(Series 2 of 3) 2012 NFL Preview: Predictions for Playoffs and Super Bowl


Massimo’s NFL Blog
2012 NFL Preview (Series 2 of 3)
By Massimo Russo – Featured Writer Silver and Blue Report & Hook’em Report

Calvin Johnson | Detroit Lions

Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is unstoppable, but are the young Lions ready to overtake Green Bay as the top dogs of the NFC North?

Division Winners
American Football Conference

AFC East: New England Patriots – The offense will continue to rack up points led by Tom Brady and his countless number of weapons notably with the best one-two punch at tight end. Rob Gonkowski and Aaron Hernandez will continue to stretch defenses and the addition of Brandon Lloyd will bring the deep ball back at receiver to accommodate with Wes Welker’s short catches in the slot. Defensively, they need to improve against the pass, but when you have an offense that will light up the scoreboard, chances to create turnovers when up by more than two touchdowns most of the time is likely to happen.

Prediction: 12-4, (2) first round bye

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens – Without Terrell Suggs at outside linebacker due to tearing his Achilles, I don’t expect the defense to fall off the face of the football earth. The defense will remain consistent in the avenue of fewest points allowed per game. And outside of what we expect from one of the league’s top running back’s Ray Rice, the offense found a weapon and deep threat at receiver, Torrey Smith last season. Entering his second-year, expect Smith to get targeted more and become a when in doubt go to option for Joe Flacco on passing downs.

Prediction: 11-5, (3)

AFC South: Houston Texans – Quarterback Matt Schaub looks fully recovered from his Lisfranc injury that left him missing in action for half of the 2011 season. But with one of the best running games, the Houston offense was able leave it up to Arian Foster to carry the load and a stingy young defense that guided the franchise in route to their first ever division title and playoff win in 2011. The run game will still feature a two-headed monster backfield with Foster and spell-back Ben Tate behind the best run-blocking offensive line in the business. Only concern I have with this team is the health of Matt Schaub and star receiver Andre Johnson. And despite losing Mario Williams via free agency to Buffalo, get ready to hear the name Whitney Mercilus, a rookie out of Illinois who replaces Williams in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 3-man rotation, 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker. Another star will be born.

Prediction: 12-4, (1) home field advantage

AFC West: Denver Broncos – Must really be such thing as Santa and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer as there is such thing as Tim Tebow who took the nation by storm leading the Broncos to a division title and playoff win in dramatic fashion in 2011. There won’t be Tebow throwing or making plays with his feet this season up in the Rocky Mountains. Instead, a miracle like dream may come true for Denver as the team found luck in the finding a four-leaf clover football type of things and hauled in Peyton Manning, who most thought after having 4 neck surgeries in a span of 19 months would never be the

same. I know for sure I thought that and all of sudden 5 months later after seeing him dissect defensive backs, I got the impression that Manning has a chip on his shoulder. His little brother is winning Super Bowls, his former team gave up on him and went the Andrew Luck route and the world seemingly has forgotten that Peyton is still an elite player at his position and one of the greatest to ever play the game. If I had a message for all defensive backs on the Peyton radar in 2012, I would simply tell them this, “Game on boys”. This has a story book ending feel towards it from Tebow to Manning, and then??? Get my drift?

Prediction: 10-6, (4)

AFC Wild Cards – Pittsburgh Steelers (5) 10-6, Cincinnati Bengals (6) 9-7

National Football Conference

NFC East: New York Giants – Dominating the line of scrimmage is what wins you crucial late season games, it wins you divisions, it helps you win in the postseason and it also helps you put a halt to quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, both Super Bowl winning quarterbacks who only the Giants defensive front has been able to get after and put out the fire. The Giants still have that in place with Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul anchoring the defensive line. Offensively, they got younger and better. Rookie running back David Wilson has big-play capability that can run and also catch out of the backfield, a key aspect that fits the Giants offensive system. Rookie receiver Rueben Randle will effectively fill the void of Mario Manningham as Eli Manning’s third option behind the dynamic dual of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. And when the going get rough, I trust them in the avenue of team discipline and coaching better than Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas in a division that just might come down to the very last week again.

Prediction: 10-6, (4)

NFC North: Detroit Lions – The maturity aspect of the game starts to kick in the door for the young Lions who broke training camp as one of the top youngest and fastest teams at the skilled positions. We all know what Calvin Johnson brings to the table, but it’s the other young guns that are ready to step up and make plays. Titus Young is ready to showcase his talent and become part of the Lions prolific passing attack. TE Brandon Pettigrew is only getting better and will be another threat in the redzone for Matthew Stafford. Concern does remain at running back and the injury to Jahvid Best, but I think they’ll be able to run effectively by committee with Kevin Smith leading the pack in Best’s absence. What I like most is what this team has upfront on both ends. They’ve been building form the inside out and now all the outside talent is ready to break out. Youth, speed and raw talent flying all over the place in my opinion will win this division in a tight race. I don’t think the NFC East will be the only division that’ll come down to the wire.

Prediction: 11-5, (2) first round bye

NFC South: Atlanta Falcons – Julio Jones, a second-year receiver is ready to have a breakout season and formulate one of the best starting tandems in the league on the opposite side of an already polished Roddy White. And to help a pass defense that struggled on passing downs, the team acquired CB Asante Samuel in a trade to help a vulnerable secondary. The running game should continue to stay consistent and they’ll continue to protect quarterback Matt Ryan with one of the better pass-protecting offensive lines. At some point, this team will turn the corner and with all the uncertainty concerning New Orleans, the beast of the south without coach Payton for a huge part of the season, the Falcons have better structure and are ready for takeoff.

Prediction: 11-5, (3)

NFC West: San Francisco 49ers – The defense is stout, the offensive line is stout and with the addition of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham at receiver, the 49ers offense now has more than just a smash-mouth style pounding the rock with Frank Gore. The offense now has the luxury to stretch the field with a vertical passing attack. Brandon Jacobs brings more mental toughness to an already bad to the bone team across the board. Mainly, in this division, they don’t have a real serious threat to push them to the limit.

Prediction: 12-4, (1) home field advantage

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