Through long debate and hours of research, one thing has become apparent about what will happen during the upcoming NFL season; the NFC will be the dominant conference. I have went team by team handing out wins and losses for the entire regular season following free agency and before the draft and concluded that seven NFC teams will win more than 10 games and only 4 AFC teams will. Also included is a brief recap of the playoffs.Let's begin with the NFC and more specifically the NFC North.
No order change from last season, just an increase in wins for both Detroit and Chicago, giving the North a league high three 10 win teams.
Green Bay had a magical regular season last year, but will not be quite as lucky this time around. Thirteen wins with road losses to Chicago, Detroit and Houston is definitely obtainable for the Packers. The Packers have had a relatively quite off-season and will look to add depth and possibly a pass rusher early in the draft.
The Detroit Lions will continue to improve their record this season. The past two seasons Detroit has increased their win total by 4 wins each season, this year it will only be 2. The Lions may have some more roar this year in the playoffs as can be seen below in the playoff preview. In the perfect world, Detroit will be able to add contributors to the offensive line and secondary (cornerback and safety) in the first 3 rounds of the draft. Stephen Tulloch resigning was Detroit's top free agency move this off-season.
Brandon Marshall is a beast and will bring firepower to Quarterback Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears offense. Matt Forte came back from injury last year to show in the Pro-Bowl that he was healthy but the Bears season lies on him and Cutler remaining on the gridiron. If Malcolm Floyd were to drop to the Bears at #19 this offense could possibly contend to be one of the top in the NFL. All 3 of these teams have the talent and coaching to win the division.
The Minnesota Vikings will be lucky to have 3 wins this season. Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert will compete for worst starting quarterback this season. Rumor is that Adrian Peterson will be recovered from his ACL injury for the start of the season, but I won't believe it until I see it.
Tony Romo will lead the Dallas Cowboys to a division championship this season. The addition of Michigan native Brandon Carr along with addition by subtraction with Terrence Newman and the possibility of safety Mark Barron coming in, the Dallas defense will be greatly improved from 2011.
The Philadelphia Eagles came on strong at the end of last season and will continue the momentum into a playoff season this year. LeSean McCoy has developed into a top 5 running-back and could flirt with 2000 total yards this season.
Yes, not a misprint. The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants will miss the post season. Things broke just the right way for Eli and the Giants last year, including Atlanta's horrendous showing in the Wildcard round. Remember this was the Team Lion and Falcon fans were hoping to face in round one instead of New Orleans.
RGIII will struggle with the pressures of being the second overall pick, Fred Davis' suspension will hurt his development and throwing to a slew of mediocre receivers will lead to a poor season. Hopefully Roy Helu will be shown as the feature back by Mike Shanahan.
What a difference a few years make. The New Orleans Saints were Super Bowl Champions and Atlanta was the hot new team everybody was picking. The Saints will struggle this year with the suspensions of players and coaches, Drew Brees' contract negotiations and a media circus that is sure to follow them all year. Meanwhile they will teeter around .500 all year and sneak into the playoffs.
The remaining 3 teams could wind up in any order; Atlanta may become one dimensional with the fall of Michael Turner, Vincent Jackson will take pressure off of Mike Williams to be the #1 receiver and in-turn Josh Freeman will have a much better year and finally Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers will improve by one win. The Panthers will be a cute pick for over .500 but defenses are sure to be building game plans this off-season to slow down Cam Newton.
The San Francisco 49ers will dominate the West again and sweep the division. Coach Harbaugh is rolling the dice with the addition of Randy Moss but what has been over looked is the resigning of Ted Ginn Jr. and the signing of Mario Manningham. Alex Smith will shortly forget about the 49ers trying to upgrade the quarterback position and will just smile that he has a competent group of wide receivers this season.
Last years dog turns it around, many including myself thought the St. Louis Rams would win the division in Sam Bradford's second year. The Rams will get to .500 this year with a healthy Bradford and new head coach Jeff Fisher leading the way.
There is no way possible Marshawn Lynch can duplicate his statistics or impact from his contract year. He has been paid and we've seen time and time again what happens after outstanding contract years. I am also not sold on the combination of Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn at quarterback. If Joe Philbin didn't want Flynn in Miami, that is not a good sign.
Arizona is not in a good spot, they didn't improve this off-season and they still don't know what they have in Kevin Kolb or John Skelton. Look for Ryan Williams to be a contributor after missing his rookie season with a ruptured patella tendon.
Moving on to the AFC, once again beginning in the North.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will benefit from having to play other 2nd place teams from last year, whereas the Baltimore Ravens will have to face division winners. It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh deals with the loss of Rashard Mendenhall and the "retirement" of Bruce Arians. What will lead Pittsburgh to the division title is Ben Roethlisberger throwing to a dangerous trio of wide receivers (Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders). Sanders was not much of a threat last season but watch out, he was more productive than Brown when they were both healthy as rookies. They made similar moves as the Ravens did last off-season by cutting aging players to give the team a face lift.
Joe Flacco is going to take the next step this season. Flacco has made some interesting comments recently but his play in the AFC Championship last year has me convinced that he will be a force in the regular season as well. I am drinking the Kool-Aid that Lardarius Webb is pouring, the Ravens do have the top secondary in the league. I can't think of a better group of five players than Webb, Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams, Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed.
The Cincinnati Bengals have made a lot of interesting moves this off-season, they added a group of veterans that will provide depth and mentor the young talent they have. With 2 first round picks along with the Dalton to Green combination, the Bengals have a great foundation to build on.
The Cleveland Browns have the least talented roster in the league and hopefully realize it. The smart move would be to draft Trent Richardson with the fourth pick, then hope they get the first pick next season to have the pleasure of selecting Matt Barkley. Replacing Colt McCoy with Ryan Tannehill would not be an upgrade in the long term. Tannehill is a low first, high second round talent.
The New England Patriots have a hold on this division for this year and until at least Tom Brady retires. I would not be surprised if the Patriots traded Brian Hoyer for a draft pick this year with Brady's replacement Ryan Mallett already on the roster. If the Patriots decide to keep both of their first round picks, don't be surprised if they draft two pass rushers, possibly Nick Perry and Shea McClellin.
Let's just say bringing Tim Tebow into the Jets locker was probably not the smartest idea ever. They needed another wide receiver and not another quarterback. If the Jets want mark Sanchez to succeed they must acquire some play makers before the season starts. The front seven of the defense is also an area of need.
Who knows what is going on down in Miami. Jim Harbaugh doesn't want to go there, Jeff Fisher doesn't want to go there and Peyton manning doesn't want to go there. To add further confusion to the puzzle, they traded Brandon Marshall for way less than they paid to acquire him just two seasons ago.
The Houston Texans will run away with this division and will struggle for motivation come early December. The Texans have the top runningback corps in the NFL, a top 5 receiver and a good defense, only time will tell how far they will go this year after scaring the Baltimore Ravens in the first round with T.J. Yates at quarterback.
Tennessee surprisingly had 9 wins last season and will drop down to .500 this year. Chris Johnson ended up having a solid season after a slow start. With the return of Kenny Britt, Jake Locker will have a solid group of weapons around him.
After viewing Blaine Gabbert twice last season, one thing was clear to me, he should not be starting at this point of his career. Maurice Jones-Drew was relied on for nearly 400 touches last year, I see there being some regression this season from wear and tear. The defense is the only reason they will be sniffing 4 wins, that is definitely the Jaguars ceiling.
Is it possible that the Colts have less talent on their roster now then they did last season? Yup, they will once again be the worst team in the NFL. Don't be surprised if Dwight Freeney gets traded at some point for some draft picks.
The Denver Broncos changed their entire makeup this off-season by signing Peyton Manning and trading Tim Tebow. Don't expect Manning to be sharp at the start of the season, a new team and a whole season removed, he will have some rust. However, the Broncos will win the division.
It will be interesting to see how Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles play this year with both having early season ending injuries last season. Too many variables to say they will regain form from two seasons ago.
Oakland mortgaged their future on Carson Palmer at the trade deadline last year and it will prove to have been a terrible decision, Jason Campbell would have been better moving forward. The loss of Michael Bush will also hurt because it is only a matter of time before Darren McFadden gets injured.
San Diego is a puzzle; releasing once promising tackle Marcus McNeil, letting Vincent Jackson and Mike Tolbert both walk, the offense will have a totally different look this season. They are counting on Ryan Mathews to be the work horse this season after showing promise in his second season. Will Antonio Gates be able to regain his status as a top 5 tight end this year? Probably not, but his 64 receptions in 13 games was a solid year.
Now onto the postseason:
Your 2012-2013 Super Champions will be the Baltimore Ravens
|Wildcard||Divisional||Conference Championship||Superbowl||Superbowl Champions|
|New Orleans||Green Bay|
Ray Lewis, Matt Birk and Ed Reed immediately retire following the game, Ray Rice Super Bowl MVP. This will be the Ravens first championship since 2000, giving Lewis his second championship. The Harbaugh bowl that was a few mistakes away from occurring last year will happen this time around with older brother John taking the Lombardi trophy.