The draft is over, free agency is winding down, the schedule has been released, team camps have begun, and the fans are anxiously waiting for the NFL season to officially begin. And with that all in mind, I believe it might just be time for some 2012 season predictions to take our minds off a few things.
What I did here was take down the entire 2012 schedule and select the winner of each game to attempt to give an accurate win-loss record for every team. Games that featured very evenly matched teams were typically selected by the home team unless it had playoff implications in which I judged the winner by the team that could close out. After that the playoff bracket was created and I selected how I thought they playoffs would shake down.
Once the whole season was predicted, I put together how the 2013 NFL draft would potentially look like if the season rankings went that way. Plus I also hand out the league awards at the end of the season if I had the vote.
Regular Season (z = 1st round bye, x = clinched division, y = clinched wildcard)
z-New England Patriots (12-4)
Buffalo Bills (8-8)
New York Jets (8-8)
Miami Dolphins (5-11)
The Patriots take the AFC East like the Pats of old again and, for the most part, dominate the regular season on their way to capturing a first round bye. The Bills build on the early success of last season and claim a modest 8-8 record for the 2012 season, a season highlighted by the new addition of Mario Williams wreaking havoc on the league. The Jets end up handing Tim Tebow the job after Mark Sanchez starts the season off 0-3. Tebow leads them on an eerily reminiscent 8-5 run but misses the playoffs, however he still provides hope for the Jets' fan base and organization. The Dolphins end up being lost in the water, they put together an awful 5-11 season that only shines when the defense is on the field. Moore, Garrard, and Tannehill all can't put up any offense without a number one WR.
z-Baltimore Ravens (13-3)
y-Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
y-Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
Cleveland Browns (3-13)
The Ravens manage to snag a first round bye and the best record in the AFC. Joe Flacco backs up his talk like Eli did last season, but he still isn't a top five QB in the league. The Steelers get angry at last year's early dismissal from the playoffs at the hand of the Broncos, they claim a fantastic 12-4 record but end up only getting rewarded with another wildcard berth. The Bengals continue to be a competing team but don't really improve on the last season, another 10-6 season gives them their second wildcard berth. The Browns continue to be an eyesore, Brandon Weeden proves to be the second coming of Chris Weinke and falls flat on his face in the NFL. Trent Richardson though proves worth his money and selection though and gives the Browns some hope at the end of the tunnel.
x-Houston Texans (12-4)
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)
Tennessee Titans (5-11)
Indianapolis Colts (4-12)
The Texans become a dominating force with Matt Schaub back full time, they manage to establish a 12-4 record and claim the AFC South crown without Mario Williams for the second season in a row. The Jaguars show more promise than they did in 2011 but that only occurs after Chad Henne steals the QB job from potential bust Blaine Gabbert. Maurice Jones-Drew also runs wild yet again and Justin Blackmon becomes an immediate deep threat in the NFL. The Titans take another step backwards in 2012, a 5-11 record and poor offensive/defensive play gives the fans concerns. Both QB's, Matt Hasselback and Jake Locker, can't improve the offense and Chris Johnson continues his regression from last season. The Colts aren't expected to be contenders this year and it is proven very quickly that they won't dispel that theory. Andrew Luck is the lone gem on the team but is still incredibly "lucky" to throw 20 TD's.
x-San Diego Chargers (9-7)
Denver Broncos (7-9)
Kansas City Chiefs (5-11)
Oakland Raiders (4-12)
The Chargers reclaim the AFC West title but with a meager 9-7 record. Philip Rivers improves from last season but the rest of the team is less than stellar and manages to let down their fans and critics. The Broncos show serious potential early in the season but run into a bunch of losses later in the season. Elway is shown to be a terrible front office guy when Manning can't whip up the team to win but Tebow goes 8-5 with a dysfunctional Jets team. The Chiefs end up being pretenders in 2012 again when Matt Cassell can't throw consistently in the NFL. The Chiefs defense shows promise but the poor passing game needs to be revamped in the 2013 offseason. The Raiders also don't live up to the potential hype and finish with a terrible 4-12 record. Carson Palmer isn't worth the high price they paid, and Al Davis is rolling around in his grave when the Raiders can't just win, "baby."
x-Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Washington Redskins (9-7)
Dallas Cowboys (7-9)
New York Giants (6-10)
The Eagles win the division crown in a very interesting year for the NFC East. Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy headline a very potent offense that struggles at times through the air, meanwhile DeMeco Ryans provides some much needed leadership on the defensive side of the ball. The Redskins begin contending in the NFC East again with the addition of Robert Griffin III, London Fletcher also leads the defense into a stellar season that brings optimism to the organization. The Cowboys don't appear to have improved with their 7-9 record but that is an illusion, the real problem is Tony Romo's meltdowns late in games, they will begin looking for a replacement. The Giants season also looks terrible (6-10) but the hardnosed NFC East gives the Giants fits and causes them to be ill-prepared for their other games, their opponent winning percentage was 0.577.
z-Green Bay Packers (12-4)
y-Detroit Lions (10-6)
Chicago Bears (10-6)
Minnesota Vikings (2-14)
The Packers' season starts out terrific when they win the majority of their games but a late season collapse (more attributed to them playing it safe) keeps their wins down to 12. Rodgers is a candidate to win back-to-back MVP's because of the Packers' offensive success. The Lions have another great campaign in 2012 and receive a bid for the playoffs by way of the wildcard. Megatron (Calvin Johnson, Jr.) manages to beat out the Madden "Curse" for the 2012 regular season as well. The Bears look like a team that can be serious contenders in 2012, they start off really hot with a great 8-3 record and high playoff hopes. However, the lack of addressing the offensive line ends up catching up with the Bears when they go 2-3 in their final five games and get eliminated from playoff contention. The Vikings' season is the worst in the league, Christian Ponder proves he isn't the answer at QB, Adrian Peterson never becomes fully 100% healthy and has lost serious speed, but Jared Allen still manages to record double-digit sack totals.
z-New Orleans Saints (11-5)
y-Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)
Atlanta Falcons (9-7)
Carolina Panthers (7-9)
The Saints have started this season with the most controversy for one team in a very long time. However, Brees and company march the Saints into the playoffs and even to a bye week, the defense is anchored by free agent signings Chris Lofton and David Hawthorne who work together to fill the vacancy of Jonathan Vilma. The Bucc's have a roller coaster season that cumulates in them securing a wildcard for the 2012 playoffs. Josh Freeman proves last year was a fluke and connects with new wideout Vincent Jackson for 10+ TD's and 1000+ yards. The Falcons and Matt Ryan miss the playoffs for the first time since he entered the league. The Julio Jones trade isn't living up to expectations of the second "Greatest Show on Turf" and the fans begin getting fed up with their mediocre seasons. The Panthers have a solid season and show signs of improvement, the defense is much better but the offense stalls. Defenses key in on Newton and his passing attack, his numbers drop significantly and his interceptions cost the Panthers several key games down the stretch.
x-Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
Seattle Seahawks (9-7)
San Francisco 49ers (7-9)
St. Louis Rams (3-13)
The Cardinals have a curious season, they grow as a team and have a statistically better season, however, the QB controversy still exists. Kevin Kolb isn't proving his worth and John Skelton is winning games but they aren't pretty W's, the Cards may have to draft a replacement. The Seahawks have another average year under Pete Carroll's coaching but the fan base is still behind him. The Seahawks can afford to keep the mediocre season though because the NFC West is looking weak again and a rebuilding effort can still fight for a crown. The 49ers' season proves that last year may have been a fluke, they struggle both offensively and defensively as the year continues. Alex Smith gets benched, Colin Kaepernick is just as bad, and the DB's give up hordes of TD's, Randy Moss is the one bright spot showing he can still play. The Rams have yet another bad season since their draft and free agency signings have been lackluster. The bad season makes Sam Bradford expandable, the millions he was guaranteed is looking like money wasted. Jeff Fisher enjoys the bad show so he can rebuild the Rams as he sees fit, a defensive focused, run-heavy offense that grinds out W's.
Regular Season Awards
AP Offensive Player of the Year: LeSean McCoy RB Philadelphia Eagles
AP Defensive Player of the Year: DeMarcus Ware OLB Dallas Cowboys
AP Coach of the Year: John Harbaugh Head Coach Baltimore Ravens
AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III QB Washington Redskins
AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly ILB Boston College
AP Comeback Player of the Year: Josh Freeman QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
AP Most Valuable Player: Joe Flacco QB Baltimore Ravens
Pepsi Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III QB Washington Redskins
3. Houston Texans vs. 6. Cincinnati Bengals
Texans and Bengals square off again in the playoffs. The Bengals still can't hang with the Texans, especially with Matt Schaub back slinging the ball down field. Texans win 35-17.
4. San Diego Chargers vs. 5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Philip Rivers vs. Ben Roethlisberger, battle of the '04 draft. The Chargers once again don't live up to the hype and falter in the playoffs, Roethlisberger wins this showdown to avenge last season. Steelers win 24-10.
3. Philadelphia Eagles vs. 6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The "Dream Team" vs. the "Mean Team." Well, Vince Young's immortal claim still stings the Eagles, they can't capitalize at home, the "Young Bucc's" led by Freeman move on. Bucc's win a close one 27-21.
4. Arizona Cardinals vs. 5. Detroit Lions
Two surprising contenders look to move on. The Arizona Cardinals haven't lost a home playoff game in Arizona but that streak comes to an end when Megatron shows up the Cardinals' DB's. Lions win a nail-bitter 31-28.
1. Baltimore Ravens vs. 5. Pittsburgh Steelers
A true divisional matchup, a fierce rivalry. The Ravens and Flacco look to put the Steelers in their place, the Ravens' feisty defense knocks around the Steelers. The Ravens advance with a win, 20-13.
2. New England Patriots vs. 3. Houston Texans
A perennial powerhouse and an upstart thriller. Arian Foster and Andre Johnson run wild all over the Pat's defense, Brady has another poor playoff performance and forces the Pat's to a one-and-down playoff appearance. The Texans grab an intriguing matchup, 31-23.
1. Green Bay Packers vs. 6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The battle of the bay's. Green Bay is looking to ensure that they don't end up watching the Super Bowl on tv and the Bucc's are trying to prove they are true contenders. The Packers have their way, and get their way, with the Bucc's and move on, 38-13.
2. New Orleans Saints vs. 5. Detroit Lions
Who is the dirtier team on D? The Saints and Lions face off in a divisional matchup that is heightened by the team's two defensive units that are portrayed as dirty, which QB will end up his behind more often or sent to the locker room. Drew Brees ends up eating turf in the Lions win, 34-27.
1. Baltimore Ravens vs. 3. Houston Texans
Two top tier AFC defenses square off in the AFC Championship. It is a struggle from the beginning when both defenses stone wall the opposition, Ray Rice and Arian Foster have problems getting past the line of scrimmage. Andre Johnson catches a key TD and lifts the Texans over the Ravens and into their first Super Bowl appearance by a score of 17-13.
1. Green Bay Packers vs. 5. Detroit Lions
Divisional rivalries meet in a battle for the NFC. Another struggle emerges in the NFC but this is a high scoring affair with quick strikes and devastating scores. The Packers and Lions trade TD's through the 4th quarter until Megatron comes down with a clutch TD in the final minutes, Aaron Rodgers can't complete the two minute drill in time. Lions win with a score of 35-31.
Super Bowl XLVII
5. Detroit Lions vs. 3. Houston Texans
A city WILL get there first Lombardi Trophy. The Lions and the Texans have never been to a Super Bowl until 2012. The game is an intense matchup with each team fighting for their respective city, it is a Super Bowl that goes down in history (don't forget that New Orleans scandals opened up the season and their city will end the season when a team hoists the Lombardi Trophy). It is back and forth but eventually the Texans' Andre Johnson shows Junior (Calvin) how it is done in Primetime (is this Megatron's Madden "Curse"). Texans win a fantastic Super Bowl; 28-24.
Andre Johnson is awarded the Super Bowl MVP and the city of Houston finally has something to be proud of when the team is on parade.
2013 NFL Draft Order
The draft order is based off of the NFL's standard procedure and how my predicted season above ended.
1. Minnesota Vikings
2. St. Louis Rams
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Oakland Raiders
6. Tennessee Titans
7. Kansas City Chiefs
8. Miami Dolphins
9. New York Giants
10. Dallas Cowboys
11. Denver Broncos
12/13. Carolina Panthers
12/13. San Francisco 49ers
14. Jacksonville Jaguars
15. New York Jets
16. Buffalo Bills
17. Atlanta Falcons
18. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins)
19. Seattle Seahawks
20. Chicago Bears
21. San Diego Chargers
22. Philadelphia Eagles
23. Arizona Cardinals
24. Cincinnati Bengals
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
26. New Orleans Saints
27. New England Patriots
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
29. Green Bay Packers
30. Baltimore Ravens
31. Detroit Lions
32. Houston Texans
Finally, who is in YOUR Super Bowl match-up this year? Leave it in the comments below.