2012 NFL Preview: Road to Super Bowl XLVII

The Super Bowl will return to New Orleans this year but for the first time there will be one very unwelcome guest. Roger Goodell is a unique member of the fraternity of professional sports commissioners. The commissioners are generally hated by the fans as their decisions are almost always unpopular. Yet Roger Goodell seems to be the one commissioner from the big four leagues that does not raise as much hate as most. Goodell has overseen an amazing period of growth in the NFL and the fans recognize this. Most of the time Goodell gets cheers when people see him and his annual Commissioner meeting is proof of this. Goodell is one of the most popular commissioners in North American sports but this past offseason his popularity took a hit. It especially took a hit in New Orleans where he quickly became a villain for his involvement in the New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal. After an investigation during the last few years the NFL discovered the use of a pay for play system in New Orleans. As a result of this the NFL leveled sanctions on the team including suspending head coach Sean Payton for the year and suspending Jonathan Vilma for the year. These sanctions came directly from the commissioner’s office and any appeals would go through the commissioner’s office. With that the criticism came about the control Goodell had over the league as the start and end for most decisions. Goodell’s reputation took a hit with this and in New Orleans he became the most hated man as he had just helped hurt the team they loved. So when Goodell steps to the podium at the end of the Super Bowl he can expect to hear a familiar sound for most commissioners as the New Orleans faithful will be sure to boo him. Although they may hate that one person the rest of the NFL’s fans will be welcomed into the Superdome as another year is sure to lead to another great Super Bowl to determine the best team in the NFL.

 

American Football Conference

 

 

 

 

There will not be all that many changes as the conference is full of improved teams but none seemed improved enough. The Old guard will be back again this year as the same teams will make the playoffs although many will look very different. The best team in the conference is nothing new as the New England Patriots look too strong for anyone to beat once again. After entering the playoffs as the #1 team in 2011 with a bad defence the Pats will be back with generally the same team and another year under their belt. There is no reason to think that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will not be the best team in the conference again. Meanwhile the Houston Texans look like a strong team again this year and will likely take a first round playoff bye. They made the playoffs last year but limped into the playoffs with their third string QB and if they can remain healthy they should get a better spot in the playoffs. The AFC North will be a strong division again as three teams look to make the playoffs. The best of them seems to be the Steelers but a difficult race for the division might see them just outside of the first round bye. The Denver Broncos snuck in last year behind the arm of Tebow and the strength of their defence. This year they are a better team and coming out of the weakest division in the conference will help Peyton Manning earn a playoff spot in his first year with the team. In the wild card there are many teams that could take it but the AFC North is too good to overlook as the Ravens and the Bengals will both make it and fill the wild card spots. As in any year in the playoffs anything can happen and any team could have a run. As with most years the winner of the conference could simply be the hottest team going into the playoffs. Still without knowing who will be the hottest team in the conference the best bet will be the always steady Patriots as they are a hard team to bet against with that offence and what looks to be an improved defence.

 

Prediction:
1. New England Patriots
2. Houston Texans
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Denver Broncos

5. Baltimore Ravens
6. Cincinnati Bengals

 

AFC Wild Card
Cincinnati Bengals 24 – 21 Pittsburgh Steelers
– The Steelers will likely be the division champions but the Bengals are continuing to improve and after a full season the Steelers may be worn down with an aging team while the Bengals will be in good shape with a young team

 

Baltimore Ravens 21 – 18 Denver Broncos
– The Denver Broncos are an improved team with Peyton Manning but they are not improved enough as the Ravens defence, although aging, will be able to shut him down in this game as the Ravens move on

 

AFC Divisional Playoffs
New England Patriots 34 – 24 Cincinnati Bengals
– The New England Patriots are the class of the conference and their offence will be too much for the Bengals to handle as the young team from Cincinnati is not ready to beat one of the best teams in the league

 

Houston Texans 21 – 17 Baltimore Ravens
– The Texans could and probably should have been in this position last year until injuries crippled their team as they will be back with a healthy team and a better defence than their opponents the Baltimore Ravens

 

AFC Conference Finals
New England Patriots 28 – 24 Houston Texans
– The Texans will be happy to be in a spot that they thought they should be and with a healthy team they will give the defending AFC champions the a run for their money but the Pats are too strong and will return to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row

 

National Football Conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NFC will be a lot like the AFC this year as the same teams will be back again to face off for the NFC championship. Even with the same teams making it the competition will be better than ever as every team looks strong and capable of making the Super Bowl. Every team will be looking to continue the pattern of a new champion for the past four years. The best team in the NFC could be the team that sits in the worst division in the conference. The San Francisco 49ers have some major questions but last year the team exploded for a second place finish. This year the team looks better and will probably beat up on their weak division to earn the top spot in the NFC. The Green Bay Packers had an amazing season that translated to nothing in the postseason. They will not have as good a regular season but they are still one of the best teams in the NFL as they will take the second place spot in the conference. The New York Giants are coming off of their best season since 2007 winning the Super Bowl. This year they may not be as lucky but will still win the division and if they get hot again at the end of the season who knows how far they can go. The New Orleans Saints will be distracted at the start of the season but the offence led by Drew Brees should be good enough to win the division and hold a playoff spot. Meanwhile in the wild card race the NFC North and South will be on display as two of the best divisions in the NFL. Detroit looks better and will have more experience but will not get by the Packers as they will settle for another wild card spot. The Saints will take the other division as the Falcons will have to settle as well with another year playing second fiddle to the Saints. The NFC is a tough one to predict as any of the top six teams could make it to the Super Bowl. It will come down to experience and skill and for that reason the Packers and Niners will both have a good shot with the Packers likely to come out on top with the lights out offence led by Aaron Rodgers.

 

Prediction:
1. San Francisco 49ers
2. Green Bay Packers
3. New York Giants
4. New Orleans Saints

5. Detroit Lions
6. Atlanta Falcons

 

NFC Wild Card
New York Giants 23 – 21 Atlanta Falcons
– The Giants are the defending Champions and that should give them confidence entering the playoffs again while the Falcons have proven that when the playoffs come they are not up for a challenge which is what the G-Men will give them

 

Detroit Lions 36 – 31 New Orleans Saints
– The Lions are only in this spot because they have a very tough division to get through and they will prove that when they take on the New Orleans Saints who will disappoint their fans by not coming home for the Super Bowl

 

NFC Divisional Playoffs
San Francisco 49ers 24 – 18 Detroit Lions
– The 49ers are looking much better with a very good offence and an improved defence as they hope that the bad luck of 2011 will not repeat when they take on the Lions who are good but may not be ready for the NFC Championship

 

Green Bay Packers 21 – 17 New York Giants
– The Giants and Packers have had plenty of classic games with a lot of meaning to them as the Giants eliminated the Packers in 2011 but the tables will be turned in 2012 as the Packers will have their issues fixed to make another run

 

NFC Conference Finals
Green Bay Packers 27 – 24 San Francisco 49ers
– This is the matchup that many had waited for in 2011 as the two best teams in the NFC face off but the offence is shaky in San Francisco as Aaron Rodgers and his host of receivers will be good enough to get past the niners defence

 

Super Bowl XLVII
Green Bay Packers 41 – 38 New England Patriots
– It was the same matchup that many thought would happen in 2011 until the Packers defence seemed to be nothing special but with a new season the Packers will fix their problems and beat the Patriots who’s reign in the AFC continues as well as their failure in the big game

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