1. New England Patriots (14-2)
2. Buffalo Bills (10-6)
3. New York Jets (6-10)
4. Miami Dolphins (3-13)
1. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
4. Cleveland Browns (1-15)
1. Houston Texans (13-3)
2. Tennessee Titans (8-8)
3. Indianapolis Colts (6-10)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
1. Denver Broncos (9-7)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
3. San Diego Chargers (9-7)
4. Oakland Raiders (7-9)
1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
2. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
3. New York Giants (9-7)
4. Washington Redskins (6-10)
1. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
2. Chicago Bears (11-5)
3. Detroit Lions (10-6)
4. Minnesota Vikings (4-12)
1. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
2. New Orleans Saints (10-6)
3. Carolina Panthers (7-9)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)
1. San Francisco 49ers (11-5)
2. Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
3. St. Louis Rams (3-13)
4. Arizona Cardinals (3-13)
AFC Wild Cards:
Pittsburgh Steelers (5), Buffalo Bills (6)
NFC Wild Cards:
Chicago Bears (5), Detroit Lions (6)
Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl Champion
Green Bay Packers
Coach of the Year
Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills
Offensive Player of the Year
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Defensive Player of the Year
DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive Player of the Year
Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
So there's my 2012 NFL predictions. Disagree or would like an explanation on any of those picks? Post in the comments, or tweet me: @sharapovasthigh.
Week 1 Picks
Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears (-10)
Andrew Luck makes his much anticipated debut at Soldier Field against the Bears, a team that looks more explosive on offense than, well, ever before. While I think Luck will have a terrific career, rarely does a quarterback come right in and dominate. It's going to take some time, and then factor in that he's not exactly loaded with help around him on offense.
Oh, and under Lovie Smith, the Bears have dominated rookie quarterbacks, AND they've been particularly tough on defense in season-openers over the last few years (just ask the 2011 Atlanta Falcons).
Lastly, it's going to be extremely difficult for the Colts to stop a Bears offense that added Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Michael Bush over the offseason. The Colts are now in a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chuck Pagano, with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis playing the outside linebacker spots. It will be interesting to see how they rush without their hand in the ground, and how they drop back into coverage when need be. If they want to beat the Bears, they're likely going to need Freeney and Mathis to wreak havoc on a Bears offensive line that is still very questionable in pass protection (I'm specifically looking at you, left tackle J'Marcus Webb).
The Pick: Bears 28, Colts 17
Philadelphia Eagles (-10) at Cleveland Browns
As you can see above in my season picks, I do NOT like the Browns this year. And I tried as hard as I could to give them at least 2 or 3 wins... I just didn't see it anywhere. Seeing how the offense looked under rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden after a game or two may change my opinion on them, but right now, they look very bad.
And the Eagles, top to bottom, just may be the most loaded roster in the NFL. There's just too much talent here for the Browns to handle.
The Pick: Eagles 28, Browns 13
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-3)
It's been well-documented just how god awful the Jets' offense looked in the preseason, and there's nothing about that roster which makes me feel like they're going to improve much on the offensive end. You know everything about the quarterback situation if you've had ESPN on for 5 minutes, Shonn Greene is very blah at the running back position, there's not any game-changers at wide receiver, etc.
And you can see above that I'm very high on the Bills this year. I wouldn't be surprised if they have the best defensive line in the entire league after the addition of Mario Williams, and I see them causing lots of trouble for whichever crappy Jets quarterback is back there.
The Pick: Bills 20, Jets 13
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints (-8)
Like Andrew Luck, I think that Robert Griffin III will be a great player in this league, but I don't see him doing well in the opener, especially against a pissed off Saints team at the SuperDome. And like Luck, RG3 doesn't have much help offensively.
Unless the Redskins can bring pressure constantly from Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, Drew Brees will be too good for the Redskins' offense to keep up.
The Pick: Saints 34, Redskins 17
New England Patriots (-6) at Tennessee Titans
I think that this year's Patriots offense will be even better than last year's. Josh McDaniels is finally back where he belongs, and he got his buddy that he knows how to use perfectly, Brandon Lloyd, to join the Patriots' already loaded group of receivers (I'm counting the tight ends). There's been reports all camp that Aaron Hernandez may even have a bigger year than Rob Gronkowski at tight end, which seems damn near impossible with how ridiculous Gronk was last year.
It's just going to be tough for the Titans to stop that offense. Jake Locker played very well in his short stint last season, and I fully expect the pre-2011 Chris Johnson to show up. I like him to lead the league in rushing yards even. But, he'll probably need to run for about 18+0 if the Titans want to win this game.
The Pick: Patriots 34, Titans 24
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5)
Well, somebody has to win.
The Pick: Vikings 17, Jaguars 14
Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans (-13)
The biggest mismatch of the day. I think that this is the year that the Texans put it all together, and the Dolphins may be the least talented team in the NFL. In the NFL, I hate big point spreads, but I'll honestly be surprised if the Texans don't cover that line.
The Pick: Texans, 35, Dolphins 10
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions (-9)
I love the move to bring in Jeff Fisher, and the Rams have loaded up on draft picks, which is the way to go when looking to build sustained success. But they're still a year or two away.
The Lions are ready to win now, and if they want to keep up with the Packers and Bears in the NFC North, can't afford to lose to the Rams at home.
The Pick: Lions 31, Rams 20
Atlanta Falcons (-3) at Kansas City Chiefs
I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being the most entertaining game of week 1. The Falcons feature an explosive offense that could be even better this year if Julio Jones takes the jump I expect him to.
But I don't think that nearly enough people are talking about the Chiefs. They've added Peyton Hillis to a running back group that already included Jamaal Charles, and get tight end Tony Moeaki returning from injury after missing all of 2010. I also think that their defense could surprise.
At home, I like the Chiefs.
The Pick: Chiefs 24, Falcons 21
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (-5.5)
The 49ers have what is the best defense in the NFL in my opinion. However, if you give Aaron Rodgers time to throw, he'll pick you apart, regardless of how good your linebackers and defensive backs are. The 49ers' front-7 is going to have to be in Rodgers' face all game, or else he's going to throw for his usual 300 yards and 2-4 touchdowns.
And I'm still just not sold enough on Alex Smith to predict the 49ers in this one.
The Pick: Packers 27, 49ers 17
Carolina Panthers (-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I have the Panthers at 7-9, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were a couple games better, or a couple games worse, either. Cam Newton will only improve, and the offense as a whole can be very good if Steve Smith, Jonathan Stewart, and DeAngelo Williams can stay healthy. Defensively, that's where the question marks really are, but rookie middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is going to be a stud, and he alone could make the defense better.
But, that's still a young team, and even though I'm not high on the Bucs, I'll take them at home in a close game that is full of some head-shaking plays.
The Pick: Buccaneers 21, Panthers 17
Seattle Seahawks (-3) at Arizona Cardinals
The Seahawks are definitely a sleeper team this year after watching Russell Wilson look outstanding in the preseason. I have concerns about his 5'11" height, but think he'll at least have a solid season for a rookie and keep the Seahawks in most games. And it looks like he'll have Marshawn Lynch to hand the ball off to against the Cardinals.
And I think the Seahawks' defense (or really, any defense) is going to be too much for John Skelton and the Cardinals' offense.
The Pick: Seahawks 21, Cardinals 13
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (-3)
Peyton Manning's debut right here in the town of Thigh headquarters. The Steelers are looking for revenge after the Broncos knocked them off here in the first round of the playoffs last year, but have some question marks offensively right now. Rashard Mendenhall is likely out until October, Mike Wallace held out until the last couple of weeks, the offensive line is full of question marks, etc. Additionally, safety Ryan Clark (who can't play in Colorado due to the altitude) will not be playing.
The Steelers will get much better as the year goes along, but right now, I'll take the Broncos in a rocking Mile High for Peyton's debut.
The Pick: Broncos 24, Steelers 21
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-7.5)
Don't see the Ravens losing to Andy Dalton and the Bengals' offense at home on Monday night to start the season.
The Pick: Ravens 20, Bengals 13
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders (-1)
Darren McFadden may be the most talented running back in the NFL and I think he carries the Raiders home against the Chargers in a game that should go down to the wire.
The Pick: Raiders 28, Chargers 24