As the 2012 NFL season creeps closer and closer (the season opens this coming Wednesday), countless media outlets and pundits have released their predictions for the season. They’ve given their guesses at the Super Bowl participants, champs, playoff teams, coach of the year, MVP, rookie of the year, towel boy of the year – ok, maybe not the last one – but just about any prediction that can form a storyline.
They’ve also given their predictions on each team’s record for the year. When hearing these record predictions, I started to wonder how much thought they put into these. Not to discredit how much work they put into their job (because they research and analyze the NFL each and every day), but did they actually go through each team’s schedule and select the winners and losers of each game? Or did they just think, for instance: the Rams will be better than last year, Bradford’s healthy, they added some offensive skills, Jeff Fisher’s a good coach – so 8-8 sounds reasonable?
Who knows, maybe some actually analyzed every game, but I doubt it. So much can happen during a season – injuries, slumps, out of nowhere surprises – so it’s much safer for them to not pick the outcome of each and every game, but rather, just give an overall record. Well, I’m crazy enough to put it all out there and publicly say what I think will happen in each game. So with that, below are my predictions for each team’s record (including who each team will lose to; or for the teams I project to have losing records, I’ll say who they’ll beat. Takes less time for me to type and you to read…). I’ll follow the records up with playoff predictions and awards predictions.
New England is the class of the division, but Buffalo is going to be much improved. They have a favorable schedule (playing the NFC West and AFC South) and added some nice defensive pieces. The Jets and Dolphins are each going to have difficult seasons. I see the Jets being bad, worse than most people are projecting. Even playing the NFC West and AFC South won’t help the Jets and Dolphins.
New England Patriots – 14-2
Losses: at Buffalo; home against Houston
Buffalo Bills – 11-5
Losses: at San Francisco; at Houston; at New England; home against St. Louis; at Miami
New York Jets – 3-13
Wins: home against Indianapolis; home against Miami; home against Arizona
Miami Dolphins – 3-13
Wins: home against New York Jets; home against Jacksonville; home against Buffalo
Houston is by far the best team in the AFC South. They’ll roll to the division title. The Colts will surprise people with how good they are. They won’t contend for a playoff spot, but they’ll sport a better record than a lot of people are expecting and will be competitive even in many of their losses. Tennessee will essentially be mediocre, winning what they should and losing what they should. Jacksonville will have a tough year, but will be better than the record indicates, staying competitive due to its decent defensive.
Houston Texans – 12-4
Losses: at Denver; home against Baltimore; at Detroit; at Indianapolis
Tennessee Titans – 6-10
Wins: at Minnesota; home against Indianapolis; at Miami; at Jacksonville; home against New York Jets; home against Jacksonville
Indianapolis Colts – 6-10
Wins: home against Minnesota; home against Jacksonville; home against Cleveland; home against Miami; home against Tennessee; home against Houston
Jacksonville Jaguars – 3-13
Wins: at Minnesota; home against Indianapolis; home against New York Jets
The AFC North will come down to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. I see the Ravens as the stronger team. Cincinnati faces a tough schedule so will drop some from last year. Cleveland has a tough schedule and are rebuilding. They won’t be very good, but will pull of a couple upsets.
Baltimore Ravens – 12-4
Losses: home against New England; at Pittsburgh; home against New York Giants; at Cincinnati
Pittsburgh Steelers – 11-5
Losses: at Denver; at Cincinnati; at New York Giants; at Cleveland; at Baltimore
Cincinnati Bengals – 8-8
Losses: at Baltimore; at Cleveland; home against Denver; home against New York Giants; at Kansas City; at San Diego; at Philadelphia; at Pittsburgh
Cleveland Browns – 2-14
Wins: home against Cincinnati; home against Pittsburgh;
From top to bottom, the AFC West will probably be the most competitive division in the AFC. It’ll come down to Denver winning the conference over San Diego by going undefeated at home, but Kansas City and Oakland will both be very competitive.
Denver Broncos – 11-5
Losses: at Atlanta; at New England; at San Diego; at Kansas City; at Baltimore
San Diego Chargers – 9-7
Losses: home against Atlanta; at Kansas City; at New Orleans; at Tampa Bay; at Denver; home against Baltimore; at Pittsburgh
Kansas City Chiefs – 7-9
Wins: home against San Diego; home against Oakland; home against Cincinnati; home against Denver; home against Carolina; at Cleveland; home against Indianapolis
Oakland Raiders – 6-10
Wins: at Miami; home against Jacksonville; home against Tampa Bay; home against New Orleans; home against Cleveland; home against Kansas City
The NFC East will be very competitive, as it is most years, with the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys all chasing a playoff birth. The Redskins will show progress, but are still a year or two away from really contending.
New York Giants – 11-5
Losses: at Philadelphia; at San Francisco; at Dallas; home against Green Bay; at Atlanta
Philadelphia Eagles – 10-6
Losses: home against Baltimore; at Pittsburgh; at New Orleans; at Washington; at Dallas; at New York Giants
Dallas Cowboys – 9-7
Losses: at New York Giants; at Seattle; at Baltimore; at Philadelphia; at Cincinnati; home against Pittsburgh; at Washington
Washington Redskins – 5-11
Wins: at New Orleans; home against Minnesota; home against Philadelphia; at Cleveland; home against Dallas
The Falcons will win the NFC South and showcase itself as one of the top teams in the NFC; however, Atlanta will face a tough stretch coming off its bye week and surprisingly lose three in a row (at Philly, home against Dallas, at New Orleans). The Saints will be good at home, but will play down or up to their competition, winning some big games, but losing to teams that they really shouldn’t. Carolina will take a little step back as teams continue to learn how to defend Cam Newton with a full year of tape on him. Tampa will look much improved and it will be obvious that the team will play competitively all year under new coach Greg Schiano. They’ll struggle down the stretch though, losing its last five games, after playing themselves into the playoff picture the first half of the year.
Atlanta Falcons – 12-4
Losses: at Philadelphia; home against Dallas; at New Orleans; at Carolina
New Orleans Saints – 6-10
Wins: home against Kansas City; home against San Diego; home against Philadelphia; home against Atlanta; home against Tampa Bay; home against Carolina
Carolina Panthers – 6-10
Wins: home against New Orleans; home against Seattle; at Washington; home against Tampa Bay; home against Atlanta; home against Oakland
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 6-10
Wins: home against Carolina; home against Washington; home against Kansas City; home against New Orleans; at Minnesota; home against San Diego
The NFC North is loaded with Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago. All three will be competing for playoff spots. Chicago will surprise people with how good they are, while Detroit will again put up a solid year. Minnesota will be looking forward to the draft pretty quickly out of the gate in this tough division.
Green Bay Packers – 13-3
Losses: at Houston; home against Detroit; at Chicago
Chicago Bears – 11-5
Losses: at Green Bay; at Dallas; home against Houston; at San Francisco; at Detroit
Detroit Lions – 10-6
Losses: at San Francisco; at Philadelphia; at Chicago; at Minnesota; home against Green Bay; home against Atlanta
Minnesota Vikings – 2-14
Wins: home against Arizona; home against Detroit
The 49ers will be the cream of the crop in the NFC West, go undefeated at home, but will see a slight drop-off from last year’s surprise run into the playoffs. St. Louis will be much improved and put themselves in the playoff picture. Seattle will also play well, but not be able to get over the hump and post a winning record. Arizona gets stuck with a tough schedule and will struggle this season.
San Francisco 49ers – 11-5
Losses: at Green Bay; at Arizona; at St. Louis; at New England; at Seattle
St. Louis Rams – 9-7
Losses: at Detroit; at Chicago; home against Green Bay; home against New England; at San Francisco; at Arizona; at Seattle
Seattle Seahawks – 8-8
Losses: home against Green Bay; at St. Louis; at Carolina; home against New England; at San Francisco; at Detroit; at Chicago; at Buffalo
Arizona Cardinals – 3-13
Wins: home against Miami; home against San Francisco, home against St. Louis
AFC Playoff Picture
New England (bye)
Baltimore (gets the bye over Houston based on tiebreaker via Baltimore winning the regular season head-to-head matchup)
Buffalo Bills (wild card)
Pittsburgh Steelers (wild card)
Conference Championship: New England over Houston
NFC Playoff Picture
Green Bay (bye)
San Francisco 49ers
New York Giants
Chicago Bears (wild card)
Philadelphia Eagles (wild card – wins final spot over Detroit due to tiebreaker via Philly winning the regular season head-to-head matchup)
Conference Championship: Green Bay over Chicago
Green Bay over New England in a close game. Defense is the difference maker with Green Bay’s reloaded defense coming up big against Brady and the high powered New England offense.
MVP: Tom Brady
Coach of the Year: Buffalo’s Chan Gailey
Exec of the Year: Buffalo’s Buddy Nix
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Andrew Luck
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Mark Barron