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Old 09-04-2012, 08:00 PM    (permalink
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Default gpngc's 2012 NFL Season Predictions

Take with a mound of salt. My sleeper team last year was Miami and I had San Diego going to the Super Bowl.

On to the picks...

Patriots: 10-6
Four newcomers on the offensive line will spell trouble for Brady's bunch. Brandon Lloyd will struggle and the defense won't be much better than last year. Still, Aaron Hernandez will break out and actually score more TDs than Gronk as they win the division yet again. Bill Belichick's regular season win total since they went 5-11 in 2000: 11, 9, 14, 14, 10, 12, 16, 11, 10, 14, 13. In other words, youíd be foolish to predict anything less than 11 wins, especially considering the two divisions the AFC East faces this year - the AFC South and NFC West.

The question with New England in recent years has been how theyíll play in the playoffs. Last season they demolished a very weak Denver squad and were luckily helped by Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff to get passed Baltimore. Despite making the Super Bowl a year ago, this yearís team needs to play much better, especially against the better teams in the league if they want to return to the Super Bowl. Itís tough to go against Bill Belichick, but I just canít call for them to do much damage in the playoffs this season. The defense is a mess and itís hard to envision a playoff opponent choking like the Ravens did last year.

Jets: 9-7
It won't be pretty, but the Jets will rally around an elite defense led by the finally healthy LaRon Landry. Sanchez will show obvious improvement, and the *** ***** distraction will turn out to not affect the team much aside from some timely short-yardage conversions. The Jets have the second best secondary in the NFL which is huge in today's game with so many prolific passing attacks. Despite having arguably the worst offense in the NFL on paper, the Jets battered QB and shaky weapons will overachieve and make the playoffs, perhaps given a jolt by Bilal Powell or a rare in-season RB acquisition. *cough Chris Ivory cough*

Bills: 7-9
C.J. Spiller will break out, the DL will perform well, but a leaky secondary will keep the defense in the middle of the pack, lowlighted by a poor rookie season from the overrated Stephon Gilmore. They'll get some nice wins but ultimately admit that handing Fitzmagic that big contract was a mistake.

Dolphins: 5-11
Tannehill will show flashes of brilliance, especially in the toughness department, but issues at WR and RT will doom the offense. The mediocre defense will be inconsistent with issues against the run with Wake's hand in the dirt and the deep middle with lackluster safeties. Even with a midseason spark from rookie Lamar Miller, this team will be in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Ravens: 10-6
Joe Flacco will utilize Ray Rice underneath, Ed Dickson in the intermediate game, and Torrey Smith deep en route to a Pro Bowl campaign - 4000+ yards, 30+ TDs. The defense won't be as good as last year, but solid seasons from Jimmy Smith, Pernell McPhee, and Terrance Cody will be enough to win the AFC North.

Browns: 8-8
Brandon Weeden will improve each week and have a solid rookie season, utilizing his TEs and Trent Richardson in the short game. D'Qwell Jackson will have a breakout year at MLB, and the secondary will play well all year. The Browns won't contend for the playoffs, but after a late season surge they'll find themselves with a very encouraging .500 record.

Steelers: 8-8
Big Ben will struggle with injuries and issues along the OL and in the secondary will doom this team. This prediction is annually flawed because Big Ben's nagging injuries and issues along the OL and in the secondary never actually doom this team. F you Bill Leavy.

Bengals: 6-10
Andy Dalton will struggle through a sophomore slump because of a less effective running game and opponents game planning to take away Adriel Jeremiah Green. The lack of a No. 2 receiver will result in more interceptions, forcing passes to Green. On defense, the safety play will fall off because the perpetually enigmatic Reggie Nelson won't play as well as he did last season and Taylor Mays is awful. Last year a lot was made about their defense, but look at the QBs they beat:

QBs they beat last year:

@ Colt McCoy
Ryan Fitzpatrick
@ Gabbert
Kerry Collins? Maybe Orlovsky.
@ T-Joke
@ Hasselbeck? Maybe some of Locker?
McCoy again
@ Bradford

They'll compete most weeks with a deep and talented defensive line rotation putting up big team sack numbers, but lose a few heartbreaking ones in crunch time. They also have a brutal second-half schedule. (Play arguably the two toughest division in football - AFC West and NFC Beast).

Colts: 9-7
Andrew Luck will change the culture of the franchise, spinning pinpoint passes to his underrated weaponry all over the field. Donald Brown will continue where he left off last season and the young OL will improve. Dwayne Allen will contend for OROY at TE. The defense will improve drastically because of a more respectable TOP ratio, Chuck Pagano's new 3-4 scheme, and the revitalization of pass rushers Freeney, Mathis, and Hughes. The secondary won't play terribly again, and when Angerer gets back from injury he'll be a huge boost. On specials and offense, T.Y. Hilton will explode onto the scene. The Colts are my No. 1 sleeper this season and in an easy division, they could definitely make the playoffs. In at least 10 of their 16 games they have the advantage at QB. They'll win 6 games at the absolute minimum and will NOT be a contender for the No. 1 pick.

Texans: 8-8
Last year the Texans defense jumped from last to first thanks to key additions in the secondary and new DC Wade Phillips. However, when you delve deeper into their schedule, their No. 1 ranking was helped immensely by a slate littered with the worst QBs in the league. The Texans have a good D, but no where NEAR as good as the perception is because of last year's No. 1 ranking. Check out the QBs they faced last year en route to ranking first in total defense:

Kerry Collins
Chad Henne
Gave up 40 to Brees
Big Ben
Gave up 25 to Jason Campbell
Gave up 29 to Flacco
Matt Ryan
Gave up 28 to Newton

Not exactly a murderer's row - and with that schedule it's not surprising they ranked first overall. The only truly impressive performances against top-15 QBs were Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Otherwise, they pretty much padded their stats by beating up bad QBs.

This year, it'll be much tougher.
Expect a fall from grace, especially from FS Glover Quin. On offense, the loss of Eric Winston will prove devastating, as the running attack won't be as potent against a tougher schedule. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster will continue their terrific careers, but a rusty Matt Schaub will contribute to an uninspiring passing attack and ultimately an underachieving season for everyone's favorite AFC South pick.

Jaguars: 6-10
Gabbert will play better, Justin Blackmon will beast, and the OL will play with physicality for MJD/Jennings, who will split carries 50/50 all year. The offense will be better. Unfortunately, with a mediocre offense you need an ELITE defense to contend. The Jags will have their moments in an encouraging season, but the lack of a consistent pass rush will be their downfall.

Titans: 5-11
Jake Locker will struggle mightily in his first season as a starter, displaying the same kind of innaccuracy that plagued him at Washington. A lack of chemistry with his outside receivers will ensue, leaving the offense one-dimensional and predictable. On defense, they'll play as tough as their MLB McCarthy but unfortunately won't make enough big plays without any true studs on that side of the ball. Again, mediocre O + none-elite QB + non-elite D does not equal playoffs in the NFL.

Chargers: 12-4
Perception: That the Chargers are no longer a talented team while everyone else in the AFC West has improved their personnel.

Reality: The Chargers still have one of the best rosters in the NFL, but vanilla play-calling on both sides of the ball and poor play by their best player led to their downfall last season. They still won eight games and essentially missed the playoffs because of a fumbled kneel down Ė the definition of an unlucky fluke play - against Kansas City.

With a bounce-back year from Rivers, some more creativity from the coordinators, and less egregiously bad luck, the Chargers should win at least nine games and compete for an AFC title.

We all know they can but this will finally be the year they do. Rivers won't try to forcefeed one receiver as the loss of VJax will actually be addition by subtraction. Eddie Royal will be huge in the slot, and the Chargers O will play in December-form all season. On D, the promotion of John Pagano to DC will prove to be a huge success, as he'll call a much less predictable game than former DC Greg Manusky. The Chargers defensive personnel only improved marginally, but they'll play much better as a unit, specifically in the secondary, where they've always had some talent.

Broncos: 9-7
It will be a roller coaster season for Denver, as they'll be crowned by the media one week and written off the next. When the dust settles, Manning and Fox will prove to be a formidable duo. Having a star on D is huge, so look for Von Miller to be in the DPOY conversation. It could be argued that this is actually the best roster Peyton Manning's ever had around him. Eric Decker will flirt with 100 catches, and Ryan Clady will continue to be one of the best players in the NFL.

Raiders: 8-8
Carson Palmer will have a nice year, overshadowed completely by a monstrous 16-games-healthy tear by Darren McFadden along the lines of 2000 total yards and 20ish TDs. The defense will continue to be subpar, unfortuantely for a team that will play well on O and got some bad luck with Manning entering the division.

Chiefs: 5-11
Matt Cassel will bring down the offense and sabotage the entire team with devastating turnovers. Peyton Hillis will have a nice year, better than Charles, and Jon Baldwin will have some nice games. However, underachieving at No. 1 WR Bowe (drops resurface, frustration from Cassel's inadequacies), No. 1 RB Charles (ACL slows him down), C (Hudson's size will hurt their interior push) and QB will render the offense meaningless. The defense will fight, but lose their will to live like Padme down the stretch. Fast forward and obviously a new QB comes in next year.

Eagles: 11-5
I know this is a trendy pick but I truly believe they'll live up to the hype this year, with a shocking stat of 16 GP for Michael Vick. The Eagles are 15-6 the past two seasons in games that Vick starts and finishes and they're 3-8 when he doesn't. In addition, like the Bill Belichick stat, Andy Reid's teams almost ALWAYS finish with a winning record so predicting a trainwreck like last year probably isn't wise. The most important changes have been made on defense, where last year offensive convert Juan Castillo was way in over his head with the short offseason and a defense that had a false sense of entitlement due to all the headlines and acquisitions. This year, they've added some real nice pieces in MLB DeMeco Ryans, DT Fletcher Cox, and SLB Mychal Kendricks, who will win DROY. Also, with the departure of Asante Samuel, DRC moves back outside where heís much more comfortable.

Cowboys: 10-6
Two years ago, the Texans lost a bunch coin-flip games on last-possession hard-luck scores against them, including the greatest play Mike Thomas will ever make in his life on a Hail Mary catch and late heroics from Santonio Holmes. A year later, they flipped those results for the most part, and made the playoffs easily. I foresee a similar change in luck for this year's Cowboys.

All of these WON'T happen again (keep in mind they were still one game out of the playoffs even with all this ridiculousness):

- Blew a 24-point fourth-quarter lead against Detroit and a 12-point fourth-quarter lead against the Giants.

- Blew a lead against the Jets in Week 1.

- Miles Austin losing the ball in the lights in one of the great botches in recent football history.

- Jason Garrett FG gaffe against Arizona then Giants beat them by icing Bailey (JPP block).

So there you have it. More projected luck simply because their luck can't be any worse this year. On paper they're pretty stacked on offense, boast arguably the best defensive player in the league on D, and should get a boost from rookie Morris Claiborne and veteran FA acquisition Brandon Carr. I still worry about their safeties but they'll be decent enough to compete for the playoffs.

Last year was pretty stupid overall, but if you look at the two Giants games and the 49ers game, the Cowboys stack up pretty well with the NFC's elite. - In fact, Romo's group handed SF one of only three losses on the road. Itís almost as if Romo at the time of his heroic performance thought of the 49ers as the old 49ers Ė not a legitimate Super Bowl contender. If he had known what they really were at the time, he would have somehow crumbled down the stretch in that game. No, thatís too ridiculous. No way. Thatís just ridiculous. Right?

Giants: 8-8
The team we saw roll through the playoffs last year will show up on a weekly basis. Keith Rivers will prove to be a big addition on D and David Wilson will break off a bunch of explosive plays... ...until the Friday night after Week 9 when Hakeem Nicks decides to go clubbing in pajama pants and accidentally stabs himself in the the back of the knee with a fake black unicorn horn from a Halloween shoppe while unknowingly making sex on an underage prostitute and forcing JPP to haze Prince Amukamara in a hot tub. Following that predictable series of events, they'll fall apart due to the same inconsistencies in the secondary and in the turnover department that plagued them at times last year. Also, look for the Sean Locklear/Will Beaty experiment at LT to result in some early season Wayne Hunter-level catastrophes, leading to David Diehl moving to the left side midseason for the 73rd time in his career. Following this season, they'll finally address LT in the draft. Ultimately, a 2-4 record in the NFC BEAST won't result in a playoff berth. Remember, this team was one Miles Austin blind spot away from being 8-8 and at home for the postseason last year. The way to beat the Giants is to spread them out and put athletes on the outside to beat their DBs, which is why the Patriots, with no real threats at outside WR, always struggle to score against them. With all three division foes sporting athletic WR corps, Perry Fewell has his work cut out for him masking a defensive secondary that got an unrepeatable year from Corey Webster in 2011 and features real question marks at LCB and in the nickel. Their pass defense won't be good.

Redskins: 5-11
RGIII will have an OK rookie season. I worry about his health but I won't predict injuries (OK, I kinda just did by writing that). A rule from earlier is in play with this Washington squad: Mediocre O + non-elite D does not equal playoffs.

Packers: 13-3
Currently on a 21-2 run stretching back to 2010, the Packers are the class of the NFL and will continue to be as long as a non-concussed Aaron Rodgers is under center. We all know his receivers are filthy and Cedric Benson could finally add some toughness in between the tackles. Their defense doesn't even have to be better but it probably will be because it was so bad last year. Look for TE D.J. Williams to make some plays out of nowhere.

Lions: 11-5
Matthew Stafford will emerge as one of the best QBs in the NFL and a legitimate MVP candidate, topping 5000 yards and 40 TDs for the second consecutive season. Titus Young will take some production away from Calvin Johnson and Mikel LeShoure and new slot WR Ryan Broyles will steal some touchdowns in the redzone. They'll be the No. 1 offense in the NFL. On D, the secondary will remain inconsistent but the pass rush will be just enough to keep them the defense in the middle of the pack statistically.

Bears: 7-9
The Jay Cutler - Brandon Marshall marriage won't be as smooth as everyone expects in a new offensive system without much else in terms of receiver targets to avert attention away from the volatile receiver. The tragedy that is the Bears offensive line will continue to sputter and sabotage their chances against the Lions and Packers. Their run defense will be a strength behind Paea and Melton but the aging defensive superstars will begin to show signs of decline. In the secondary, Lovie Smith's cover two roots will continue to be exposed by the more vertical concepts of their division foes. The Bears will even lose a game to the Vikings... *gasp*

Vikings: 5-11
I don't like Christian Ponder but I really don't mind the rest of the roster. Teams will continue to key on Percy Harvin, but Jerome Simpson will take some pressure off of him outside. The defense will play hard, but in the end bad draft picks Chris Cook and Harrison Smith will struggle and lead to the secondary's demise. At some point, Ponder's gives way to Joe Webb - who has always performed well when given the chance. And in the end, Leslie Frazier gets fired and Leslie Neilson gets hired. Surely.

Falcons: 11-5
Pass-friendly OC Dirk Koetter will prove to be the most important addition to the team, mixing in more vertical concepts and the usage of more Jacquizz Rodgers rather than the predictable Michael Turner at tailback. Julio Jones will break the internet - soaring to an historic year with nearly 2000 yards and 20 TDs. Matt Ryan will lead his team back to the playoffs with help from a more timely defense thanks to a much better pass rush-oriented DC Mike Nolan. Asante Samuel should also make an impact in zone looks on passing downs. With the Saints a bit discombobulated and Carolina not their yet, Atlanta will parlay their two new coordinators in an NFC South division title.

Panthers: 8-8
This one is such an easy projection because the only way the team doesn't improve is if Cam Newton gets hurt. Expect more of the same from him, a better performance from DeAngelo Williams in what he must know is a contract year (they'll definitely get out of that contract after this season), and Greg Olsen to score a bunch of TDs. More importantly, the two HUGE additions at LB will completely change the defense (Beason returning from injury + rookie Kuechly) where they already have some experienced veteran talent including the annually underrated Charles Johnson.

Saints: 8-8
Drew Brees was off two years ago and if there's any time to project him to be off again it's this year without Sean Payton. Pretty much everyone is predicting a drop off from the Saints and I'm on board as well - having two different head coaches and both actually being the team's second and third options is not a good look. Simply put, Payton was the best play-caller in the NFL and losing him will undoubtedly hurt the offense - especially in the red zone. On D, Spags will have them flying around but he'll soon realize how hard it is to generate a pass rush without a great front four or athletes at LB. In addition, two very burnable players in the secondary (Robinson and Harper) will limit his confidence in terms of blitzing. The Saints won't be a complete mess because of Drew Brees, but I expect even his stats to take a dip: 4500 yds, 34 TDs, 20 ints.

Bucs: 4-12
They'll get some production from the running game but losing Davin Joseph is a big blow to their offensive attack. With no TE and slow-footed outside receivers, Josh Freeman will continue to regress in a predictable run/screen-heavy offense under the wide-eyed, likely-conservative-initially, wasn't-even-a-great-COLLEGE-coach-and-now-has-Ryan/Brees/Cam-in-his-division, Greg Schiano. Their run defense projects to be the worst in the league and they have next to no pass rush. Despite strong seasons from Barron and Claiborne, I predict the No. 32 ranked defense in Tampa and a tremendously disappointing season overall.

Rams: 9-7
Sleeper alert. The Rams hiring of Jeff Fisher was a sneaky-good move that will immediately pay dividends. He's got a QB with all the tools, a workhorse back to lean on, and some options at WR and TE. The key for the offense will be the offensive line, which simply can't be the disaster it was last year. With some protection, expect Bradford to utilize Amendola in the slot, Lance Kendricks up the seam and underneath, and The Other Steve Smith outside, teaming up with a rejuvenated SJax to form a potent offensive attack. The defense simply isn't that bad, and just as I predict for Indy, the Rams offense's improvement will directly correlate to the defense's improvement for obvious reasons (TOP, momentum, culture change). Their personnel in the front seven isn't bad (and wasn't last year - remember the Saints game in the Superdome? they can get after it), and Janoris Jenkins immediately steps in a a big-time Pro Bowl CB opposite the physical Cortland Finnegan who will be OK but take a backseat to the DROY candidate. Calling for the Rams to win the division might be thought of as crazy, but a compelling case can be made for them IF Roger Saffold can hold up at LT. Perhaps the acquisition of Wayne Hunter was just a ploy to make Saffold feel good about himself, as he now doesn't have the worst 2011 film on the team.

Seahawks: 9-7
Are we sure preseason doesn't matter? If Wilson plays anywhere near as well as he did in his first NFL action, the Seahawks have the potential to win double-digit games. Unfortunately, things are going to be much different and much faster in meaningful games, so expect a learning experience in the first few weeks in terms of Wilson reading coverages and beating blitzes. Smart and hard-working, he'll start to get it quickly though and challenge Luck for OROY. Believe the hype. The health of Sidney Rice, Russell Okung, Doug Baldwin, and Marshawn Lynch will be extremely important to the offense, as all have had issues with injuries. If two of the four can stay out of the trainer's room, the Hawks should be OK.

The real reason the Seahawks can make the playoffs is their defense. They boast the best secondary in the NFL including one of the 2000's best cover men Marcus Trufant at NICKEL, an awesome DL filled with run stuffers and two quick outside pass rushers (Irvin 1.5 sacks in the preseason finale), and a solid LB corps. They could finish in the top-3 statistically in team defense.

This is a young team with rookies contributing everywhere. The Hawks project starting roles for rookies at QB, RG and MLB, reserve but important roles at pass-rushing specialist DE, back-up RB (who may start in W1), and second-string DT (Jaye Howard), and special teams roles for two secondary rookies. Overall, the Seahawks have 8 2012 draft picks on the active roster and 1 on the practice squad. Conversely, the Jets cut FOUR of their seven 2012 draft picks already. Furthermore, the Hawks got two above-average defensive starters in the 2011 draft in CB Sherman and LB K.J. Wright. Say what you want about Pete Caroll, but he and John Schneider have done a terrific job in re-building the roster, and if Russell Wilson is truly the answer at QB, the Hawks are set to contend for many years to come.

49ers: 7-9
Originally I was going to peg the 49ers for 11-5 or 10-6 and cite Harbaugh's change in culture and the hard-nosed physical brand of football as an offset of the air-focused attacks everywhere. But they simply can't repeat last year and still have Alex Smith at QB. First and foremost, their turnover ratio was incredible and is simply not repeatable - not even close. They won a ton of close games last year despite ghastly offensive execution in the red zone which doesn't figure to get much better. The stable of running backs will be OK but 3rd down will continue to be an issue. The defense will still be great up front and at LB, but Tarell Brown and Whitner will struggle giving up some big plays. Eventually, the team will turn on Alex Smith, who will be benched for Kaepernick, with a locker room split leading to all-out collapse. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Cardinals: 3-13
Simply put, the Cardinals have DEVASTATING weaknesses:

- Quarterback
- Offensive line
- Pass rush
- No. 2 cornerback

They have some pieces, but there's no logical way to call for any more than 4 or 5 wins in what projects to be a tougher NFC West. It'll be back to the drawing board in 2013, with Ken Whisenhunt on the outs.

Regular Season Awards
CBPOY: Peyton Manning
COY: Chuck Pagano
OROY: Andrew Luck/Russell Wilson split
DROY: Mychael Kendricks/Luke Kuechly split
DPOY: Mario Williams
OPOY: Darren McFadden
MVP: Matthew Stafford

Wild Card Round:

Patriots 27, Jets 16
Broncos 28, Colts 10

Cowboys 31, Eagles 27
Lions 45, Rams 21

Divisional Round:

Chargers 23, Broncos 20
Ravens 34, Patriots 17

Lions 42, Packers 35
Falcons 27, Cowboys 24

AFC Championship:

Chargers 31, Ravens 28
Falcons 31, Lions 24

Chargers 24, Falcons 17

MVP: Philip Rivers (24-36, 301 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT)

2013 NFL Draft Top 5
1) Cardinals: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
2) Buccaneers: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
3) Titans: Star Lotulelli, DT, Utah
4) Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
5) Dolphins: Eric Reid, FS, LSU
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