2012 NFL Season Predictions

The 2012 NFL season begins tonight, and you know what that means: More useless predictions!  Here is my division-by-division breakdown of how the season will play out.

AFC East

1) Pats
2) Jets
3) Bills
5) Dolphins

The Pats win every year.  Why should this year be any different?  Moving along.  I was big on my Buffalo Bills until they became a trendy playoff pick (exhibit A: Fox Sports' homepage article yesterday proclaiming them a 10-6 wild card).  I've been a Bills fan for 30 years and I know better than to buy into this alleged "hope" they speak of.  That leaves the Jets in second.  The Bills will finish third while the lowly Dolphins fall to 1-15 under the leadership of Ryan Tannehill.  Sorry Dolphins fans but that was a poor draft pick, he's not good.  Fortunately for Tannehill, he's got the hottest wife of all-time, so who's laughing now?

AFC North

1) Bengals
2) Ravens
3) Steelers
4) Browns

My first bold prediction for this year: The Cincinnati Bengals take the North division.  My reasoning is as follows.  One, I think the Steelers' roster is in chaos.  Mike Wallace missed too much time because of his contract dispute, and without Rashard Mendenhall I think the running game will suffer.  Isaac Redman is not the answer.  Two, at some point the Ravens defense has to get old.  I know Ray Lewis sold his soul to the devil Robert Johnson-style for everlasting linebacking skills, but even Lewis has to slow down eventually.  These guys have been way too good for way too long and something's got to give.  Also, let's face it, Joe Flacco is a mediocre quarterback.  He could win a Super Bowl with a great supporting cast, but he's never going to carry a team the way Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees can.  Three, the Browns are the Browns.

AFC South

1) Texans
2) Colts
3) Jags
4) Titans

The Texans are the clear-cut favorite in this division.  I think Andrew Luck will impress and carry the Colts to a 7-9 second place finish, and I think Jake Locker will… umm… what's the opposite of impress?

AFC West

1) Broncos
2) Raiders
3) Chargers
4) Chiefs

The Broncos made the playoffs with Tim Tebow.  If they don't make the playoffs with Peyton Manning, it means that something went horribly wrong.  Like, Peyton gets hit and his head falls off.  I like the Raiders to pull off a mini-run at some point in the season and finish with a respectable record, say 9-7.  I think the Chargers take a step back this year.  Between Matt Cassel, Jamal Charles and Peyton Hillis, the Chiefs are more like a physical therapy class than a football team.

AFC Playoffs

Pats, Texans, Broncos, Bengals, Ravens, Raiders

NFC East

1) Cowboys
2) Skins
3) Eagles
4) Giants

RG3! RG3!

Also I think Tony Romo has a breakout season, Michael Vick has a breakout ribcage, and the Giants don't even bother to show up this season.  (I don't mean they play poorly - I mean they literally skip games to go on sex cruises a la the Vikings.)

NFC North

1) Packers
2) Bears
3) Lions
4) Vikings

The Vikings are rebuilding and don't have a chance in this conference.  The Lions are a strong team who would dominate the West but unfortunately find themselves in the toughest division in football.  That leaves just two.  I really liked the Bears last year, in fact for a couple weeks I thought they were the best team in the league.  Jay Cutler has a dopey facial expression, and I think people who see that expression interpret it as disinterest or sulking, thus leading to the idea that he's a diva or "not a winner."  Some people just have a dopey natural expression.  Cutler is a great QB, and it's evident if you only watched his on-field performance.  That's why, this season, Jay Cutler should get one of those LaDamian Tomlinson Darth Vader face masks, and never ever take off his helmet.  Either way, I think the Bears are a playoff team.  But, Aaron Rodgers is the best.  You need to put forward your best effort to even compete with the Packers, and that's why they win this division once again.

NFC South

1) Panthers
2) Falcons
3) Saints
4) Bucs

You gotta love fantasy football.  Two years ago, Cam Newton was getting paid to play college football ("I don't know anything about that") and pretty much everyone hated him.  Then last year he helped people win their fantasy leagues and all of a sudden he's a hero on par with the 9/11 firefighters.  I think Cam and the Panthers running attack win their division with a ball-control, rush-oriented attack (and of course some Cam Newton magic on third downs).  I like the Falcons to edge out the turmoil-laden Saints, and of course the Bucs will finish last.

NFC West

1) 49ers
2) Seahawks
3) Rams
4) Cardinals

Every year there's a new term to describe quarterbacks who inexplicably win despite a lack of quality stats.  Last year it was "A Winner" (aka Tebow), the year before it was "Poise" (Sanchez), before that it was "Game Manager" (Flacco, et al), and long ago it was "All He Does Is Win Football Games" (Vince Young, pre-Vinsanity).  I don't know what the term will be this year, but they'll be talking about Russell Wilson. The guy won't amaze you with his arm strength or his legs, but he's a Poised Game Managing Winner through and through.  Watch for Seattle to give teams a challenge this year.  The 49ers will likely take a step back in terms of their record, but they should still have enough to win the West.  I'm not going to bother analyzing the Rams or Cardinals, they haven't earned that honor.  Enjoy the race for the #1 draft pick.

NFC Playoffs

Packers, 49ers, Cowboys, Panthers, Bears, Falcons

Super Bowl

Texans vs. Packers



Power Rankings

This is based on absolutely nothing -- as are any preseason predictions -- but I want to establish the rankings so we have something to work off of as we move forward through the season.

The Top 5

1) Packers
2) Pats
3) 49ers
4) Bears
5) Texans

The Matt Barkley Sweepstakes

5) Rams
4) Bucs
3) Titans
2) Dolphins
1) Cardinals

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