Waiver Wire NFL Predictions

With the 2012 NFL set to begin in, oh, an hour or so, our two lead writers Vinny Ginardi, Greg Kaplan and Mike Cresci get together to put some picks to paper. Each predicted their 12 playoff teams and Super Bowl predictions. Here’s what they came up with:

Vinny Ginardi 

AFC                                                                                                        

East: New England Patriots

North: Baltimore Ravens

South: Houston Texans

West: Denver Broncos

Wild Card Pittsburgh Steelers

Wild Card: Buffalo Bills

NFC

East: Philadelphia Eagles

North: Green Bay Packers

South: Atlanta Falcons

West: San Francisco 49ers

Wild Card: Chicago Bears

Wild Card:  New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl: Bears over Ravens

Brief Reasoning: I am a little nervous that in what has become a passing league neither of my Super Bowl teams has a top-tier quarterback. But I do like Joe Flacco and Jay Cutler more than most (and I really like the weapons they have around them) and I think each of these aging defenses has another strong season in them. I was torn between the Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs for the last playoff spot in the AFC, but ultimately decided on Buffalo because of how well they played last season when Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson were both healthy. I left the Super Bowl defending champs out of the playoffs. I’m just not convinced that outside of the pass rush that the defense is better than mediocre and can’t get past the fact the Giants had a negative point differential last season.

Greg Kaplan

AFC

East: New England Patriots

North: Baltimore Ravens

South: Houston Texans

West: Oakland Raiders

Wild Card: Pittsburgh Steelers

Wild Card: New York Jets

NFC

East: Philadelphia Eagles

North: Green Bay Packers

South: New Orleans Saints

West: San Francisco 49ers

Wild Card: Chicago Bears

Wild Card: Detroit Lions

Super Bowl: Ravens over 49ers

Brief Reasoning: Since it’s a lot easier to defend my Super Bowl selection than some of my playoff teams, I’ll start with the harder part. First, the AFC West is an absolute toss-up. I can’t assume Peyton Manning isn’t just going to return to full health, but that he’s going to be the elite quarterback he was a few years before the injury. I think a lot of people forget that he was very pedestrian in 2010, the year before he got hurt. This is the make-or-break year for this group of Raiders. If they can reel in the penalties assessed against, plus a healthy Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden, this becomes a scary team each week.

For as bad as they looked in the preseason, I’m still a massive believer in the Jets defense, which is more than good enough to win them 9 games alone. With the AFC being so top-heavy this year, 9 wins will probably be enough for that final Wild Card spot. Look for the Jets to sneak in under the premise.

As for the NFC, yes, I am keeping the Giants out of the playoffs. Remember, the last time the Giants were defending Super Bowl champions, they didn’t make the playoffs the next season. And I’m also a believer that the NFC North is the best division in football. Until the Cowboys have a December to remember, I’m never going to put enough faith in that team to put them in the playoffs, despite how good they look early (look, Cowboys fans, my dad is the biggest Cowboys fan in the northeast. I’ve watched this team A LOT in my life. I know what I speak from a neutral perspective. Lay off me.).

Now, to the Super Bowl, the 49ers were a few wide receivers and third down conversions short of making last year’s big game. Now, they’ve literally added every receiving option they could. Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins added to the mix with holdovers Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Someone in that group will catch significant passes. The Ravens, on the other hand, have the best all-around offensive talent in the NFL in Ray Rice and a quarterback poised for a breakout. Not to mention, their historically staunch defense. I feel confident in this pick to ride to the finish line.

Michael Cresci:  

AFC                                                                                                        

East: New England Patriots

North: Baltimore Ravens

South: Houston Texans

West: Denver Broncos

Wild Card:  Oakland Raiders

Wild Card: New York Jets

NFC

East: Philadelphia Eagles

North: Green Bay Packers

South: Falcons

West: San Francisco 49ers

Wild Card: Chicago Bears

Wild Card:  Seattle Seahawks

Super Bowl: Ravens over 49ers

(Not So) Brief Reasoning:  Let’s start with my Super Bowl picks.  This was a pretty tough year to pick because the NFC has a lot of teams capable of going to the big game.  So I decided to go with what SHOULD have been last year’s Super Bowl if Lee Evans and Kyle Williams were capable of doing their jobs.  Flacco seems ready for a breakout, Rice is one of the best weapons in the game and Baltimore’s aging defense is still pretty solid.  The 49ers may regress from 13-3 but they added weapons to their receiving core, boast football’s best defense, one of the best coach’s in the league, a weak division and a style suited for the cold weather of the playoffs.

I’m with Greg on my Jets.  The defense is still first rate and that should be good for around 9 wins.  I’m also a hopeless Mark Sanchez apologist and think he’s capable of taking the next step despite a dearth of weapons and the presence of my least favorite player in the NFL.  I’m also not a believer in Ryan Fitzpatrick.  The Patriots look poised to go bananas this year and will likely have home field in the playoffs and I expect a redo of last year’s AFC Championship game.

The Steelers aren’t exactly going to be bad but I wonder how many more years they can go with a bad defense, shaky O-line and no run game.  The Broncos’ season relies on the health of Peyton Manning but I tend to believe the bajillion doctors who have cleared the living legend to play.  Likewise, the Raiders’ season is dependent on Carson Palmer and while that’s never exactly a good thing to rely on they have a sneaky good team and a healthy Darren McFadden gives them a legitimate shot at a wildcard spot.  As for the Texans? I just don’t know.  They were probably the AFC’s best team last year and injuries screwed them but they took a slight step back in terms of personnel so I’m picking against them going all the way.

The NFC is scary deep this year.  I’m really high on a number of teams who I don’t think can win their division: The Bears, the Seahawks, the Falcons and maybe even the Panthers.  Someone is going to get the short end of NFC playoff stick.  The South is the pick that I’m least sure about. I have no idea what to expect from the Saints and I’m not sure how much of the Falcons’ preseason fire is real.  I’m giving the Saints the aforementioned “short end” because they are missing their head coach and they still lack a defense.  Then again, they have Drew Brees.  This is why I’ve changed my pick three or four times while writing this.

I’m all about the Seahawks.  They are in a weak division, have a good defense, good running game (sometimes great) and a QB who looks to be the real deal.  It’s hard to say what Russell Wilson will do as a rookie but I’m going to roll the dice and bet on him to take a borderline team over the top.  I’m also drinking the Bears’ kool-aid.  I think the phrase “Cutler to Marshall” is about to make a massive comeback, I love Lovey Smith and the Matt Forte/Michael Bush tandem is among the league’s best backfields.  They have a tough schedule and we can’t forget that the Lions are wildcard contenders in the very same division, but I’m going to go with Da Bears because of last year’s pre-Caleb Hanie team.  They looked like Super Bowl contenders then and their offense has gotten better.

Lastly, let me dig into the NFC East.  Full disclosure: I’m an open Giants hater who bashes them daily and actively roots against them.  That being said, all of these picks are objective.  Sure, sometimes I’m going with my gut on close calls but I’m making these picks based on my humble football/NFL knowledge.  I can’t buy into the Cowboys until I see more because they are the NFL’s most popular roller coaster and I have no idea what to expect week to week.  If DeMarco Murray is the real deal, if Dez Bryant lives up to his stunning athleticism and if their defense really has improved then maybe they can take this division, but the past tells me something will go wrong.  The Redskins are going to be exciting but they are at least a couple years away.  The Giants (and remember, this is journalism MC talking) are an okay team in a stacked conference. They are quite possibly better than both of my AFC wildcard picks but they don’t play in the AFC. Last year was a fluky “got hot at the right time” runs which made everybody forget about the mediocre regular season, lack of a serious running game, MAJOR secondary issues and story after story about the Giants “quitting” on Tom Coughlin.  The Giants are a dangerous single game elimination team but they just aren’t that good. Call me biased, but I’m right.  The Eagles’ are hoping that Michael Vick can stay healthy and if he can (let’s say he play 13 games) they should be fine.  Lesean McCoy is a stud, the defense looks much improved and the end of last year showed us what the “dream team” should look like.