Two seasons ago I picked the Green Bay Packers to win the Super Bowl. Last year I did the same. Nothing that has happened since the Packers were upset in the divisional round at Lambeau Field after a 15-1 regular season has made me think they will not win Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Last year they scored the most points, gave up the most yards, and caused the most turnovers. With a healthy Aaron Rodgers, the entire receiving corps back, and a revitalized run game, the offense should be equally prolific. As for the defense, nearly the entire draft was utilized to restock key, undermanned positions. Losing linebacker Desmond Bishop for the season is tough, but even if they improve only slightly on that side of the ball, this team will win a great majority of their games. Additionally, more depth defensively means more healthy and able bodies to play special teams; look for sophomore returner/receiver Randall Cobb to have a breakout season.
Before I give you my team-by-team predictions and individual award winners, let’s look back at how I did last season with my prognostications. I got half of the playoff participants correct, including four in each conference. I also correctly nailed the records of the Washington Redskins (5-11), the Chicago Bears (8-8), the Houston Texans (10-6) and the Tennessee Titans (9-7). I also predicted that Baltimore and Pittsburgh would end up with identical records atop the AFC North. As for individual awards, I only got one correct—but it was by far the most important: Aaron Rodgers as NFL MVP.
As for the particulars for the upcoming campaign? When the schedule came out in mid-April, I made this bold—some might say blasphemous—statement via Twitter: “My bold prediction of the week: both the Super Bowl champion N.Y. Giants and the New Orleans Saints fail to make the playoffs this season.” I recently changed my mind about the Saints, but only because so many NFC teams have serious flaws. Drew Brees’ potency will be enough to overcome his team’s many defensive and coaching shortcomings. They, however, will not be the first team to ever play the Super Bowl in their home stadium; I have them falling to NFC South rival Atlanta on Wild Card weekend. As for my other playoff participants, I am bucking current trends that say statistically half of the playoff teams are new each season. I believe only three teams—Philadelphia, Chicago, Tennessee, replacing the New York Giants, Detroit, and Cincinnati —will be newcomers to the tournament in 2012.
Everything else I have written on my Twitter handle—for example: “First thoughts after looking at the @packers schedule: they start 5-0 and finish 13-3, losing in Houston, at the Giants, and in Chicago.”—I stand by wholeheartedly. Especially the sage political analysis.
As for my individual awards, they go to . . .
MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Player of the Year: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Defensive Player of the Year: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Mark Barron, SS, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Coach of the Year: Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
And what prognostication piece would be complete without my bold (and uncannily accurate) team-by-team predictions for the upcoming campaign?