Well, here we go with another NFL season kicking off tomorrow with the Cowboys and Giants. Last week, I challenged you to pick the NFL division winners with the 2nd annual ‘No BS’ Challenge. Today, I’ll put my own credibility on the line by making my own picks, division by division, and analyzing how these agree or disagree with the consensus of all of you. We do this knowing that there is so much unforeseen in any given NFL season and we sincerely doubt that we’ll get all of our picks correct. But we promise that we will not act as know we knew it all along when one of these teams takes us for surprise.
Your picks: New England by a large majority of 77%
The Patriots have really been a dominant force in this division for a solid decade, but last year I made the bold prediction that Miami would sneak in and “steal” the division. Nope. In fact, New England only widened their dominance over teams like the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills (who looked very strong early but floundered in the end) and the Dolphins finished near the bottom. I’m going to jump back on board with the New England Patriots, even though I don’t think they’ll go as far as the Super Bowl again.
Our pick: New England Patriots
Your picks: Pittsburgh by a bare plurality of 43%
The Baltimore Ravens made a clear break through last year by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers twice, rising to the top, and just barely missing the Super Bowl due to a dropped pass and missed field goal late in the AFC Championship game. Still, your picks were nearly split between Baltimore and Pittsburgh, with some even picking the Cincinnati Bengals, the third playoff team from the division last year. No one is picking Cleveland, and with good reason. I think the Ravens should be the clear favorite based on how close they came to the top last year.
Our pick: Baltimore Ravens
Your picks: Houston by a clear majority of 63%
Last season, the Houston Texans finally made their long-anticipated rise as a playoff team aided, in part, by the total collapse by the Indianapolis Colts, who had dominated the division for years. Now the Colts, along with the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars, each have young quarterbacks and may have promising futures. But this season the Texans have got to be the clear favorite with only the Titans having an outside chance of sneaking up on Houston.
Our pick: Houston Texans
Your picks: Denver by a slight majority of 52%
The Denver Broncos had a truly magical season last year and won the AFC West and a playoff game over Pittsburgh. Coming into the season, the Broncos were one of the worst teams in the league and they did start and end the regular season as such. In between, the Broncos won 7 of 8 games (many in the final seconds) under the leadership of quarterback Tim Tebow. But of course, Tebow is gone and this is now Peyton Manning’s which, all things being equal, should make Denver even better. However, this is probably the most balanced division in the NFL with all four teams finishing last year around .500 and I wouldn’t be shocked if Kansas City, Oakland, or San Diego eeked out a division championship. Still, I’m sticking by my Wild Horses to win the AFC West.
Our pick: Denver Broncos
Your picks: New York by a majority of 61%
How ’bout them Giants! They shocked the world for the second time in five seasons with yet another unlikely World Championship, led by the most underrated QB in the league, Eli Manning. I’m happy to boast that I bucked the trendy pick of Philadelphia and picked the G-men last season and will do so again this year. However, I must acknowledge that this is a very talented division and all those games against each other along with games against the AFC North teams (except Cleveland) can wear down any of these teams. I think tomorrow night’s opener between Dallas and New York will do much to set the pace for this division entering the season.
Our pick: New York Giants
Your picks: Green Bay nearly unanimous at 96%
The most shocking moment of the aforementioned Giant’s championship run was when they went into Green Bay and routed the Packers by 17 points in the Divisional playoffs. I felt that Green Bay (champions from 2010) was head and shoulders above any other team last year and for them to lose so badly is, in my opinion, one of the greatest upsets ever. Heading into 2012, I feel the competition is much tighter with the Detroit Lions rising to the upper levels of the league and the Chicago Bears re-tooling to restore their recent success. Even bottom-dwellers Minnesota, who has a very solid defensive, can make some ripples through the season. Still, I have to stick with Green Bay as the favorite.
Our pick: Green Bay Packers
Your picks: Atlanta by a majority of 54%
The New Orleans Saints had a crushing off-season with sanctions coming from the NFL due to a “bounty” program, which cost the suspension of key defensive players and their head coach for a year. This over shadows the great season they had last year and the record-breaking passing of Drew Brees. Naturally, there should be some fall off from New Orleans, with the Atlanta Falcons possibly filling the void and the young Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing a larger role. Still, I give the edge to New Orleans because no other team has Drew Brees.
Our pick: New Orleans Saints
Your picks: San Francisco by a large majority of 84%
Last year I made my dumbest pick by choosing the St. Louis Rams to win the NFC West. The Rams finished 2-14, a mere 11 games behind the San Francisco 49ers, who clearly dominated the division at 13-3 and very nearly went to the Super Bowl, losing to the Giants in a tough-fought overtime game. Some believe their 2011 season was somewhat of a fluke and think the Arizona Cardinals are primed to win the division. But I won’t get fooled again, and I’m on the 49ers bandwagon.
Our pick: San Francisco 49ers
Some astute observers may note that my picks are the exact division champions from last year, which is true. But I just don’t see any of these teams (except possible New Orleans) being any weaker in 2012, so let the debate begin and we’ll see how accurate these picks (as well as yours) are on January 1st. Right now all teams are 0-0, undefeated, and tied for first place so there is this brief moment of hope for everyone, even Cleveland.
Tuesday Morning Tailback is a weekly article during football season which take a critical look at the NFL. We do this from the base belief that NFL football is the greatest game in the history of mankind, but some recent policies and the overall direction of the league has chipped away at this greatness. Our primary goal is to spark debate on these subjects, so please leave your own opinion on this article in the comment box below.