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Muscle Sport Magazine

Our 2012 NFL Preview: All 32 teams, Playoff & Super Bowl Predictions (Green Bay over K.C.)

There is one thing that we are sure of here at MuscleSport Magazine regarding the 2012 NFL season. When the Super Bowl rides into New Orleans next February, the two teams involved will not be an encore of the barnburner that occurred in Indianapolis between the New York Giants and New England Patriots.

Yes, both will be in the mix and part of their respective conferences playoff picture, but will fall short of what was accomplished seven months ago.

So without further delay, here is how we see the entire league shaping up. Of course, unforeseen injuries will take place and that can change the big and small pictures. But the way everything is currently set up, here is our prediction:

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AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

AFC EAST

1 – NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-6) – Still the class of the division and Tom Brady is the difference maker, even though the team is light at wide receiver and running back. They’re getting a little older and won’t be as dominant as a year ago, but still strong in an overall weaker conference.

2 – BUFFALO BILLS (8-8) – The preseason surprise pick for many of the so-called experts, we are not fully sold on the Bills. The addition of DE Mario Williams will help and Ryan Fitzpatrick is beginning to look like a steady QB, so a four-game improvement will be cause for celebration up in Western New York.

3 – NEW YORK JETS (6-10) – Rex Ryan may feel that this is the best team he has had in his four years at the helm, but we politely disagree. Questions surround the offensive line, rushing attack and passing game and the impending distraction of the boo-birds calling for Tim Tebow is not going to help the one positive in the Jets offense – Mark Sanchez. A rough start to the schedule will spell doom for Gang Green.

4 – MIAMI DOLPHINS (5-11) – Joe Philbin is a nice guy, but you know where they finish. Such is the case with the Fish this year, but necessary growing pains for rookie signal caller Ryan Fitzpatrick will eventually pay off. Just not right now.

 

AFC NORTH

1 – BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-4) – A missed field goal attempt cost the Ravens a Super Bowl bid, so this is certainly a team that can make some more noise. Their defense is strong as usual, and Joe Flacco is more than capable of driving the offense down the field.

2 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS (11-5) – They will miss out on the division title via the second tie breaker, but do not get too excited about this team just yet. They’ll have a similar run as they did in 2011; quick exit in the Wild Card round.

3 – CINCINNATI BENGALS (8-8) – QB Andy Dalton did a great job as a rookie and should handle the duties just fine again. A lot of the things that broke right for this team when they qualified for the playoffs last year will not happen again, but it will be a competitive and fun season in ‘The Jungle.’

4 – CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-11) – It seems that regardless of what this organization does, it turns into a negative. They did have a good draft and hopefully that will pay dividends in the future.

 

AFC SOUTH

1 – HOUSTON TEXANS (9-7) – The division winner by default again, this bunch is going to miss the departed Williams rushing the quarterback. If Matt Schaub can stay healthy, then they will be fine. But they barely hung on last year once they had to go to the bullpen at quarterback.

2 – TENNESSEE TITANS (7-9) – Jake Locker won the starting job at quarterback, so a step back is not out of the question. The youngster needs to get acclimated by being behind center for a full season and should have an easier time of it becuase of running back Chris Johnson.

3 – INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (6-10) – Andrew Luck will give the fans hope and may just win the Rookie of the year Award. This team is in Year One of their rebuilding phase, but a four-game improvement in the win column is not impossible here.

4 – JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-12) – They would have been better of if Tebow chose to go home. At least they would have had good crowds at their stadium. Star running back Maurice Jones-Drew ended a 38-day holdout and reported to camp with the same contract. So a bad team with an unhappy franchise player? Four wins may be a conservative guess.

 

AFC WEST

1 – KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5) – Romeo Crennel brought this team a new attitude last year once he took over and has been a trusted head coach in the league. Now he gets to do it his way from the beginning. Matt Cassel is a bit more than pedestrian at quarterback, but has led this team to the playoffs before.

2 – DENVER BRONCOS (10-6) – Peyton Manning. That’s all you need to know. He makes everyone else around him a better player and while this team has some holes, he will help keep them on the back burner. The playoffs are made, but well short of a Super Bowl.

3 – SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-7) – Sooner or later, this team will figure out how to put a full season together instead of hot and cold streaks throughout the campaign. Will this finally be the one? Maybe, but the talent here is not more than nine wins. They’ll sneak into the postseason; one and done.

4 – OAKLAND RAIDERS (8-8) – The Silver and Black Attack barely missed making the dance in 2011 and will be in the hunt again, especially with a full season of Carson Palmer. But a tough division knocks them out of the running.

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

NFC EAST

1 – DALLAS COWBOYS (11-5) – If not for a few blown late-game leads, the ‘Boys would have waltzed to the division crown and the G-Men would not have had the chance to hold up another Lombardi Trophy. Tony Romo is far from perfect, but this team is good enough to win a competitive – but not great – division. Say what? Keep reading…

2 – NEW YORK GIANTS (10-6) – Big Blue’s defense – especially the line – will carry them far. As will Eli Manning, who just shrugs everything off, win or lose, and he has done more of the former. Repeating as champions in football is a tall task and the Giants will not go down without a fight.

3 – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-7) – Another preseason favorite to do great things that we totally disagree with. IF Michael Vick can stay healthy and IF Andy Reid can ward off the many distractions he has faced and will still face, then maybe the Birds can also be a playoff team. But neither of those will happen and it will be another disappointing season in Philly.

4 – WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7-9) – RG3 will bring some excitement back to the nation’s capital and will be a vast improvement over Rex Grossman, not as if that will be a huge accomplishment. But you know what we mean.

 

NFC NORTH

1 – GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-3) – Being upset by the Giants in last year’s NFC Championship Game had to stick in every Packers’ craw since that fateful evening in Wisconsin. This team is still the class of the conference and have the game’s top quarterback, so it will be a successful rebound campaign for the Cheese Heads.

2 – CHICAGO BEARS (10-6) – Brian Urlacher’s health concerns us, as it does the Bears, but this team has enough talent on both sides of the ball to make a good run. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall made a good tandem before and will again, and Matt Forte is more than capable running the ball.

3 – DETROIT LIONS (9-7) – A small step back for Jim Schwartz’s gang in the Motor City. No playoffs this year, but more weekly fun watching Megatron highlights.

4 – MINNESOTA VIKINGS (4-12) – This is a bad team that has a long way to go. Smart move going with Christian Ponder at quarterback; find out now if he is the guy or not.

 

NFC SOUTH

1 – ATLANTA FALCONS (10-6) – Matt Ryan to Julio Jones will be a regular occurrence on all of the wrap-up shows and this team will be good, but certainly not great. But good enough to win a wide open division.

2 – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-7) – All of the distractions from Bounty Gate will have a big effect on the entire organization, but Drew Brees will make them a playoff contender single-handedly. But even he will not be enough.

3 – CAROLINA PANTHERS (7-9) – Cam Newton will have another outstanding year and slowly but surely, this team will become a force one day. They will find themselves in a lot of games, but have not learned yet how to finish teams off.

4 – TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (6-10) – It may be some time before the Bucs find themselves again. Josh Freeman is productive, but the front office hasn’t done much in providing him with enough weapons.

 

NFC WEST

1 – SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS  (11-5)- Jim Harbaugh did a remarkable job coaching last year and got the most out of Alex Smith. They brought in some more weapons on offense in wideout Mario Manningham and bruising back Brandon Jacobs (who was injured during the preseason) and should be able to take an improved – but still overall weak – division.

2 – SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-7) – Pete Carroll would have been better off starting Matt Flynn, but went with the hot hand in rookie Russell Wilson as his starter. The ‘Hawks had an impressive preseason (if there is such a thing) and have some weapons in Braylon Edwards and (if healthy) Sidney Rice at receiver.

3 – ARIZONA CARDINALS (7-9) – Those poor Cards fans. They had a legit shot to actually win a Super Bowl with one defensive stop just a few short years ago, and now they are light years away from even making it to the playoffs again. It appears the Kevin Kolb trade is a bust for Arizona and the quarterback carousel continues.

4 – ST. LOUIS RAMS (6-10) – Jeff Fisher came out of retirement and took a very questionable job here. There is talk of the team moving to Los Angeles and they are coming off a putrid two-win campaign. But maybe the former Titans coach will have the last laugh. A brand new stadium in L.A. and all of the draft picks acquired in the RG3 deal makes this a team with a huge upside. Maybe.

PLAYOFFS

AFC WILD CARD ROUND

Denver (6) over HOUSTON (4), NEW ENGLAND (3) over Pittsburgh (5)

NFC WILD CARD ROUND

Chicago (6) over ATLANTA (4), SAN FRANCISCO (3) over Giants (5)

AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND

BALTIMORE (1) over Denver (6)

KANSAS CITY (2) over New England (3)

NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND

GREEN BAY (1) over Chicago (6)

DALLAS (2) over San Francisco (3)

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP

Kansas City (2) over BALTIMORE (1)

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP

GREEN BAY (1) over Dallas (2)

SUPER BOWL XLVIII

Green Bay over Kansas City

So we like a rematch of the very first Super Bowl with a similar outcome. The Pack add another trophy.

Photo by William J. Hauser (Super Bowl XLVII, Indianapolis)

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