2012 NFL Predictions

Even if I’m writing for four websites this season, that doesn’t mean any of them care about my personal predictions for the 2012 NFL season. That is fine, and that is why this blog exists.

The week-by-week win-loss prediction is probably the smartest way to go about it, but I am not interested in predicting records as much as I am predicting the general level of success or failure the 32 teams will have this season.

AFC East

1. New England Patriots – The 16-0 talk is nonsense, because this team is not good enough to compensate for an off day by their offense or defense, but with a ridiculously easy schedule, you can put 12 wins in the bank. This is one of the worst divisions in the league, and the Patriots should have no problem running away with it.

2. Buffalo Bills – Feel like darkhorse (very dark) Wild Card team, but I do not have confidence in Ryan Fitzpatrick playing consistently enough. Seven years in the league and we’ve never seen it, no reason he would start now. At least the schedule is favorable, and the defense should be improved.

3. New York Jets – The weekly circus, I find it hard to believe Mark Sanchez makes it through the entire season as the starter. One benching and one Tim Tebow miracle later, and it is game over for Sanchez in New York. The defense should be better than last year, but this weapons-lacking offense looks to have taken a step back.

4. Miami Dolphins – I will have spent more time watching Hard Knocks than probably watching the Dolphins play this year. Shaping up to be a brutal season. Reggie Bush will get some yards, Cameron Wake will get some sacks, but there’s not much else to see here. This has to be the worst set of receivers any team has had in recent years.

AFC North

1. Baltimore Ravens – I’m actually a bit down on this division this year, and that goes for all four teams. They had three playoff teams last year, but that will not happen again when they are playing the NFC East and AFC West. The Ravens have had their share of losses player-wise, Terrell Suggs’ injury is as big as any team’s biggest injury this year, though somehow I think Joe Flacco has a career year and offsets any possible regression on defense.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers – Not feeling great about the hometown team this season. The “upgraded” offensive line has quickly been reduced to the same subpar group because of injuries and Mike Adams being the disappointing risk everyone knew he might be on draft day. Mike Wallace is back, but how many weeks until he is back at 100 percent in this to-be-determined Todd Haley offense? Love what Antonio Brown brings, but this offense needs the big plays from Wallace. The defense is about what you should always expect: very good against the run, and a real question mark when they play the better passing offenses and quarterbacks. Just have a feeling this could be one of those 8-9 win seasons that’s not good enough for the playoffs.

3. Cincinnati Bengals – If Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are the next great QB/WR combo, then this team has a shot to have consecutive winning seasons, which is something Marvin Lewis has never done as coach. I think they win 7-9 games and miss the playoffs. I like some of their defensive pieces, but I don’t have full faith in Dalton taking it up to a higher level than last year, and I also don’t like their wide receivers after Green. Do like Green-Ellis over the departed Cedric Benson though.

4. Cleveland Browns – Different year, same old shi+.

AFC South

1. Houston Texans – This is their window of opportunity as they have the best team in the division, and one of the best in the conference. Matt Schaub’s return should spark the offense more, though even if he goes down again (real possibility), T.J. Yates gained some great experience last season and can keep things going. Love the combo of Arian Foster and Andre Johnson as their main weapons. Not sure the defense can improve or be just as good as last year, but the specific loss of Mario Williams is overblown. They still have guys that can get to the quarterback, and Wade is a better coordinator than he is a coach.

2. Tennessee Titans – I still can’t figure this team out from last year. They did some things really well, and some things really bad, hence 9-7 and such an enigma. Now they go with Jake Locker at quarterback, and I am very interested to see how he does after a few good showings in limited action last season. He probably won’t complete 60% of his passes, but he might have a high yards per completion average and can run very well.

3. Indianapolis Colts – All in on Andrew Luck, and what once looked like a 4-win season actually could turn into about 7 wins if he plays as well as he seems capable. The receiving corps is much better than given credit for, and Luck will make them better with his accuracy. It was hard to watch the Colts last year, but this season will be very entertaining.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Maurice Jones-Drew is the best player on the team, but because he is a running back, he actually is one of the easiest to replace. He’s back from his holdout, and while I’m sure he will put up some numbers by season’s end, everything hinges on Blaine Gabbert improving and using rookie Justin Blackmon to great effect. I’m not sold on that, and I didn’t like the hiring of Mike Mularkey either.

AFC West

1. Denver Broncos – It’s Peyton Manning, so unless the Broncos’ defense allows the most points in the league, that should mean an automatic 10 wins and the playoffs, just like 11 of Manning’s 13 seasons in Indianapolis. He may not be the same exact guy he was in 2010, but he’s still an all-time great. The schedule is tough, but that’s still true for the rest of the division too.

2. San Diego Chargers – Guess it hasn’t been applicable to call San Diego “the most talented team” for a few years now, and things have certainly changed from their past playoff appearances. Names like Tomlinson, Merriman, Williams, Jackson and McNeil are all gone. Philip Rivers should bounce back after a career-worst season last year, but I don’t think San Diego gained enough ground to get back into the playoff bracket.

3. Kansas City Chiefs – I want to say Romeo Crennel will figure it out with what should be his most talented team as a head coach, but I don’t see  a winning record for the Chiefs this year. Matt Cassel only excels when he gets to play a lot of really bad defenses (2008, 2010). He will be better this season with the return of Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki, but he is much more of a stopgap QB than a franchise player. Defense will have to carry the team, but the offense will let them down enough to miss the playoffs.

4. Oakland Raiders – “If Darren McFadden stays healthy” he will rush for a bunch of yards, and none of it will really matter as long as Carson Palmer is throwing bi-monthly pick parades. I think the AFC West is a bit loaded with quarterbacks vying for the role of Hollow Man: putting up a lot of empty stats. Palmer has essentially been doing that almost every year since 2006. I also think the defense will be one of the worst in the league, and with so many good offenses in the schedule, they will be torched quite a bit this season.

NFC East

1. New York Giants – They didn’t even win 10 games last year, but it was enough for the division and a Super Bowl run. I expect the Giants to be a better regular season team this year, though don’t count on them to win the close games the way they did last year. Think of it like 2008 when they got better as a team after winning the Super Bowl. Just keep Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz away from guns and nightclubs.

2. Dallas Cowboys – They have a lot of injuries to deal with at the start of the season, but so did the Giants last year. Key thing is they are getting through it now, and as long as they can start off respectable in the win column, they will be a Wild Card team by season’s end. I’ll trust Tony Romo over Michael Vick any day.

3. Philadelphia Eagles – If Andy Reid goes 8-8, he gets fired right? Tough pressure on a guy going through hell, but it has been a long, ring-less tenure in Philadelphia for Reid. Unfortunately he is tied down to one of the league’s least dependable quarterbacks, and it has been years since the defense carried the team. The Eagles should win at least 8 games again, but they’re going to miss the playoffs.

4. Washington Redskins – The Redskins finally have a quarterback to be excited about again. But they are at least a year away from doing any real damage in the NFC. RG III will finish as the runner-up to Luck in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting.

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers – Things won’t be as smooth as last season, but the Packers should cruise to another 12+ wins and tons of touchdowns on the board. The defense will give up fewer yards, but lowering the points will be the real goal. They cannot keep relying on takeaways.

2. Chicago Bears – Expecting a career-year for Jay Cutler. This should be the best offense he’s been apart of, and the defense is still one of the better groups in the league.

3. Detroit Lions – Nice story last season, but I think Detroit comes up short in their bid to repeat as a Wild Card team. They are not as balanced or deep as Green Bay and Chicago, and it’s always difficult to make the playoffs when you’re the 3rd best in your division. They probably never make it last year if not for Cutler’s injury.

4. Minnesota Vikings – Don’t ruin Adrian Peterson for your next head coach by rushing him back too soon, Minnesota. You’re not going anywhere this year.

NFC South

1. Atlanta Falcons – This is always a strange division to predict with the worst-to-first changes, but I’ll take the Falcons because of their consistency at the top, and I like what a second-year Julio Jones can bring to the offense. Matt Ryan is another QB I see a career season coming from. It’s about time for the Falcons to win a playoff game.

2. New Orleans Saints – If Drew Brees has a very good season again, expect him to win his first MVP award with the “no head coach” argument being his biggest reason. While it seems like Sean Payton is the mastermind of this offense, for Brees to keep things rolling (with a so-so defense too) without him this year would be a very impressive performance. But if you’ll recall those slip-up games last year against Tampa Bay and St. Louis, I expect at least two more of those this season, which is how Atlanta will end up with the division.

3. Carolina Panthers – Maybe this is a good time for Carolina to rise up and sneak into the playoffs, but I still think they’re another year away. The defense will be better with the healthy/improved LB corps, but they’re still not a great unit. Cam Newton won’t slump hard, but I don’t expect him to do as much as he did last year.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman bounces back with an improved offense and new head coach Greg Schiano, but it’s not enough in what might be the NFL’s deepest division.

NFC West

1. San Francisco 49ers – Already wrote all about the 49ers this week. They’ll win 9-10 games, enough for the NFC West, but it won’t be like last season.

2. Seattle Seahawks – I like what Russell Wilson was showing this preseason, but he in large part was not doing it against starters. It will look much different in the real games, and I don’t think he’s your next Dan Marino/Ben Roethlisberger (rookie QB God). Still, really like the young defense, and a motivated Marshawn Lynch runs well.

3. St. Louis Rams – I actually think Jeff Fisher will find 6-7 wins out of this team. Sam Bradford really needs to start playing better, or else the Rams will have to start looking ahead at the QB position. Just 6 touchdown passes in 10 games does not get it done when you have these other teams throwing 40-50 TDs last season. The defense also has huge strides to take.

4. Arizona Cardinals – Here’s a good candidate for your No. 1 pick in the draft. I cannot imagine how the Cardinals do any better than 4-12 this season. John Skelton is not the messiah, and his close-game success is not going to repeat itself.

Playoffs

AFC

  1. New England
  2. Houston
  3. Baltimore
  4. Denver
  5. Pittsburgh
  6. Buffalo

NFC

  1. Green Bay
  2. Atlanta
  3. NY Giants
  4. San Francisco
  5. New Orleans
  6. Dallas

Super Bowl: Dallas over Baltimore

I only picked two new playoff teams, so you know this won’t happen. What else can one do? San Diego for Pittsburgh? Chicago for New Orleans? Seattle for San Francisco?

And did I really just pick Dallas to beat Baltimore? Yes, because it’s about time the AFC has something not named New England, Pittsburgh or Peyton in there, and the Ravens were a play away last season. As for Dallas, the NFC is often so random, and I just think they’ll take a 2011 Giants-esque approach to the big game.

It’s a better pick than the boring people who have gone with “Green Bay vs. New England” the last three years. I tried to find teams that will overcome some adversity and peak at the right time, because that’s the way it has mostly been done since the 2005 season.

Yet when I look over my picks, I realized I left Chicago out of the playoffs, even though I wanted to put them in. Yet, if I put them in, it means no New Orleans or Dallas, which would really throw off my picks for MVP (Brees) and the Super Bowl.

So in conclusion, let’s just enjoy that the season is beginning, and forget about the half-assed predictions we are throwing out there right now. The only certainty is that you can expect a good share of the unexpected to happen.

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