Jay Castro’s NFL Preview – Summary

First, some adjustments to my original picks based on recent events…

New York Giants: Martellus Bennett is the more dangerous TE. Highly suspect secondary made worse by the losses of Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara (again), as well as an injury to Michael Coe during the season’s first game; Corey Webster may have come up big in the postseason last year, but often has trouble covering a taco. Pass defense ranked in the league’s bottom ten in 2011…but the 9th overall ranked offense compensated then and will adjust now. They looked bad against Dallas on opening night, but they looked worse against Washington to start 2011 and look where it got them. I still expect a division championship from my personal favorite team.

Dallas Cowgirls: Well played, Romo. Kevin Ogletree looks to have taken on the role vacated by Laurent Robinson. Secondary appears much improved with Claiborne and former Chief ballhawk Brandon Carr. Sudden big-play stinginess now makes them one of the five NFC teams that may contend for a wild card spot if they stay healthy, but they have a brutal enough schedule that I can still see as many as nine losses. I still won’t change from my original forecast of Eagles and Lions coming away with it.

Washington Redskins: RGIII looks good, but expectations are way too high for a team owned by Daniel Snyder and coached by Mike Shanahan sans John Elway. If Griffin turns out to be the second coming of Ryan Leaf or JaUseless Russell, Rex Grossman will again be Dancing With Lots of Scars. Fantasy players, watch out for 6th round draft pick RB Alfred Morris—Satan Shanahan loves to surprise us all with a rusher you’ve never heard of. But they’re still gonna suck.

Green Bay Packers: Adding RB Cedric Benson gives a suspect running game a huge boost and reminds me of how the New England Patriots became a more complete team after trading for Corey Dillon in 2004. Aaron Rodgers’s blind side protection looks more iffy than I realized, and having Chicago’s weakside threats in the same division helps no matters.

Detroit Lions: Jahvid Best is still out, Mikel Leshoure is suspended for the season’s first two games, and the Lions will roll with Kevin Smith once again at RB. Suddenly,11-5 looks more like 10-6, and maybe 9-7 if they can’t stay healthy. The Cowboys, Bears, Cardinals, and Seahawks are all watching.

Chicago Bears: Want a sleeper fantasy WR? Alshon Jeffery. You can thank me later.

Minnesota Vikings: Jerome Simpson suspended for the seasons’ first three games. Michael Jenkins on Percy Harvin’s other side. You do the math.

New Orleans Saints: Players suspensions related to the bounty scandal have been temporarily lifted, allowing players to return. While LB Jonathan Vilma is still nursing an injury, they could get back DE Will Smith to start the season. However, the coaching losses appear to be the most devastating, so I’ll stick with my original prediction here.

Arizona Cardinals: Well done, Whisenhunt. Installing John Skelton at QB gives the Cards a better chance of challenging the 49ers. Larry Fitzgerald becomes relevant with a QB who likes to throw to him, and rookie 1st rounder Michael Floyd is a big target who could become a threat on his other side. A healthy Ryan Williams may give them a legitimate RB. Double digit wins are within reach.

Seattle Seahawks: Here’s the team that has tempted me most to reverse my initial judgment. Gutsy call with Russell Wilson as their starting QB has me suddenly bullish on their offense. No T.O. or Kellen Winslow to create chaos, and Braylon Edwards is apparently playing the best football of his NFL life these days. If this translates to the regular season, and Seattle’s defense continues to perform well, we could be seriously talking about them in January. I feel they can stun some of the high-flying offenses on their schedule, including Detroit, Carolina, Chicago, and even New England. However, they’ll need a healthy Marshawn Lynch to make a serious run at the top. I’m upticking them a few wins, to 8-8 at least.

St. Louis Rams: Indications are that Sam Bradford is on his way to a bounceback, especially now that he has possession receiver Danny Amendola back. They get a Mulligan (Matthew) at TE. No changes in prediction.

New England Patriots: Still not going 16-0. Sorry.

Buffalo Bills: Donald Jones will start opposite Steve Johnson at WR, with David Nelson in the slot. I see the 6’5”, 214 pound Nelson as the bigger threat.

Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Rashard Mendenhall is apparently ready to go for week 1. I’m not buying it, but having a healthy Mendenhall early on gives them the oomph to fully rise above the pack in the AFC North. I’ll give them 11-5 or even 12-4 if he is productive within the season’s first eight weeks.

Cincinnati Bengals: Rookie 1st rounder CB Dre Kirkpatrick is out to start the season, leaving veteran Nate Clements with the starting role against the Ravens. Uh-oh…if Torrey Smith is going to have the breakout campaign I suspect, it starts here.

Cleveland Browns: They get back Scott Fujita, fresh off the bounty scandal. Oh yes, and they also get Trent Richardson back just in time for week 1. If they value the rookie as much as they say, they would be wise to keep him off the field for a while until he’s ready to become the workhorse back he’s projected to be. Otherwise, they risk their future…but then again, it’s the Browns we’re talking about. They’ll probably make him carry the ball twenty-five times against the Eagles and cart him off with a something-CL issue in the third quarter.

Tennessee Titans: Only a one-game suspension for Kenny Britt. And ample opportunities to get himself in further trouble come week 2.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Miraculously, Maurice Jones-Drew has ended his holdout. This is one of the rare cases where I feel that the holdout was completely justified…the guy was the Jags’ offense last year. Do the right thing, Mr. Khan. Pay him.

Oakland Raiders: I’ve been hearing some good things about WR Rod Streater. Injuries to their WR corps could make him useful in fantasy leagues.

Kansas City Chiefs: Their starting defenders have been bitten by the injury bug yet again, and nowhere is this more pronounced than in the secondary. They begin the season against Atlanta, and get Buffalo, New Orleans, San Diego and Baltimore the season’s first five weeks. Good luck…they’ll need it.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…

NFL logo

NFC Playoffs

1. Green Bay Packers
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. New York Giants
4. San Francisco 49ers
5. Detroit Lions
6. Philadelphia Eagles

NFC Wild Card Round: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

Oh, brother. I hope my Giants aren’t bloated with success by the time they reach this game…if they are, a rude awakening is in store. However, I do believe that the Giants’ defense should be able to shut down the run and force Michael Vick into space, where he’s just as likely to make a bad decision or get hurt as he is to make a big play. McCoy’s pass catching ability may be the biggest threat to Big Blue here. Pass protection is going to be paramount, and I see Philly’s safeties getting beat downfield for a couple of long pass plays. This game will be close, it will be physical, and it will be highlighted by some spectacular catches on both sides. A Lawrence Tynes field goal wins it for New York.


NFC Wild Card Round: Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers

We haven’t seen a handshake this scrutinized since Belichick-Mangini. They are going to be talking about this one when the Lions travel to San Fran in week 2, and the results will carry over to the postseason. There will be no change in outcome…Detroit is talented but can be undisciplined, and I can see pass rushers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith standing over Matthew Stafford during the plays where the Lion OL doesn’t take penalty flags. I think San Fran gets ahead early, controls the clock, forces at least one pick-6 out of Stafford, and shakes hands without incident at the end.

49ERS 23, LIONS 10

NFC Divisional Playoff: San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers

There aren’t very many teams that are able to fly into Wisconsin’s frozen tundra come January and walk away a winner. I’ve seen my Giants do it twice, and consider it good fortune. Michael Vick’s Falcons were able to do it, and the Vikings’ Daunte Culpepper/Randy Moss hookup led to a blowout victory in 2004, but that’s about it. And I don’t expect to see it here. I expect to see Aaron Rodgers spreading an athletic defense used to taking away the run, and making the 49ers’ pass rush work against them in the process. It will be a similar approach that Detroit will have tried to use the week before, but wouldn’t be able to because A) they were penalized too much and B) the Packers are a much better team. The Niners will get to Rodgers a couple of times, but he will continue undaunted.


NFC Divisional Playoff: New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons

I hate to do this, but here’s where my Giant bias ends. In the rematch of last season’s wild card matchup, I see a now-seasoned Falcon team giving the Giants’ oft-injured secondary fits while making the big plays they not only have been capable of, but should have been making all along. I think the Giants will get to Matty Ice early and jump out to a big lead, but lose momentum when Atlanta finally ditches their conservative approach and starts heaving it downfield. Several lead changes will bring us to a last minute drive, and I’m not naïve enough to think my team has a monopoly on 4th quarter comebacks. I sure hope I’m wrong about this…


NFC Championship: Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers

After watching this mess, I figure to be glad my Giants don’t make the NFC Championship. Out for revenge and not to be denied after the embarrassment they endured last year, Green Bay’s offense exposes every vulnerability the Dirty Birds’ defense sports. While good, Atlanta’s secondary will need to play great football to keep up with the likes of Jennings, Nelson and Finley, and will fail to do so. The Packers won’t be able to run the ball, nor will they care. Taking their lead from the offense, I see Green Bay’s defense capitalizing on a couple of Falcon mistakes and bringing them back to the house. The Falcons’ emotional playoff victory against the Giants (which will have been Matt Ryan’s first) leaves them drained, and the drubbing they receive in Lambeau is anti-climactic.


AFC Playoffs

1. New England Patriots
2. Houston Texans
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. San Diego Chargers
5. Buffalo Bills
6. Cincinnati Bengals

AFC Wild Card Round: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

Lightning won’t strike twice for Steeler 1st round playoff opponents come January. There’s a reason why I didn’t pick the Bengals to win the division, and it’s the same reason why I’m not picking them to win this game…Cincinnati may be an up-and-coming club, but they have neither the experience nor the manpower to compete with a veteran franchise with multiple titles under their belt. They come into this game after a brutal end-of-season stretch that will likely have them sliding into a playoff spot, and I see mistakes galore by young skill position players trying to do too much against a familiar foe. Steelers jump put early and coast.


AFC Wild Card Round: Buffalo Bills at San Diego Chargers

This game will be a rare case of the up-and-coming franchise besting the more established team. While the Chargers succeed in responding to criticisms and earn a division title by reminding Peyton Manning that they still exist, the emotional toll doing so takes on this injury-prone veteran squad will open gaping wounds waiting to be gashed by a hungry Buffalo group. Ultimately, they will be exposed as an old, slow defense in dire need of an infusion of young blood. Fred Jackson and C. J. Spiller do the honors of running the ball down their throats while surprisingly managing to control the clock. Philip Rivers will make big plays and big mistakes. Norv Turner gets the boot after the season.


AFC Divisional Playoff: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

See above (Cincinnati/Pittsburgh). Steve Johnson talks shit during the week leading up to the game and leaves before the end of the 1st quarter with a bum hamstring. Patriot defense comes up surprisingly tough against a team they know all too well, forcing multiple turnovers that Bill and the Beli-Cheaters capitalize on. Tom Brady throws for eighteen touchdowns. NFL Network cuts to Heidi. Roger Goodell requests a moment of silence.


AFC Divisional Playoff: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans

Now, this is what I call a game. The veteran Steeler defense will have their hands full with Houston’s multiple RBs and vertical threats. Likewise, Houston has the unfortunate task of trying to corral Big Ben…not a hard guy to catch, but good luck bringing him down. Two good defenses, two offenses capable of lightning-strike scores…the Texans are a little better in both regards, but the Steelers do have those two championships (and a Super Bowl XLV appearance to boot). Field position will dominate the match, and I suspect it will ultimately be decided on a special teams play. Being a little bullish on mighty mite Trindon Holliday, I’m giving him a game-breaking 4th quarter return touchdown.


AFC Championship: Houston Texans at New England Patriots

If New England thinks they are gonna roll all over the Texans like they did the Bills, they’ve got another thing coming. Houston asserts authority early with a turnover deep in New England’s territory they convert into a quick six points and keep the Pats at bay until the half. Not used to being down by so much so soon, the Patriots will regain their bearings in the 2nd half by using a more conservative offense (read: running the ball) to chip away at the lead and tossing in a couple of gimmick plays that the Texans fall for. Tom Brady’s Montana-esque two-minute drive leads to the game winning TD and his 6th Super Bowl appearance.


SUPER BOWL XLVII: Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots

This is the Super Bowl I predicted for last year. While I am pleased with the actual outcome, I do feel both of these teams are too good to be denied this time around. Both teams were tops in offense in 2011, but ranked at the bottom of the league in defense—if 2012 is more of the same, we may see the highest scoring Super Bowl by both teams in history. I don’t expect it, however…Green Bay has weaknesses in their offensive line, especially at the left tackle position that protects Aaron Rodgers’ blind side. Don’t think Bill Belichick won’t key in on that; they didn’t draft young pass rushers for nothing. Meanwhile, Brady exposes a secondary again hidden by an explosive offense and leadership from Charles Woodson, who is another year older and looks it during the game. Brady and Belichick finally celebrate that long awaited 4th Lombardi Trophy.


No matter who you root for, I hope you have enjoyed reading my take on the upcoming 2012 NFL season. My opinions are my opinions…so don’t take them to heart. Drink lots of beer, eat plenty of wings, and again…DON’T BET YOUR HOUSE ON MY PREDICTIONS…hell, after giving the Giants a divisional round loss, even I hope they don’t come true.


About Jason E. Castro
Jason E. Castro isn’t here to govern your Caribbean island, sell your convertible furniture or sing you a top 40 hit. He is a writer from New York City and you can find more of his work online at literary websites such as Danse Macabre or Mediavirus Magazine. And while you're at it, feel free to check out his full length novel, "Rowdies", or his on-line novella, "Cricket for Souls"; both are available from Amazon.

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