The Ultimate NFL Season Preview: Storylines, Predictions, Awards, Super Bowl Winner

Football season is officially here.  The New York Giants took on the Dallas Cowboys Wednesday night and the entire country breathed a sigh of relief.  The preseason is over and it's time to get back to America's game.  The Cowboys chalked up the first win in 2012 but there are a full slate of games on Sunday and Monday to be even more excited about.  There are storylines abound heading into the season.  Replacement officials, Peyton Manning's neck, Bounty-gate in New Orleans, Cam Newton's sophomore season, Brian Urlacher's knee, the Jets' quarterback ineptitude, five rookie QB's starting in Week 1, and more.  With that said let's start with the biggest storyline for each team heading into the opening weekend.

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO BEARS

Will Brian Urlacher's knee hold up for the entire season?

Everyone in Illinois will be watching Bears/Colts on Sunday, more specifically #54 of the Bears' defense.  Urlacher has missed all of preseason and the majority of training camp due to continued discomfort with an MCL injury he suffered back in January.  Both he and the Bears say he will play Sunday, whether it is the Brian Urlacher that Bears fans have known and loved for the past 11 seasons will remain to be seen.  Sunday will dictate how the remainder of the season plays out for Urlacher.  If he labors, it could be a long and disappointing season for both him and Bears fans; if he's back to his old ways then the Bears may have a chance to do the Super Bowl Shuffle.  Or at least a playoff Dougie.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Can the Packers defense actually stop somebody?

The Packers' defense ranked dead last in the entire league last season.  The fact that the Packers went 15-1 in spite of that shows just how good Aaron Rodgers and the offense were.  The offense is expected to be just as explosive this season but after a first round elimination in the playoffs last season the Packers knew which side of the ball they needed to address.  The Packers hope first round pick Nick Perry can bolster their pass rush and be an anchor on the defensive line.  The Packers are all ready contenders, but with a good defense they can be champs.

DETROIT LIONS

Will Matthew Stafford be able to match his 2011 dominance?

Before last season Matthew Stafford 13 games in two seasons.  People were worried he may be a bust if he was hit with another injury plagued season in 2011.  Luckily for Lions fans, Stafford was healthy all season and showed why he was worth the Lions' first round pick in 2009.  Stafford threw for 5,038 yards, 41 TD's and completed 63% of his passes and with the help of Calvin Johnson, created a powerhouse connection that set up big plays game after game.  Stafford needs to prove 2011 was no fluke and show skeptics that he is an elite quarterback.  Can he match or surpass his 2011 statistics?  Probably not, but anywhere close to what he did last season will have the Lions right back in the playoff hunt.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Can Adrian Peterson's be "All Day" again?

Since A.P. tore his left ACL last season he has had a tumultuous offseason.  Adding insult to injury he was arrested for public intoxication and resisting arrest.  Peterson denied he resisted arrest but it was definitely a situation that Peterson had kept himself out of in the past.  His goal to play in Week 1 looks to be doubtful as reports coming out of Minnesota are that he will see limited, if any action.  The Vikings need Peterson, who is their workhorse and their biggest (and only) threat on offense.  With Christian Ponder still finding his way at quarterback and the seat under Coach Leslie Frazier getting close to a boiling temperature it is an absolute necessity that A.P. comes back soon and in his old form.  If he isn't then not only are the Vikings without their best player playing at his highest level, but a team with not very high expectations to begin with, might just fall even farther than originally predicted.

NFC EAST

NEW YORK GIANTS

Can the champs repeat?

The Giants surprised everybody when they were hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy at the end of the season.  A team who had been about as inconsistent as a team can be throughout the regular season was able to turn it on at the right time and marched their way to victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.  There are no surprises this year.  The Giants are in every other NFL team's crosshairs and their defense of the championship gets kicked off Wednesday night against their bitter rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.  The Giants are hoping their ferocious defense can get to opposing quarterbacks and hope wide receiver Victor Cruz wasn't a one season wonder and continues to be a deep threat for Eli Manning.  Despite the loss to the Cowboys on Wednesday the Giants have all the makings of a contender, but this time everyone else knows it.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Can Michael Vick finally stay healthy for an entire season?

It's happened only once in his career and a lot has changed since 2006.  He has had resurgence since the Eagles took a chance on him in 2009 when no one else would and while the Eagles have been in the playoff hunt the past few seasons, they haven't made much noise.  As explosive a player as he is, Vick's mobility has cost him and the Eagles.  He has missed games each of the last three seasons and has all ready been injured in two preseason games.  The Eagles have a great defense and offensive weapons who can flat out fly, but the key ingredient is that #7 stays healthy all season and gives the Eagles a shot at taking over the NFC East.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Is this year ACTUALLY the Cowboys' year?

This year is the Cowboys' year! How many years in a row have we heard this?  And how many years in a row has it actually been the Cowboys' year?  The correct answer is zero.  The most annually over hyped team in the league hasn't exactly lit it up in the postseason.  The 'Boys haven't made the playoffs since 2010 and with Tony Romo under center they are 1-3 in the postseason and 1-7 since 1997.  Owner Jerry Jones continues to preach (and rap) about how great his team is, but the eye test hasn't met the hype.  The 'Boys got the season off to a big win on Wednesday over their NFC East rivals and have reason to puff out their chests.  With a defense that can stop even the best offenses and an offense that has some real weapons in Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray it is put up or shut up time for "America's team"(who voted for that by the way) and should they fail to make the playoffs this season then "how 'bout them Cowboys?" will turn into "who cares 'bout them Cowboys?"

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Is RGIII the next Cam Newton?

When the Redskins gave up the farm to draft Robert Griffin III you knew they bought in to the hype that the Heisman trophy winner had brought in his time at Baylor.  He is getting high praise from teammates, coaches and scouts and being compared to everyone from Cam Newton to a hybrid of Michael Vick and Tom Brady.  All that is fine and good but the time for talk is over and the Redskins have quite the task ahead of them.  Not only have they put their future in the hands of RGIII but they gave up a lot of their future to get him in the draft.  They have a tall order in their division alone and may be stuck in the basement for a season or two, or they could flourish under the new weapons they brought in during the offseason.  One thing is for sure, it all runs through RGIII.

NFC SOUTH

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Will "Bounty-gate" destroy the Saints?

The Saints had a pretty quiet offseason.  And if you believe that, then you must have lived under a rock the past eight months.  No team has ever seen an offseason like the one the Saints had.  The revelation that members of the Saints' organization put bounties on injuring opposing players made national headlines.  Head coach Sean Payton was suspended from the organization for an entire year, as was defensive leader Jonathan Vilma.  Quarterback Drew Brees set an NFL record for passing yards then had an ugly dispute over his contract with the organization and once he got a new record contract deal, he began his crusade against Commissioner Roger Goodell.  No team has ever had to deal with so many off field distractions and with so many to deal with it could derail the team.  There is no doubt that the Saints are one of the most stacked teams in the league, but with such a unique situation in front of them they need to keep their focus on the field and put up blinders for the stuff off of it.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Do the Falcons have the best 1-2 punch in the league?

Roddy White has great hands, agility, and the ability to get even the most difficult balls that are thrown his way.  Julio Jones is a speed demon who can burn past defenders and get open in a moment’s notice.  Individually, they are great.  When combined, they are a defense's worst match-up nightmare.  They are Matt Ryan's safety net.  If one isn't open, the other should be and if neither is then he has Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez to turn to.  White and Jones is the best wide receiver tandem on paper and on the field they should both catch plenty of passes and crank up yardage.  For Atlanta to get over the hump and be legit contenders they need both of these guys to play as advertised.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Cam Newton vs. the sophomore slump

All rookie quarterbacks will from now on be compared to Cam Newton and the beastly rookie season he put up in Carolina.  Throwing for over 4,000 yards, 21 passing TD's, 14 rushing TD's and a 60% completion rate made him the obvious choice for offensive ROY.  Needless to say, he set the bar high for future rookies and himself.  It will be nearly impossible to match his rookie season stats, but as long as he doesn't regress in a major way then he will easily be a player to watch when MVP talks start heating up.  The Panthers are a good, young team and Newton is the guy who will take them to the next level at some point.  What better time to start then in 2012?

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 

Sleepers or comatose?

The Bucs are a hard team to get a read on.  They are young and have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.  They brought in Vincent Jackson to give quarterback Josh Freeman a big play wide receiver to throw the ball to and they have a running back tandem of rookie Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount that should be formidable.  Their defense is anchored by the ageless Ronde Barber and added youth with safety Mark Barron and linebacker Lavonte David.  2011 was a major disappointment for Tampa, who went 4-12 after a surprise 10-6 2010 season.  The Bucs have a stacked division to fight their way through, but if Josh Freeman can take the next step and the defense can make a big impact and they end up with fortune on their side then they can be one of the surprise teams in 2012.

NF C WEST

SAN FRANCISCO 49erS

Recycle and repeat

The Niners were back in a big way in 2011.  The Niners surprised everyone in the league and marched to a 13-3 record, the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs and one win away from going to the Super Bowl.  Head coach Jim Harbaugh brought toughness and tenacity to the squad and helped shape the top defense in the NFC.  While the offense labored at times, they scored just enough to win games thanks to Alex Smith and his progression at the quarterback position.  With the offseason overhaul on offense with Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs the 49ers are giving Alex Smith all the weapons to succeed.  In a weak division it is hard to imagine that the 49ers won't win the West with ease, but to win it all they need everything to gel on offense in order to match high powered groups like the Packers and Saints.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Russell Wilson or Matt Flynn

The Seahawks had a disappointing 7-9 record in 2011.  In 2012 they addressed their biggest hole, quarterback, in a big way.  First they signed Matt Flynn, the backup to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, to a 3 year/$26 million dollar contract and in the draft they selected Russell Wilson in the third round.  Most people thought that Flynn would get the nod at starting QB while Wilson would study the playbook and play the "quarterback of the future" role.  Apparently, the future is now as Wilson was tabbed the opening day starter over Flynn.  Considered an odd choice by some given that Flynn just signed a big contract in the offseason, but the Seahawks are convinced Wilson is the man.  He impressed in the preseason, beat out the veteran quarterbacks in training camp and now he's taking the reins under center.  Should Wilson struggle he always has a safety net in Marshawn Lynch and if he really struggles then expect Flynn to come in and try to stabilize the position.  Having two quality quarterbacks on the roster is never a bad thing, but if a carousel begins it could prove disastrous.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Are the Cardinals in a "no win" situation at QB?

Your choices are John Skelton or Kevin Kolb....no, seriously.  In what might be the worst QB battle in the NFL (all though the Jets are making a strong push) the Cardinals seem to be at a stalemate.  Kolb was originally brought in to be the starter after a stellar time in Philadelphia; unfortunately he hasn't had a smooth transition and at times has looked lost and confused on the field.  Skelton possesses about the same skill set as Kolb but is younger and taller. Skelton has taken the starting QB job to start the season as Kolb battled through injuries and a terrible preseason overall.  With Larry Fitzgerald and Beanie Wells on the offense it may not be all bad for Arizona, but the most important position on the field is their weakest and could end up costing them more games than it wins them.

ST. LOUIS RAMS

Make or break for Bradford

The Rams are putting all of their eggs in the hands of Sam Bradford.  Bradford is entering his third season as the Rams quarterback and needs to show that he is their long term answer at quarterback.  The first overall pick in the 2010 draft has been somewhat of a disappointment in his first two seasons.  Not all is on Bradford as injury and lack of help on offense have played a huge role.  Steven Jackson continues to be the work horse of the offense while just about everyone else would be fighting for third string on most other teams.  The Rams went crazy in the draft and have tons of new blood on both sides of the ball.  With youth comes inexperience and not much can be expected of the Rams. Bradford has to work with what he's got and though it's not much he has to make the most of it and show he is the man in St. Louis and develop a rapport with the young players around him.  If he fails then the Rams may be spending their almost assured top 5 pick on a player who can.

AFC NORTH

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Can the new offense flourish under Todd Haley?

Back in February when Haley was introduced as the new offensive coordinator it came with controversy as to whether head Coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agreed with the new hire.  It was heavily rumored that both men did not agree with owner Art Rooney's decision to dump Bruce Arians, who Haley replaced.  Who could really blame them?  The offense was in the top half of the league and seemed to be running just how Tomlin and Big Ben wanted it.  The microscope will be focused on Haley and his offensive play-calling and how well the team adjusts to the new system.  Wide receiver Mike Wallace is back with the team and should continue to be the top option for Big Ben in the passing game and while the team awaits the return of Rashard Mendenhall they will go with the very durable Issac Redman at running back.  The defense looks to rank atop the league as usual so the focus will be on the offense and any hiccups will be greatly enhanced due to the controversy of Haley's hiring.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Will the real Joe Flacco please stand up?

The Ravens defense is as solid as ever and this season it is finally time for the offense to step up and make life easier for their teammates on the opposite side of the ball.  Joe Flacco needs to step up and be the consistent quarterback the team needs him to be.  The Ravens ranked in the bottom half of the league in passing last season and with weapons like Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith the Ravens should have been better than that.  It all falls on Flacco this season as the running game should be as solid as always with Rice carrying the load and the Ravens are hoping to give Flacco plenty of time to find an open receiver thanks to a draft that saw them take a number of offensive lineman.  If Flacco can be a solid contributor then the Ravens have the makings of contenders.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Can the Bengals win the AFC North?

The AFC North has lately been a two horse race between the Steelers and Ravens but the Bengals had a respectable 9-7 record and with the emergence of both quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green things are starting to look up for the Bengals.  They got help on both sides of the ball in the draft and look to be involved in the division race.  In order to do that though the Bengals have to be better in division match-ups.  Last season they were on 2-4 with all four losses against the Steelers and Ravens.  That has to change in order for the Bengals to be true contenders.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Are the Browns on the right track?

After a 2012 draft in which they drafted some much needed help on offense the Browns look like they finally might be on the right path.  Drafting Trent Richardson and moving up to draft Brandon Weeden were smart moves considering the Browns have been awful on offense the past few seasons.  Richardson provides a running game that the Browns have sorely missed since Peyton Hillis' flash in the pan 2010 season.  Weeden will start over Colt McCoy and the 29 year old rookie will be thrown into one of the toughest divisions in football.  The 2012 draft was the stamp of President Mike Holmgren and if the Browns are going to turn it around any time soon it has to be because of Richardson and Weeden that they start showing progress.

AFC EAST

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Super Bowl or bust?

The New England Patriots have been the cream of the crop in the AFC for the better part of a decade thanks to Coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.  Their loss in Super Bowl XLVI last season marred what was a solid 2011 outing.  A breakout season by both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez showed the NFL that tight ends can be featured receivers instead of blockers.  The defense looks improved thanks to drafting Chandler Jones.  The Patriots should win easily in a weak AFC East division, but they have their eyes set on the big prize and they look like favorites to play in New Orleans come February.

NEW YORK JETS

The Sanchez/Tebow debacle

The Jets are being featured all over ESPN as the season gets ready to start but it’s not because they are contenders.  Tebow-mania is still running rampant in Bristol and if you've turned on Sportscenter you would think Tebow was not only the starting QB for the Jets but the second coming of Joe Namath.  He isn't either of those things and it looks like the Jets will be making more headlines for the personalities on the team instead of the play on the field.  Mark Sanchez isn't exactly locked in at the starting position, which means that at any sign of struggle there will be rumblings for Tebow to step in.  Regardless of who is under center the offense looks to be a mess.  Expect plenty of yapping from Rex Ryan but don't expect much bite from these Jets.

BUFFALO BILLS

Are the Bills for real?

If ever there were a time for Buffalo to be relevant it is now.  In an off-season in which they signed the biggest name free agent on defense, Mario Williams.  They also added Mark Anderson to line up on the opposite side of Williams to bolster an already scary defense.  On the offensive side Ryan Fitzpatrick has his go to receiver in Stevie Johnson and the tandem of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the running game.  With both the Jets and Dolphins looking like non-threats this season it will be a two team race between the Patriots and Bills.  A tall order for the Bills, but a wild card berth is not out of the question if this team meshes as well as it can.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Are the Dolphins throwing in the towel?

The Dolphins have done more subtracting than adding this season.  First, they unloaded their Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall to Chicago for hardly anything and more recently they cut veteran wideout Chad Johnson and they have traded away starting cornerback Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts.  The country has gotten a good look at the Dolphins thanks to Hard Knocks and while they seem like an easy to like bunch they don't look like a threat to anyone.  It's a youth movement in Miami and that is clear with Ryan Tannehill being named the opening day starter.  Reggie Bush should continue to be their big play threat on offense while on defense they should have a steady pass rush thanks to Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake.  It’s hard to tell how well the young team will work together, but it most likely won't help them pass by the Patriots or Bills.

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON TEXANS

Injury free is the way to be

Despite a 10-6 record in 2011 the Texans did not live up to their potential.  Injuries ravaged the team on both sides of the ball with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Mario Williams, and Arian Foster being key players who suffered injuries over the season.  Matt Leinart and T.J. Yates split time under center when Schaub went down.  For the franchise to finally reach the postseason it was a heartbreaking set of circumstances considering how well the defense had played all season.  In 2012 everyone is healthy and despite the loss of Mario Williams in free agency the Texans look to make a run at the postseason for a second consecutive season.  First round draft pick Whitney Mercilus expects to take over for Williams and the high powered offense shouldn't lose a step.  The AFC South is just about the easiest division in the league with the other three teams in transition so expect the Texans to claim the AFC South with relative ease and prepare for a deep run in the playoffs.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

The 2011 season seemed lost from the very beginning with Peyton Manning being out with a season ending neck injury before the first game of the season.  Curtis Painter filled in but struggled mightily.  A 2-14 campaign was a huge change in what Colts fans had seen during the Peyton era.  With the worst record in football the Colts seem to have gone from one great quarterback to the next potential great quarterback in Andrew Luck.  When Manning came out in the draft he was considered the most NFL ready player in the league, in 2012 Luck received the same praise.  A young team in rebuilding mode will take some time to gel but with veterans like Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis to help the young guys along it should be a fun team to watch.

TENNESSEE TITANS

Jake Locker's time to shine

The Titans missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season in 2011, this time due to a tie with the Cincinnati Bengals for the same record, but a regular season loss to the Bengals gave the final playoff spot to Cincy.  This season there has been a quarterback swap with Jake Locker taking over the starting position and Matt Hasselbeck as his backup.  The Titans still have Chris Johnson, who hopes to get back to 2010 form when he cracked 1,300 yards rushing.  The wide receiving core looks solid as well with Kenny  Britt, Nate Washington and rookie Kendall Wright.  The Titans are the biggest threat to the Houston Texans in the battle for the AFC South crown and if Locker can progress like the organization thinks he can then the Titans could be playing spoiler by season's end.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Can the Jaguars and MJD co-exist?

In an off-season filled with hurt feelings and hold outs it has not been a very smooth lead in to the 2012 season for Jacksonville.  Their star running back held out for a new contract, which he didn't get.  Their first round draft pick, wide receiver Justin Blackmon, was arrested for a DUI.  Their new owner is already getting grief from the fans for seeming to be disillusioned and not willing to negotiate with Maurice Jones-Drew.  They weren't rewarded to be on HBO's Hard Knocks despite the fact that they seemed like the only team who were willing to do it.  They drafted a punter in the third round of this year's draft.  Oh, and Blaine Gabbert is still their starting quarterback.  Yeah, things don't look very good in Jacksonville.  It will be interesting to see if MJD plays with a chip on his shoulder and keeps his promise to stay quiet and not become a distraction to the team during the season due to his contract dispute.  Besides that, there is not much to be excited about in Jacksonville.

AFC WEST

DENVER BRONCOS

Which Peyton Manning will we see?

Despite winning the AFC West last season, it could not have been uglier for the Broncos.  The defense was solid but the offense was woeful yet somehow managed to get just enough out of it to get eight wins.  Tim Tebow set quarterback play back about 25 years with each snap he took under center.  He made headlines more for his likable personality and religious beliefs instead of his play on the field.  The Broncos seemed to win in spite of their quarterback's poor play despite the rise of "Tebow-mania" throughout the country.  Tebow was traded to the Jets in the off-season and the Broncos have a quarterback in Peyton Manning with as storied a career as John Elway.  The question is which Peyton are the Broncos getting?  Are they getting the Peyton Manning of old who led the Colts to a Super Bowl win and annual visits to the postseason or are they getting a Peyton Manning who may be a shadow of himself due to multiple neck surgeries and missing the entire 2011 season?  This is one of the most, if not the most interesting story heading into the NFL season.  It is the health of Manning which will determine the fate of the 2012 Broncos.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Will the Chargers finally live up to their potential?

The Chargers are the AFC version of the Cowboys.  Every season there is hype that the upcoming season is the season the Chargers figure it out and make it to the Super Bowl.  In what has been a weak division for the better part of a decade it was easy for the Chargers to put on cruise control for the majority of the season and with the division regularly.  The problem would always arise in the postseason when the Chargers would stumble and see early exits.  This year is cloudy for the Chargers.  The division is up for grabs with the Chargers now having Peyton Manning and a dominant Broncos' defense as well as a possible sleeper in Kansas City, with the Chiefs getting some national hype.  The window hasn't closed for the Chargers, but it definitely got a lot harder to stay open if the other teams in their division kick it up a notch.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Are the Chiefs the surprise team of 2012?

The Chiefs has a sneaky 7-9 record last season and almost won the AFC West, but a mid-season four game losing streak sealed their fate along with key injuries to big names on both sides of the ball.  This year the Chiefs get a returning Jamaal Charles back, who before suffering a season ending torn ACL in the second game of the season was coming off of a 1,400 yard rushing season.  On the defense the Chiefs get their returning safety, Eric Berry, who also tore his ACL.  The Chiefs are a lot of national experts' pick to make a run in 2012.  It's hard to argue with a potential explosive offense with Charles and Peyton Hillis as a running game tandem and Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston as deep threats in the passing game.  A Romeo Crennel coached defense can also stifle opposing offenses and create headaches for coordinators.  If the stars align then the Chiefs could steal some headlines from the Chargers and Broncos.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Can Darren McFadden remain healthy for a full season?

The Raiders went 8-8 last season, which is surprising considering: A) they are the Raiders and B) they were without a healthy Darren McFadden for the better part of last season.  Granted, the Raiders got a big time contribution from Michael Bush in McFadden's absence but Bush jetted for Chicago in the off-season and it’s up to Run DMC to live up to his moniker.  Since being drafted in 2008 McFadden has not played through an entire 16 game season, the closest being in 2010 when he played in 13 games.  The Raiders must have McFadden completely healthy for the full season or the questions will continue to linger as to whether McFadden is a starting running back in this league or a complement back.  The Raiders look to be in the lower half of the AFC West this season but a healthy McFadden along with a solid defense and a reliable Carson Palmer would definitely give the Raiders something to build on for 2013.

PROJECTED PLAYOFFS/SUPER BOWL WINNER

NFC

WILD CARD

(3)New Orleans Saints OVER (6) Atlanta Falcons

(5) Green Bay Packers OVER (4) New York Giants

DIVISIONAL ROUND

(5) Green Bay Packers OVER (1) San Francisco 49ers

(2) Chicago Bears OVER (3) New Orleans Saints

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP

(2) Chicago Bears OVER (5) Green Bay Packers

 

AFC

WILD CARD

(3) Baltimore Ravens OVER (6) Buffalo Bills

(5) Pittsburgh Steelers OVER (4) San Diego Chargers

DIVISIONAL ROUND

(1) Houston Texans OVER (5) Pittsburgh Steelers

(2) New England Patriots OVER (3) Baltimore Ravens

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP

(1) Houston Texans OVER (2) New England Patriots

SUPER BOWL XLVII

Chicago Bears OVER Houston Texans

Call me a homer, call me an eternal optimist, call me delusional, call me an idiot, call me maybe but for some reason I just have a feeling about our Bears being able to put it all together.  The big additions on offense will help the offense flourish and the defense will be dominant for one last year.  Urlacher gets his Super Bowl ring and gets to pull a Jerome Bettis and gets a chance to go out on top.  The last two times I have had a similar feeling about the Bears they made the Super Bowl in 2006 and the NFC Championship in 2010.

 

2012 AWARD WINNER PREDICTIONS

Coach of the Year: Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers

Harbaugh leads an already good 49ers team to elite status by the end of 2012.

Offensive ROTY: Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

In a season with everyone comparing Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III to each other I see Jeffery as the breakout rookie of 2012.  He has looked solid in preseason and with his size, strength and hands he will be a big contributor for the Bears and a great option for Jay Cutler,

Defensive ROTY:  Melvin Ingram, LB, San Diego Chargers

Look for him to be an explosive force for the Chargers defense and give them a new "Lights Out"

Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

This is probably the most obvious award for the most obvious player of all time.  Obviously.

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

Say what you want but this guy can torch defenses any day.  Must be a nice transition from one HOF QB to another.

Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers

Willis is a destructive force and the leader of the best defense in the NFL.  Nothing changes in 2012.

Most Valuable Player: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Think of taking the best player off of any team.  No Aaron Rodgers on Green Bay or Tom Brady on New England.  Both teams have survived without either player.  Now think of the Saints without Drew Brees.  No one can walk in and run that offense as efficiently and effectively as Drew Brees.  He is irreplaceable as a player and as a teammate.  He is the emotional leader of the Saints and even leads the team in a warm up chant before every game.  Take Drew Brees away from the Saints and that high powered offense is a shell of itself.

 

Well there you have it.  What do you think?  Who do you see as sleepers in the NFL and what are the top stories heading into this weekend's games?  Write your comments, opinions and thoughts in the comments section and be excited because the long wait is over and the NFL is back!

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    Marc Dykton

    I am the creator of "Ringside Chicago" and "Chicago Sports Addict". I have lived in the south suburbs all of my life. I am a die hard fan of the Bears, Cubs, Bulls, Blackhawks, WWE and FC Barcelona(that's right I like soccer). I attended the University of Indianapolis and graduated with a degree in Communication with a focus in Sports Information. Anything else you want to know? Feel free to ask I am an open book.

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