Hub Arkush's 2012 NFL predictions

Posted Sept. 05, 2012 @ 4:27 p.m.
Posted By Hub Arkush

AFC East

1. New England — Still easily the class of this group, and if “D” takes a big step forward, will be Super again.

2. Buffalo — I’d feel really good about this pick if I felt better about Ryan Fitzpatrick, but I like everything else they’ve done, so I have them as the sixth seed in playoffs.

3. N.Y. Jets — I have no idea what they were thinking with the Tim Tebow silliness, but I believe they’re about to pay the price. This isn’t even an average football team anymore.

4. Miami — Front seven on defense is better than a lot of folks realize, but it’s still going to be an awfully long season.
 
AFC North
 
1. Pittsburgh — I expect there to be friction between Big Ben and Todd Haley, and maybe Haley and Mike Tomlin too, but if they can hang on until Rashard Mendenhall gets back, they’re the most talented team in this division.

2. Baltimore — Something just feels off here. With offensive-line issues, injuries and defections on defense, this may be the year John Harbaugh discovers life out of the playoffs.

3. Cincinnati — I look up and down this roster and I just don’t get it. Based on past performances under Marvin Lewis and less-than-great talent, they’ll take a step backwards again.

4. Cleveland — I actually liked them to surprise some folks with that young “D” until injuries started mounting early and often. Just too many question marks to move them up a notch.
 
AFC South
 
1. Houston — Clearly the best in this group and one of the three best in the AFC, but can/will Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson stay healthy, and how many playoff games can Texans win if they don’t?

2. Tennessee — Lots of interesting pieces, but also lots of different dudes — Kenny Britt, Chris Johnson, etc. — and I haven’t seen enough yet to know if Jake Locker is ready.

3. Jacksonville — I’m not ready to quit on Blaine Gabbert yet. Drafting Justin Blackmon and having MJD back should help a lot. Still, .500 would be a huge improvement.

4. Indianapolis — Andrew Luck is as good a rookie QB as I’ve seen, and he’ll have some big games. But the O-line will be a problem, and the switch from 4-3 to 3-4 will be a work in progress all season long.
 
AFC West
 
1. Kansas City — They’re healthy now, they’ve added Eric Winston and Peyton Hillis, replaced Todd Haley with Romeo Crennel, and this just may be the year that Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and Justin Houston all arrive. I think they’re the best in the West and the stars will all align to put them in the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

2. San Diego — I really like what A.J. Smith did with this roster during the offseason and think they’re a wild-card team. However, I’m very worried about all the early injuries, particularly to Jared Gaither and Ryan Mathews.
 
3. Denver — Peyton will be Peyton, but I also expect the rest of this roster to be as mediocre as it appears to be. This will be easily the weakest group of receivers Manning’s had in a decade and there are many questions on defense.

4. Oakland — I’m a Carson Palmer fan, but watching last year, there just didn’t appear to be much left. Other than "Run DMC" — if he's healthy — there isn’t much on the rest of the roster, either.
 
NFC East
 
1. Philadelphia — Philly is the most talented team in this division and among the best in the NFL. But I don’t think Mike Vick is a Super Bowl QB, and I doubt he’ll play more than a dozen games and his backup is …

2. N.Y. Giants — Will be great at times but will also lose focus at times, and 10 wins won’t guarantee a playoff spot this year in the NFL’s most dominant conference.

3. Dallas — Like what they did at cornerback, and “D” will be improved, but they’re still shaky at best at linebacker, offensive line, WR depth and even running back. Another .500 season.

4. Washington — I expect RG3 to struggle — a lot — and I can’t find any one position or unit where I can get excited about this team. I get they think RG3 is the franchise, but I’m not sure what the plan is here.
 
NFC North
 
1. Green Bay — They’re still the class in the North, but with two clubs breathing down their necks, rookies Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward better make a difference on defense.

2. Chicago — You have to be impressed with what they’ve added on offense, but is the “D” suddenly sliding down the backside of the hill? Cupcake schedule still makes them a wild-card team.

3. Detroit — I can’t believe they counted on Jahvid Best all offseason and now look where they are. But with that passing game, if we get the 2010 Ndamukong Suh rather than the 2011 version, they’re a wild-card, too.

4. Minnesota — It’s not how many will they win, it’s will they win enough to save Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman? They don’t figure to win a lot.
 
NFC South
 
1. New Orleans — For all the offseason turmoil and drama, this is still the deepest roster and best team in this division. I could coach them to 11 wins.

2. Atlanta — Their offseason moves, or lack thereof, puzzle me. Maybe the new coordinators will help, but it’s still the same roster minus Curtis Lofton, one of their best defenders. I don’t think Matty Ice will get a chance to lose a playoff game this year.

3. Carolina — It will be fascinating to see which way Cam Newton goes. If they don’t get back closer to what Ron Rivera wants to run than what they did last year, they can’t compete with the big guys. if they do, how will Newton respond? Maybe .500, but I doubt it, and I definitely can’t see any better.

4. Tampa Bay — For all the money they spent on offense, who’s going to help one of the shakiest defenses in the league? Greg Schiano will shape the character and effort, but he can’t make a single tackle.
 
NFC West
 
1. San Francisco — This is the most complete team in the NFL on opening day. If the 49ers stay healthy, they will win a Super Bowl.

2. Seattle — I think it’s the most overhyped team in the league, yet Seattle will be fun to watch and follow. They still look like 7-9 to me.

3. Arizona — In his fifth year as a head coach, did Ken Whisenhunt really go to camp with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton and expect one to emerge? This is a mess.

4. St. Louis — Jeff Fischer is a great coach and was a great hire here, but he has a lot more work to do than one offseason can yield.
 

Offensive MVP: Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles

Defensive MVP: 49ers OLB Aldon Smith

Super Bowl XLVII: 49ers over Chiefs