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2012 Football Forecast

Our sports expert makes bold predictions for the NFL season after an offseason of scandal and high-profile trades.
Danny Sheridan
From the Print Edition:
Jeff Daniels-The Newsroom, July/August 2012

(continued from page 4)

4. Oakland Raiders

The Silver & Black suffered their ninth straight year without a winning record (they’ve had 99 losses since their 2003 Super Bowl appearance) and mourned the death of legendary owner Al Davis. An NFL-record 163 penalties and a 29th-ranked defense sabotaged the 2011 season. The Raiders dealt two high draft picks to acquire QB Carson Palmer, who went 4-5 as a starter. Electric RB Darren McFadden needs to stay on the field now that backup Michael Bush is a Bear. Palmer hopes that blazer Darrius Heyward-Bey will finally mature into his go-to guy. Dennis Allen, the seventh Raiders coach since 2003, must strengthen the linebacking and secondary.

NFC East

1. Philadelphia Eagles

The Dream Team was a nightmare. Only a four-game winning streak in December to finish 8-8 may have saved Coach Andy Reid’s job. Philly has playmaking talent in RB LeSean McCoy (1,309 rushing yards, 17 TDs), WR DeSean Jackson (961 receiving yards), and DE Jason Babin (18 sacks), but needs QB Michael Vick to rebound and Demetress Bell to effectively replace LT Jason Peters (Achilles). Reid and GM Howie Roseman enjoyed a dream defensive draft when they secured DT Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State), LB Mychal  Kendricks (California) and DE Vinny Curry (Marshall). Roseman, who filled a huge hole by signing free agent MLB DeMeco Ryans, earned a much-deserved pat on the back from Reid.

2. New York Giants

Sheridan's odds defensive player of the year graph.
Eli Manning proclaimed before last year’s season that he was an elite quarterback and proved it by beating Tom Brady again in the Super Bowl. Manning threw for a career-high 4,933 yards as Tom Coughlin’s bunch (9-7) became the first East champs to win fewer than 10 games. WR Victor Cruz (1,536 receiving yards) was a salsa-dancing revelation alongside dangerous Hakeem Nicks. A resilient defense that overcame injuries with sack-happy Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck sparked the Giants’ epic run.

Injury-plagued RB Ahmad Bradshaw now has a new partner in crime in Virginia Tech RB David Wilson, as RB Brandon Jacobs left for San Francisco along with Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham. GM Jerry Reese was thrilled to find pro-ready LSU WR Rueben Randle still on the board in the second round, and he may have a sleeper in ex-Dallas TE Martellus Bennett. “There’s a group down in Dallas who call themselves America’s Team,” co-owner Steve Tisch told a post-parade celebration at MetLife Stadium. “But these guys are America’s dream.”

3. Dallas Cowboys

Owner Jerry Jones insists that Tony Romo is as good as any quarterback.  Despite one of his better seasons (4,184 yards, 31 TDs), Romo is 7-12 in December. The Cowboys (8-8) lassoed only one team that finished .500 or better. America’s QB has talented targets in Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, and RB DeMarco Murray reminded Jones of Eric Dickerson last season. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be more dangerous now with free agent cornerback Brandon Carr and No. 1 draft LSU CB Morris Claiborne shutting down receivers long enough for predator OLB DeMarcus Ware to eat quarterbacks in the backfield. 

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