2012 Sports with Balls Blog AFC Preview

The air is crisp, the temperature has dropped a few degrees and sports bars everywhere are stocking up on chicken wings.  What else could that mean but that the 2012 NFL Season has arrived.  As we prepare to kick off the fist Sunday of football, here are the Sports with Balls Show AFC Predictions:

Each member of the SwBS staff submitted a ballot, which was tabulated to form consensus picks. Individual Division, Wild Card, Conference Champion and Super Bowl Champion picks for each staff member can be viewed at the bottom of the page.  

An asterisk (*) denotes a consensus wild card winner.

AFC East

1. New England Patriots – “There is little reason to believe that the Pats won’t dominate once again in the regular season.  The offense should once again be scary good with the likes of Brady, Welker, Gronkowski & Hernandez returning along with the addition of Brandon Lloyd.  Playoff success could very well depend on defense and its ability to improve with the additions of rookie DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont’a Hightower.” – Mike O

2. Buffalo Bills – “The Bills are desperately trying to change the culture in Buffalo. After seeing what the Giants did to Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, the Bills signed four defensive players in Free Agency, none bigger than Mario Williams. A team that will be no pushover for the Patriots has to figure it out at the quarterback position. Is Ryan Fitzpatrick the answer? Immediately after signing a contract extension, his play suffered. He certainly has the weapons, Johnson, Jackson, Spiller, but if he’s not the answer, the Bills are still a lot further away than they want to be.” – Warren Croxton

3. New York Jets – “Although Rex Ryan was pretty quiet this offseason, the Jets still made as many headlines as any team in the league. The obvious two questions about this team are: Will Mark Sanchez finally become an upper echelon QB; and two, how, if at all, will Tim Tebow be a difference maker? There’s also the question of whether the defense can return to top form. For a team some thought would be a Super Bowl contender in 2011, there sure are a lot of issues in front of the 2012 version of Gang Green.” – Matt Sherman

4. Miami Dolphins – “No one should have any illusions about what this season is for Miami. Ryan Tannehill is being thrown to the proverbial wolves and release valves of Reggie Bush and Anthony Fasano will only help so much. Joe Philbin comes with an offensive pedigree courtesy of the arm of Aaron Rodgers, but this team’s primary issue is a lack of talent, not coaching. Cameron Wake will remain the brightest spot on a mid tier defense and while they may be occasionally fun to watch in 2012 the Dolphins are looking towards 2013 and 2014 rather than this season.” – Michael Bedard

AFC North

1. Pittsburgh Steelers – “The Steelers will look a little different this year as Hines Ward and James Farrior have hung up the spikes. Todd Haley replaces Bruce Arians with a new run first offensive philosophy. Still it will come down to Ben and his trio of talented wideouts on that side of the ball. Defensively, the Steelers where last in the league in takeaways despite being the #1 defense by yards allowed. If Harrison and Woodley stay healthy (11 games missed in 2011-12) that takeaway number should change.” – William Fucich

2. Baltimore Ravens * – “After being so close to the Super Bowl, they have the hunger to get back there. Ray Rice is a work horse in the backfield and if he produces so does the offense.  It seems like every year we say the defense is getting old but they still dominate and wreak havoc on opposing offenses.” – Scott Boutcher

3. Cincinnati Bengals – “A playoff appearance and 10 wins is certainly encouraging to see in Cincinnati. The defense will be stout and is formidable to both Pittsburgh and Baltimore’s. In 2011 QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals were 0-7 vs. teams with winning records and 0-4 vs the Steelers and Ravens. Those numbers have to change in order for the Bengals to build on last year’s success.” – William Fucich

4. Cleveland Browns – “The youth movement is underway in Cleveland. 15 Rookies are on the opening day roster including QB Brandon Weedon and RB Trent Richardson which will make it difficult for this team to contend in one of the sports toughest divisions, the AFC North. Plus Richardson has been limited after offseason knee surgery. Matching last years total of 4 wins could prove difficult.” – Glenn Coyle

AFC South

1. Houston Texans – “The Texans certainly won’t sneak up on anyone this year. The have been a very trendy pick this season not only to win the AFC South but in many cases to bring home the Lombardi Trophy.  The health of Matt Scaub, Arian Foster and Adrian Johnson will be a major factor and possibly a question mark.  Can the defense live up to the hype brought on by the 2011 squad? They should be able to win the division but they still have a lot to prove to compete with the Steelers and Patriots in the AFC. ” – Mike Orzechowski

2. Tennessee Titans – “The Titans decided to give Jake Locker the keys to the Cadillac and name him the starting QB for this year and hopefully the next decade. If Chris Johnson returns to form and Kenny Britt stops breaking laws, he’ll have a few weapons to work with. On defense, the Titans added Kamerion Wimberly to add to the 2nd fewest sacks in the league in the last season. While, the Titans won’t catch the Texans, the pieces are starting to build to eventually make a run at them in the next few years.” – Warren Croxton

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – “Maurice Jones Drew has finally reported to the team but I can’t think he is very happy without a new contract. Blaine Gabbert heads into his second season and must show some improvement from a dismal rookie season to avoid a trip to the CFL. Justin Blackmon adds a deep threat for the Jags, who will need to score points because their defense is not going to intimidate many teams.” – Scott Boutcher

4. Indianapolis Colts– “After more than a decade of depending on Peyton Manning to handle the reigns, time and durability caught up with the Colts in 2011 resulting in a dismal season, a needed coaching change, and wholesale changes. Andrew Luck, by all accounts, is going to be considerable talent and early results in the preseason appear to back that up. He’s going to be good – but this season isn’t the goal. New head coach, Chuck Pagano is defensively minded and Bruce Arians will institute a more balanced approach then the Colts have had in the past. Almost every position has seen a large degree of change for the Colts and growing pains are likely to be common in a long put off rebuilding season.” – Michael Bedard

AFC West

1. San Diego Chargers – “Shockingly enough, Norv Turner is still at the helm of the Chargers and hopes to return his team to the postseason in 2012. A strong finish in 2011 somewhat masked what was a dud of a season, where Philip Rivers took a huge step back. It’s hard to believe Rivers won’t return to form this season, but with a banged up Ryan Mathews in the backfield, and Vincent Jackson off in Tampa Bay, San Diego doesn’t possess the same weapons as in years past. The defense also will need to improve on last year’s rough numbers. This division is winnable, but the Chargers are by no means the clear favorite they have been in recent seasons.” – Matt Sherman

2. Denver Broncos * – “Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning. The addition of quite possibly the greatest QB ever certainly upgrades a Denver team which won the AFC West and a playoff game last year. His health may be a question but if he can play anywhere near the level we are accustomed to over 16 games there is no doubt Denver is the favorite in the AFC West. The defense was very opportunistic last year and improved from the league’s worst in 2010 to 20th in 2011. Coordinator Dennis Allen moved on to Oakland but under new coordinator Jack Del Rio and Head Coach John Fox look for even more improvement on that side of the ball.” – William Fucich

3. Kansas City Chiefs – “A team that reached the playoffs in 2010, was devastated by injuries to key players last year. Jamaal Charles returns joining Dwayne Bowe in an offense that should be multi dimensional. Eric Berry will be roaming the secondary for a full season on a defense that is loaded with play makers.” – Scott Boutcher

4. Oakland Raiders – “Carson Palmer begins his first full season as the starting quarterback with a lot of weapons such as Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarious Moore and Jacoby Ford. McFadden is the bread-winner, but heath has always been an issue for him. Their defense struggled last year, but new head coach Dennis Allen is a defensive-minded guy who will look to improve a unit that gave up the 2nd most 30+ yard pass plays and 20+yard run plays.” –Warren Croxton

Individual SwBS Staff Picks:

Mike Orzechowski

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC North – Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South – Houston Texans

AFC West – San Diego Chargers

Wild Cards – Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills

Scott Boutcher

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC North – Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South – Houston Texans

AFC West – Denver Broncos

Wild Cards – Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers

Warren Croxton

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC North – Baltimore Ravens

AFC South –  Houston Texans

AFC West – San Diego Chargers

Wild Cards – Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos

Matt Sherman

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC North – Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South – Houston Texans

AFC West – San Diego Chargers

Wild Cards – Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders

William Fucich

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC North – Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South – Houston Texans

AFC West – Kansas City Chiefs

Wild Cards – Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos

Glenn Coyle

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC North – Baltimore Ravens

AFC South – Houston Texans

AFC West – Kansas City Chiefs

Wild Cards – Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos

Michael Bedard

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC North – Baltimore Ravens

AFC South – Tennessee Titans

AFC West – Denver Broncos

Wild Cards – Houston Texans, San Diego Chargers

—————————————————————————————————

-The 2012 SwBS NFC Preview can be found here along with Super Bowl predictions here.

-Also check out the Sports with Balls Radio Show live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. here.

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One thought on “2012 Sports with Balls Blog AFC Preview

  1. Pingback: 2012 Sports with Balls Blog NFC Preview | Sports With Balls Blog

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