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2012 NFL Preview

September 5, 2012

Wild card picks marked with an *; division winners in bold.

32. Cleveland – 3-13 – It’s hard to look at the Browns’ schedule and see any game in which they would be favored. They’re green at every skill position on offense and their best defender (Joe Haden) is supposed to be suspended the first four games of the season. Playing in the AFC North doesn’t help either.

31. Jacksonville – 3-13 – Unless Blaine Gabbert takes a big step forward it’s going to be another miserable season in Jacksonville. Maurice Jones-Drew just reported to camp three days ago, and it should take him several weeks to get into game shape. Besides MJD there are no other blue-chip players on this team.

30. Miami – 4-12 – Another inexperienced quarterback, another rebuilding team. I don’t expect Ryan Tannehill, who just started playing quarterback a couple years ago and didn’t even play that well in the quarterback-friendly Big 12, to keep the Dolphins out of the AFC East cellar. Miami’s offensive and defensive units should easily be the worst in its division.

29. Arizona – 4-12 – The Cardinals finished ’11 7-2, but most of those games were won by a field goal or less against poor teams, usually in overtime. The Cardinals probably have the worst quarterback situation in the league, as well as a porous offensive line. But Larry Fitzgerald and an OK ground game, plus an underrated defense and special teams play, should keep the Cardinals from the very top of the draft.

28. Indianapolis – 5-11 – Indy gave up 430 points last year, fifth worst in the league, and return most of the same main players on D. The Colts also have to play the NFC North, and finish with games at New England, Buffalo, at Detroit, Tennessee, at Houston and two games against Kansas City. Andrew Luck should play well, and the offense should be able to put up a fair amount of points, however. Five-and-11 with this team and schedule isn’t anything to be upset about.

27. St. Louis – 5-11 – Just due to health and an easier schedule, the Rams should be better than they were last year, when they played eight games against playoff teams and also faced the Eagles and Cowboys. The Rams have at least eight games where they should be in it for the entire game, and a revamped D, which features newcomers Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins, Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers to go along with studs Chris Long and James Lauranitis and up-and-comers Robert Quinn and Darian Stewart, should keep games close enough for the offense to contend.

26. Minnesota – 5-11 – Even if Adrian Peterson struggles to get his feet under him after a knee injury last December, the Vikings should still be able to move the ball with Toby Gerhart. Christian Ponder played well for a rookie, and Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph will provide him with two reliable targets. The defense, which had 50 sacks last year, should be better.

25. New York Jets – 6-10 – Two very overrated quarterbacks, an underwhelming running game, no playmaking receivers, and the New York media. What’s not to love about this team? The defense will, again, be the heart of this team, but the offense, especially when Mark Sanchez gets benched, will be laugh-worthy.

24. Washington – 6-10 – Maybe in another division they could make some noise, but the Redskins last seven games include match-ups against Philly twice, Dallas twice, the Giants and Baltimore.

23. Carolina – 6-10 – I think the Panthers will be improved from last year, even though their record won’t show it. I don’t think Cam Newton will have as good of a year, but the ground game will be just as good and Brandon LaFell should provide a nice complement to Steve Smith. The defense with the return of Jon Beason and rookie tackle machine Luke Kuechly will be better than last year, when it allowed almost 27 points a game.

22. Tampa Bay – 6-10 – The Bucs will also be better than they were last year, and their record will show it. New coach Greg Schiano will have his team ready to play after last year when they quit on ex-coach Raheem Morris. Rookie running back Doug Martin and free agent receiver Vincent Jackson will provide Josh Freeman the two best weapons of his young career, and will help him bounce back from a bad 2011.

21. Oakland – 7-9 – The offense should be able to put up some points, but there are too many questions – Carson Palmer’s turnovers, Darren McFadden’s health, and the defense – to consider than a playoff team.

20. Cincinnati – 7-9 – The Bengals had a good year last year, making the playoffs in Andy Dalton’s first season. But they only beat one team with a winning record – Tennessee – and I don’t think anyone would’ve called them that good last year. There are better days ahead, but they won’t occur until after this year.

19. Seattle – 8-8 – The Seahawks defense should be a top-five unit this year, as they can pressure the quarterback and have a very good secondary. But their offense, led by rookie Russell Wilson, has a lot of question marks. Can Marshawn Lynch repeat his ’11 numbers? Can Wilson pull a Cam Newton or Andy Dalton this year? Will any reliable receiving options step up? More likely than not the answers to all those questions are no.

18. Pittsburgh – 8-8 – The Steelers could easily prove me wrong, but for some reason it just seems like their window is closing. Also, the last time the Steelers played they were walking off the field after Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards against them.

17. San Diego – 8-8 – The Chargers never play up to their potential, and part of that reason is because their head coach, Norv Turner. Many people believe Turner should’ve been fired a couple years ago, but for some reason he’s still around. The Chargers won’t ever fulfill their potential until he’s gone.

16. Philadelphia – 8-8 – The Eagles have playmakers on both sides of the ball, and brought in DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks to play linebacker. Their defense should be one of the best in the league, but I figure Michael Vick misses a few games.

15. Detroit – 8-8 – The offense will be breathtaking again. How can it not, with Calvin Johnson? But the defense, which ranked 28th in yards allowed and 29th in points per game last year, will keep the Lions out of the playoffs.

14. Denver – 9-7 – Denver’s offense, if Peyton Manning is close to being himself, should be exciting, and Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil make Denver’s D fun to watch. But for some reason I just don’t think the Broncos are the best team in their division.

13. Dallas – 9-7 – The Cowboys just miss out on the playoffs again, this time due to injuries. Tony Romo’s an Oakland Raider this time next year.

12. Tennessee* – 9-7 – Jake Locker played well in the three regular season games he started last year and in the preseason this year. He’s surrounded by a ton of talent on offense, and the defense is better than average.

11. Buffalo* – 11-5 – The Bills made several changes to shore up a leaky defense. Free-agent signees Mario Williams and Mark Anderson will help Marcel Dareus grow along the defensive line, and rookie corner Stephon Gilmore will help a secondary that has to face Tom Brady twice a year.

10. New Orleans* – 10-6 – The Saints shrug off Bountygate and pick up right where they left off last year. They’ll be in shootouts, but with Drew Brees, three great receiving threats and a dangerous rushing game they’ll win more than they lose.

9. Chicago* – 11-5 – As long as they stay healthy the Bears should challenge Green Bay for the NFC North crown. Brandon Marshall will help the Bears be better than they have in the recent past.

8. New York Giants – 9-7 – Just like last year the clutchness of Eli Manning and a suffocating pass rush will lead the Giants to the NFC East crown, despite a tough schedule.

7. Kansas City – 10-6 – The Chiefs suffered more than their fair share of injuries last year, losing their two best players, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, and a promising young tight end in Tony Moeaki. Matt Cassel should be more his 2010 self (27 TDs) than last year (10 TDs, nine INTs), and he’s got plenty of weapons – Charles, Moeaki, Dwayne Bowe, Peyton Hillis, Jon Baldwin and Steve Breaston. With Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry the Chiefs D should be just as good as their offense.

6. San Francisco – 10-6 – The 49ers had surprisingly good luck regarding injuries last year as their starters plus Aldon Smith barely missed any time. Playing a first-place schedule, the NFC North and AFC West, plus probably a few more missed games from defensive players, will lead to slight regression but not enough to knock off a talented team from the top.

5. New England – 14-2 – With the addition of Brandon Lloyd the Patriots could put up numbers close to what they did in 2007. That’s bad news for the rest of the league, but the Pats have been regular season warriors for years now and haven’t won anything in over seven years.

4. Atlanta Falcons – 11-5 – Asante Samuel should make the Falcons’ D even better this year, and Matt Ryan should have the best year of his career throwing to Roddy White and Julio Jones. If that happens Michael Turner should be fresher down the stretch, which is when he struggled last year, and should help the Falcons move past the first round of the playoffs.

3. Baltimore Ravens – 12-4 – The Ravens were this close to playing in the Super Bowl last year, but a dropped touchdown and missed field goal were their downfall. This year, they come close again, but don’t get in.

2. Green Bay Packers – 12-4 – Just like the Saints and Patriots, the Packers’ D will give up yards and points but Green Bay’s offense is just too good to lose too many games.

1. Houston Texans – 12-4 – They came close last year, and even won a playoff game with their third-string QB. They’ve got one of the best offensive lines in the game, two great running backs, a very good quarterback, a great receiver and a great defense. We all saw what a great pass rush can do against great quarterbacks last year. This year it’s Houston’s turn.

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One Comment
  1. With you on the Jets prediction. Rex Ryan finally fired after this season.

    Also you and I are the only two people in the country with KC and Buffalo in the playoffs. Look forward to rooting for them with you. Well done.

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