2012 NFC PREVIEW/PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Posted: 1st September 2012 by Jeff Plattner in NFL

NFC West

  1. San Francisco 49ers: Best-case scenario – Randy Moss has one more great year left in him, as he tops 1,000 yards and 12TD, while upgrading the offense enough to get past the NFC title game and into San Fran’s first Super Bowl since 1994. Worst-case – Moss wears out his welcome with yet another team and is cut by midseason. Alex Smith turns back into the bad Alex Smith and the 49ers miss the playoffs as Seattle wins the west. Prediction: 11-5
  2. Seattle Seahawks: Best-case – Sidney Rice starts all 16 games and quickly becomes the favorite target of rookie QB Russell Wilson, who is so good, Matt Flynn never even gets a chance. Worst-case Marshawn Lynch comes back down to earth, doesn’t come close to 1,000 yards rushing, both Wilson and Flynn struggle mightily, and Rice misses another eight or nine games with injuries. Prediction: 8-8
  3. Arizona Cardinals: Best-case – Whoever is playing QB (Skelton for now) stops overthrowing Larry Fitzgerald by 10 yards and Fitz has a monster season. Ryan Williams emerges at RB and Patrick Peterson leads the league in INTs and punt return TDs. Worst-case – Skelton and Kolb are so atrocious at QB that Fitzgerald demands a trade. Meanwhile, the running game remains poor and Michael Floyd is bad on and off the field. Prediction: 4-12
  4. St. Louis Rams: Best-case – Coach Jeff Fisher rejuvenates Sam Bradford, who recovers from an awful 2011 and the Rams rookies shine, making up for what seemed like a completely botched draft. Worst-case – The Rams finish with three or less wins for the fifth time in six years. Prediction: 3-13

NFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints: Best-case – The Saints don’t miss Sean Payton or anyone else lost from the bounty scandal. Drew Brees is like a player-coach on offense, they continue to roll over opponents as if nothing happened this offseason. Worst-case – The loss of Payton is catastrophic and the team looks lost all season long. Prediction: 12-4
  2. Atlanta Falcons: Best-case – Matt Ryan finally has his breakout season, topping 4,500 yards and 35TD. Contrary to popular belief, Michael Turner does not break down this season. Roddy White and Julio Jones are both Pro Bowlers. Worst-case – Ryan struggles to win the big game and goes to 2-8 in his career versus New Orleans. Turner goes down early and the running game never recovers. Prediction: 9-7
  3. Carolina Panthers: Best-case – As impossible as it may seem, Cam Newton is better than last season. The backfield of Williams, Stewart, and Tolbert abuses opposing defenses and rookie LB Luke Kuechly is an instant star. Worst-case – Cam comes nowhere close to his rookie numbers, Steve Smith breaks down and the defense is bad again. Prediction: 8-8
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Best-case – The Bucs realize they have found their RB and S of the future, as Doug Martin and Mark Barron are great in their first years. Worst-case – Freeman is bad again and Vincent Jackson’s attitude gets in the way. Prediction: 3-13

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles: Best-case – The “Dream Team” finally puts it together, with expectations not so lofty. Michael Vick plays all 16 games for the first time since 2006 with Atlanta. Lesean McCoy becomes the first RB to win the MVP since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006. Worst-case – We all know the Eagles season hinges on the health of Vick. Once again, Vick cannot stay healthy and the Eagles fail to meet expectations. Prediction: 10-6
  2. New York Giants: Best-case – Eli Manning continues to cut down on the turnovers, Nicks and Cruz are dominant, and Jason Pierre-Paul breaks the NFL sack record in just his third year. Worst-case – The schedule, which includes non-divisional opponents of San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Green Bay, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Baltimore proves too brutal for the Giants to reach the playoffs. Prediction: 9-7
  3. Dallas Cowboys: Best-case – With his new guidelines, Dez Bryant stays out of trouble and realizes his true potential, posting career numbers of 80+rec. 1,200+ yards, and 12TD. Everyone else (mainly Miles Austin, Jason Witten, and DeMarco Murray) stays healthy.  Worst-case – The defense is once again very average and Romo is left slinging the ball to the likes of Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, and John Phillips, as one weapon after another goes down due to injury. Prediction: 9-7
  4. Washington Redskins: Best-case – RG3 enjoys any such year remotely close to Cam Newton’s rookie year. As the go-to-guy, Pierre Garcon shows he is a real talent and Coach Shanahan’s RB-by-committee features no star, but is extremely effective. Worst-case – RG3 cannot adjust to the speed of the NFL game and Shanahan is forced to go back to Rex Grossman as his QB. Prediction: 3-13

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers: Best-case – The Packers ride a 16-0 record, which was an arm’s length away last season, into the playoffs, where they don’t slow down. Green Bay wins their second Super Bowl in three years and becomes the first undefeated team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, in doing so. Worst-case – Aaron Rodgers gets injured. Prediction: 13-3
  2. Chicago Bears: Best-case – With the additions of Brandon Marshall and Michael Bush, a significantly upgraded offense can score with anybody. Cutler helps Marshall become the Bears first Pro Bowl WR since Marty Booker in 2002 and only second since 1970. Worst-case – The defense, which was middle of the pack last season, regresses to the point where the Bears are now losing 34-31 games instead of 17-13 games. Prediction: 11-5
  3. Detroit Lions: Best-case – Matthew Stafford repeats his 2011 performance and Detroit, who rushed for just 1,523 yards last season (Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 1,606 by himself) finds any resemblance of a sustainable running game to help keep defenses honest. Worst-case – Stafford and Calvin Johnson battle injuries all year. Prediction: 10-6
  4. Minnesota Vikings: Best-case – Adrian Peterson does not reinjure his knee and Christian Ponder is able to complete at least 75% of pass plays by still standing upright. Worst-case – AP suffers another traumatic knee injury. Prediction: 4-12

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Jason Pierre-Paul – New York Giants

Offensive Rookie of the Year: QB Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins

Defensive Rookie of the Year: S Mark Barron – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Breakout Candidates: RB DeMarco Murray – Dallas Cowboys

Breakout Candidates: WR Pierre Garcon – Washington Redskins

Playoff Predictions

NFC Wild Card: San Francisco over Detroit

NFC Wild Card: Chicago over Philadelphia

AFC Wild Card: Houston over Cincinnati

AFC Wild Card: Kansas City over Buffalo

NFC Divisional Playoff: San Francisco over New Orleans

NFC Divisional Playoff: Chicago over Green Bay

AFC Divisional Playoff: New England over Kansas City

AFC Divisional Playoff: Houston over Baltimore

NFC Championship: San Francisco over Chicago

AFC Championship: Houston over New England

Super Bowl XLVII: Houston over San Francisco