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Latest Win-Loss Predictions for Every NFL Team, Preseason Week One Edition

Vincent FrankCorrespondent IAugust 6, 2012

Latest Win-Loss Predictions for Every NFL Team, Preseason Week One Edition

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    These types of predictions, although commonplace during the preseason, should be taken with a grain of salt. We have absolutely no idea what is going to happen throughout the duration of the regular season to successfully predict the records for each NFL team.

    It is kinda like doing a mock draft six months before the annual event.

    On that token, we are still able to gauge what teams are going to be among the best in the league, and what teams are going to struggle the most.

    The Cleveland Browns might have gotten a boost by the recent sale of the franchise to Jimmy Haslam, but this doesn't mean they're going to win more than two games in 2012. On a different note, the teams that those two quarterbacks pictured above are leading will be among the best teams in the league.

    This much we can nearly take to the bank.

    So, let's take a look at my predictions for each NFL team heading into the initial week of the 2012 NFL preseason.

Arizona Cardinals

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    As with every team in the NFC West, the Arizona Cardinals schedule is not going to be easy. Not only do they have to face the San Francisco 49ers twice, Arizona is going up against the New England Patriots, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears

    How many games out of that bunch can they realistically expect to win?

    The primary issue here is going to be on offense, where the Cardinals have to choose between two mediocre quarterbacks in Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Whoever is behind center when the regular season starts next month isn't going to have the benefit of playing behind a solid offensive line.

    Arizona quarterbacks were sacked a league high 54 times last season.

    The Cardinals defense will definitely keep them in games consistently. Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett and Patrick Peterson lead what will be a vastly improved unit in 2012.

    That being said, it is hard to imagine Arizona being able to contend for a postseason spot with the wide array of different issues they have on the offensive side of the ball.

    Projected Record: 6-10

Atlanta Falcons:

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    It has become abundantly clear that the Atlanta Falcons will be defined by their level of postseason success. Regular season be damned, this team is all about January, or at least it looks that way.

    They have built one of the most talented rosters in the entire league, mainly on the offensive side of the ball. Matt Ryan will have a year of experience under his belt with Julio Jones on the outside opposite Roddy White.

    While Atlanta might be making the transition to a more pass happy offense, Michael Turner seems to have a place in the scheme and will be able to produce for another year or two. Tony Gonzalez is also returning for what looks to be his final NFL season.

    One of the major additions throughout the NFL this offseason was the Falcons acquisition of Asante Samuel from the Philadelphia Eagles in a trade. The talented cover corner fits perfectly into Atlanta's scheme and will move Dunta Robinson inside to play the slot.

    Overall, this team will be right in the thick of it when the postseason rolls around. It is now up to Mike Smith and Co. to get it done in January.

    Projected Record: 11-5

Baltimore Ravens

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    Can Joe Flacco up his game? Is the Loss of Terrell Suggs too much to overcome? These are two questions that are going to make or break the 2012 season for the Baltimore Ravens.

    It appears that Suggs, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, will start the 2012 season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. This means that he is going to miss a minimum of six games. However, the Ravens are expecting him to be out until at least November.

    That is going to hurt a great deal.

    Baltimore still has the talent to make up for this loss and earn yet another shot at the AFC Championship. Ray Rice is one of the best all-around running backs in the game and Joe Flacco seems to have the necessary weapons in the passing game to succeed. Torrey Smith compiled over 800 receiving yards as a rookie, while Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta combined nearly 90 receptions and over 900 yards at tight end.

    Both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed return as mainstays on a defensive unit that has been consistently among the best in the league over the course of the last decade.

    Baltimore will have tough road matchups against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans. They will also be hosting the New England Patriots and New York Giants in what promises to be a difficult schedule in 2012.

    Projected Record: 10-6


Buffalo Bills

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    There is no doubt that the Buffalo Bills have the talent to compete for a postseason spot. The issue with this talent is that it could be concentrated at certain positions, leaving others bare.

    Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for over 2,200 yards out of the backfield despite the fact that Jackson missed a total of six games. Those two are going to be huge factors in the success of the Bills offense.

    It does, however, seem that the onus is going to be on Ryan Fitzpatrick to become more consistent in the passing game. The Ivy League graduate struggled to an extent after signing a long-term extension during the 11' season. He threw four touchdowns compared to nine interceptions in the Bills final four games of the season.

    Buffalo seemingly upgraded a great deal on a defense that struggled horribly last season. By adding both Mark Anderson and Mario Williams to the front four, they are going to have a much more consistent pass-rush moving forward. Rookie first-round pick Stephon Gilmore also provides much needed talent and ability to what has been an under performing secondary.

    Road games against the New England Patriots, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers represent the toughest part of what is going to be a rather easy schedule.

    Look for Buffalo to contend for a postseason spot.

    Projected Record: 9-7


Carolina Panthers

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    Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are a young team looking to make noise in one of the most difficult divisions in the NFL.

    They're going to have to take on the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints four times, while being forced to travel to Chicago and Philadelphia, two teams with playoff aspirations.

    This will surely test the young Panthers team. They have the talent on the offensive side of the ball to best their fifth ranked scoring offense from a season ago. Mike Tolbert is going to help out on short yardage situations as both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams should improve on down 2011 seasons.

    Cam Newton is the biggest factor here. If the talented young quarterback is able to progress and limit his mistakes, Carolina could easily be in the thick of playoff contention as the regular season winds down in December.

    As it is, they are probably a year away from contention.

    Projected Record: 8-8


Chicago Bears

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    No NFL team would compete for a playoff spot if they lost their starting quarterback and Pro Bowl running back. This is the situation that the Chicago Bears were in for the vast majority of the 2011 season.

    Jay Cutler and Matt Forte missed a combined 10 games as Chicago faded down the stretch, losing five of their last six games.

    If those two players are healthy in 2012 this isn't going to be an issue. That being said, Chicago still has some problems in pass-protection and have two new wide receivers in the form of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who need to get acclimated to the new system.

    As always, Chicago's defense is going to be a strong suit in 2012. Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers form one of the best trios on this side of the ball in the NFL.

    Chicago will find easy wins hard to come by as they have to take on the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers four times total. Moreover, they have tough road games scheduled against the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.

    Projected Record: 10-6


Cincinnati Bengals

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    What the Cincinnati Bengals did last season was nothing short of amazing. In a similar article I wrote heading into the 2011 season I had projected this team to win two games.

    Well, we all know how that turned out.

    Andy Dalton and A.J. Green caught opposing defenses off guard as they led the Bengals to nine wins and a playoff appearance as rookies.

    Fully knowing that they're in contention for another postseason spot in 2012, Cincinnati went out there and filled some glaring holes on both side of the ball.

    Going best player available in April's draft, Cincinnati pretty much aced the annual New York City event. They were able to upgrade at 'corner with the selection of Dre Kirkpatrick in the first round. However, it was what Cincinnati did later in the draft that had me in awe. They added Brandon Thompson, Devon Still and George IIoka.

    Moreover, Cincinnati added a nice amount of weapons for Dalton in the passing game. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu join a receiving group that promises to be deeper in 2012. Orson Charles, despite falling in the draft, can be a dynamic tight end.

    Overall, the Bengals did everything right and are definitely on the upswing. Expect another postseason appearance in 2012.

    Projected Record: 10-6


Cleveland Browns

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    The different in talent between the Cleveland Browns and rest of the AFC North is huge. In short, this young football team will be lucky to win one division game in 2012.

    That doesn't bode well for a franchise that is also tasked with taking on the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos outside of the division.

    Improvement as it relates to the to the Browns will not be measured in wins and losses. Instead, they're going to need Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon to show that they can lead the Browns offense out of the abyss in the AFC North.

    Don't see it happening in 2012.

    Projected Record: 1-15


Dallas Cowboys

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    The talent and expectations are there once again for the Dallas Cowboys entering the season. Anything short of a postseason appearance will lead to mass turnover on the coaching staff and within the roster.

    Jerry Jones might be as patient as they come with his coaches, but even he knows that the window is closing in "Big D."

    Tony Romo, coming off his best season, is going to have a ton of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. DeMarco Murray, a duel-threat running back, takes over the starting duties from Felix Jones. Dez Bryant might have had that major PR disaster take place last month when he was arrested for assault on his mother. However, this doesn't change the fact that he has been incredibly impressive during the offseason.

    What Dallas did on the defensive side of the ball has to make Rob Ryan grin from ear to ear. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have an opportunity to turn a major weakness in 2011, pass defense, into a strength this year.

    If that happens, Dallas will be in a good place.

    Projected Record: 10-6


Denver Broncos

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    Can Peyton Manning make a huge difference taking over for Tim Tebow in 2012? The obvious answer to this question is a resounding yes.

    That being said, there are outside factors that go into coming to an objective analysis of the Denver Broncos this season.

    If Manning is healthy and returns to 2010 form, Denver should be the clear-cut favorites to win the AFC West. If not, avenues will open for the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers to win the division.

    The success of Denver relies greatly on Manning playing every game and not being tentative following numerous neck injuries. They have the talent on both sides of the ball that seems to mesh really well with what the future Hall of Fame quarterback brings to the table.

    Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme should be real finds for the Broncos offense once the system and scheme is fully utilized next month.

    This will be fun.

    Projected Record: 10-6


Detroit Lions

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    The success of the Detroit Lions this season isn't going to depend on the play of Matthew Stafford or Calvin Johnson. They're obviously Pro Bowl players.

    Rather, this team is going to need better play from the defense and a stronger running game on offense if they want to become an elite team in the NFC.

    It is unattainable to believe that Detroit can contend for a conference championship with a pass defense ranked near the bottom of the league. It is equally impossible to believe that they can have sustained and consistent success on offense if they're running game doesn't pick it up.

    Mikel Leshoure will miss the early part of the season due to violating the NFL Substance Abuse Policy. Once the 2011 second-round pick returns, he should have the inside-track for the starting job. If the Illinois product is able to pick it up on the ground, Detroit could easily contend with the Green Bay Packers for the division crown.

    It all comes down to those two factors.

    Projected Record: 10-6


Green Bay Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers could care less if they win another 15 regular season games in 2012. Their season is going to start and end in January, maybe February.

    This is a team that is built to win the championship and anything less would be considered a major failure. We saw that first-hand last season when Green Bay went down in their first postseason game against the eventual Super Bowl Champion' New York Giants.

    Aaron Rodgers looks to duplicate a 2011 season that saw him throw 45 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions. All of his major targets return in the passing game with Randall Cobb looking to take over the slot receiver position.

    Defense is going to be the issue for Green Bay. They struggled a great deal against the pass in 2011, ranking dead last in yards against.

    In order to shore up this area of the team the Packers went out there and selected former USC pass-rusher Nick Perry in the initial round of April's draft. He will join Clay Matthews to form what promises to be a more consistent pass-rush.

    In total, Green Bay is right up there with the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots as the top three contenders for the Lombardi Trophy heading into the regular season.

    Projected Record: 13-3


Houston Texans

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    The offseason wasn't too kind to the Houston Texans. They lost forty percent of their line when Eric Winston signed with the Kansas City Chiefs following a surprising release and Mike Brisiel departed for the Oakland Raiders.

    Houston just didn't have the cap flexibility to retain Mario Williams, who left for the Buffalo Bills on a massive contract.

    That being said, they still do have some of the best talent in the AFC. Both Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson look to return after injury-riddled 2011 season. Arian Foster and Ben Tate, who combined for nearly 3,000 total yards, make up the best backfield tandem in the entire league.

    After making the postseason for the first time in their history, the Texans are definitely looking to take that next step towards elite status. Continued progression from one of the most impressive defenses in the NFL could put them in position for a conference championship and trip to New Orleans.

    Projected Record: 11-5

Indianapolis Colts

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    The Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis will officially come to an end when Andrew Luck leads his Colts against the St. Louis Rams this Sunday. It has been 14 years since anyone has been able to call themselves the face of this franchise outside of Manning himself.

    That changes in less than a calendar week.

    So, what are the expectations for Indianapolis in 1 A.M (After Manning)? This is a team that is void of the necessary talent to compete for a postseason spot and are in the first year of what could be a lengthy rebuilding process.

    That being said, Luck provides Indianapolis with that franchise quarterback to call their own. He will struggle to an extent as most rookie signal-callers do, but Luck will end up being a Pro Bowl player in the not so distant future.

    It is just going to be a rather drawn out process for the young quarterback and his new franchise.

    Projected Record: 3-13


Jacksonville Jaguars

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    On the other end of the spectrum in the AFC South are the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are going to struggle a great deal in 2012 without much helping them move forward.

    Both Maurice Jones-Drew and Justin Blackmon are in the midst of holdouts that could actually extend into the season. This leaves struggling young quarterback Blaine Gabbert without a talented rookie receiver and the reigning NFL rushing champion.

    How is this going to work? Is there any hope for Jacksonville moving into September?

    Even with Jones-Drew and Blackmon in the fold, this is a team that was going to contend for the cellar in the division with aforementioned Colts.

    Adding insult to injury is the fact that the Jaguars are tasked with playing the NFC North, which means they are going to be going up against the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.

    Three wins is a conservative estimate here.

    Projected Record: 3-13


Kansas City Chiefs

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    The Kansas City Chiefs look to rebound from an injury-riddled and contentious season as they attempt to return to the postseason after a year hiatus.

    Both Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry appear to be at full health, which is going to help out a great deal. When two of your best players are lost for nearly an entire season, it is really hard to imagine your team actually being able to contend.

    This was the situation in Kansas City in 2011 as those two players missed a combined 29 games. Matt Cassel, who also missed seven games, is looking to rebound from a disastrous 11' campaign.

    While the acquisition of Stanford Routt in free agency from the Oakland Raiders might not be able to counteract the loss of Brandon Carr, Kansas City seems to have a solid young nucleus on the defensive side of the ball. Brandon Flowers, Berry, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are all Pro Bowl caliber players.

    It should come down to the end in the AFC West with Kansas City right in the thick of it.

    Projected Record: 9-7


Miami Dolphins

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    According to the Palm Beach Post, David Garrard got "far more" work in with the first-team than Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill during a scrimmage on Saturday.

    This is just further evidence that the former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback will be under center when the regular season starts next month.

    Does it really matter?

    Garrard is just a stopgap quarterback at best after Miami drafted the aforementioned Tannehill in the first round in April. Considering that it is going to be a long shot for the Dolphins to compete for a postseason spot, I can easily envision a scenario where the rookie gets extended playing time.

    If that happens, Miami will be forced to play out the string and figure out just how high of a draft pick they can get in 2013.

    I will say this. The combination of Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller seems to be as solid as it gets at the running back position. That trio, a long with a pretty solid defense, should keep Miami in their fair share of games this season.

    Projected Record: 5-11



Minnesota Vikings

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    Yet another rebuilding team that cannot be gauged by wins, the Minnesota Vikings are just looking for their young players to take that next step.

    Christian Ponder enters his first full season as the Vikings starting quarterback. He did some really good things as the 2011 season progressed, but was inconsistent to say the least. Ponder now needs to take that step towards being a viable starter. It is going to take better decision making and more awareness in the pocket, but the Florida State product definitely has what it takes.

    Added to the equation is franchise left tackle Matt Kalil, a top five pick in April. He gives Ponder that true bookend to help out in pass-protection.

    The health of Adrian Peterson, who is returning from both an ACL and MCL tear last season, is going to be big for this offense. Any resemblance of balance on offense is going to help Ponder a great deal.

    Either way, Minnesota is going to find wins tough in the ultra-competitive NFC North. It is hard to imagine them winning multiple games against the other three teams in the division. They also have difficult games against the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans.

    Projected Record: 3-13


New England Patriots

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    Every single season around this time the New England Patriots are mentioned among the top contenders for the Super Bowl. This hasn't changed after they suffered a disappointing loss in that ultimate game against the New York Giants in February.

    New England did a great job finding weaknesses on both sides of the ball and then addressing them. Brandon Lloyd adds a true No. 2 receiving threat to the outside, which is going to help Wes Welker in the slot. Both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez return after amazing 2011 seasons.

    Despite all their success, New England struggled a great deal on defense. They finished 31st in yards against, just ahead of the Green Bay Packers.

    While not directly addressing issues in the secondary, the Patriots did a solid job rebuilding a front seven that struggled. Chandler Jones brings a consistent pass-rush from the edge, which is going to help their pass defense a great deal.

    Oh, and Tom Brady is coming off a 5,200 yard, 39 touchdown performance.

    In short, New England is in prime position to capture their second consecutive AFC Championship.

    Projected Record: 13-3


New Orleans Saints

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    Make no mistake about it. The New Orleans Saints are going to struggle out of the gate this season with Sean Payton manning the sidelines. We have to remember that the suspended head coach of this franchise is one of the best in the entire league.

    You just don't lose that type of figure and expect to move on seamlessly.

    That being said, Drew Brees is returning for another season in the Bayou after a record-breaking 2011 campaign. He has a ton of weapons in the backfield and one of the most talented tight ends in the entire game in the form of Jimmy Graham

    New Orleans also did a solid job addressing needs on what was a pedestrian defense in 2011. Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne were great under-the-radar signings. Both are going to be upgrades at linebacker form what New Orleans had last season.

    New Orleans might not be in the same position they have been in over the course of the last three seasons, but they are going to be in contention until the postseason starts in January.

    That is pretty much assured.

    Projected Record: 10-6

New York Giants

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    Prior to their postseason run to the Super Bowl Championship, the New York Giants were nothing more than a fringe playoff team.

    They needed to win the final game of the regular season against the Dallas Cowboys just to qualify for the second season. Without taking credit away from their accomplishments, it is important to note that New York wasn't the best team in the league for the vast majority of the 11' season.

    New York also lost two mainstays on the offensive side of the ball in the form of Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham and will be asking that two unproven rookies fill those holes.

    Eli Manning had the best season of his career and Victor Cruz became the Giants' true No. 1 wide receiver. Both of these players come into 2012 with a tremendous amount of momentum and should form quite the pass and catch duo.

    Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul represent a triple pass-rush threat that is unmatched in the league.

    All that said, New York is also tasked with playing against two improved teams in the NFC East in the form of the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles a total of four times. They also have difficult games against the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.

    It is hard to imagine this team being able to run away with the division with that type of schedule. In fact, there is a scenario where the defending Super Bowl Champions miss out on the postseason altogether.

    Projected Record: 9-7


New York Jets

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    The New York Jets were a complete disaster last season. Locker room chemistry took a backseat to players spats and internal strife. Their defense seemed to age quite a bit and Mark Sanchez just didn't progress as much as most experts expected.

    The enigmatic quarterback finished with a 78.2 quarterback rating in 2011, marking the third consecutive season that he has failed to even hit the mediocre 80.0 plateau. Moreover, he struggled with consistency a great deal. Sanchez threw one touchdown or fewer in nearly half of his starts and failed to reach 200 passing yards eight different times.

    Needless to say, Sanchez needs to improve on these numbers a great deal if the Jets are to return to the postseason after a year hiatus.

    It doesn't seem that he is going to get a lot of help from their receivers either. Santonio Holmes failed to make an impact on a weekly basis and 2012 second-round pick Stephen Hill has more time ahead of him before becoming an impact player.

    While Darrelle Revis is the best cover guy in the NFL, the rest of the Jets veteran laden defense seemed to regress. Antonio Cromartie had just 12 passes defended and Bart Scott saw his numbers drop across the board outside of recording 4.5 sacks. 

    I just have a hard time envisioning the Jets surprising people and making a playoff run in the AFC East. In fact, they could finish the season closer to the cellar than the New England Patriots atop the division.

    Projected Record: 8-8

Oakland Raiders

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    Expect a whole lot of points to be scored in Oakland Raiders games this season. Most of their talent is concentrated on the offensive side of the ball where Carson Palmer will be enjoying a wide array of different talent.

    Darren McFadden was on pace for over 1,400 rushing yards before missing the final nine games of the season. The talented running back seems to be healthy and ready to go heading into September.

    Darrius Heyward-Bey shed the bust label, nearly compiling his first 1,000 yard season. Rookie fifth round pick Denarius Moore acted as Palmer's major deep threat on the outside and should challenge for breakout performer of the year.

    Oakland also upgraded their offensive line with the under-the-radar signing of former Houston Texans' guard Mike Brisiel, who is among the best zone-blocking lineman in the entire league.

    The primary issue here is going to be on the defensive side of the ball.

    Ronald Bartell and Shawntae Spencer, two veterans who missed a great deal of the 2011 season, are slated to start at cornerback. Phillip Wheeler and Rolando McClain also leave a lot to be desired at linebacker.

    It's definitely a work in progress.

    That being said, new general manager Reggie McKenzie is doing it right. He isn't going to fall into the trap over overspending for marginal players. Instead, the former Green Bay Packers front office executive is going to build through the draft with financial restraint.

    It seems that Oakland is in good hands. I just have a hard time believing they will compete for a postseason spot in the ultra-competitive AFC West.

    Record: 5-11


Philadelphia Eagles

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    "The Redeem Team" is a term that I have come up with to describe the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles. They have some of the best talent in the National Football League, but failed to live up to high expectations during a 2011 season that saw them finish at .500.

    Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson represent a fearsome foursome on the offensive side of the ball.

    The Eagles primary issues last season were on the other side of the ball.

    They struggled making plays when it counted the most and missed a ton of tackles. Philadelphia sought to address these issues in the draft.

    The selections of Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin in the first four rounds rounds of the 2012 NFL draft did just this. All four rookies are going to be immediate impact players and represent upgrades over what the Eagles had last season.

    In short, I am expecting a division title from Philadelphia this season.

    Projected Record: 11-5


Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers are somewhat in a transition phase right now. The core of a dominating defense seems to be aging, while Ben Roethlisberger saw the grass sod way too much last season.

    However, this is a franchise that continues to reload, not rebuild.

    David DeCastro represented the best value of any first-round pick in April's draft. The former All-American guard at Stanford should be a Pro Bowl performer as a rookie. Mike Adams was considered a first-round talent in the months leading up to the annual event in New York city, only to fall to Pittsburgh in the second round.

    Both should be valuable contributors to a revamped offensive line ahead of Big Ben.

    It just seems that while the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals improved a great deal in the offseason, Pittsburgh might have just remained near the same as the team that lost in the initial round of the playoffs.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see this team miss the postseason altogether. That being said, it is hard to question what Mike Tomlin does on Sunday's and the talent that this team still possesses.

    Time will tell.

    Projected Record: 9-7


San Diego Chargers

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    The San Diego Chargers are probably the most difficult team to predict heading into the season. They have the necessary talent to compete for a conference championship in the AFC, but have consistently failed to meet expectations over the course of the last two seasons.

    Philip Rivers, coming off a down season, seems to have the most talent that has had at at wide receiver since entering the NFL in 2004. Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal join Vincent Brown and Malcom Floyd to create one of the deepest groups in the league.

    Ryan Mathews also appears ready for a breakout campaign after accumulating over 1,500 total yards in 2011.

    The Chargers also improved a great deal on defense. 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram was the best pure pass-rusher in the draft and should provide an immediate spark as a situational player. Jarret Johnson comes over from the Baltimore Ravens and seems to fit the Chargers 3-4 defensive scheme to a T.

    On the surface, this is a team that should compete with the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans for the AFC Championship.

    That being said, I have a hard time trusting Norv Turner and am not ready to give San Diego the AFC West crown. If they were just coming off one disappointing season it wouldn't be an issue. Rather, failing to live up to expectations seems to be a growing trend in Southern California.

    Projected Record: 7-9


San Francisco 49ers

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    The San Francisco 49ers surprised the entire football world by winning 13 games and nearly making their sixth trip to the Super Bowl.

    This is a team that has had the talent to succeed over the course of the last four seasons, but just couldn't put it together.

    Jim Harbaugh has created a completely different atmosphere in Santa Clara and expectations are going to be incredibly high this season. The 49ers added a ton of talent to an offense that struggled a great deal in 2011. Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James join a crowded backfield with starting running back Frank Gore as well as the emerging Kendall Hunter.

    Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and A.J. Jenkins boot a receiving group that was damn near inept last season.

    Oh, and San Francisco returns all 11 starters from one of the best defenses in the league.

    That being said, there are a couple issues heading into the season for one of the favorites to bring home the Lombardi.

    Alex Smith had the best season of a pedestrian career. He broke the 49ers franchise record for most fourth quarter comebacks and threw a total of five interceptions in 445 pass attempts. Smith now needs to bring his game to a whole other level if the 49ers passing game is going to be a strength this season. In short, he needs to become a reason why they succeed.

    San Francisco is also facing a daunting schedule. They have games against the New England Patriots, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears.

    While the 49ers will probably win less games than they did in 2011, they could actually be a better football team.

    Projected Record: 12-4


Seattle Seahawks

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    You can fully expect the Seattle Seahawks to contend for a postseason spot this season. They have one of the best defenses in the National Football League with an extremely young nucleus.

    Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas form what has to be considered the best secondary in the league. Bruce Irvin and Jason Jones also join a front four that was as dominating as any 4-3 defense in the conference.

    The gap between Seattle and the San Francisco 49ers has definitely narrowed.

    One major issue heading into 2012 is the Hawks' quarterback situation. Incumbent Tarvaris Jackson joins newly acquired Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson to form a three-headed competition at this position. As the saying goes, when you have three quarterbacks you really don't have any.

    Seattle is also going to struggle protecting the quarterback, which will cause issues for whoever is under center. Their signal-callers were sacked a total of 50 times in 2011.

    It is going to be difficult for Seattle to contend for the division championship, but if the bounces go right they could be in position for a postseason run later in the year.

    Projected Record: 8-8

St. Louis Rams

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    The St. Louis Rams are doing it right. This is a franchise that struggled through one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history last year.

    Coming off a surprising 2010 season that saw them win seven games, St. Louis was depleted by injury and lackluster play on both sides of the ball.

    Sam Bradford seemed to regress as the Rams failed to provide him with anything nearing pro-level talent at the wide receiver position. Their secondary was ransacked by injuries and the scheme just didn't seem to work out well throughout the duration of the season.

    Enter into the equation Jeff Fisher and a solid draft.

    St. Louis did a great job addressing needs along the defensive side of the ball in the form of Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. Moreover, they appear to be healthy for the first time in a while.

    2012 second-round pick Brian Quick should eventually takeover as the Rams No. 1 wide receiver at some point this season. He provides Sam Bradford with that truly elite threat that the young quarterback was missing in his first two NFL seasons.

    The path back to respectability might take a while, but the Rams definitely took that first step this offseason. Now it is up them to continue that progression on the actual football field.

    Projected Record: 4-12


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Talk about a dramatic drop. The 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers won 10 games and were seemingly on the upswing with a talented young team.

    What followed last season was a disaster of epic proportions. Josh Freeman was a shell of his former self as the rest of the roster had down years. Tampa Bay finished the season with 10 consecutive losses, a stretch of games that cost Raheem Morris his job.

    It was back to the drawing board.

    Going away from their previous front office philosophy, Tampa Bay hit the free agent market hard. They signed the best guard in the NFL, Carl Nicks, away from the New Orleans Saints and acquired a true No. 1 receiver in the form of Vincent Jackson.

    These two players are going to help out a great deal.

    Doug Martin, one of my favorite players in the 2012 NFL draft, comes in to replace LeGarrette Blount as the Bucs' primary running back. The Boise State product is going to be an Pro Bowl running back when all is said and done.

    That being said, Tampa Bay faces a brutal schedule and plays in what has to be considered one of the two toughest divisions in football.

    Outside of six games against the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, this team is facing a daunting whose who of elite competition. They take on the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos.

    While Tampa Bay might be a much better team than the version we saw last season, it probably wont show up on the scoreboard.

    Projected Record: 6-10

Tennessee Titans

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    Whether it is Jake Locker or Matt Hasselbeck behind center, the Tennessee Titans are definitely going to be in the playoff picture in 2012.

    This is a team that has a tremendous amount of talent on both sides of the ball.

    Chris Johnson is looking to rebound from a 2011 campaign that saw him record barely over 1,000 rushing yards and just four total touchdowns. If the talented running back is able to return to 2010 form it is going to be huge for this offense.

    Kenny Britt, despite another offseason arrest, appears to be recovered and ready to make an impact. Of course this is dependent on the punishment that the NFL places on the troubled young receiver. Kendall Wright was also added to the mix at receiver in the first round of April's draft.

    There are about six or seven teams vying for the final two playoff spots in the AFC. While Tennessee will be one of them, I just don't see them breaking through.

    Projected Record: 8-8


Washington Redskins

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    The Washington Redskins are going to be victims of one of the most brutal schedules in the National Football League. They're in a division with three teams that could conceivably contend for a conference crown.

    Washington also has tough games against the likes of the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.

    It is hard to imagine them coming away with more than two wins in those 11 games. That is where the Redskins season starts and ends.

    However, this team is looking more towards the future than anything else. Robert Griffin III becomes their first real franchise quarterback in over a quarter-century. He is going to make things extremely exciting in the capital city this season. Look for continued progression from the Redskins and their young quarterback. That is all they're going to be looking at as the season unfolds because a postseason spot is extremely unlikely.

    Projected Record: 4-12

     


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