September 4, 2012

Predictions for the 2012 NFL season

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

It’s finally upon us. Wednesday night will see the return of NFL football and I couldn’t be more excited. How excited you ask? Well I already have three fantasy teams, I’m in one suicide pool and I’ve joined a picks group. I also went through the entire schedule and predicted how I think this season is going to break down. So here it is: Our annual predictions. Playoffs and awards will come tomorrow as well as a selection for the big opener.

NFC East

New York Giants

The NFL’s defending champions look just as good as they did last year. Sure, they lost Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs, but those two have been replaced with guys who are at least as good. In rookie David Wilson stepping in for Jacobs, the Giants might have actually found a great back for the future when Ahmad Bradshaw inevitably breaks down.

Prediction: 10-6

Dallas Cowboys

The Boys went out and address their biggest concern this off-season: Pass defence. Their improvement should be marked, but now there are health concerns on offence and the offensive line looks shaky. It will also be tough to get out to a hot start facing the Giants in the opener.

Prediction: 9-7

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles’ season will come down to whether Michael Vick can stay healthy or not and if the pre-season is any indication, it’s not looking so good. But the defence is improved, especially at linebacker and DeSean Jackson will be fully focused after signing his extension. Both are huge plusses that could counteract Vick missing any time.

Prediction: 9-7

Washington Redskins

The Skins will finally have some stability at QB for the first time since Jason Campbell – and those weren’t exactly the salad days. RG3 gives them a real bright prospect for the future, but I don’t see Washington making any huge leaps forward this season.

Prediction: 6-10

NFC North

Green Bay Packers

They went 15-1 last year and there’s no reason they shouldn’t dominate the NFC again this year. They’ll be fired up to show they’re not just a regular-season team after choking in the playoffs. When the biggest free agent you lose in the off-season arguably is your backup QB, you’ve done pretty well.

Prediction: 13-3

Detroit Lions

Matt Stafford proved that he can stay healthy for an entire seasons and came through with one of the biggest passing totals in NFL history. That should be enough to get the Lions by, but their running game and pass defence are still very questionable. This could all go to hell if Megatron succumbs to the Madden curse.

Prediction: 11-5 and a wild card

Chicago Bears

Adding Brandon Marshall gives them their first elite WR in, well, I can’t remember how long it has been. Health and coaching are the main issues here. Brian Urlacher is already ailing, which hurts the heart of this defence and Lovie Smith has been known to have brain farts on the sidelines at times.

Prediction: 9-7

Minnesota Vikings

The rebuilding Vikes are certainly in a tough spot in this division. This team won’t be ready to compete for a couple of seasons. With their best player, Adrian Peterson returning from ACL surgery, there’s no guarantee that Minny will be able to score or defend very well.

Prediction: 4-12

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

The Dirty Birds have proven that they can cruise in the regular season, it’s just the playoffs that are a problem. They’re planning on opening up the offence and letting Roddy White and Julio Jones and fly. Asante Samuel will be a great second CB and will definitely help their defence out.

Prediction: 11-5

New Orleans Saints

While many will stray one way or the other when predicting the Saints season – will the crash and burn after BountyGate or will they go into F*** You mode? – I wonder why can’t there be a middle ground. Drew Brees is capable of leading the offence without Sean Payton and Curtis Lofton is even better at MLB than Jonathan Vilma.

Prediction: 9-7 and a wild card

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton led the Cats to a six-win season in his rookie year, why can’t he up that total by two? His numbers did start to slip towards the end of 2011, but I don’t see that trend continuing in 2012. The biggest problem in Charlotte is the defence. If it can exceed expectations, the Panthers could reach the playoffs.

Prediction: 8-8

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs will definitely bounce back from a terrible 2011 thanks to new coach Greg Schiano and some big-money signings. What this team really needed was some discipline and that’s what they’ll surely be getting this year. While the playoffs are still out of reach for this team, they’re on the right path.

Prediction: 7-9

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners are still the cream of this division and will rise to the top. They’re tabbed to regress after a stunning jump last season, but I feel it won’t be by too much. Their 11 defensive starters return to the best unit in the league. They’ve also added some good personnel on offence that will keep them from stalling like they did so often next year.

Prediction: 11-5

Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson is set to become some sort of phenomenon if he can get the Seahawks out to a fast start. There may not be many weapons on offence for him to use, but that didn’t seem to stop him from looking amazing in the pre-season. Their defence was also quietly one of the best in the league last year and didn’t lose any key players.

Prediction: 8-8

Arizona Cardinals

The quarterback conundrum in the desert overshadows this whole team. They now have a weapon in Michael Floyd to pair with Larry Fitzgerald, but who’s going to be throwing to them: Kevin Kolb or John Skelton? The defence is middle of the pack but Patrick Peterson has shown he can be an all-world corner and returner.

Prediction: 6-10

St. Louis Rams

With so much roster turnover from last season and a new coach in charge, it is easy to imagine the Rams struggling to adapt to each other. This will be another building season for Sam Bradford and until there’s some real cohesiveness here, there’s no hope of reaching .500.

Prediction: 3-13

AFC East

New England Patriots

Still the comfortably the class of the AFC East and only improving. Adding Brandon Lloyd gives them the legit deep-threat receiver that they lacked last year. On the defensive side, drafting Chandler Jones has given them a stud lineman that they so sorely lacked. I’d tab them for the Super Bowl if I were in Vegas.

Prediction: 12-4

Buffalo Bills

There are two massive things working in their favour: They rebuilt an average defence with some real studs and Ryan Fitzpatrick is no longer injured. Adding Mario Williams to the pass rush and drafting Stephon Gilmore will help keep opposing passers in check and Fitz played terribly in the second of the season with broken ribs. Looks like the streak of missing the playoffs is over.

Prediction: 10-6 and a wild card.

New York Jets

Will Rex Ryan keep his job if the Jets don’t make the playoffs for the second year in a row? That will be the question late in the season. Early in the season the question will be if/when Tim Tebow will rise above Mark Sanchez on the depth chart, much to the fans’ liking.

Prediction: 9-7

Miami Dolphins

After trading away Vontae Davis – one of the best cover corners in the league – and naming Ryan Tannehill the starting QB, the ’Fins essentially threw in the towel for 2012. They won’t go winless, but it could be really close. Also, don’t expect that type of season from Reggie Bush again.

Prediction: 3-13

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Losing Terrell Suggs really hurts this defence that has a rapidly aging core. Can Ray Lewis and Ed Reed still compete at a high level? Likely not for an entire season. At least the offence will improve with the emergence of Torrey Smith has a dynamite deep threat.

Prediction: 9-7 and the division crown.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers went out and tried to rebuild their offensive line through the draft, but it didn’t work out so well. First-rounder David DeCastro suffered a severe knee injury while Mike Adams has underwhelmed in pass protection. Looks like Big Ben is going to be on the run again this season – good thing he’s used to it.

Prediction: 9-7 and a wild card

Cincinnati Bengals

Will it be a second-year boost or a sophomore slump for the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green hookup? They did fine is this tough division last year and should be just fine again. The biggest hurdle for the Cats is that they have to beat the Steelers and Ravens at least once – something they couldn’t muster in 2011.

Prediction: 8-8

Cleveland Browns

The Browns finally have a real offensive weapon in Trent Richardson, but can he stay healthy? He has already had knee surgery in the pre-season and won’t be 100% for the opener. Plus, the Browns will be starting a 28-year-old rookie at QB and it remains to be seen how that will work out. At least their defence will keep them in games.

Prediction: 4-12

AFC South

Houston Texans

The Texans were just a couple of plays away from making the AFC championship game despite missing Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Mario Williams for most of 2011. That’s why I’m not concerned with Williams leaving. The defence will be great again, but the running game may suffer with Eric Winston leaving town.

Prediction: 9-7

Tennessee Titans

A pretty non-descript team in every way. Can you name anybody on the Titans’ defence? I’m sure struggling to. Yet, Tennessee finished 9-7 last year despite a disappointing season from Chris Johnson and a injury-plagued season from Kenny Britt.

Prediction: 8-8

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck could be the next Peyton Manning for the Colts, but first seasons are always tricky, especially with the kind of roster turnover that Indy went through. Adding Vontae Davis to a defence that will bring the pressure is a great move and he’ll wrap up opposing No.1 targets.

Prediction: 5-11

Jacksonville Jaguars

The future London Jaguars (not out of the question, right?) will struggle to win games, even in this week division. The Maurice Jones-Drew holdout distraction will only hurt this offence, but at least Rashad Jennings is a decent fill-in. Another season in the top-10 of the draft for the Jags.

Prediction: 5-11

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

After suffering a terrible rash of injuries last season, the Chiefs still finished a respectable 7-9, just a game off the division leader. With everyone healthy, there’s no reason that this team can’t make it back to the playoffs, despite Romeo Crennel being the head coach.

Prediction: 9-7

Denver Broncos

The upgrade at QB from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning is a huge one. If Manning the future hall of famer can stay healthy, there’s no reason why the Broncos can’t have another good season. There will be less running, but that aspect of their game won’t be weak by any means.

Prediction: 9-7

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers quietly rebuilt their team and are a possible contender that nobody is talking about. Many will think that losing Vincent Jackson will really hurt the offence, but Philip Rivers has gotten by with much worse targets.

Prediction: 8-8

Oakland Raiders

Surprise! The Raiders have a new coach! It seems like nearly every season there’s some turnover at the head of this team. With Carson Palmer having a full season to get used to this offence, he should improve, but Oakland will remain in the cellar of this division.

Prediction: 5-11

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