by Ryan Meehan
Well, it’s a good thing there were no offseason issues in the NFL this year. #Sarcasm What happened between February and September has yet again distracted us from the real talking point – The season is just about ready to start. Nobody could have foreseen that the Saints, America’s darling just two years ago, would be in the mess they currently find themselves in. On the other hand everybody could have predicted the media circus that followed Tim Tebow to Jets camp, but then again if you really cared about football you’d be focusing on other things going on around the league.
For example, when are some of these teams going to realize the importance of investing in a quality offensive line when they’re putting so much money into who’s under center? It would seem to me like you would want to have a very large portion of your roster designated for linemen on both sides of the ball. I swear to God, you can’t watch any of these NFL analysis shows for more than a minute without somebody mentioning a left guard that’s been moved over to center because the starter got the piss knocked out of him by some nose tackle.
Or perhaps the never-ending dispute that’s been raging between the officials’ union and the league? As of today, this has not been resolved and crunch time is approaching fast. What scares me more than anything is the idea that these crews haven’t had a chance to work together in preseason, so what’s going to happen when they get the deal done Wednesday morning? Are they just going to fly the A Team to Giants stadium that afternoon if they get the deal done at 9AM? And would that be the best option available when you consider the scrubs have already worked the entire preseason together?
How huge of a douche must Maurice Jones-Drew be when well over half of the teams in the league can put him to good use, but almost nobody has been able to get that done? And how long will that team’s management willing to continue to put up with him just to sell ten jerseys a week? If I got a tattoo inside of my armpit, what would it say?
But thankfully, we have all year to work those kinks out. And that’s not really the purpose of this article. First Order Historians is back in the football business once again, as we have returned from a huge summer full of interviews. It’s time to set all of that aside until February sweeps week, which we will now refer to as Super Bowl week until it occurs. These are my predictions for the 2012-13 NFL season, which are subject to being incorrect at any point during the year/all of the time.
National Football Conference
Since this is where my Super Bowl champion New York Giants hail from, I feel like I have to start here. So let’s get one thing out of the way first – The Giants are not going to repeat as Super Bowl champs. There’s just no chance. They have by far the most difficult schedule in the NFL, the last ten games of which are super brutal. (And that’s the way it should be, I’m not complaining one bit) I know it’s sacrilege to say this, but the Eagles have really let me down in recent years. There’s no way that they shouldn’t be able to easily run away with this division. The Cowboys? No thanks. Very rarely does whoever’s running a team say that “its window with a particular set of players is almost closed” and then succeed, which is what Jerry Jones has basically said. The Redskins begin the RG3 era this year, but they have so many other problems due mostly to poor decision made by owner Daniel Snyder that it’s hard to believe they’ll win more than 5 games.
Projected NFC East Standings:
Philadelphia Eagles 11-5
New York Giants 9-7
Dallas Cowboys 7-9
Washington Redskins 5-11
Bonus Notes: On paper, there isn’t a whole lot of evidence that supports the Eagles winning this division. Except of course for the massive $100 million dollar contract that Michael Vick signed (the second of his career), it’s not like there’s a whole lot of circumstances that would back up the Eagles toppling the New York Giants by three games in the NFC East. Much like last year was my final year buying into the idea that San Diego is a legitimate Super Bowl team, this will be my last year of feeling that way about Philadelphia if they can’t win in the playoffs.
There is more hype surrounding this division in 2012 for several reasons: First, the Lions put up a good showing last year. Matthew Stafford had some of the best numbers in the league and aside from their poorly behaved defense, it would be easy to see how a team like the Lions could make a legitimate run at the conference championship. Of course then there’s the Packers, who were picked to win last year’s Super Bowl by pretty much everybody and during the regular season sure as hell looked poised to do so. This year should be similar, only they haven’t really fixed their secondary issues and for the most part couldn’t tackle for shit in that divisional playoff game last year. Then there’s the Bears, whom I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about if you live in the Quad Cities area because according to everybody around here they’ve already won the next seven Super Bowls and Jay Cutler is Type 2 Joe Montana. With the acquisition of Brandon Marshall, Cutler will be reunited with his former teammate and for the most part the Bears’ first team offense has looked acceptable. The Detroit Lions finally got to the playoffs last year only to meet a buzz saw in the Saints during the Wild Card round. There’s no question that the Lions have the quarterback and receiving corps to be able to put a lot of points on the board, but if they want to get to the next level they’re going to need to put their money where their mouth is on the defensive side of the football. What amazes me about Detroit’s linebackers and ends is when they make one good play, they act like the game’s over. You can celebrate a good play, it’s not really any of my business to say that you can’t. But there is this illusion that games in the NFL are won by making plays, and they aren’t…They’re won by making sets of plays…and on defense that means defensive stops. The Lions don’t do that – They have one of their defenders make an amazing play, and then the next play they get smoked. It catches them off guard because they’re so hyped up from the previous play that they can’t believe they just got worked for fifteen yards while they were basically asleep.
Projected NFC North Standings:
Green Bay Packers 12-4
Detroit Lions 9-7
Chicago Bears 9-7
Minnesota Vikings 3-13
Bonus Notes: Dubsism.wordpress.com is one of my favorite sites on the internet. He’s an incredible writer and we love doing collaboration pieces with him because it’s so much fun. Of course, there’s a “But…” coming here, and it’s in the form of him being a Minnesota Vikings fan. The Vikings are bringing up the rear in the NFC North and just might be the worst team in the NFL altogether. Adrian Peterson plans to play early and often, but they’ve been treating him like a child in training camp and the whole debacle is just a recipe for him having the same ACL/MCL injury later on in the season. Not that it would matter, because that alone wouldn’t be able to fix the Vikings. It’s a good thing they have a guy like Jared Allen to at least make things interesting, but their quarterback is still Christian Ponder, and that’s just not going to cut it even in the NFC North. I’ve already written way too much about this division.
Unless you’ve recently suffered a brain aneurysm, the NFC West isn’t very hard to nail down – Obviously San Francisco will be the most dominant team in the foursome. Keep in mind here the 49ers came within a botched punt of going to the Super Bowl last year (and probably winning it, too) and looked awfully sharp even after they had their playoff spot clinched. They have a defense that was in the top 5 of just about every category last year, a new running back to take some of the pressure off Alex Smith in Brandon Jacobs and that’s after you consider they’ll have a healthy Frank Gore. They added Randy Moss and Mario Manningham to add to their depth at the wide receiver position, which is worth whatever it’s worth but it would be hard to argue that it hurts them in any way at all. And last time that I checked they still had Patrick Willis, one of the most punishing linebackers in all of the NFL. You’ll see why I’m jocking the 49ers so hard later on in this article. The Seahawks could actually be a factor in the NFC West if they play their cards correctly, and it looks like they’re going to be going with Russell Wilson. I’m not for that decision because I like Matt Flynn, but he won the job fair and square and competed his ass off, so let’s see it.
Projected NFC West Standings:
San Francisco 49ers 14-2
Seattle Seahawks 8-8
St. Louis Rams Really Doesn’t Make a Difference
Arizona Cardinals Really, Really Doesn’t Make a Difference
Bonus Notes: The Cardinals are going to shuffle through a lot of offensive players not named Larry Fitzgerald during the 2012-2013, and why not? They’re just three and a half years removed from coming immensely close to winning the Super Bowl, but since then it’s been very ugly down there in Phoenix. The Rams have a very talented QB in Sam Bradford that they used a very high draft pick to get, and don’t appear to be ready to let go of that anytime soon. Which is totally hilarious when you consider that if they can’t get anybody to protect him, they’re going to have plenty more high draft picks in the near future because they’ll be so far under .500 they’ll be staring up at those same Arizona Cardinals we were just discussing. (And now they’ll have even more since they got those picks that the Redskins traded them in order to get Robert Griffin)
This is where things start to get a little confusing. The Saints would usually be the favorite by a mile here, but obviously they’ve had a bit of a rocky offseason. First there was the bounty scandal that rocked the NFL and identified an ethos of thinking that had likely existed for quite some time. Then the suspensions came down, and Drew Brees had some problems getting his new deal worked out. Drew got his money eventually, and for as bad as having your head coach suspended all year can be, the Saints are actually in better shape than most people might think. Sure Jonathan Vilma got slapped with a suspension, but let’s be honest that’s not where the Saints made their money. This is not going to change much of anything – So they’ll give up 33 points a game instead of 32…So what? New Orleans is still going to put up a lot of points on offense and be average to slightly below average on the defensive side of the ball. The Saints will be just fine, and they’ll win the NFC South again.
Projected NFC South Standings:
New Orleans Saints 10-6
Carolina Panthers 8-8
Atlanta Falcons 7-9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-13
Bonus Notes: That’s right, I have Atlanta missing the playoffs. Suffice to say I’m going out on a limb here picking Carolina to finish better than Atlanta, but they can’t all be chalk selections. The Falcons definitely fall into my pile of overrated teams. I’m also holding on to this belief that one of the star quarterbacks in the league is going to suffer a major injury, and unfortunately this year I believe it’s Matt Ryan. Dubsism has the Falcons ranked seventh in his power rankings, but I have to go with my gut here. I don’t trust the Falcons for two reasons, and they both have to do with the Carolina Panthers. First off, the Falcons teams that have made the playoffs in recent years where Carolina isn’t very good, and second – the Panthers are going to be much better this year. Sure they are still going to struggle with stopping the run or preventing the opposition from converting on third down, but they will have a healthy Jonathan Stewart in the backfield and Cam Newton is going to be much improved. And when you consider that he was already pretty good to begin with during his rookie season I think Carolina is going to improve and impress. Remember when everyone was so psyched about that great season Josh Freeman had a couple years back? Neither do I.
Bonus Halftime Question regarding retired NFL coaches: Who do you think loves bacon more – Jerry Glanville or Dan Reeves?
American Football Conference
This division features the always super fun Bill Belichick-led New England Patriots trying to defend their title against the always quiet and never outspoken Rex Ryan-led New York Jets. It will be a rat race to the very end! Actually, no it won’t. I think you’ll find that the Tim Tebow addition will do very little for the Jets when it comes down to it. This will be a very uneventful race, much to the dismay of the New York media. If there’s one thing that we’ve learned about the Patriots, it’s that they do their best work earlier and often. This goes for both in games and during the season. Say what you want about Belichick…he’s not stupid. He knows when to turn it up and when to dial it down. The Jets don’t do that. They’re very “Kill and Repeat” when it comes to their approach to the game of football. The problem with this of course, is that they can’t kill in the first place, and the first two preseason games were very indicative of how unproductive they can really be. That’s why I have them finishing in third place. But it still won’t cost Rex Ryan his job, we couldn’t possibly be that lucky.
Projected AFC East Standings:
New England Patriots 12-4
Buffalo Bills 8-8
New York Jets 7-9
Miami Dolphins 3-13
Bonus Notes: As for the Bills they have finally decided to part ways with Shawne Merriman, and they haven’t really made huge strides towards becoming a serious threat in that division. There is an off chance that if they get hot in the middle of the season they might end up as a wildcard, but I doubt it. And don’t get me wrong, I like Ryan Fitzpatrick but if for some reason they lose him that team could go flat instantly. The Dolphins have named Ryan Tannehill their starting quarterback, which should be interesting to anyone who thinks it would be interesting for Ryan Tannehill to be named the Dolphins’ starting quarterback. Nothing to see here, this division will probably finish the same way that it has over the past decade.
The AFC North produced three playoff teams last year, but that won’t happen again. Very rarely do you see that go down, and the only reason it played out in that manner last year was because the Bengals were just good enough to get in. But now, we’re going to see a changing of the guard. The Bengals are the younger, sharper team of the future and I liked a great deal of what I saw out of Andy Dalton last year. I’m hoping that AJ Green will become one eighth of the receiver that Hines Ward had been during his AFC North tenure, and if that’s the case, the Bengals should be in great shape.
Projected AFC North Standings:
Cincinnati Bengals 11-5
Baltimore Ravens 9-7
Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8
Cleveland Browns 4-12
Bonus Notes: Both the Steelers and the Ravens are going to see a decline in defensive prowess during the upcoming season. Ray Lewis has to be losing some amount of steam, and the Steelers can be beaten on defense by Tim Tebow at the end of a game. I mention the Steelers and the Ravens together for several reasons – They are both teams that have aging defensive squads, younger coaches, and quarterbacks in their prime. I’m still not high on Joe Flacco as some other football fans are, and Ben Roethlisberger could either come out and stink up the joint or win the Super Bowl. But it’s unlikely that he will get there with as banged up of a running game at Pittsburgh has. The Cleveland Browns likely won’t see any improvement with a greenhorn calling the signals, and they are in the Vikings’ category amongst the worst teams in the NFL.
This one is heartbreakingly obvious – The Houston Texans run away with this division. The only team that might even come close to giving them a run for their money will be the Tennessee Titans, who won’t even come close to giving them a run for their money. (So there goes that theory) The Texans now know that they have not only a great QB, but a pretty good backup QB as well. Combine that with a healthy Arian Foster and a defensive line that would make Joe Theismann’s anus cry blood, and you’ve got a team that should have this wrapped up by week thirteen. There are two other teams in the AFC South: The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars will continue to be irrelevant for many years to come, and saying the Colts will be better than last year is sort of like saying that nuclear waste only hurts the first time.
Projected AFC South Standings:
Houston Texans 12-4
Tennessee Titans 7-9
Indianapolis Colts 4-12
Jacksonville Jaguars 2-14
Bonus Notes: I’d also like to add here that even though I have the Jaguars winning two games, I expect those two wins to be later in the season and I think that’s a gift of a prediction on my part. I’ll guarantee you they’ll lose their first six for sure, and you take that to the bank. (But then again if your bank accepts Jaguars losses as collateral, you might as well just throw your money onto the campfire)
Everytime I think about who might win the AFC West or hear the analysts talking about it, I feel like a ten year old kid who won’t eat his vegetables. There’s very much this sort of “Awww…does somebody HAVE to win this division?” attitude that surrounds the whole AFC West. Obviously the biggest attraction here is going to be Peyton Manning’s new home in Denver, playing for the Broncos. It’s hard to imagine that anybody could think of football at all when you consider that Manning has played for the two NFL teams that are represented by horses, (Broncos and Colts) which is hilarious because he looks exactly like a horse. The Broncos are the most important team in the West because their defense is stifling. Von Miller is slowly becoming one of my favorite NFL players and the Broncos can stop the run just as well as any other AFC team.
Projected AFC West Standings:
Denver Broncos 10-6
Kansas City Chiefs 9-7
San Diego Chargers 7-9
Oakland Raiders 5-11
Bonus Notes: You may notice that my projected standings for the AFC West are pretty much a mirror image of themselves at both ends. This one could go either way and I have to admit I’ve seen plenty of websites that have this division going to the Chiefs, whom I have finishing second with a rather tame record given their schedule. If there’s any division that could possibly have all four teams in legit contention the final two weeks of the season, the AFC West will be it. I do however think that the Broncos will be slightly better than most of the other three teams, and that’s more than enough to guarantee you a playoff spot up in this piece of shit. I have Kansas City sneaking in as a Wild Card because…well, because I think the AFC is going to be much weaker this year and that’s my only reason.
Although collectively I felt that last season was disappointing, the playoffs were relatively impressive. The Packers bit it when almost everybody had them going all the way, the Ravens got within a chip shot field goal of winning the Super Bowl, and the team that won it all almost didn’t get into the playoffs to begin with. It was very confusing. This year we have some familiar matchups, and some new ones that may become familiar in the very near future.
1) San Francisco 49ers
2) Green Bay Packers
3) Philadelphia Eagles
4) New Orleans Saints
5) Chicago Bears
6) New York Giants
1) New England Patriots
2) Houston Texans
3) Cincinnati Bengals
4) Denver Broncos
5) Kansas City Chiefs
6) Baltimore Ravens
Wild Card Weekend:
Philadelphia Eagles 30, New York Giants 10
The Eagles will be looking for a statement playoff game to justify that Michael Vick contract, and what better opportunity than to do so than beating the crap out of their divisional rivals and reigning Super Bowl champs, at the Linc no less. Michael Vick gets the best of Eli Manning and every animal rights activist collectively soils themselves, wondering if this is the year it might really happen.
New Orleans Saints 26, Chicago Bears 24
It’s a good thing that the Saints will have home field for this one, they’re going to need it. I expect this to be one of the best games of the playoffs. The Saints and the Bears are probably more evenly matched than a lot of people realize…They both have high quality quarterbacks that can put up big numbers, and both look forward to benefiting from a decent running game. The Saints are still just a tiny bit more talented, even if it is just for this season.
Cincinnati Bengals 28, Baltimore Ravens 23
Remember, this year is the changing of the guard in the AFC North. Regardless of what happens in the regular season, I truly believe this is the game that the Bengals show everyone that they aren’t afraid of the big bad wolf anymore. It helps when you have a shotgun to kill that wolf, or at least a kid that has a shotgun for an arm. Andy Dalton CAN beat Joe Flacco, and he CAN beat the Ravens. The stakes are going to be much higher for the Ravens since it’ll likely be the last year that Ed and Ray will be on that team, but that inspiration doesn’t mean anything when it comes to the Ravens keeping up with the NFL in 2012.
Denver Broncos 46, Kansas City Chiefs 14
It may have been a little bit out of the ordinary to have the Chiefs making the playoffs, but even if I’m right and they do make it, I can’t really foresee them getting out of the first round. Look for PM to have a field day with this one, as he’ll have seen them twice and watched countless hours of film by this point. Broncos in a landslide, not much to talk about here.
New England Patriots 31, Denver Broncos 20
For the sake of this article America will get to see Tom Brady and Peyton Manning face off in the playoffs one last time, and the results will be very similar to what it was before Peyton finally got over the hump. Brady seems to be awfully talented when it comes to picking apart anything he sees coming at him, so you have to figure that somewhere along the line that’s going to include a team like Denver no matter how tough they are.
Houston Texans 19, Cincinnati Bengals 17
This one is tough because I really dig where both of these teams are headed this year. In the end, the Texans are slightly better on this day and win by a couple. And it will be a big wake up call for Houston that they are going to need to bring their A plus game for the championship round. The Bengals will find themselves with a noble exit when they experience the results of the following week.
San Francisco 49ers 34, New Orleans Saints 15
This game will look very similar to the NFC Divisional Playoff game last year when both of these two teams met with respect to how many turnovers the 49ers will be able to force, only the score at the end of the game won’t nearly be as close. Frisco has so many different looks that by midway through the second quarter, they’ll have Brees down to a science and it could get ugly. Career statement game for Alex Smith, especially if he can beat a first ballot Hall of Famer two years in a row in the second round.
Green Bay Packers 28, Philadelphia Eagles 20
Although the Packers should win here, it may be a little bit closer than even I might think. The Eagles can push and shove with the best of them, and since Philadelphia has been a dirty team since the sixties they’re going to give Green Bay hell. Aaron Rodgers is the better QB, but the more important thing here is that he won’t have to do the things that Michael Vick does in order to win this game.
Houston Texans 23, New England Patriots 20
The Texans are probably the best team that you don’t have enough information on. The difference this year will be: They’ve been there before. Now they know, and if GI JOE has taught me anything, it’s that knowing is half the battle. (Well, that and the fact that cartoons are excellent recruiting tactics to get children interested in the military early and often) With a healthy Matt Schaub, the Texans can take this one, even if it is by just a field goal. The Patriots over the last few seasons have provided us with plenty of great moments during the regular season, but over that period of time they haven’t been able to finish the job, whether it be losing the Super Bowl on the last series or getting kicked in the throat by Baltimore in the first round like they did that one year. In this game I don’t thing that Schaub will play noticeably better than Brady by any means, but the Texans will win.
San Francisco 49ers 27, Green Bay Packers 21
Here’s my theory as to why the Packers won’t get to the Super Bowl: You have to figure that to get there, the odds are that they’ll have to beat two teams that are very scrappy and with these predictions I have them playing the Eagles and the Niners. As previously stated, I DO believe that the Packers can beat one of those teams. They can’t beat two. The Niners have a better defense than the Pack does, and since both quarterbacks are top notch that will be the difference. They say defense wins championships, and that’s why both the Niners and Texans are going to the Super Bowl. I look for one of San Francisco’s wide receivers to come up big at the end of this game.
Super Bowl XLVII – Mercedes Benz Superdome – New Orleans, Louisiana:
San Francisco 49ers 27, Houston Texans 13
Believe it or not, I have an NFC West team winning the Super Bowl. Sounds crazy, right? It’s not really…as Dubsism said in his power ranking piece (I sure am plugging his website a lot, aren’t I?) the San Francisco 49ers are THE most complete team in the league today. It shouldn’t shock anybody that they’re picked by a lot of people to go all the way, and that’s exactly what I believe will happen. Alex Smith will prove to everyone that he is the new elite quarterback in the NFL, and that the 49ers will be a contender for many years to come.
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