By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Met Life Stadium, Wednesday night. Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants. The NFL regular season kicks off. Time to start breathing again.
The season begins with high hopes for the Bears, who may have the best offensive team they have ever had. Will it be enough to get them to the Super Bowl?
Here’s my bold and fearless predictions for the 2012 season. I’ve been making predictions in print, on the radio or online since 1986. There have been times I got it right, but there are no guarantees.
New England Patriots – Gold standard for AFC teams as Belichick and Brady get it done once again.
Buffalo Bills – Give the Bills credit for getting a pass rush with Mario Williams this season. Rare winning season in Buffalo.
New York Jets – When you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any. Defense will still have its moments.
Miami Dolphins – Just call them the worst team in football.
Baltimore Ravens – This is now Joe Flacco’s team, not Ray Lewis’.
x-Pittsburgh Steelers – Identity problems in Pittsburgh as Steelers want to throw the ball as if they were Patriots. Must get back to balanced football.
Cincinnati Bengals – Promise of 2011 will give way to frustration in 2012.
Cleveland Browns – Plenty of heart and toughness; just not enough skill.
Houston Texans – May have the most balanced offense in NFL. Ready to take next step.
Indianapolis Colts – Rookie QB Luck proves to be the real thing and attack-style defense shocks opponents.
Tennessee Titans – Decent in a lot of areas but they have no signature strength.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Just move them to Los Angeles already and end the misery.
Denver Broncos – Peyton Manning’s pride and active defense gives Broncos an edge.
x-Kansas City Chiefs – A wild-card team if they can escape the injuries. No significant weakness.
San Diego Chargers – Say good night, Norv. This is the end of the road.
Oakland Raiders – Carson Palmer is over the hill. They don’t know how to close out games.
New York Giants – Defending champs have the best pass rush in the NFL and a quarterback who knows how to win.
x-Philadelphia Eagles – No playoffs means end of the line for Andy Reid. He just might hang on for one more year.
Dallas Cowboys – Relevant only in historic sense. Consistently gag in the fourth quarter of big games.
Washington Redskins – With RGIII at QB, their time is coming next year.
Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers just has too many weapons and the defense should be a tad better this year.
x-Chicago Bears – Look for this team to be at its best by the home stretch. Dangerous in postseason.
Detroit Lions – Jim Schwartz can’t keep his cool in games and his panic shows in his team’s lack of discipline.
Minnesota Vikings – No pressure this year, so they just might be dangerous.
Atlanta Falcons – Nice guys Mike Smith and Matt Ryan finally shake the Saints.
Carolina Panthers – Ron Rivera’s team continues to make progress as Cam Newton climbs the quarterback ladder.
New Orleans Saints – Defense disappears after Bountygate and Saints can’t win every high-scoring matchup.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Greg Schiano will prove to be NFL’s newest crazy man, but it won’t life Bucs.
San Francisco 49ers – Much harder this year and Jim Harbaugh’s obnoxious personality shows through.
Seattle Seahawks – Loose atmosphere makes great work environment; could push Niners to the limit.
Arizona Cardinals – Can’t somebody give Ken Whisenhunt a quarterback?
St. Louis Rams – Jeff Fisher will need two years to clean up this mess.
Wild Card Round
Kansas City over Baltimore
Pittsburgh over Denver
New England over Kansas City
Houston over Pittsburgh
New England over Houston
Chicago over San Francisco
Atlanta over Philadelphia
New York over Atlanta
Chicago over Green Bay
Chicago over New York
New England over Chicago
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.