Packers XLV

Fearless Forecast For 2012 Season

Posted September 4th, 2012 @ 09:09pm

With the Packers opener just days away, it's time to weigh in on who will reach the post-season and who will win the Lombardi Trophy at the Superdome in early February.

Consistently over the past decade or so, like clockwork, four or five playoff teams will fall off and be replaced by new blood. I have four new teams reaching the post-season in 2012. Let's start with the AFC:

North: I don't see three playoff teams like a year ago. My guess is Cincinnati takes a step back, as Andy Dalton fails to take the next step. A much more difficult schedule and the lack of the surprise factor puts them at 8 or 9 wins. I think Baltimore has one more good run in them. Expect a more up-tempo offense with Joe Flacco getting real comfortable with second year WR Torrey Smith. The defense will miss Terrell Suggs big time and will need to rely a bit more heavily on the offense. Pittsburgh makes the playoffs as a wildcard again, but they need to straighten out their backfield situation.

South: The Houston Texans are the class of the division and will win it easily. The defense is clearly elite and if Matt Schaub can stay healthy the offense should be the second most potent in the conference, behind the Patriots. The Titans could challenge if Jake Locker develops quickly. I think Chris Johnson has a bounce back year for them and they finish around 8-8. Indy and Jacksonville are a ways away and won't win 8 games between them again.

East: New England is still the elite team in this division and benefit from the easiest schedule in the league this year. Tom Brady has an embarrassment of weapons in the passing game and the defense has injected a bunch of youth and will see if they can slow teams down a bit. I like Buffalo to grab the final wildcard spot, on the strength of a strong defensive line and playmakers in the running and passing game. The Jets feel like a disaster waiting to happen and the Dolphins will be one of the worst teams in the league.

West: This division was tightly bunched last year, with the Tebow factor giving the Broncos the edge. I expect much of the same this season, but I see the Chiefs coming out on top. I really like their defense and feel like Matt Cassell will have a strong year--along with their potent two-headed backfield of Charles and Willis. Denver falls short of the playoffs with 9 or 10 wins. The Chargers and Raiders feel like .500 teams to me.

Now on to the NFC:

North: The Packers are the overwhelming favorites to win the North and represent the conference in the Super Bowl this season. The offense should be as potent as last year; it all comes down to the improvement by the defense. The loss of Bishop hurts and puts pressure on the inside linebackers to deliver. I see an improved pass rush and a ball-hawking secondary putting this unit closer to what it looked like in 2010. The Bears have done enough to improve that they figure to be the Pack's top competition. Adding offensive weapons like Brandon Marshall, Michael Bush and Alshon Jeffery will make them more potent. The defense is aging and faces the prospects of playing with a quickly declining Brian Urlacher. I put the Bears on 10-11 wins, the Pack 12-13. Both teams reach the playoffs. Not so for the Lions, who finish 10-6, but on the outside looking in. They didn't do enough to improve the back seven of their defense and they rely too much on Matthew Stafford who has already gotten dinged up a bit in the preseason. As for the Purple, 5-11 sounds about right (and maybe a bit charitable).

South: I've had a tough time deciding what I expect from the Saints. The bounty episode has them playing without their head coach and with an "us against the world" mantra. I'll never bet against Drew Brees: he has a multitude of weapons at receiver, tight end and in the backfield and I think the defense will be better. I put them at 10-6 and a wildcard team. The Falcons are poised to reclaim the division. Julio Jones will be a breakout star and joins Roddy White asa great 1-2 punch. The defense is much better too. The Falcons finish 11-5. Both the Panthers and Bucs are on their way up, making this division very intriguing. They're both a little short of contending, but will be tough outs at home.

East: I'm going with the Eagles, though Michael Vick's health will determine if they can unseat the Giants. They finished strong and appear to be on a mission to put the "Dream Team" nonsense behind them. The Giants have a tough schedule and will fail to defend their title by missing the playoffs by a game. The Cowboys and Redskins will both hover around the 8-8 mark.

West: The 49ers should reign again, but I don't expect them to wrap up the division by Thanksgiving like they did last year. The Seahawks look like they're stronger, particularly on defense, where Pete Carroll shines. If Russell Wilson plays like he did in the preseason they could challenge the Niners. The Rams will be improved, but won't win more  than 5 or 6. Same hold true for the Cardinals, whose QB situation is ugly.

For the championship games, I've got the Texans over the Patriots and the Pack over San Francisco. Packers win the Super Bowl over Houston, 34-30. Now, let's enjoy the ride and see how funny this blog post looks in about four months.

Reminder: "Packer Preview" returns for a 17th season this Sunday morning at 8am CDT on KFAN and kfan.com. It will be available on iTunes shortly after 9am. Can't wait to get things started.

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Comments (5):

Dave, I wonder if you have ever looked at each game and decided wins and losses over the whole league. It seams like you've got a lot of teams above 500. I'm having a harder time being as optimistic. Maybe its because I haven't gotten to watch much preseason, maybe not. Maybe I just remember what happened to the Vikings the year after they went 15 and 1. Maybe I'm just afraid they expect to win. I am seeing this team at closer 10 wins, and hoping I'm wrong. I still think they will make the playoffs and may even be a better team. I'm just not sure they are mentally prepared to battle for these early victories. If they are (I hope so), then I give a lot of credit to MM for not letting them forget that winning is hard.

on September 4th, 2012 at 10:08pm

The '99 Vikings were sort of a patchwork, basically a result of the Vikings way of doing things, with Denny the sherrif running "the system", as I recall him calling it, and Jeff George coming in to save the day. I shouldn't have to, but I'll say it...we're talkin' apples and oranges here. The Pack is far better suited to make a run this year, next year, and perhaps the year after. As always, the expectation is to make the playoffs, with the goal being the Lombardi - no one should confuse the two. Yes, it is our collective passion, but it also needs to remain in the proper perspective. I don't think anyone figures the Pack improving on 15-1, that's just not realistic. But I see an improved defense (how can it not be?), an offense as potent as any before it, and these early games agains the 49ers, Bears and Saints should tell everyone where the Pack stands among the SB favorites. I'm feelin' good about this season...we all should. I'm old enough to remember watching the Ice Bowl on TV with my dad, (and I went with him to the Rams playoff game the week before at County Stadium), and having to endure the mostly wretched 70's and 80's teams, so I've seen the good and bad. These are definately the good times, friends - enjoy them and don't overthink, overanalyze or agonize about the little things. Enjoy the season as it unfolds. GO PACK!

on September 4th, 2012 at 10:55pm

Bill and Paul.....like you I remember the old days of Don Horn and David Whithurst et al at QB and some terrible years. 15-1 is going to be impossible to duplicate or improve on. I am not even sure the defense is improved with the Dline....Bishop out....and please help us Jared Bush at CB....Devon House please get well. The offensive line is one injury away from a disaster. That being said.....the offense could be even better than last year barring key injuries and Finley, Cobb, and Benson adding more to last years impact players. I see us going 11-5 and getting better momentum coming playoff time with the young players coming on at the right time. Remember old timers...."This ain't our papa's Packers team" GO PACK GO !!

on September 5th, 2012 at 06:47pm

Davey, I think you are close with 12-13 wins but I'm putting them at 14 just because they've improved the D. Yes, I know Bishop is out which stings but Smith will fill in and take over next year permanently as Hawk's replacement. The O has virtually the exact same players, although Newhouse's play and injuries concern me enough that I think Bulaga should be moved to the left tackle position permanently. That is unless Sherrod can make an impressive appearance yet this year. Bill, I also got see the Ice Bowl with my father and got my first Packer Pennant in 1960, wish I still had it. I've also endured the good, bad and the ugly, oh, so ugly but that's why Packer Fans are the best, because we have unshakable fortitude. Win or lose, I will enjoy the season for the 56th year. Davey, Have you announced who will make the predictions on the games, I'm hoping it's Jackson.

on September 5th, 2012 at 09:00am

Here's something I find interesting....especially for a favorite Super Bowl team by many. Of the Pack's 53 man roster.....27 are offensive players and 26 are defensive players. ....about right for most teams. But...of the 26 defensive players....8 are rookies...a pretty high number....that's a third of your active defensive roster. Yes...things can change as the season evolves but interesting for now. Shows us TT's and MM's love of youth and the draft. These 8 are all Packer draft choices or free agent signs. Also shows an emphasis on changing personnell from last years defensive pitfalls. Here's a snapshot of the 8: Nick Perry...number 1 draft choice will start at left outside linebacker. Jerrell Worthy....number 2 and Mike Daniels ....number4 will play in the nickel defense a lot in the defensive line. Casey Hayward....2nd round and Jerron McMillan ....4th roundwill play some in the defensive backfield and one or both could emerge as eventual starters. Dezman Moses....a free agent linebacker has impressed and will see spot duty. Terrell Manning...round 5 linebacker is coming on strong after illness slowed him down in preseason. Sean Richardson a free agent defensive back is starting on special teams where the Pack always needs improvement. Asking a lot for these guys to contribute on an upper echelon team with its Super Bowl goals. Will be interesting to watch..they need defensive improvement. GO PACK GO !!

on September 6th, 2012 at 09:58pm

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