The beginning of football season means a few things. Tailgate parties. Guys in the office talking endlessly about their fantasy teams. Strained relationships with the significant other.
We’ll focus on another rite of Fall…predictions!
The staff of Arizona Sports was asked to put their prognostication hats on and produce picks for the upcoming campaign. And because football is in the air, or more accurately, because their baseball picks were downright embarrassing, they obliged.
Here’s how our staff sees the 2012 NFL season taking shape.
NFC West Champions:
San Francisco 49ers: 10 votes: Bloom, Burns, Carlen, Del Colliano, Feinerman, Franz, Gambadoro, Green, Huizenga, Nacke
Seattle Seahawks: 2 votes: Gibberman, Marotta
No homers here…Nobody on the panel has the Arizona Cardinals winning the division.
NFC North Champions
Green Bay Packers: 12 votes: Bloom, Burns, Carlen, Del Colliano, Feinerman, Franz, Gambadoro, Gibberman, Green, Huizenga, Marotta, Nacke
NFC South Champions
Atlanta Falcons: 8 votes: Bloom, Burns, Del Colliano, Franz, Gambadoro, Gibberman, Marotta, Nacke
New Orleans Saints: 3 votes: Carlen, Green, Huizenga
Carolina Panthers: 1 vote: Feinerman
A little variety in the South. Three panelists think the Saints will prevail despite the fact that they’re down to their third-string head coach. Is Drew Brees that good? The popular pick, the Atlanta Falcons, are coming off of a 10-win season and a playoff appearance. Producer Charlie Feinerman is apparently on Team Ryan Kalil, picking the Panthers to do big things.
NFC East Champions
Philadelphia Eagles: 5 votes: Del Colliano, Franz, Gibberman, Green, Marotta
New York Giants: 5 votes: Bloom, Burns, Carlen, Gambadoro, Huizenga, Nacke
Dallas Cowboys: Feinerman
The Eagles may not be a dream team or a dynasty, but good enough on paper following a disappointing 2011 campaign to garner the most votes in the division. The Eagles are tied with the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants, who have the support of (guess who?) Gambo, who may or may not have been wearing his Osi Umenyiora jersey while making his picks.
NFC Wild Cards
Bloom: Philadelphia, Tampa Bay
Burns: New Orleans, Chicago
Carlen: Chicago, Atlanta
Del Colliano: Chicago, NY Giants
Feinerman: NY Giants, Philadelphia
Franz: Chicago, NY Giants
Gambadoro: New Orleans, Detroit
Gibberman: Chicago, NY Giants
Green: NY Giants, Atlanta
Huizenga: Philadelphia, Atlanta
Marotta: Detroit, NY Giants
Nacke: Philadelphia, Detroit
So that leaves the Redskins, Vikings, Rams and yes, the Cardinals, as the only NFC teams not to get a vote to advance to the postseason. Yes, Jon Bloom picked Tampa Bay — easily the gutsiest Wild Card selection.
NFC Title Game
Bloom: Green Bay over Atlanta
Burns: Green Bay over Chicago
Carlen: Green Bay over New Orleans
Del Colliano: Green Bay over Atlanta
Feinerman: Dallas over Carolina
Franz: Green Bay over Chicago
Gambadoro: Green Bay over San Francisco
Gibberman: Atlanta over Philadelphia
Green: Green Bay over Philadelphia
Huizenga: Green Bay over NY Giants
Marotta: Green Bay over Atlanta
Nacke: Green Bay over San Francisco
OK, so the Packers are the sexy pick again in the NFC, with our panel having them advance to the Super Bowl over six different teams. Only Charlie Feinerman (full disclosure — huge Cowboys fan) and Bryan Gibberman had the guts to pick against the Pack.
AFC West Champions:
Denver Broncos: 7 votes: Burns, Carlen, Del Colliano, Feinerman, Gibberman, Green, Nacke
Kansas City Chiefs: 2 votes: Bloom, Franz
San Diego Chargers: 2 votes: Gambadoro, Marotta
Oakland Raiders: 1 vote: Huizenga
This is what you can expect when three teams in the division went 8-8 and the “last place” team went 7-9. Peyton Manning was the X-Factor for seven of our panelists.
AFC North Champions:
Baltimore Ravens: 6 votes: Bloom, Burns, Franz, Green, Huizenga, Marotta
Pittsburgh Steelers: 6 votes: Carlen, Del Colliano, Feinerman, Gambadoro, Gibberman, Nacke
These two teams simply don’t like each other, and if our panelists’ picks are any indication, it’ll be another war between the Ravens and Steelers this season. Incidentally, the two teams don’t play until November 18, but will see each other twice in a three-game span. Buckle up.
AFC South Champions:
Houston Texans: 11 votes: Bloom, Burns, Carlen, Del Colliano, Feinerman, Franz, Gambadoro, Green, Huizenga, Marotta, Nacke
Tennessee Titans: 1 votes: Gibberman
Did you ever think you’d see the day when the Houston Texans were a near unanimous pick to win their division? Yeah, we didn’t either. Considering the Texans won the South a year ago after enduring a boat load of quarterback injuries, a healthy Matt Schaub makes them the popular choice in 2012.
AFC East Champions
New England Patriots: 12 votes: Bloom, Burns, Carlen, Del Colliano, Feinerman, Franz, Gambadoro, Gibberman, Green, Huizenga, Marotta, Nacke
The Patriots join the Packers as the only unanimous division champ picks. I guess five episodes of Hard Knocks wasn’t enough to convince anyone that the Dolphins are a real contender?
AFC Wild Cards
Bloom: Pittsburgh, Denver
Burns: Cincinnati, Indianapolis
Carlen: Oakland, Baltimore
Del Colliano: Baltimore, Kansas City
Feinerman: Baltimore, Oakland
Franz: Cincinnati, Denver
Gambadoro: Baltimore, NY Jets
Gibberman: Baltimore, NY Jets
Green: Pittsburgh, Tennessee
Huizenga: Denver, Pittsburgh
Marotta: Denver, Pittsburgh
Nacke: Baltimore, Indianapolis
A wide variety of teams were picked as Wild Cards by our panel. No surprise that the two Jets fans (Gambo and Gibberman) weren’t scared off by New York’s 0-4 preseason during which they scored one offensive touchdown — and that was a pass by the third string QB! The only AFC teams not to get any playoff love from our panel were Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Miami. Yes, two panelists (Burns, Nacke) think Andrew Luck has got the goods to get the Colts back to the postseason.
AFC Title Game
Bloom: Baltimore over Houston
Burns: Baltimore over Houston
Carlen: Baltimore over New England
Del Colliano: New England over Pittsburgh
Feinerman: Baltimore over Houston
Franz: New England over Baltimore
Gambadoro: Houston over Pittsburgh
Gibberman: New England over Denver
Green: New England over Houston
Huizenga: New England over Baltimore
Marotta: Baltimore over New England
Nacke: Houston over Pittsburgh
In a somewhat surprising twist, the most common matchup/result predicted by our panel is Baltimore upending Houston (a franchise with exactly one playoff win to their credit) to advance to the Super Bowl. Five panelists like Baltimore returning the Super Bowl for the first time in 12 years.
Super Bowl Predictions
Bloom: Green Bay over Baltimore
Burns: Baltimore over Green Bay
Carlen: Green Bay over Baltimore
Del Colliano: Green Bay over New England
Feinerman: Baltimore over Dallas
Franz: Green Bay over New England
Gambadoro: Green Bay over Houston
Gibberman: Atlanta over New England
Green: New England over Green Bay
Huizenga: New England over Green Bay
Marotta: Green Bay over Baltimore
Nacke: Green Bay over Houston
Seven panelists expect the Lombardi Trophy to go back to its original home — Green Bay, while two each like the Ravens and the Patriots to take the hardware. Bryan Gibberman likes the Falcons to win their first title in team history.
What will the Cardinals record be in 2012?
9-7: 1 vote: Carlen
8-8: 1 vote: Bloom
7-9: 2 votes: Del Colliano, Marotta
6-10: 5 votes: Burns, Feinerman, Franz, Green, Huizenga
5-11: 2 vote: Gambadoro, Nacke
3-13: 1 vote: Gibberman
Well that paints a pretty picture, huh? Only one of our panelists, Jarrett Carlen, has the Cardinals with a winning record, while Bryan Gibberman is predicting a 3-win campaign, which would tie the 2000 Cardinals for the worst mark in team history.
Who will have more TD passes for the Cardinals, Skelton or Kolb, and how many?
Bloom: Skelton, 21
Burns: Skelton, 21
Carlen: Skelton, 20
Del Colliano: Skelton, 15
Feinerman: Skelton, 32
Franz: Skelton, 18
Gambadoro: Skelton, 15
Gibberman: Skelton, 18
Green: Skelton, 17
Huizenga: Kolb, 14
Marotta: Skelton, 10
Nacke: Skelton, 8
The vast majority of our panel sees John Skelton keeping his starting quarterback job over Kevin Kolb. In fact, our Charlie Feinerman sees Skelton thriving, throwing 32 scoring strikes. Either Charlie knows something the rest don’t, or he’s been playing way too much Madden ’13. For information’s sake, Kurt Warner threw 30 touchdown passes for Arizona in their Super Bowl season of 2008.
Who will be the Cardinals’ leading rusher, and how many yards will he have?
Bloom: Ryan Williams, 827
Burns: Ryan Williams, 1,036
Carlen: Beanie Wells, 1,025
Del Colliano: Ryan Williams, 1,000
Feinerman: Ryan Williams, 821
Franz: Beanie Wells, 987
Gambadoro: Ryan Williams, 800
Gibberman: Ryan Williams, 1,100
Green: Ryan Williams, 845
Huizenga: Ryan Williams, 740
Marotta: Ryan Williams, 759
Nacke: Ryan Williams, 903
There isn’t a whole lot of faith in Beanie Wells to return to his 2011 form when he ran for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Offseason knee surgery and time on the PUP list during preseason will plant that seed of doubt. However, the vast majority of the panel does have faith in Ryan Williams, who missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury, so figure that one out?
Behind Larry Fitzgerald, who will be the Cardinals’ second-leading receiver?
Bloom: Andre Roberts, 62 catches
Burns: Andre Roberts, 52 catches
Carlen: Andre Roberts, 74 catches
Del Colliano: Michael Floyd, 50 catches
Feinerman: Ryan Williams, 62 catches
Franz: Andre Roberts, 68 catches
Gambadoro: Early Doucet, 55 catches
Gibberman: Andre Roberts, 65 catches
Green: Andre Roberts, 68 catches
Huizenga: Andre Roberts, 58 catches
Marotta: Andre Roberts, 65 catches
Nacke: Michael Floyd, 55 catches
We’re going on the second straight season of speculation of who will step up opposite Fitzgerald in the Cardinals’ receiving corps, so it’s no surprise that four different players got votes. Interestingly enough, only two (Del Colliano, Nacke) think it’ll be rookie Michael Floyd who elevates to the number two position despite being a high draft pick.
Aaron Rodgers: 7 votes: Bloom, Burns, Carlen, Del Colliano, Gambadoro, Marotta, Nacke
Tom Brady: 3 votes: Franz, Green, Huizenga
Cam Newton: 1 vote: Feinerman
Matt Ryan: 1 vote: Gibberman
A majority favors Green Bay signal caller Aaron Rodgers to repeat at the league’s MVP, with three jumping on the Tom Brady bandwagon. The two outliers? Charlie Feinerman and Bryan Gibberman, who each like an NFC South quarterback to win the hardware.
Offensive Player of the Year
Aaron Rodgers: 4 votes: Bloom, Carlen, Gambadoro, Green
Tom Brady: 2 votes: Franz, Huizenga
Arian Foster: 1 vote: Nacke
Andre Johnson: 1 vote: Del Colliano
Calvin Johnson: 1 vote: Burns
Darren McFadden: 1 vote: Gibberman
Cam Newton: 1 vote: Feinerman
Ray Rice: 1 vote: Marotta
Eight different players received votes in this category, including two wide receivers. That’s noteworthy because a receiver hasn’t won the award since Jerry Rice took home the honor in 1993. It’s also noteworthy that last year’s winner, New Orleans QB Drew Brees, didn’t receive one vote.
Defensive Player of the Year
DeMarcus Ware: 3 votes: Burns, Feinerman, Nacke
Patrick Willis: 3 votes: Bloom, Gambadoro, Green
Jason Pierre-Paul: 2 votes: Franz, Marotta
D’Qwell Jackson: 1 vote: Del Colliano
Von Miller: 1 vote: Gibberman
Brooks Reed: 1 vote: Carlen
Justin Tuck: 1 vote: Huizenga
There will be a new winner of this award in 2012, since last year’s winner, Terrell Suggs of Baltimore, is on the shelf for an indefinite amount of time with an Achilles tendon injury. It’s somewhat curious that not one defensive back got a vote for the award — three safeties (Ed Reed, Bob Sanders, Troy Polamalu) have won it since 2004.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Andrew Luck: 5 votes: Burns, Carlen, Del Colliano, Gambadoro, Nacke
Robert Griffin III: 4 votes: Bloom, Feinerman, Franz, Green
Justin Blackmon: 1 vote: Gibberman
Doug Martin: 1 vote: Marotta
David Wilson: 1 vote: Huizenga
A quarterback has won this award five times in the last eight seasons.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Luke Kuechly: 4 votes: Bloom, Burns, Gambadoro, Marotta
Mark Barron: 3 votes: Carlen, Gibberman, Huizenga
Melvin Ingram: 2 votes: Del Colliano, Franz
Morris Claiborne: 1 vote: Feinerman
Bruce Irvin: 1 vote: Green
Courtney Upshaw: 1 vote: Nacke
A linebacker has won this award eight times in the last nine seasons, so things are boding well for Kuechly. The Boston College rookie was named on four ballots after being the ninth overall selection in last April’s draft by the Carolina Panthers. Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com picked Bruce Irvin, even though the West Virginia product isn’t sure which team he plays for.
Coach of the Year
Gary Kubiak: 2 votes: Gambadoro, Huizenga
Chuck Pagano: 2 votes: Burns, Nacke
Bill Belichick: 1 vote: Del Colliano
Pete Carroll: 1 vote: Gibberman
Romeo Crennel: 1 vote: Bloom
Jeff Fisher: 1 vote: Franz
Andy Reid: 1 vote: Green
Ron Rivera: 1 vote: Feinerman
Mike Smith: 1 vote: Marotta
Whoever’s Coaching the Saints: 1 vote: Carlen
No votes for any of the Harbaugh family? What an upset! Seven of our voters picked the Green Bay Packers to win the Super Bowl, yet nobody gave love to Mike McCarthy in this category.
First coach fired
Leslie Frazier: 4 votes: Carlen, Del Colliano, Gambadoro, Huizenga
Norv Turner: 4 votes: Bloom, Burns, Feinerman, Franz
Pat Shurmur: 3 votes: Gibberman, Marotta, Nacke
Chan Gailey: 1 vote: Green
Hope Leslie Frazier is renting in the Twin Cities. Minnesota isn’t projected to have a good season, and our panel thinks their head coach will be the fall guy. And Norv and Pat, yeah, you shouldn’t feel so good about your job security, either.
Our panel:Jon Bloom, Host of Cardinal Talk; Dave Burns, Co-host of Burns and Gambo; Jarrett Carlen, Arizona Sports tech director/The Oddcast; Daria Del Colliano, ArizonaSports.com, Charlie Feinerman, Arizona Sports 620 producer/reporter; Doug Franz, Co-host of Doug and Wolf, John Gambadoro, Co-host of Burns and Gambo; Bryan Gibberman, Arizona Sports 620 producer; Adam Green, ArizonaSports.com; Joe Huizenga, Producer of KTAR’s Karie & Chuck; Vince Marotta, ArizonaSports.com; Carter Nacke, KTAR.com