Week 17 of 2011 ended a season of surprises and disappointments. The Colts and the Eagles flopped, and the Bengals and Broncos surprised. I have some predictions for 2012.
The surprise Team: Jacksonville Jaguars. Maurice Jones-Drew is the best combination of power and speed in the NFL, and I’m curious to see what Blaine Gabbert can do with a quality receiver. They should draft Justin Blackmon out of OSU. If they don’t, there’s no hope for this franchise in the near future.
The Flop: The Cowboys. Tony Romo has repeatedly fell short in the clutch, and he might not even be there next year. The team is short on talent. DeMarco Murray was a 3rd round steal, but aside from him, the inconsistent and mouthy Dez Bryant, and DeMarcus Ware, they have little else. The secondary is old. The O-line is unimpressive. America’s Team might not be that for much longer.
My Superbowl Pick: Houston Texans. The Texans got their first playoff berth in their short history this year-with a 3rd string, 5th- round pick, rookie quarterback. They lost their best player on defense, Mario Williams, in the middle of the season. Top wide receiver Andre Johnson, one of the best in the league, missed significant time with 2 hamstring pulls. The team is still young, and have a superb running back tandem of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Brian Cushing is becoming one of the NFL’s best middle linebackers, only a short way behind the likes of Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis. They are loaded with talent and depth on both sides of the ball. How can they go wrong? Of course, that’s what people said about the Eagles. Just make sure their backup quarterback keeps his mouth shut about some “Dream Team” and they’ll be fine.
The Rebounders: Colts and Eagles. Once they have Peyton Manning back, the Colts will become one of the NFL’s better teams again. I mean, c’mon, he’s Peyton Manning. If he never fully recovers, they have Andrew Luck. This season really exposed how thin on talent and one-dimensional the Colts are. Of course, you can afford to be one-dimensional when your quarterback is so good he can put the ball exactly here he wants and is a Hall of Famer. That doesn’t work with Kerry Collins or Curtis Painter. Anyway, the Colts are Peyton. They weren’t themselves without him. The Eagles were very disappointing, but still have Micheal Vick, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Babin, and that terrific secondary Even without DeSean Jackson. If they change their system to better fit their player’s needs, maybe they finally will live up to all the hype.
2012 Breakout Player: 49ers QB Alex Smith. Under offensive-minded Jim Harbaugh, Smith finally passed for over 3,000 yards. He could have a lot more, but the Niners relied on the ground game more than the air attack. Also, Smith really struggled with his accuracy on long bombs deep downfield. If he can fix that, and with a little confidence,who knows what he could do?