NFL Predictions: 2012 Divisional Winners
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
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.
Worst: Cleveland Browns
AFC East: New England Patriots
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Perhaps the easiest choice of them all.
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.
If they stay grounded, the 49ers could possibly finish with an undefeated divisional record.
Worst: Arizona Cardinals