It’s that time again, the most wonderful time of the year. I say it every year and I’m going to say it again; football season starts at the perfect time of the year. If I pick a time for a 17-week regular season of this great game to start, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Fall is when school starts back up and our businesses get a whole lot busier, thus making things way more hectic and stressful. That is until this great game brings sweet relief. While watching the greatness that is the National Football League, at that moment, nothing else matters. It’s a temporary escape, a stress reliever a chance to enjoy life the way God originally intended.
I used to work maintenance for a church/school. There was one day where I had to clean up vomit and literal crap multiple times in a day. You could say I had an extreme case of the Mondays but when in the midst of that terrible time, I remembered, I had something to look forward to: Monday Night Football. Once again, the football provided light at the end of the tunnel.
Since it’s that time of the year, it’s time for our annual NFL division predictions. My cohost on the Hague Sports Podcast, Ben Dieter will break down the AFC while I will break down the NFC and we will go start in the west.
By Ben Dieter:
Let’s face it, the AFC West was not turning any heads last season as the division to watch. Tim Tebow led the offensively challenged Denver Broncos to a playoff berth, and even won a playoff game against the Pittsburg Steelers. That was totally unexpected. The Chargers, for what seems like the 20th season in a row, came up short of the expectations that everyone had for them, the Chiefs had a very disappointing season and the Raiders finished about where we all expected them too. So how will the AFC West pan out this season? My prediction? The same but different.
Denver Broncos (11-5): Some people argue the Broncos should not have been in the playoffs last season. I would agree with those people. Some people argue that the Broncos should not have won a playoff game last season, and I also agree with that. But the fact is they did, and they did it with Tim Tebow leading the offense.
Now, the Denver Broncos have Peyton Manning leading the offense. Now, he is not going to be the exact same Peyton Manning that we saw all those years in Indy, but 80% Peyton Manning is way better than 100% Tebow, talent wise anyway. Decker and Thomas have had a good camp and they love their new quarterback, and the running game is still good. This offensive will be way better than it was last season, and the West is not better. The Broncos should clean up in the AFC West, and they should be able to compete with the big boys in the AFC this season. It may be tough to outscore the Broncos this season.
As far as the defense goes, they were the ones who saved Tebow most of the time during that amazing run in the second half of the season in 2011, and they are going to be very good this season as well. This defense gets to the quarterback and forces turnovers, and with Peyton Manning running the offense, that will equal points. I see the Broncos finishing better than they did last season. I will go 11-5 for the Broncos.
San Diego Chargers (9-7): Let’s face it, the Chargers are an immensely talented team that can’t win. They have been that for many years, and will continue to be that way. The only difference between last season and this season? The Chargers have gotten older. Phillip Rivers will be better this season, and Antonio Gates is always pretty good. They lost Vincent Jackson, and their running game is nothing like it used to be when L.T. was there. But they will be better this season than they were last. This offensive has shown me year after year that they can close a season well, and last year was an exception to that rule.
Their offense should be much better. On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers hired a new defensive coordinator. It will be interesting to see if that will fix their defense. In my opinion, their defensive took a step back talent wise, and it will be about the same or worse than it was last season. That being said, I feel like they have a somewhat easy schedule, and I think they can overcome some of that. I look for the Chargers to finish 9-7 and be second in the AFC West.
Oakland Raiders (7-9): The Raiders lost their long time owner, Al Davis last season, and it was emotional for the team. This year starts the era of Mark Davis, no not the long time Dallas political talk radio host, but Al’s son. It is time for him to make it his team. So he went out and replaced an aging, not very talented backup quarterback in Jason Campbell by signing an aging, not very talented backup quarterback named Matt Leinart. But, he is not the starting quarterback. That job goes to aging, but very talented quarterback Carson Palmer, and guy who was good five years ago. Hmm, kind of reminds me of something Al Davis would do. And instead of throwing to Ochocinco and Houthsmenzada in their prime, Carson will have second year receiver Denarius Moore as well as Derrius Heyward –Bey and Jacoby Ford. Not exactly striking fear into the hearts of defenses everywhere. Not to mention they lost running back Michael Bush to free agency. McFadden is a plus for this offense, unless of course they cannot get the passing game going and defenses just sit on him.
On the defensive side of the ball the Raiders are still old. That being said, they do plan on playing some a zone defense this season, which is new for them. They, under the direction of Al Davis, have always been a man to man defense. That may help them at first, but I believe that it will also hurt them. They will not be used to it, and teams will probably be able beat it from time to time for big plays. Legal problems (Rolando McClain) and lack of premier talent will be trouble for this team’s defense. The Raiders, however, will beat the Chiefs twice, and because of that, 7-9 will be good enough for 3rd in the AFC West.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-9): The Chiefs lost corner back Brandon Carr to the Cowboys, running back Le’Ron McClain, defensive end Wallace Gilberry as well as a few others. Their offense was very challenged last season. They lost their quarter back Matt Cassel pretty early in the season. Cassel was less than impressive in the nine games he started, throwing 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Cassel needs to prove that he can break some of his bad habits this season, such as staring down his target and generally not making bad decisions in the pocket, and I do not believe that he will change much.
This offense was very bad last season, and I do not believe that will change for the 2012 season. They had a halfway decent defense in some areas last season, ranking 6th in the NFL in rushing defense, and ranking 5th in 3rd down defense. But Carr is a pretty good cornerback, and the loss of him will not help this defense. At, best, the Chiefs will break even on the season, and I mean at best. There is a big if on the Chiefs though. If Jamaal Charles can stay healthy (something he has not done as of yet in his career), the Chiefs have a chance to finish at 8-8 or even 9-7. They won’t though. My Prediction: 7-9. 4th place in the AFC West.
By Nathan Hague
In recent history, this division has been the weakest. As a purist football fan, it was good to see the 49ers do what they did last year so we didn’t have any 7-9 teams win the division to sneak into the playoffs. The big question surrounding this division as a whole is whether or not anyone can compete with the Niners. However, the question surrounding the other teams has to do with their quarterbacks and makes me think the Niners will strike gold once again in the division.
San Francisco 49ers (11-5): The biggest question surrounding this team is whether or not they can match or beat last year’s 13-3 record. All the offseason acquisitions were additions to the team with wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and running back Brandon Jacobs. The addition of Jacobs will likely also provide some looks for tight end Vernon Davis.
Jacobs will take pressure of the passing game and will be an addition to Frank Gore. Although Moss, 35, has been out of the game and might be rusty, his addition probably won’t hurt a team that had a third-down conversion rate of 29.4. Quarterback Alex Smith might be playing with somewhat of a chip on his shoulder after the team played pursued Peyton Manning in the offseason and with more weapons on his offense, he’ll have a good shot at beating last year’s 13-3.
Seattle Seahawks (8-8): The obvious question surrounding the Seahawks (other than their uniforms) is that of quarterback Matt Flynn. Will he be another Matt Cassel or Kevin Kolb?
Flynn, the Tyler, Texas native set a club record in Green Bay in Week 17 last year with his 480 yards and six touchdowns. The Seahawks are hoping he continues that but he doesn’t have a lot to work with as far as the receiving squad is concern. Flynn’s best target is likely Sidney Rice who’s been shaky to say the least.
To make matters worse, some are saying the job isn’t automatically Flynn’s since the team drafted quarterback Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin. Not quite sure why the rolled the dice on Flynn and have a rookie as an insurance policy.
To make matters worse, apparently the Seahawks believe in subtraction by addition. The club brought in 38-year old receiver Terrell Owens. Many people think it was a good move because Owens knows it’s his last shot, however, he’s not only been out of the game for a while, his age has already caught up with him, and when he was last playing, it was obvious he lost more than a step. The same goes with the Seahawks who will need many steps to keep up.
St. Louis Rams (6-10): Again, the quarterback is the biggest question. Will we see Sam Bradford’s Rookie of the Year-like performance of 3512 yards and 18 touchdowns or will he repeat his sophomore slump year where he threw only six touchdowns? That’s what will make the biggest difference as to whether or not the Rams are able to avoid the basement of the division.
The Rams’ biggest acquisition is their new head coach; Jeff Fisher, but unless he can provide a miracle bigger than the one that happened in the Music City, Fisher will come up way more than a yard shy of turning his team around.
Fisher hired Greg Williams who’s serving his suspension. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer hopes to pound the ball with Steven Jackson, the team’s only hope, as long as he can stay healthy. If he does, he can help make the Rams the best show in the west.
Arizona Cardinals (4-12): Do you remember when you were told if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? Well that’s the approach I’m going to take right now with the Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald one of the best receivers in the league. Kevin Kolb is from Texas. Kevin Kolb is…well, remains to be seen.
With no running game, no defense and a questionable passing game, the Cardinals are who we thought they were. If they’re lucky, they could very easily finish third in the division. Oh, I do have one other nice thing to say about this team: I loved watching them when they were in the NFC East, but it didn’t make much sense for them to be there.