Here are my prognostications for the 2012 NFL Season. My brain made these picks and my instincts feel good about them, too. . . . Well, most of them. (Teams in bold make the playoffs.)
- New England Patriots (13-3). They have an easy schedule, but they’ll start 2-2. If you play fantasy football, Tom Brady might be an option for the #1 overall pick. Did you see all the receivers they picked up? Brady will spread the ball around and have a great year. And no one running back stands out to carry the ball a lot. This will be a pass-happy team. Look for new passing records this year.
- Buffalo Bills (11-5). I want to say 12-4 because they have an easy schedule. They win at home against the Pats on 9-30-12. I know that’s a big swing in records from 6-10 t0 11-5, but they’ve done a lot to improve their team and, as mentioned, they have an easy schedule. I anticipate the Bills will run a lot, too. Bonus: I think the defense will be able to contain the Partiots’ tight ends.
- New York Jets (8-8). 3-5 for the first half of season, and 5-3 for second half. It’s too messy there for them to do well. The defense will be good and keep them in games, but the offense . . . sigh. Oh, the offense and its aging offensive line.
- Miami Dolphins (3-13). Maybe 4-12. Either way, one word describes the 2012 Dolphins, “Ug.” If you’re into fantasy football, there’s only one person to take from this team – Reggie Bush.
- Baltimore Ravens (12-4). They’ll get their revenge in week 3 against the Patriots, and they will be consistently solid throughout the year assuming Ray Rice signs. If not, then hmmm.
- Cincinnati Bengals (11-5). They have a real rough last five games: at San Diego, Dallas, at Philadelphia, at Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. They’ll have a good record until then. The last five games will be their test if they are a solid team. They should have confidence enough to get three wins in this stretch, but they may find only two. Until this stretch, they should be 8-3. A lot of people are high on the Bengals, and I’m on of them. I’d be higher if they had more talented receivers. Maybe next year they will.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5). Before going through their schedule, I thought they wouldn’t be good because I think this team is smoke and mirrors, but I went through their schedule, and 11-5 it is. However, this is the year the power changes hands from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati. I actually don’t have much confidence in the Steelers this year. I’m not sure if the offense will be at all consistent. Lucky for them, their schedule isn’t too difficult.
- Cleveland Browns (2-14). They have a harsh opening schedule: Philadelphia, at Cincinnati, Buffalo, at Baltimore, at New York Giants, and Cincinnati. I don’t see a win in that span. They’ll start 0-6. The rest of the schedule is rough too. This season, however, will give them lots of experience. Trent Richardson should have a solid year.
- Houston Texans (9-7). This team is hard to judge, but they could start 5-0. With that in mind, the offensive line and defense took some big hits this off-season, so be wary of the Texans.
- Tennessee Titans (6-10). It will be hard to make a turn around from last year when their first four games are: New England, at San Diego, Detroit, and at Houston. Can they win one of those? Maaaaaybe. Overall, they could, if lucky, get 7 wins. I wonder how well Chris Johnson will respond, and who will be quarterback and how well they will perform.
- Indianapolis Colts (4-12). The first win comes week 6 against the New York Jets. I think they also split with Houston, who they play twice in the last three weeks of the season. The real question with the Colts is their defense. Did they improve it enough from last year or do we have to wait another year? Still, they just can’t be as awful as the Jaguars will be.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13). They will start better than they will end since they will be facing the Vikings with an Adrian Peterson who might not be fully recovered and who might not receive a full work load so early. And they face the Colts at a time when Luck will still be green. So they can start 2-1, but then they fall. I’m also calling for upset win against the Patriots in week 16. (And now I sound like a Patriots hater, but my prognostications for their season says otherwise.) You know, the defense might be able to keep them in some games, and now they have receivers to push for last second wins.
- Denver Broncos (12-4). They open with a difficult schedule and it will take awhile for Peyton Manning and receivers to gel. But, man, they have a solid run game and defense that can compensate for the Manning adjustment period (though the run defense won’t be as strong last year), and I love their offensive line. Is 12-4 too generous. Is 10-6 more realistic? The last half of their schedule is pretty easy. They should easily get six wins then. Also, how many talented receivers do they have? Two? Can Manning’s abilities create the third and fourth talented receivers?
- San Diego Chargers (11-5). Finally, Philip Rivers will have some receivers to throw to as they picked up Robert Meachem from New Orleans, and two slot receivers in Eddie Royal, and Roscoe Parrish. However, they did lose Vincent Jackson. I think I’d rather have the three pick ups than Vincent Jackson. As a result, I do not see the Chargers losing more than 7 games. Nine games should be easy wins. Will the Broncos beat them twice or will they split? (I don’t have them in the playoffs, but they could be in. Who knows who will get in on a four-way tie in records.)
- Oakland Raiders (5-11). I don’t know how the Raiders finished 8-8 last year, but it won’t happen again.
- Kansas City Chiefs (2-14). I have no faith in the Chiefs. Matt Cassel is an iffy quarterback. Dwayne Bowe is a very good receiver, but only a decent to good receiver with Cassel. The run game looks confused and there will be some controversy. Hillis is also iffy. Still, they did improve their offensive line quite well and they did have a good offseason, and some people have the Chiefs doing very well, but I don’t see it. Still, my 2-14 record seems way low, and it very well may be. This is the one pick that seems off to me. But when I look at the schedule, I see them opening 0-5 as they play Atlanta, Buffalo, at New Orleans, San Diego, Baltimore, and then they meet Tampa Bay in Tampa, at which point they will be looking forward to next week’s bye. As a result, they start 0-6 and their confidence is shot. But they will beat Oakland after the bye week at home.
- Philadelphia Eagles (12-4). An improved defense makes them win this division and maybe the conference. I really like the Eagles this year. I like Vick. I think he’s matured. I might even draft him for fantasy football. I usually avoid him because he’s so erratic, but this year he’ll be solid, unless he gets injured. Jeremy Maclin’s could have an unexpectedly good year, as well. And LeSean McCoy comes through again. But man, they have a killer schedule, which is why they may only have 11 wins. They’ll always be challenged. A Super Bowl appearance is definitely possible.
- Dallas Cowboys (10-6). There are Cowboy haters, and I’m usually one of them but not this year. They will finish the season strong, but miss the playoffs. Ha. This year I’m not a Cowboy hater – I’m Cowboy sadist.
- New York Giants (8-8). Last year they finished 9-7, but they won’t do it again, especially when you consider the vibe of the Super Bowl hangover year. Additionally, they have a tough schedule, especially at the end of the year. Is 8-8 to harsh? Maybe.
- Washington Redskins (4-12). I think they can get some surprise wins, but like everyone in the NFC East, they have a rough schedule. Any team from this division will be exhausted entering the playoffs, or they will be stronger because of it. I call their first win in week 5 against Atlanta, which will be followed by a win in Minnesota.
- Green Bay Packers (13-3). They didn’t improve the defense much nor the run game. They drafted six defensive players, but how long will it take for them to be truly effective. So it’s gonna be all Aaron Rodgers, which might be enough. Even though their opening game is at home, I think they lose it to the 49ers.
- Detroit Lions (11-5). I love the Lions this year. They’ll be the Bengals of the NFC but better, especially if they can sustain a healthy run game. However, Calvin Johnson is on the cover of Madden 13, so hopefully there’s no jinx. Despite the jinx, wide receiver Titus Young will have a surprising season. Despite my love for the Lions, there is the distinct possibility of disappointment this year. They very well could end up 8-8 or 9-7, but then be even better in 2013. Their big weakness is in the secondary. There’s the potential for them to get into a lot high-scoring, high-passing-yard shootout games.
- Chicago Bears (9-7). They picked up Brandon Marshall, but they still don’t have enough in the passing game to get it done, and Forte can only do so much. I don’t like the Bears this year despite the winning record. 8-8 seems more reasonable. Yet, I sense or want them to do much better. Brain says no. Instincts say yes. Most people say yes, but, hm.
- Minnesota Vikings (4-12) I don’t know what to think of the Vikings this year, but .500 will be hard to achieve, but they can start 2-0. A final 5-11 record isn’t an unreasonable expectation, though. This is Ponder’s year to get it going, but does he have the receivers? All the receivers have potential, but will the step up. Maybe the improved offensive line will help everybody.
- Atlanta Falcons (11-5). This is their year for them to get it done. The Saints won’t be as strong without Sean Peyton leading the team. Plus, a 6-0 beginning is not out of the question. Ideally, they could finish 12-4, and 11-5 is a definite possibility. Another definite possibility, Julio Jones having an explosive season.
- Carolina Panthers (10-6). I really like the Panthers this year, especially if the running backs don’t get upset with Cam Newton stealing carries. However, I think we will see less Newton carries this year, especially at the goal line since the Panthers acquired Mike Tolbert. If you’re a fantasy player, Newton will make up for the loss of rushing touchdowns by throwing more. Draft him early. Back to the Panthers. Is 10-6 too generous? I don’t know. According to how I picked winners and losers for game in 2012, Carolina makes the playoffs instead of Dallas because the Panthers will get a home win after a bye week against the Cowboys in week 7.
- New Orleans Saints (9-7). The Saints defense will be much less aggressive this year and Roman Harper won’t be used as much for blitzing the quarterback. The offense will score but the defense will let up scores.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12). I don’t see much good happening here, except for rookie running back Doug Martin. Watch him do well this year. With all that said, I may be underestimating the addition of receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end Dallas Clark. With Jackson on one side, Mike Williams on the other, and Clark at end, maybe quarterback Josh Freeman will ascend to his potential as a good quarterback. Heck, maybe Luke Stocker will outshine Clark at tight end. All of the sudden I like the Bucs a lot more, and then I look at the defense and consider their division. Hmmm.
- San Francisco 49ers (14-2). The 49ers will be the Patriots of the NFC. Watch Alex Smith have a great year. No 49ers receiver will be a stand out, but Smith will rock. The run game will be strong, too, but the rushing will be spread around since they have so much talent in the running backs. Will that cause a concern? They have an easy schedule and the talent to beat any team they face this year. If they can start 2-0, 16-0 seems a possibility to me, but 13-3 is more possible. If you’re into fantasy football, you probably don’t want to consider any 49ers offensive players except Alex Smith and Vernon Davis, at least in the fist half of the draft, and for defense take Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman as early as you can.
- Seattle Seahawks (6-10). Their defense will keep them from really sucking. I can also see 8-8. It all depends on Matt Flynn and Marshawn Lynch. Is Flynn real or hype? and if he’s real, does he have the receivers to succeed. Or is he a placeholder for rookie quarterback Russell Wilson? Or are they a running team? If so, is Lynch able to repeat?
- Arizona Cardinals (5-11). Decent defense, but the outside linebackers may prove to be a weakness. Plus, will there be a quarterback controversy? And the offensive line directed by offensive line coach Russ Grimm needs to improve a lot. I wonder if Ryan Williams will become the featured running back.
- St. Louis Rams (3-13). I so want the Rams to do well. I hope they do. 3-13 seems harsh. 5-11 is definitely possible, but not many more wins than that. Next year, however, watch out for them in 2013 and onward.
As I rank these teams, I see the NFC being more competitive and harder to predict. In the NFC East, I see the Eagles doing very well and maybe making the Super Bowl, but the division is tough and they might get beat up along the way. The same can be said of the NFC North – it’s a tough division where they might end up beating each other up over the course of the year. The NFC South is tight and the NFC West is not strong. The 49ers easily win the West, but watch out for the Seahawks. Their defense is pretty good, so if their offense comes together, then they could be a playoff team. The AFC is pretty weak this year.
I went through the whole schedule for each team. If you count the wins and losses above, there are 256 of each.
AFC Wildcard Playoffs
#3 Baltimore Ravens defeat #6 Buffalo Bills
#5 Cincinnati Bengals defeat #4 Houston Texans
NFC Wildcard Playoffs
#3 Philadelphia Eagles defeat #6 Carolina Panthers
#5 Detroit Lions defeat #4 Atlanta Falcons
AFC Divisional Playoffs
#2 Denver Broncos defeat #3 Baltimore Ravens
#1 New England Patriots defeat #5 Cincinnati Bengals
NFC Divisional Playoffs
#3 Philadelphia Eagles defeat #2 Green Bay Packers
#1 San Francisco 49ers defeat #5 Detroit Lions
AFC Conference Championship
#1 New England Patriots defeat #4 Denver Broncos (Man, you know the NFL will somehow make this game happen.)
NFC Conference Championship
#1 San Francisco defeats #3 Philadelphia Eagles
San Francisco 49ers defeat New England Patriots
I don’t know if I like this Super Bowl pick. The Eagles could definitely make it with their improved defense. The Packers I don’t think can do it this year. Their defensive improvements are six draft picks, so they are too inexperienced to have a sustained effect. Next year, they can get there. The Giants won’t repeat, the Cowboys will find a way to lose somewhere, the Falcons aren’t ready, the Saints will suffer this year for obvious reasons, which leads me to the 49ers with a terrific defense, a solid offensive line, a strong running game, a better-than-you-expect quarterback with lots of good but not great receivers and Vernon Davis who will step it up this year . . . a lot. So I’m left with the 49ers.
In the weak AFC, who can challenge the Patriots? The Broncos might. Their offensive line is very good, their defense is terrific (except maybe the run game), they have a good offensive run game, and they made it deep into the playoffs last year with an inadequate quarterback. Still I don’t quite see it this year. I mean, how long will it take Peyton Manning and his receivers to come together. Will Demaryius Thomas remember how to run a route? The Ravens look to improve, and maybe they can. They are a serious contender and Flacco is vastly underrated. His arm is so strong, which is important. He can throw well at all distances. And the run game is good, though predictable. Who else is there? Not Houston. They aren’t going to be the same team as last year. The only reason they’ll win the AFC South is because the division is so damned lame this year. The Bengals could make a poke at it, but I don’t think the team is well-rounded enough to sustain a sustained playoff run. So I’m left with the Patriots.//