Kevin Fishbain's 2012 NFL predictions

Kevin Fishbain
Pro Football Weekly
Wednesday's 60-second rant: New year, same AFC East

AFC East 

1. New England — If the offense is just as good, if not better, and the defense is improved, it would be a stunner if the Pats don’t win the division.

2. Buffalo — Still have questions about Fitzpatrick and his receivers not named Stevie Johnson, but the Bills may have the best D-line in football in 2012 as well as a soft schedule.

3. N.Y. Jets — Revis and the “D” is good enough to put Gang Green in wild-card contention, as long as they don’t go overboard with Tebowmania.

4. Miami — If “Hard Knocks” is your only source of Dolphins news, you would think they had the worst WR group in NFL history.

AFC North

1. Baltimore — Tough opening schedule, but I like Ray Rice-Joe Flacco better than Isaac Redman-Ben Roethlisberger.

2. Pittsburgh — Getting Mike Wallace to report is one thing, but Steelers could use Mendenhall. Still should be a wild-card team.

3. Cincinnati — Forgive me, but I just don’t see a big Year Two jump from Andy Dalton.

4. Cleveland — As much as I love a good ginger-haired quarterback, there’s not enough around Brandon Weeden. Haslam should find a new division for the Browns.

AFC South

1. Houston — It still amazes me that this franchise hasn’t gotten a solid No. 2 receiver, but there's plenty of talent on the roster to repeat as division champs. 

2. Jacksonville — All this talk about MJD, but the Jaguars’ defense is very underrated. A Year Two jump from Gabbert led to this prediction.

3. Tennessee — Not enough star power on this team for my liking, and I expect rookie-type mistakes from Locker in his first season starting.

4. Indianapolis — Based on what I saw in the preseason, the Colts have the best QB in the division. But it’s all downhill from there.

AFC West

1. San Diego — Injuries are a concern, but I like how this team has flown under the radar and expect big things from Rivers, Gates and Mathews.

2. Denver — I think the Broncos really got a good one in Peyton Manning. Still, there are enough concerns on the other side of the ball to temper expectations.

3. Kansas City — Could certainly see this team being a dark horse, especially with a potentially lethal rushing attack.

4. Oakland — Darren McFadden cannot play corner and linebacker, he can only run the football — which keeps the Raiders in the basement.

NFC East

1. N.Y. Giants — The G-Men have a brutal schedule, but they have fewer question marks than the rest of their division foes.

2. Philadelphia — If Vick didn’t remind me how fragile he can be, I’d say the Eagles are conference favorites.

3. Dallas — The defense could be special after a full offseason with Rob Ryan, but too many injuries on offense to get too excited.

4. Washington — From "Shawshank Redemption": “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” RG3 finally gives ‘Skins fans hope.

NFC North

1. Chicago — Before Cutler and Forté went down, the Bears looked primed to beat the Pack. New parts on offense are enough for a surprise division title.

2. Green Bay — Would be one of the best wild-card teams in league history. A little concerned about the run game and who steps up in the front seven.

3. Detroit — Stafford and Megatron will put up points, but can the secondary stop anyone?

4. Minnesota — Is there a fifth-place option for the division? Kidding aside, a crucial year for Christian Ponder and Leslie Frazier.

NFC South

1. New Orleans — Count me as confident that Drew Brees helps galvanize this team to a big year following a horrible offseason.

2. Atlanta — Perennial second-place squad in these annual predictions until Matt Ryan shows me more, or if a defensive playmaker steps up.

3. Carolina — With Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly as building blocks, the Panthers have a bright future. Not there yet, though.

4. Tampa Bay — A vastly improved club, but which Josh Freeman shows up this season, and will the defense be able to stop teams?

NFC West

1. San Francisco — Pound-for-pound a top team at almost every position, except quarterback, but they make it work.

2. Seattle — Say what you will about Russell Wilson's height (or lack thereof), dude joined Wisconsin in late June and took the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. 

3. Arizona — Larry Fitzgerald says and does all the right things, but unfortunately for him, his team entered the final preseason game without a starting quarterback, and the options aren't great.

4. St. Louis — How forgotten has Sam Bradford been this offseason? Maybe he makes a leap in Year Three, but expect another season of struggles for the Rams.

Offensive MVP: Patriots QB Tom Brady

Defensive MVP: Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul

Super Bowl XLVII: Patriots over Saints


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