After a fantastic summer of sport for the residents of Great Britain, a feeling of normality has been brought back to its sport scene. Time surely to take a look across the pond and see if our Trans-Atlantic cousins can bring us another feisty season of hard-hitting NFL action. The British gridiron contingent panicked and swarmed the message boards of primary showcase entity Sky Sports to show their distaste as the powers-that-be concluded a three-year deal to keep the games on our screens one day before the season opener. It wasn’t disclosed as to how close we were to missing at least a portion of the opening week, but never have I been so pleased to see the awkward yet endearing presentation skills of Kevin Cadle on my screen to tell us all was well.
With Week One already in the books, it seems like a good time to make myself look rather foolish and make some off-the-cuff bizarre predictions that I will look back on at a later date and cringe at. The week gone by allowed me to have a good look at each team and base my thoughts on fresh information rather just the results of the 2011 season and summer activity. Starting with the obligatory Superbowl prediction.
2012 Superbowl Prediction
Representing the AFC will be the New England Patriots. It is generally quite difficult to say at this point in a season, or on any given Sunday whether any teams’ opposition will be any good. With the draft system and constant shifts in power within the league, it is hard to draw a comparison, for example, to the Premier League in the UK. That’s not to single the English league out, as you could substitute the Bundesliga, La Liga or even Serie A into the context. You generally have an idea about who will be there at the end. The NFL however tends to grip you in this way, as a team can finish last in its division one season, then be in the playoffs the next.
However, if any team in the entire NFL can be said to be a model of consistency it would be the Patriots. It is easy to say as long as Tom Brady is the quarterback they’re going to be there or thereabouts, but some of the other key positions look to be strong, as shown in the 34-13 brushing aside of the Tennessee Titans. Stevan Ridley looks to have taken the starting tailback job and looks like a stud.Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes all combined to make Titans’ running back Chris Johnson seem like he was running backwards, garnering a measly 1.3 yards per carry. The twin towers at tight-end Gronkowski and Hernandez look like they will pick up where they left off last season too.
Bill Belichick has made this franchise a perennial Super-Bowl contender. He always has his cavalry ready to charge and with the exceptions of the Jets his AFC East rivals looked horrendous. Don’t expect the Jets to seriously provide a two-horse race though. The Patriots steamrollered this division en route to the number one seed, taking Darth Brady and Lord Belichick to yet another bowl, probably stopping Peyton Manning once again en route.
In the AFC playoffs : Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets.
Representing the NFC will be the San Francisco 49ers. I say the match that was supposed to happen in the NFC Conference Championhip game last year – happens this year. The Giants rudely crashed the party last year but I just can’t foresee a repeat. In Week One the Niners went to the house of the team of the most fancied team – the Green Bay Packers, and beat them soundly. Alex Smith looked poised and made few errors. Running back Frank Gore made an incredible effort to remain upright and in-bounds in his effort to score a touchdown and that defence once again which contains Navarro Bowman, easily one of the best defenders in the league, looked sturdy as ever. A tricky test comes up next week against the Detroit Lions, but then the schedule sets up well, with Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets in a row. The Seattle Seahawks were a popular choice to try too dethrone them in the NFC West but looked rather uninspired in their defeat to the Arizona Cardinals. The NFC should be exciting throughout with the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints probably going to do great damage to each other in the NFC South. The Dallas Cowboys had a terrific start but expect the champs New York Giants to bounce back.
In the NFC Playoffs : Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, New York Giants.
As an Atlanta fan, I would LOVE to put Matt Ryan right here. Though I think “Matty-Ice” will do some serious damage this year. I will play it safe with Tom Brady. As stated I believe the Patriots will find their way back to the Superbowl, and the man to lead them will put up some big numbers, with his array of new weapons.
Offensive Rookie of the Year/ Defensive Rookie of the Year
For the offensive choice, the man who has come racing out of the blocks is the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III. After possibly making the best rookie debut in the history of the game, he managed to inspire the ‘Skins to knock off the heavy-favourite New Orleans Saints in the process. Griffin looks exactly what this disillusioned franchise needs. Andrew Luck will eventually be the better quarterback in Indianapolis, but Griffin is in a much better situation for now with better weapons. Mike Shanahan may have just found his new John Elway.
Defensively, I must admit I went back and forth. Morris Claiborne had an outstanding debut for the Dallas Cowboys whereas Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers, who was my original pick, did not. Claiborne will have a lot of work to do in the tough division and could push him over the top.
The lasting memory of the 2012 NFL Season
The lockout had such a bearing on last season so it would be hard not to say something about the Replacement Referees. As it stands the incumbent NFL referees are “locked out”. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has taken a hard stance on the labor issues which began on May 31st once the collective bargaining agreement expired and have raged on for the last three months The NFL doesn’t just grind to a halt though because the refs can’t play. They’ve drafted in replacements with some rather questionable resumes. A large number of the new batch can only claim to have refereed high-school football. The effects haven’t been over-dramatic thus far. A rather glaring timeout calamity in the Seattle Seahawks-Arizona Cardinals game was the error that caught people’s attention. The replacement referees have been scheduled to continue through Week 3 though and possibly as far as Week 5. The players have had mixed reactions, with some such as Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald stating there is little difference to Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe calling it an “embarrassment”.
By Brit_2 via Flickr