NFL Predictions: 2012 Divisional Winners

No NameAnalyst IAugust 29, 2012

NFL Predictions: 2012 Divisional Winners

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    The NFL regular season begins in less than a week. The headlines have all played out during the offseason and the preseason. Injuries have been noted, most holdouts have been resolved and fantasy football teams have been drafted.

    It's time for kickoff.

    It's hard to gauge how these teams are going to look in the final few weeks of the season, but that's what makes this debatable—and fun. Breaking down each division, I have taken my best shot at which teams will come out on top, as well as those that will get an early pick in next year's NFL draft.

    Most of these were fairly easy to determine, while others were simply a crapshoot. Of course, injuries (and suspensions) could play a major role in how each division plays out, but those things are impossible to predict.

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens

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    Much has been made of Joe Flacco's talent. While he may not be at the elite level that Brady, Rodgers and Brees are, he is still clearly above average.

    Ray Rice is one of the most lethal weapons in the league after he gets the ball.

    Everyone knows this team knows how to play defense.

    The Steelers have obvious offensive line issues, and no healthy running backs. The Bengals are improving, but the sophomore slump is out for Andy Dalton.

    Worst: Cleveland Browns

AFC East: New England Patriots

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    The Jets, Dolphins and Bills are all making changes. We don’t know how any of them are going to work out.

    We do know that the Patriots have quietly made major moves to improve the team. Brandon Lloyd gives them a lethal deep threat to go along with Wes Welker, Gronk and Hernandez.

    Just what Tom Brady needs, more weapons.

    New England also has one of the weakest schedules in the league, and should have no problem winning 13 games.

    Worst: Miami Dolphins

AFC South: Houston Texans

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    The grass has never been this green for fans in Houston. They have a Pro Bowl quarterback to go along with arguably the best wide receiver and running back in the NFL.

    The key for this team remains the same: it all hangs on their defense.

    Considering the offenses of the Colts, Titans and Jaguars, they should be just fine. Luck, Locker and Gabbert may be franchise quarterbacks for the future, but none of these teams will challenge the Texans for the division crown.

    Worst: Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West: Oakland Raiders

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    This division truly is up for grabs. I could see any of these four teams winning the division, but I give the edge to Oakland because of their ability to run the ball.

    Change is in the air in Denver, and it just seems too early for them.

    Kansas City has some great pieces, but questions remain at the quarterback position.

    The Chargers are always in the mix, but they are too inconsistent to trust.

    The injury bug could determine this divisional winner. Each team has an elite player trying to come back from injury this year.

    Worst: Denver Broncos

NFC North: Chicago Bears

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    It’s difficult to not go with the Packers in this spot, but I think the Bears are being overlooked. The chemistry between Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall will be vital to their success this season.

    A healthy Matt Forte could give the opposing defenses major headaches.

    The Lions and Packers may have better offenses, but the Bears defense and special teams are one of the best in the league.

    I feel like I’m going out on a limb with this one, but at the same time I feel confident in doing so.

    Worst: Minnesota Vikings

NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles

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    If Michael Vick can figure out how to stay in the game, I would feel a lot better about this pick. The defense should be much-improved from last year, and actually live up to the on-paper expectations we had before the start of last season.

    The Giants aren’t a great regular-season team, and the Cowboys seem to have a way of shooting themselves in the boots.

    If Jackson and McCoy can play up to their potential, the Eagles should find their way to the top of this tough division.

    Worst: Washington Redskins

NFC South: Atlanta Falcons

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    Skim through the Falcons roster and find me a scarier collection of talent. Atlanta is loaded with a Pro Bowl quarterback, two explosive receivers, a talented backfield and the best tight end to ever play in the NFL.

    Then, go to the defense and look at the Pro Bowl talent over there. Everyone is in love with Cam Newton, but I don’t see the rest of the team matching his level of greatness.

    The Saints are going to have a difficult season, but will continue to be in the mix all the way until the final game.

    Worst: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West: San Francisco 49ers

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    Perhaps the easiest choice of them all.

    The Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals all clearly have issues and are not even close to being playoff teams.

    The big question in San Francisco is whether Alex Smith will continue to play at a high level, or remember that he is Alex Smith.

    The roster is oozing with talent at every position. It will be interesting to see how Randy Moss and Brandon Jacobs mesh on the field—and in the locker room.

    If they stay grounded, the 49ers could possibly finish with an undefeated divisional record.

    Worst: Arizona Cardinals