2012 Football Forecast
Our sports expert makes bold predictions for the NFL season after an offseason of scandal and high-profile trades.
From the Print Edition:
Jeff Daniels-The Newsroom, July/August 2012
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4. Cleveland Browns
Where have you gone, Jim Brown? The Mistakes by the Lake have gone 56-105 the last 20 years. They lost all six division games and 11 of their final 12 to finish 4-12. The offense sputtered behind QB Colt McCoy (57.2 completion percentage), who was victimized by a lack of play-makers. Team president Mike Holmgren earned widespread praise for drafting Alabama RB Trent Richardson to replace Peyton Hillis (Chiefs)—except from Brown, who called him “ordinary.” McCoy, who may or may not be able to throw with more velocity than owner Randy Lerner, barely had time to revel in his new toy before Holmgren pulled the rug out from beneath him by selecting 28-year-old QB Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) with the 22nd pick.
1. Houston Texans
Coach Gary Kubiak was a magician in winning the franchise’s first division title with stars QB Matt Schaub, WR Andre Johnson and DE Mario Williams among a dozen players on injured reserve. Third-string rookie QB T.J. Yates closed out the 10-6 season, defeating Cincinnati in the wild-card playoff before being ousted 20-13 by Baltimore.
Johnson (hamstring) was limited to 33 catches as RB Arian Foster (1,224 rushing yards) couldn’t carry the offense all by himself. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips hopes that No. 1 draft DE Whitney Mercilus (Illinois) is not a one-year wonder (16 sacks, nine forced fumbles) because Williams (who went to the Bills) is gone. If Mercilus turns out to be merciless? “Houston, we no longer have a problem.”
2. Tennessee Titans
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The ineptitude of rookie QB Blaine Gabbert cost Coach Jack Del Rio his job, which is why the Jaguars brought in QB Chad Henne. Gabbert, who finished at the bottom of the AFC passer ratings, is new head coach Mike Mularkey’s biggest challenge. NFL rushing king Maurice Jones-Drew set career highs in rushing (1,606) and attempts (343). Mularkey imported ex-Dallas wideout Laurent Robinson to help, and is hopeful that No. 1 draft Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon (232 receptions the past two seasons) will remind longtime Jag-watchers of Jimmy Smith. “I think we can be a playoff contender,” says GM Gene Smith. Drafting punter Bryan Anger in the third round leaves me shaking my head, but No. 2 pick DE Andre Branch (Clemson) could be a double-digit sacker.
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