People like to say this is the time of year when every team can talk Super Bowl. History tells us otherwise.
Even with the parity that revenue sharing brings, the 2012 NFL season can be forecast as accurately as the weather along the Great Lakes. Last season, I predicted four of the six playoff teams in each conference and had the exact seed correct for five of the 12 overall.
True, the NFL is that every year since the new alignment, a team has gone from worst to first in some division. Most of the time, that team has a breakthrough season that is unexpected for most.
But there are four teams that remain high-percentage bets to make the playoffs.
The Baltimore Ravens may not win their division, but they have made the playoffs in eight of the last 12 seasons. One of the five times they did not win it, they still took home the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Of course, they have been outperformed by their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The six-time champion has won both playoff matchups and six of the last 11 division titles, plus a championship in one of the other five seasons.
Yet their dominance does not go as far back as the Green Bay Packers. The 13-time champion has been in the playoffs for 14 of the last 18 years, with NFC North titles in five of the last 10 seasons and a Super Bowl championship in one of the others.
But the safest bet of all is the New England Patriots. They have won the NFC East in nine of the last 11 seasons.
Will any of them fall the way of the Indianapolis Colts, whose run of seven AFC South titles in eight years was broken last season? Here is a division-by-division breakdown...
(MJ Kasprzak writes professionally on both the San Jose Sharks and Bay Area Christian issues, and writes for fun on the team whose stock hangs on the wall at home, the Green Bay Packers...note use of first person when referring to the team is thus accurate.)