The 2012 NFL season is once again upon us as America’s game takes center stage. In addition to the usual Sunday games and Monday night game the NFL will also include a Thursday night game each and every week starting in September. It’s the first time ever the NFL will do this which will guarantee an additional football timeslot on everyone’s calendars which may infuriate wives/girlfriends around the country. Regardless, it’s that time of year when football trumps over everything else in your life and with that said the 2012 season is shaping up to be full of excitement and competition till the very end.

Our Philadelphia Eagles have been in the discussion quite a bit this offseason and have received positive reviews from the national media. The experts of national networks such as ESPN and NBC are choosing the Eagles to go very far this season. Personally I don’t quite get that prediction. The Eagles did a nice job of locking up talent this offseason for long term deals. For the first time in a long time not a single player is entering the season with a contract issue. DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy both are pretty happy to be entering 2012 with new deals which I believe will pay dividends for the team on the offensive side of the ball.

When it comes to offense though I’m deeply concerned about QB Mike Vick. The guy can barely put on his uniform without getting injured. His pre-season performance was dreadful and he almost had as many X-Rays as pass completions. Last time I checked when you play in the NFL you shouldn’t be so fragile. All offseason we were hearing about how Mike plans to play it safe in 2012 but at the end of the day you can’t teach an old dog new tricks (no pun intended). Vick will always go back to his style of reckless play and I’m unfortunately guaranteeing he will miss at least 3 games this season. Rookie QB Nick Foles who’s looked spectacular in the pre-season will most likely get a shot as the starter at some point which may spell the end of the Mike Vick era in Philly.

On the defensive side of the ball the Eagles have new middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans ready to go. He hasn’t overly impressed during the preseason but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s still learning the defense. I love the addition of rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks who has the makings of becoming a stud linebacker in this league. If him and Ryans find a way to gel into a force this season I can see them bringing a toughness back to the Eagle defense that we haven’t seen since the days of Trotter and Dawkins.

Bottom line is this defense is still being coached by Juan Castillo. A lot of talk in the offseason has been about how Castillo now has had time to get his act together as the defensive coordinator. This unit still looked shaky at times during the pre-season and I question whether Castillo will be able to show us a major improvement game in and game out the entire season. The defensive line will be a dominant force but outside of that unit I need to see solid play on a consistent basis before I start feeling good about Juan Castillo’s defense.

Now let’s get to some predictions for 2012.

NFC Division Winners:

East – Eagles
The Eagles have a brutal schedule facing off against the likes of New Orleans, Baltimore , and Pittsburgh in 2012. But they had a full off-season to work together and Andy Reid has never missed the postseason 2 years in a row so I see a bounce back year for them. The Giants barely squeaked into the playoffs last season and I see their true colors coming out in 2012. Dallas doesn’t impress me and never will as long as Tony Romo is QB. Washington I think will be much improved with RGIII at QB but with the other 3 teams in the division I think they’ll come up short of the playoffs this season but not by much. If RGIII pans out the way I think he will look for the Skins to be a force sometime in the next few seasons.

South – Saints
Even though the Saints will be without head coach Sean Peyton let’s face it they still have Drew Brees at QB and as long as they have Brees they’ll put up points week in and week out. Tampa, Atlanta, and Carolina will be improved but the Saints still will out dual them.

North – Packers
The Packers had their season abruptly ended by NY and will play with a chip on their shoulder all season. Aaron Rodgers will play angry in 2012 which will be trouble for the rest of the league. The Vikings will struggle all season especially with Adrian Peterson coming off a serious knee injury. Chicago and Detroit will be in the mix for a wildcard berth but in the end won’t be able to keep up with Green Bay for the division.

West – 49ers
They looked fantastic under first year head coach John Harbaugh and now with a full offseason to work together I see them being a force in the NFC. The rest of the division is basically full of minor league football teams so it should be a cakewalk for the niners to capture a division title.

NFC Wildcards:

Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson will have another year under their belt. Their defense will improve and I see them as a solid wildcard team as long as they stay healthy.

Something about Cam Newton makes me believe this team can be a playoff team in 2012. Newton impressed me in his rookie year and I love the confidence these guys have especially when one of their offensive lineman guaranteed they’d win the Superbowl by taking a full page ad out in the local paper. I see them making huge strides in 2012 enough to get into the playoffs with the final wildcard spot.

AFC Division Winners:

East – Patriots
Let’s face it the rest of this division is light years away from New England. Miami and Buffalo are trying to figure out their identity and the Jets are nothing but a reality show. Sure they beat New England a few years ago in the playoffs but since then they’ve clearly lost their edge. While NY will be engulfed in Tebow Mania in 2012 Brady and Gronk will just continue to go out and score touchdowns every week.

South – Colts
I don’t know, go ahead and call me crazy on this one but I’ve been watching the Colts during the preseason and Andrew Luck is deserving of all the hype. Right now I’d even go as far as trading the entire Eagles roster for the Colts roster because Luck looks to be that much of a game changer. The Texans got in last year because the Colts lost their identity when Peyton Manning went down. The Titans don’t seem to have a legit #1 QB and the Jags are just a mess. I think Luck will hit the ground running this season and put Indy back on the map in a major way.

North – Ravens
The Ravens were so close last year it’s sickening they didn’t make it to the Superbowl. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are nearing the end and this might be the last chance for them to get over the hump. Ray Rice is one of the top 3 backs in the league and Joe Flacco has plenty of experience to draw from going into 2012. Although the Steelers always seem to be in the mix for the division and the Bengals were a playoff team a year ago I think the Ravens will feed off of last year’s disappointing ending to win the division in 2012.

West – Broncos
2 words: Peyton Manning. Sure he’s starting for a new team for the first time in his career but he’s still one of the greatest QB’s ever and he’s playing in a division that’s marginal at best. In 2011 the Broncos won the division at 8-8 which was a 3 way tie with San Diego and Oakland. Kansas City finished only a game behind at 7-9. Basically what I’m saying is this division is pathetic and even Peyton Manning with a bad neck can win this division easily. He knew what he was doing when he came to Denver. Why put yourself in a division that will be a dogfight to the end when you can come to the AFC West otherwise known as the minor league division of the NFL where a 500 record gets you to the playoffs.

AFC Wildcards:

Andy Dalton looked sharp last season and with a full offseason to train and work with the coaching staff I like the chances for Cincinnati to make it to the playoffs for the second year in a row as a wildcard.

They were 12-4 a year ago and they know how to win year in and year out. The NFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football if not the toughest. The Steelers will once again be in the mix till the very end for the division title but I see them getting in as a wild card this year only because Baltimore will be playing with more urgency right from the get go.
NFC Championship:
Packers vs 49ers

AFC Championship
Baltimore vs New England
Packers vs Ravens

Superbowl Champ:

There you have it my predictions for the 2012 NFL season. Feel free to drop a comment to agree or disagree. As much as I’d love to predict an Eagles Superbowl I just don’t see it happening in 2012. Mike Vick is too inconsistent at QB to take them that far. I see them at best winning a playoff game in the wildcard round but that’s about it. The Packers looked like a machine most of last season right up until the end. I see them playing more like the team from last year’s regular season instead of the one that flopped against the Giants in the playoffs. But hopefully I’m wrong about all of these predictions and we’ll all be celebrating on Broad St with an Eagles parade