2012 NFL Predictions

by Dustin Dietz | Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Image: Gene Sweeney Jr: Baltimore Sun/MCT/Getty Images

By: Dustin Dietz

After 7 excruciating months of trying to wait patiently, the NFL regular season kicks off Wednesday night September 5th with the hometown Dallas Cowboys visiting last year’s Super Bowl champion, the New York football Giants. Opening night is usually held at the home of the previous Super Bowl champion on the Thursday night before opening weekend, but with President Barack Obama announcing he will accept the Democratic nomination for president on Thursday night September 6th, the NFL decided to hold the opening game one day earlier to not interfere with The Commander in Chief’s speech. This will be the first NFL game held on a Wednesday since 1948.

The Cowboys’ 2011 season began and ended in Met Life Stadium, an opening night loss to the Jets in which a double digit 4th quarter lead was lost, and a complete annihilation by the Giants in Week 17 in what was the NFC East championship game.

The Cowboys started 2011 by winning 7 of their first 11 games, but faded down the stretch by losing 4 of their final 5 games and finished one game behind the Giants at 8-8. New York defeated the Cowboys twice in the final 4 games of the regular season to pass Dallas in the standings, and rode a hot streak all the way to a Super Bowl ring.

After an embarrassing home loss to the pathetic Washington Redskins, the Giants stood at 7-7 heading into a Week 16 matchup with the New York Jets. Thanks to a Victor Cruz 99 yard touchdown reception, the Giants beat the Jets and would not lose again. New York proved it is not about how you begin the season, rather it is about how you finish.

The Dallas offensive line, the interior line especially, and a weak secondary are mainly to blame for another Cowboy December swoon as the Dallas secondary ranked 23rd last year in pass defense. The Cowboys signed Brandon Carr and drafted Morris Claiborne to eradicate the secondary woes, and the club also signed veteran guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau to improve a less than stellar interior offensive line.

Tony Romo was brilliant in the season’s final 5 games last season as he threw for 10 touchdowns to only 1 interception. Romo finished 2011 with the NFL’s 4th highest QB rating with an astounding 102.5 rating. If any Cowboy fan seriously feels Tony Romo was the reason Dallas collapsed in the final month, he or she is seriously misinformed and needs to have his or her head examined.

Now that I have refreshed the reader with what occurred last season, here are my predictions for both the Cowboys and the rest of the NFL in 2012 NFL.

AFC

South

1. Houston Texans 10-6

2. Tennessee Titans 7-9

3. Indianapolis Colts 6-10

4. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13

Houston won the AFC South, and made the playoffs for the first time in team history in 2011. The club also won the franchise’s first playoff game, but was unable to upset Baltimore in the Divisional round with T.J. Yates at quarterback. Houston is far more superior than any other team in the South, and has a tremendous defense led by defensive coordinator and former Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips. Houston should win the South easily with a healthy Matt Schaub, and two headed monster running game featuring Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The Colts are going to be really good in the future with Andrew Luck, but this is Houston’s division in 2012.

West

1. Denver Broncos 9-7

2. San Diego Chargers 8-8

3. Oakland Raiders 7-9

4. Kansas City Chiefs 5-11

The Broncos added the highest profile quarterback to hit the free agent market in many years, maybe ever, in Peyton Manning. Manning’s health has to be questioned as he is recovering from three neck surgeries, but if he is healthy, the Denver offense will produce huge numbers. With the Broncos defense led by former Texas A&M Aggie Von Miller, the Broncos should punish opposing quarterbacks. San Diego should compete as I expect Philip Rivers to not throw as many interceptions as he did in 2011, but he does not have the weapons Peyton has at his disposal. Oakland and KC will not compete with a declining Carson Palmer and a mediocre Matt Cassel at quarterback.

North

1. Baltimore Ravens 12-4

2. Cincinnati Bengals 10-6

3. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8

4. Cleveland Browns 4-12

Ray Rice will have his best professional season, and Torrey Smith will become one of the game’s best down field receivers as Baltimore will have a productive offense to go along with one of the NFL’s best defenses. I believe Joe Flacco will take a step forward this year. The loss of David DeCastro will hurt the Steelers and should cause Big Ben Roethlisberger to run for his life at times. Pitts’ D is aging, and not what it used to be. With a solid defense, and improved running game led by BenJarvis Green-Ellis, the Bengals will pass the Steelers in the standings. Cleveland is awful, as usual.

East

1. New England Patriots 13-3

2. Buffalo Bills 9-7

3. New York Jets 7-9

4. Miami Dolphins 5-11

New England is still the class of the AFC as they possess the game’s best offense led by the game’s best quarterback, Tom Brady. The Patriots can create so many matchup problems with the incredible tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The Pats signed Brandon Lloyd in the offseason to give Tom Brady a deep threat option at wide receiver. Josh McDaniels is back as New England’s offensive coordinator, and he helped engineer the magical 50 touchdown season Brady had in 2007. The Bills signing of Mario Williams helps, but they are nowhere close to the Patriots. The Jets and Miami are not going to be competitive with their inferior quarterbacks.

NFC

South

1. Atlanta Falcons 12-4

2. Carolina Panthers 10-6

3. New Orleans Saints 9-7

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-11

I am a huge fan of Matt Ryan, and think this is the year he finally produces huge numbers. 40 touchdown passes and 4,800 yards passing are legit possibilities as the Falcons have one of the NFL’s best wide receiver tandems in Julio Jones and Roddy White. The Panthers are my surprise team in the NFC as Cam Newton will continue to give defenses nightmares with his ability to run and pass. New Orleans takes a step back as the bounty situation is a little too much to overcome. Tampa Bay is not going to compete with Josh Freeman at quarterback. Doug Martin is a future star at running back for the Bucs.

West

1. San Francisco 49ers 11-5

2. Seattle Seahawks 8-8

3. St. Louis Rams 5-11

4. Arizona Cardinals 4-12

The 49ers surprised everyone last season when they went 13-3 during the regular season and advanced to the NFC Championship game against the Giants. What was even more surprising was the emergence of the 2005 1st overall pick QB Alex Smith. Smith had been an abject failure up until last year as he threw only 5 interceptions and posted a QB rating of 90.7 in 2011. Smith limited his mistakes and let the 49ers smothering defense dominate games. San Francisco’s D did not allow a rushing touchdown until Week 16 last season, and while they will allow a rushing TD before Week 16 this year, the defense will still be just as dominant. The rest of the division is not very good, and will pose no threat to a 49ers NFC West repeat.

North

1. Green Bay Packer 13-3

2. Detroit Lions 11-5

3. Chicago Bears 8-8

4. Minnesota Vikings 6-10

The Packers were the first team to go 15-1 during the regular season, and not win a playoff game as they lost in the divisional round to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Aaron Rodgers threw for a career high 4,643 yards and 45 touchdown passes while winning the 2011 NFL MVP, and he did not even play in the regular season’s final game. Rodgers is just out of this world efficient, and his passes are so precise one begins to wonder if he is some robot pretending to be human. Mr. Discount Double Check will again be productive, and the Packers D will return to 2010 form. The Lions are becoming close to knocking Green Bay off of the NFC North mountain, but are not there yet. Chicago will have trouble keeping Jay Cutler upright.

East

1. New York Giants 10-6

2. Philadelphia Eagles 9-7

3. Dallas Cowboys 8-8

4. Washington Redskins 7-9

I have wavered on the NFC East for most of the off season. I want to pick the Eagles, but I cannot trust Michael Vick to stay healthy for the entire year. Eli Manning has joined the ranks of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks as he now has 2 Super Bowl rings to prove it. The Giants pass rush led by Jason Pierre-Paul is outstanding, and if their secondary is healthy, scoring points on the G-Men will not be easy. The Cowboys defense will be much better, but I do not believe the interior offensive line has been improved enough to make much of a difference. RGIII and the Redskins will bring excitement to the nation’s capital, but the Skins are still a last place team.

AFC Wild Cards

Cincinnati, Buffalo

NFC Wild Cards

Detroit, Carolina

AFC Championship

New England over Baltimore

NFC Championship

Green Bay over Atlanta

Super Bowl XLVII

New England over Green Bay

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Mark Barron, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Comeback Player of the Year

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Coach of the Year

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

Defensive Player of the Year

J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

NFL MVP

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

Follow Dustin Dietz on Twitter@DustinDietz

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  1. Parker says:

    As a life-long Broncos fan I’m happy to see you predicted my team to come out on top of the AFC West. I’m so stoked for opening weekend too! I’m not just a Denver fan, but a football fan; I love it! I It doesn’t matter who’s playing, I’ll watch it! Opening weekend I’m having over a bunch of friends of mine that I work with at Dish for a football party; eight-foot sub, a keg, the whole nine yards! There are so many fans of so many different teams coming over I’m going to be using my Hopper to full effect; it allows HD and DVR on four separate TVs, and I’m gonna have a game playing on all of them! Great predictions, but come on; CLEARLY Denver is going 10-6!

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