFC as well, pointing to the Detroit Lions — “They have a quarterback with a great arm [Matthew Stafford] and a great wide receiver [Calvin Johnson], plus they can rush the passer.” — and the New Orleans Saints — “Their offense is great. They’re going to be able to win close games and hectic games, because that’s how they’ve been built.”

Super Bowl XLVIII will be held in February in Simms’ old stomping ground of East Rutherford, N.J., but he probably won’t attend in person. “I’ve been home so little in my life on Super Bowl Sundays. I’d like to be sitting in my house with a few friends watching the game,” he says. If that scenario comes to pass, it’ll be one of the few instances­ over the course of a football life in which he willingly and happily passes on a day at the stadium.

“During the season, I’m going to turn 59. I just think, gosh, that’s unbelievable. What happened? It seems like I was playing just a few days ago,” he says with a laugh. That said, his professional ambitions don’t stretch much beyond his current role. “I hear other broadcasters say they want to do other things in life,” he says, “but I’m doing what I want to do. I hope to do it for a long time.” 

LARRY DOBROW, a New York–based writer, isn’t as optimistic about the 2013 chances of his beloved New York Giants as Phil Simms seems to be.