Dateline: Calgary, Alberta, Canada—The western frontier home of the world’s largest Rodeo.
From the 10th floor of the Calgary Radisson, on this overcast and seasonably cool morning, I bring you the official SBB 2012 NFL Season Forecast.
I predict the 2012 NFL season will be a rodeo to remember.
2012 NFL Division and Conference Winners
The AFC: Peyton’s Wild Ride to Revenge
Look for the Patriots to run away with the AFC East division. The Jets have no answer at QB. Their defense will keep them in games, but their offense won’t win enough of those games. The Bills will be competitive and may squeak by the Jets to take second in the division. Miami will drag up the rear.
The best divisional battle will take place in the North, where the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals will battle for supremacy. I want to say I believe in the Bengals. I don’t. I want to say the Steelers won’t win that division. I can’t.
In the AFC South, while Andrew Luck works out rookie kinks on his way to greatness, the time is now for the Houston Texans. The Titans will compete. The Jaguars will not.
The west should be competitive. All four teams have the potential to contend for the division. But Peyton Manning will be the X factor in Denver. With Peyton guiding the offense and the Denver defense slapping opposing QBs around, Expect the Broncos to emerge the victors in the wild, wild AFC West.
AFC Championship: Old Warriors, New Battleground
I expect the AFC Championship game to be a duel between old nemeses. Tom Brady and his New England Patriots will fight it out with the Denver Broncos and their new leader, the crafty, old warrior Peyton Manning.
Manning and the Broncos will emerge victorious, saving the Patriots from experiencing another Super Bowl meltdown.
The NFC: Romo’s redemption tour
As we did with the AFC, we begin in the East. The NFC East promises to be the most entertaining, hotly contested division in the NFC. The defending world champion Giants will fight the good fight of a heavy weight defending his title. Galvanized by the death of their beloved coach’s son, the Eagles will be hell bent to deliver their franchise and Andy Reid their first Lombardi trophy. The Cowboys have a revamped defensive backfield with the $50 million free agent Brandon Carr, the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft Maurice Claiborne, and Barry Church moved to the starting safety position. Tony Romo is coming off his best year as a pro. He has weapons galore and a dynamic running threat in DeMarco Murray to complement the aerial attack. The Redskins will be breaking in RGIII and making a little noise, as well.
The Cowboys will emerge the bloodied, battered, but unbroken victors in the NFC Beast.
The NFC North has some interesting teams in the young-and-hungry Lions, the Adrian Peterson-led Vikings and the Chicago Bears and their mercurial, but supremely talented QB Jay Cutler. But the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers remain the class of the division and will win it.
The NFC South is a two-maybe-three horse race. Even with all of the off-season controversy, player suspensions (which suspensions have been suspended for the moment) and the suspension of head coach Sean Payton, the Saints remain the class of the division and Drew Brees is still the man. The Falcons will give the Saints a run for their money. So may Tampa Bay. Carolina will make strides behind the ridiculously athletic Cam Newton, but remain a year or three away from serious contention.
The NFC West is the home of the patsy. The Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams are middle-of-the-roaders or worse. The 49ers are genuine Super Bowl contenders. This division amounts to a thoroughbred racing jackasses.
NFC Championship: The Old is New
Give me the 49ers and Cowboys in the NFC title game. The 49ers have a defense that will test Romo and his offensive juggernaut. Unfortunately for the 49ers, the 2012 edition has Alex Smith, who is no Joe Montana or Steve Young. He is not even a Tony Romo.
The Cowboys will finally end their Super Bowl drought by beating an old nemesis.
Super Bowl XLVII: The Rodeo
Writing from Calgary, as I mentioned earlier, where they have the world famous Stampede, I can think of nothing more appropriate to talk about than a Cowboys–Broncos Super Bowl. These two teams have met in the big game before, with Staubach’s Cowboys emerging the 27–10 victors over Craig Morton and the Broncos.
Manning’s Revenge or Romo’s Redemption?
Will Peyton Manning show the Colts and the rest of the world that he did indeed have one more championship in his big football brain and remarkably accurate arm? Or, will the undrafted, oft-maligned, but unmistakably-gifted Tony Romo finally find redemption?
Both teams sport offenses with fire power and defenses with shutdown potential. Both have coaches looking to add their name to the list of Lombardi winners. Both franchises are long overdue Super Bowl success. but only one can win.
The Cowboys will bust the Broncos and ride them to an NFL-record-tying sixth Lombardi trophy.
Mark it down. Lock it. It is the official SBB 2012 prediction.