At last, it is time again for the sport that is closest to perfection: NFL football. Its policies are determined and enforced by a strong leadership organization (not player unions), it does not overpay its players (like MLB/NBA), it offers equality among all teams with its hard cap (unlike MLB/NBA), every single team in its league is given a fair chance to succeed if you draft and coach well (unlike MLB/NBA), no city has an inbuilt vast recruiting advantage (Lakers/MLB teams with $) and its playoff structure does not allow too many teams (NBA) or too little (MLB). And at its very core, it demands teamwork, absolute effort, pure determination, practiced skill, painstaking strategy and grueling physicality. NFL football is the greatest sport in the world.
My 2012 predictions:
NFC West champ: 49ers
Shamefully, last season I predicted the Rams would take the West and the 49ers would finish 3rd. Rams finished tied for dead last -2 wins- in the NFL while my team won THIRTEEN GAMES. I think SF wins the West, but I find it very hard to believe that they'll get close to 13 games again. I don't know how they'll handle that kind of success as well as incorporating the new downfield weapons. I'll predict 11 wins and a division crown. The Seahawks unfortunately look primed to finish 2nd while Arizona edges out the Rams at the bottom.
NFC South champ: Falcons
The Saints might take a step back without Payton this season while Matt Ryan takes a step forward. Brees still wills NO into the playoffs though. Newton will continue to make the Panthers exciting, but not winners. TB brings up the rear.
NFC North champ: Packers
Green Bay won 15 games but wiped out first playoff game at home to the Giants. I can't imagine any other team being more motivated (other than the Patsies, I suppose). I'm going to say that Detroit regresses by a game or two while Chicago improves as a result of the Cutler-Marshall reunion. Minnesota will probably get their coach fired.
NFC East champ: Eagles
All logic says to pick the defending champs to win the division. But because the NFC East is always so unpredictable, I'm going to take Philly as the champ, for no real reason. Cowboys sneak into the playoffs past the disappointing Giants and RG3, for all the hype, is merely mediocre in Washington.
NFC Wildcards: Saints, Cowboys
AFC West champ: Broncos
Norv Turner should get fired for being mediocre in San Diego again this year. The Raiders and Chiefs give us little reason to believe in them. So, the team to climb out of this muck is Peyton's Broncos. He alone will get them there. Chiefs, Chargers, then Raiders.
AFC South champ: Texans
By process of elimination, Houston wins over the Locker-led Titans, Gabbert-led Jaguars, and Luck-led Colts. Schaub is the only QB with more than a year experience. I say Tennessee finishes 2nd, Indy finishes 3rd and Jags finish last, wondering why Tebow didn't pick them.
AFC North champ: Ravens
This division yielded 3 playoff teams last season and both Steelers and Ravens finished 12-4. This year, I say the Ravens' consistent running attack propels them to 1st. Big Ben makes the playoffs again, while Dalton gets back to 9 wins. Cleveland stinks.
AFC East champ: Patriots
Last year's SB failure by Belicheat-Brady was epic. I couldn't be happier. But they'll be back since the Bills, Jets and Dolphins (in that order) are punchless against them. Bills surprisingly make the playoffs with a healthy and consistent Fitzpatrick. Tebow gets the starting job after Sanchez fails to throw for a TD after 8 weeks but can't overcome the bad seeds in the organization. Dolphins will get bush-whacked.
AFC wildcards: Steelers, Bills
NFC Championship Game: Packers over 49ers
AFC Championship Game: Ravens over Patriots
Superbowl: Packers over Ravens
Sadly, I picked against the 49ers because I'm still a believer in elite QB play. Rodgers is two years removed from his SB win and the Packers will be motivated to get that bitter playoff taste out of their mouth. Let's go 9ers!