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2012 NFL Predictions: Picking Division Winners And The Super Bowl Champion

Season kicks off tonight, check out who I think will be bringing home the hardware

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The 2012 NFL season kicks off tonight (RIP baseball season) with a good rivalry game between the Dallas Cowboys and defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Every publication, including this one, puts out a prediction article about this time of year, but remember this is all for fun. I'll probably hit on a few good predictions, and miss on a few others; no one thought the Giants would win the Super Bowl when they sat with a 7-7 record after 14 games last season. Teams get hot, other suffer injuries; it's very difficult to predict the NFL future in the era of the salary cap and great parity.

With all that said, here's my best attempt to predict the NFL!

NFC East:

1. Eagles 11-5
2. Giants 10-6
3. Cowboys 7-9
4. Redskins 6-10

NFC West:

1. 49ers 11-5
2. Seahawks 8-8
3. Cardinals 6-10
4. Rams 3-13

NFC North:

1. Packers 13-3
2. Bears 10-6
3. Lions 9-7
4. Vikings 4-12

NFC South:

1. Falcons 11-5
2. Saints 10-6
3. Panthers 8-8
4. Buccaneers 4-12

Wildcards: Saints and Bears

NFC Notes:

Giants - Are they the team that went 7-7 over the first 14 weeks last season or the team that got hot in the playoffs? Remember, the Giants didn't clinch a playoff spot until the last week of the season; they nearly got beat out by the Cowboys. They're a flawed team that got hot at the right time. They lost Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham, and they're defensive secondary is a mess with injuries right now. They're a good team, but they have a lot of issues that I think will keep them out of the playoffs. Before you dismiss the notion of the champion not making the playoffs, know that over the last 11 years, the Patriots were the only champion able to repeat, no other champion even made the conference title game the following year and the last defending champ to even win just one playoff game was the Patriots in 2005. On top of that, they're schedule is killer with the Bengals, Ravens, Steelers, Saints, Falcons, Packers, and 49ers on the schedule outside of a tough division schedule.

Eagles - Am I scared of Vick's injury problems? Yes, but I don't base predictions off of predicting injuries, only current injuries. The old guard will tell you that champions have to run the ball and play good defense, but the league has changed. I think the best predictor has changed to teams that are explosive on offense and can rush the passer on defense; the Eagles excel in both areas.

Falcons - I like that they've gone to an up-tempo, no huddle offense to take advantage of their receiving threats; they're offense seem to get bogged down when they ran it with Michael Turner too often. I'm still not sold on their defense and it'll keep them from going deep, but I do like that they made Mike Nolan their defensive coordinator. Turns out the Texans were right on Dunta Robinson.

Saints - I have the Saints making the playoffs with the same record as the Giants with a head to head victory over New York. Losing Sean Payton hurts, but Drew Brees is basically the offensive coordinator anyway. Losing Vilma also hurts, but they added Curtis Lofton who I think is just as good.

Bears/Lions - The Bears would have made the playoffs last year before Cutler and Forte got hurt; they were 7-3 before the injuries. The Lions have a good offense, but their defense scares me; quick, name a starting defensive back for the Lions; me either.

NFC Championship:

Packers over Falcons

AFC East:

1. Patriots 13-3
2. Bills 9-7
3. Jets 7-9
4. Dolphins 2-14

AFC West:

1. Broncos 11-5
2. Chiefs 9-7
3. Raiders 8-8
4. Chargers 6-10

AFC North:

1. Ravens 11-5
2. Bengals 10-6
3. Steelers 9-7
4. Browns 4-12

AFC South:

1. Texans 11-5
2. Titans 8-8
3. Jaguars 6-10
4. Colts 5-11

Wildcard: Bengals and Bills

AFC Notes:

Patriots - The loser of the Super Bowl has not gotten back to the Super Bowl in the following season since the Bills in 1992-1993. On top of that history, I think the Patriots have two major issues that they were able to mask last season, but could cost them in the playoffs this year. Those issues being their offensive line and pass defense. New England has lost a few starters on the line over the last couple of years, and the Giants exposed that in the Super Bowl, hitting Brady, not giving him time to find open receivers, and sacked Brady for a safety early in the game. Their struggles in pass defense are well documented as they gave up nearly 300 passing yards a game last season ranking 31st in the league, and even managed to make Joe Flacco look really good in the AFC title game.

Texans - If they stay healthy, IF, they are the deepest, most well balanced team in the conference. They can run the ball, stop the run, air it out, and rush the passer with the best teams in the league. In a specific matchup with the Patriots, I like that matchup and think the Texans can pull off the upset. The Texans pass rush will get to Brady much like the Giants did and while they won't shut them down; I think they can hold them to between 20-24 points, giving the offense a chance to win it. On the other side, the Texans should be able to move the ball at ease against the Patriots defense. Bottom line, both offenses are elite, but only one of the two teams has a chance to slow down the opposing team.

Steelers - They're defense is getting older, and older, and older. They're stars are a step slower and injuries are becoming a bigger problem every year. On offense, they still have issues on the offensive line with the injury to 1st round pick David DeCastro, and I don't like any of the options they have at running back with the injury to Mendenhall. They're still a good team, but they'll take a step back.

AFC Championship:

Texans over Patriots

MVP: Drew Brees - If he puts up big numbers and they make the playoffs like I think they will, how could you not give the award to him after losing their head coach.

Coach Of The Year: Andy Reid

Defensive Player Of The Year: Patrick Willis

Offensive Rookie Of The Year: Andrew Luck

Defensive Rookie Of The Year: Luke Kuechly

Super Bowl:

Packers over Texans

Disagree? Tell me about it on Twitter: @sackedbybmac

For more on the Texans, check out the Battle Red Blog!

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.