10 Outrageously Bold and Way Too Early Predictions for the 2012 NFL Season
We're at that awful point in the year where football is all but dead, and all we can do is speculate while anxiously awaiting the arrival of training camps.
On the plus side, it's also the one time of year where anyone can spurt out something ridiculous and not even have to back it up. That's the beauty of the NFL, it is completely unpredictable.
So how does one go about predicting the unpredictable?
Well, let's start with...
No. 10, the Pittsburgh Steelers Bottom out
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I said these would be bold.
The combined record of each starting quarterback on Pittsburgh's schedule is 610-415. That does not bode too well for an aging defense that has done little to upgrade. Pittsburgh will be changing its offensive strategy under Todd Haley, and there will be growing pains.
With Cleveland establishing an identity in Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden, as well as fielding an underrated defense, the Browns will surprise some folks this year. Baltimore and Cincinnati will duke it out for first, and that leaves Pittsburgh in the cellar.
No. 9, Green Bay Watches the Playoffs from Home
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I know what you're thinking. This guy is bleeping nuts. They almost had a perfect season, and they have arguably the best quarterback in the game; there's no way they can miss the playoffs, right?
The Packers will have a great year, turning in a 10 win season. Unfortunately, that won't be enough.
This division is going to be a three-way dogfight between the Pack, Chi town and the Motor City. Green Bay's porous defense will be the X-factor and it will lose out on a playoff spot despite 10 wins.
Still think I'm crazy? Consider this: The last time a team flirted with perfection, they won 11 games the following year and missed the playoffs.
No. 8, the Oakland Raiders Just Win, Baby.
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The Oakland Raiders are a sleeper team in 2012. Carson Palmer has had a rough career, but he has never been on a squad with such a talented offensive unit.
With a full offseason under his belt and time to really get on the same page as his receivers, Palmer puts up the second-best numbers in the AFC West, and Run DMC will give defenses fits.
Oakland's issue last year was defense, but the man they have leading them this year took a Denver Broncos defense that was pitiful in 2010 and made them a respectable unit in 2011.
Oakland wins enough to earn a playoff berth.
No. 7, Some Dude You've Probably Never Heard of Leads the League in Recptions
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Meet Eric Decker, former Minnesota Gopher and current Denver Broncos wide receiver.
Because of the rarity of throwing the ball for Denver last year, Decker is widely unknown to most NFL fans outside of Denver. He is a fast, neat route runner, like a bigger Brandon Stokely.
Not to mention he has been everywhere that Peyton has been all offseason and not just on the practice field or in the gym. Peyton recently went out and enjoyed a Rox ball game, and guess who was right by his side? Decker has been absorbing all he can from Peyton, and it pays dividends this season.
No. 6, New England Redefines Perfection
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With the league's most powerful offense, a revamped defense and one of the softest schedules in the league, the Pats cruise to a 16-0 season yet again.
Brady to Lloyd will be the theme for New England this year, much as Brady to Moss was the theme in '08. The best part for the Patriots is they won't be worrying about those pesky Giants waiting to up stage them in the Super Bowl again, because...
No. 5, the New York Giants Finish Third in the NFC East
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The defending champions have the hardest schedule in the National Football League this year. That doesn't bode too well when you realize that at the end of the regular season last year, Philly was hitting its stride, and the Cowboys were blown coverage away from a playoff run.
The Eagles might be the most talented team in football, and if they can stay healthy they will be a force. The Cowboys were a secondary away from being special last year; well they've got a secondary now. It'll be a battle between Philly and Dallas for the crown, with the loser getting the wild card spot.
No. 4, Jacksonville Shocks Everyone and Wins the AFC South
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The Jags defense was beastly last year, but the team was hampered by its offense under Rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert, however, will get a full offseason under his belt and now has some one to throw the ball to.
Relying heavily on the workhorse that is MJD, Jacksonville edges out the Texans and grabs the crown.
No. 3, Carolina Gets a First-Round Bye
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The NFC South has a history of flipping on its head from year to year, and with all the uncertainty surrounding the Saints, The Buccaneers breaking in a new coach and the Falcons not doing much to improve, this division is the Panthers' for the taking.
Cam Newton will build on his success from last year, and the defense is much improved after the acquisitions this offseason. A favorable schedule is the icing on the cake, and Carolina balls to a 12-4 record.
No. 2, Seattle Grabs the NFC West
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Seattle, in their brand new slick uniforms, stuns the Niners in a dogfight to win the NFC West. Seattle was another team that was coming on hot at the end of the season, and they have improved on both sides of the ball since then with the acquisition of Matt Flynn and a defensive heavy draft.
No. 1, Peyton Manning Is Your MVP
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This is bold. A 36-year-old quarterback on a brand new team coming off four neck surgeries is going to perform at an MVP-type level?
This isn't just some regular 36-year-old quarterback here, this is Peyton-freaking-Mannning. A new environment is not going to be a big deal to him, because he brings his own offensive system to the table. Anyone who thinks Manning will be learning anything from Mike Mccoy and not vice versa is out of their mind.
Manning is like an on-the-field offensive coordinator, not just a quarterback. Everyone expects the Broncos to get off to a slow start, but they'll start fast and keep it up.
All the fuss about the schedule? That's the schedule Peyton has been playing his whole career. He has never been on a team with so much talent on both sides of the ball, and his hurry-up offense being utilized in the Denver altitude will be cheating.
The last time the Broncos had this tough a schedule, they went 13-3 and found themselves in the AFC Championship game. That's the number I'm going with here, Broncos finish 13-3 to wrap up the second seed in the AFC.