While the NFL season officially started Wednesday, when the Dallas Cowboys destroyed the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, the rest of the league (except Oakland and San Diego) will begin their 2012 campaign this coming Sunday.
“Enjoy the win. I’m going to go home and polish my two Super Bowl rings.”
And while I already did a 2012 predictions article earlier in the week, here are a few more predictions about who is going to win their division and why.
AFC East-New England Patriots
Ryan Tannehil is not Dan Marino, and the Tebow-Sanchez experiment in New York is already an epic failure, and the season technically hasn’t even started yet. The closest competition to the Tom, Gronk, and Darth Bellichick are the Buffalo Bills, but do you honestly think Fred Jackson will over-perform two years in a row, and not somehow get hurt sometime during the year?
“I’m telling you, Coach said I’m better than Joe Montana…”
Me neither. The division is the Pats to lose.
AFC North-Baltimore Ravens
Let’s face it, the Ravens are old. I mean, really old.
“Watch the hip replacement!”
And except for Ray Lewis, none of the guys on the team have a Super Bowl to their name. Even then, Lewis wasn’t even allowed to say he was going to Disney World in 2000, because he was facing questions about his alleged involvement in a murder.
Sure, youngbloods Joe Flacco is chipper, and Torrey Smith is spry, but this might very well be the Ravens last best chance to give Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, and the rest of the old guys a big shiny ring to wear in retirement. 2012 is a make or break year for the Ravens, and they’re finally going to do it.
AFC South-Houston Texans
After living in the shadow of Peyton Manning for the franchise’s entire existence, the Texans finally reached the playoffs in 2011. Why? Because Manning was recovering from neck surgery and didn’t play a single game.
In 2012, Manning is in on a completely different team in a completely different division.
“You’ll have to work harder than that to be the best team in the state!”
With Manning gone, and Arian Foster and Andre Johnson anchoring the offense, the Texans are poised to be perennial winners of the division for a few years to come. That’s even without Mario Williams on their roster anymore. Watch out soon, because this team is probably going to be the next team in Texas to win a Super Bowl.
And that’s probably going to be sooner then you think.
AFC West-Denver Broncos
Two words: Peyton Manning.
“Let me just strap my neck in, so when I get hit my head doesn’t pop off.”
AFC Wild Cards-Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals
With Rashard Mendenhall still recuperating from a torn ACL, and the rest of the team getting older by the day, the Steelers have one more run to the playoffs before the rebuilding process begins.
New Guard vs. Old Guard.
The Bengals on the other hand, have a second year quarterback and a second year wide receiver, who may very well be the best receiver in the NFL. It’s the past meeting the future, then heading off into two very different directions.
NFC East-Philadelphia Eagles
Least year, the Eagles were supposed to be the Dream Team of the NFL.
Instead, they had one of the worst records in the league until they somehow won their final four games. See, look what a little time together can do for a team.
“Try not to get me fired!”
With so many offseason pickups last year in the lockout-shortened preseason, the Eagles didn’t have the necessary time to jell in order to play to their potential. In 2012, the team has had a full offseason to adequately get to know one another, the playbook, Andy Reid’s mustache and where to find the best cheese steak in town.
This team has the talent to win, and now they’ve had the time to learn how.
NFC North-Green Bay Packers
Last year, it actually looked like the Packers were going to be the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to run the table from start to finish. Instead, they didn’t.
“Alright guys, what do you say if we lose a game or two this season, we do it earlier in the year?”
Now that that’s off their back, expect them to continue their winning ways without all the pressure of “being perfect.”
The Falcons have had the misfortune to play in the same division as the Panthers during the Jake Delhomme-era, and the Saints during their Headhunting-era. This year, with Cam Newton and the Tampa Bay still developing, and half the Saints defense suspended, the time to seize the day has finally arrived for the Falcons.
“…and that’s why we didn’t win in 2010. Then we didn’t win in 2011 because…”
Wait, news just broke that Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith won their appeal concerning Bounty-Gate, and are now clear to play. Forget what I said before, because the NFC South is going back to New Orleans. Sure, the coach is still suspended, but we all knew Drew Brees really coached that team anyway.
NFC West-San Francisco 49ers
Because of their record in 2011, picking the 49ers to win the division should be the easiest pick of all, but this is the NFC West, and somehow nothing ever goes the way you expect in this division.
Last year, the 49ers were supposed to be the worst team in the division, and not a fumble away from perhaps winning their sixth Super Bowl. The Seahawks won the division in 2010 with a losing record, and then went off to the dethrone the defending Super Bowl champ Saints. The Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl with a 9-and-7 record. The Rams became the Greatest Show On Turf.
“I can’t believe this division is so bad, I actually look alright.”
Just when you think you have a sure thing in the NFC West, a team does something crazy and messes the whole thing up. History has the 49ers facing a dramatic slide from their superb play a year ago, and if that happens, Seattle might very well swoop in with their rookie quarterback and make some noise.
If not though, and if the offseason pickups San Francisco acquired do more good than harm (we’re looking at you, Randy Moss), there is no reason why the 49ers shouldn’t repeat as division champs.
I have them going so far as to losing the Super Bowl against the Ravens. Alex Smith still is their quarterback after all.
NFC Wild Cards-Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears
Tony Romo isn’t hurt (yet) and Jay Cutler finally has someone to throw to. In the tough divisions these two teams play, they’re going to come out a little beat up and a little bruised, but they’re going to come out just the same. Good enough for the Wild Card.
Too bad the Cowboys will be the wildcard, and Jerry Jones can’t watch his team lose on that giant television. One day, I suppose…