Nine weeks ago, I made my preseason predictions for the 2012 NFL Season. Today, I return with an update:
New England 12-4 (-2)
Buffalo 8-8 (-2)
Miami 7-9 (+3)
New York Jets 4-12 (=)
Baltimore 12-4 (=)
Pittsburgh 11-5 (-1)
Cincinnati 9-7 (-2)
Cleveland 4-12 (+2)
HOUSTON 13-3 (+2)
Tennessee 7-9 (-4)
Indianapolis 7-9 (+3)
Jacksonville 2-14 (=)
Denver 11-5 (+3)
San Diego 6-10 (+1)
Oakland 6-10 (+1)
Kansas City 4-12 (-5)
New York Giants 11-5 (+2)
Philadelphia 8-8 (-2)
Washington 8-8 (=)
Dallas 7-9 (=)
Chicago 12-4 (=)
Green Bay 11-5 (-2)
Minnesota 9-7 (+5)
Detroit 6-10 (-4)
ATLANTA 14-2 (+6)
New Orleans 8-8 (-5)
Tampa Bay 5-11 (+1)
Carolina 3-13 (-2)
San Francisco 12-4 (+2)
Arizona 8-8 (=)
Seattle 7-9 (+3)
St. Louis 5-11 (=)
Key: #1 SEED, Division Champion, Wildcard.
Note: The numbers in parentheses are the differences (+,-,=) between my first and second predictions.
While I’ve changed final records somewhat, I’m mostly sticking with my final standings. The biggest change, of course, is in the NFC South where the Falcons have opened the season at 7-0, and the Saints are suffering far more from the “Bountygate” penalties than I expected. I switched the top two teams in the NFC East and North, swapped Detroit for Minnesota, and rotated the teams in the AFC West, advancing the Broncos to the division title and dropping the Chiefs into the cellar.
That brings me to apologies. Some teams are doing better than I expected and others are doing worse, but I’d like to single out two in particular:
First, I owe an apology to the Atlanta Falcons. I did not see this coming. Keep reading, Falcons fans, I make it up to you.
Second, I am owed an apology by the Kansas City Chiefs. So the end of last season was what? Smoke and mirrors? Two bits of advice going into 2013: keep Jamal Charles healthy, and draft a quarterback. You need one: desperately.
And now . . . updated awards:
Most Valuable Player: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons. This is the year he breaks into the elite.
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers. Because he’s Aaron Rodgers.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans. He leads the league in sacks and is a key component of a great Texans defense.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins. If the Redskins still had a realistic shot at the playoffs, I’d be picking him for MVP. As it is, he’s the only reason I’m picking them to go 8-8 instead of 6-10 or worse. (More on my continued Redskins optimism below*)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Chandler Jones, New England Patriots. A first-round pick well spent on a defense that needs all the help it can get.
Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos. I wasn’t sure he could pull it off. He has, and he’s every bit as great as he was in 2009.
Coach of the Year: Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons. The win/loss record says it all.
And my updated Super Bowl pick:
So do I stick with my preseason pick of Chicago and Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl? I was initially reluctant to pick top seeds because of recent history, but Atlanta’s success has changed that. Dome teams have a definite advantage at home during the playoffs (see Super Bowl XLIV), and Atlanta will play every playoff game (including the Super Bowl if they get there) indoors. This may be the year they break their playoff losing streak and start a winning streak.
In the AFC, I think the Steelers run will end abruptly in Denver again, but this time against Peyton Manning instead of Tim Tebow (which is far less humiliating). As I see it, Peyton in the playoffs is the unpredictable factor. He wants one more shot at the big game before he retires and I could see his team pulling off the same road run the Giants did with his brother last year.
So my updated pick for Super Bowl XLVIII is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIII with a different result:
With Matt Ryan also winning Super Bowl MVP.
Sorry Superfans. If Chicago pulls it out, I owe you one. And as for Pittsburgh:
*Did I miss Sunday’s Redskins Steelers fiasco? No, and may I say that the only thing on the field uglier than the Steelers’ Bumblebee Man outfit was the Redskins defense. But, if (and this is a big IF) the Redskins can put that game (and those horrible uniforms) behind them and win next week at home against Carolina, a .500 record is still possible. Let me break down the schedule and show you how they can get there:
Division Record: 3-3. So far they’re 0-1, but it was a close loss on the road against the class of the division. The Cowboys are good one week, but then stink the next (call it the “Romo shuffle”), while the Eagles are in turmoil. A split against each of these teams is doable. (And I think these teams will all go 3-3 in the division this year.)
Against NFC South: 3-1. A win against Carolina will make it a reality.
Against AFC North: 1-3. A win against the Browns would counter a likely loss to Baltimore.
Against the fellow cellar dwellers: 1-1. This is a done deal. The Redskins beat the Vikings and lost to the Rams.
Add it all up and you get 8-8. Not good enough for playoffs this year, but a big step toward future contention. Hail!