It’s time to gaze into the crystal ball and make some predictions about the 2012 NFL season. I know what you’re thinking: These prediction articles can be pretty darn predictable. Not when your crystal ball is as warped as mine.
Super Bowl Prediction
Patriots 23, Falcons 20. A thrilling first half ends in a 20-20 tie, but the game stalls as both coaches decide to go for it on every fourth down of the second half and convert a statistically improbable 0-of-16 opportunities. Finally, Asante Samuel gets his full torso in front of Stephen Gostkowski's last-second 49-yard field-goal attempt, but the force of the ball knocks Samuel backward and the kick sails through the uprights. The guy who installed the deadbolt in Rob Gronkowski's hotel-room door is named Super Bowl MVP.
MVP winner: Cam Newton, Panthers. Newton throws for 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns, adding another dozen rushing touchdowns in a series of thrilling 38-35 games, nearly half of which are won by the Panthers.
MVP deserver: Tom Brady, Patriots. Brady throws for 5,000 yards with a 4-to-1 touchdown/interception ratio. But when the Patriots nearly fall short in the Super Bowl, Boston-area fans blame his January fashion shoot in Cummerbund Quarterly, which was actually photographed in July.
Defensive Player of the Year winner: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys. Voters finally realize that without Ware’s 19 sacks and non-stop pass pressure, the Cowboys’ defense could give up 600 passing yards to the Indonesian badminton team.
Defensive Player of the Year deserver: Patrick Willis, 49ers. All credit for 49ers success or toughness will be attributed to Jim Harbaugh’s sideline scowl until further notice.
Rookie of the Year winner: Robert Griffin III, Redskins. A 3,000-yard, 20-touchdown, 500-rushing yard season will get Redskins fans so excited that they forget the team is 5-11 and won’t draft in the first round again until midway through the next presidential administration.
Defensive Rookie of the Year winner: Luke Kuechly, Panthers. He will record 100 tackles and lose 30 pounds chasing running backs in the open field while team doctors try to stitch the working parts of Thomas Davis and Jon Beason into one healthy linebacker.
Comeback Player of the Year: Chad Pennington, Jets. He’s due.
Seriously, Comeback Player of the Year: Jamaal Charles, Chiefs. Charles runs for 1,100 yards for the resurgent Chiefs, proving that he is durable enough to carry the load as long as coaches don’t wear him out by making him jog on and off the field every other snap.
Coach of the Year: Greg Schiano, Buccaneers. If you haven’t noticed, this award is right up there with the “Best New Artist” Grammy when it comes to long-term prestige.
Passing (Yards): Matthew Stafford, Lions. The Lions will abandon their running game completely when Kevin Smith crumbles into a pile of dust in Week 8.
Passing (Rating): Drew Brees, Saints. At his current rate of efficiency increase, Brees will complete more passes than he throws in 2017.
Rushing Yards: Ray Rice, Ravens. The Ravens’ new hurry-up offense allows them to hand off to Rice 35 times per game. It will also accelerate time itself, meaning that Rice will be 53 years old by the end of the season.
Receptions: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots. A jealous, pouty Wes Welker unfriends Tom Brady on Facebook.
Receiving Yards: Calvin Johnson, Lions. Roddy White would have led the league, but a preseason of practicing against Asante Samuel left him unprepared for the feeling of physical contact against his body. White gets injured by an early season high-five.
Scoring: Mason Crosby, Packers. The Packers suddenly realize that they have no decent running backs and cannot score in the red zone no matter how hard the Lambeau faithful shouts “Kuhhhhhn!”
Interceptions: Antonio Cromartie, Jets. He also backs up his claim that he is the second-best receiver on the Jets, with nine catches.
Sacks: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants. Chris Long of the Rams would have more, but his five sacks against the Cardinals are disqualified by the league because of “offensive indifference.”
When Peyton Manning gets injured: Doesn’t happen. John Fox and John Elway keep throwing themselves in front of the blitzing linebackers.
When Mark Sanchez gets benched: Week 3.
When Tim Tebow gets benched: Week 6.
When Mark Sanchez gets benched again: Week 7.
When the Jets organization admits it made a series of obvious blunders at the quarterback position: Cold day in hell.
When Kevin Kolb proves that he is not an NFL starter: September 2010.
Order in which obviously overmatched Opening Day starting quarterbacks are benched: Jake Locker, Mark Sanchez, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer, John Skelton. Wait, who was that second-from-last guy again?
First coach fired: Leslie Frazier, after Adrian Peterson suffers a high-ankle sprain on his 29th carry with the Packers leading by 27 points in Week 13.
Exact breakdown of how Jason Garrett will be fired: Jerry Jones will question the running-back rotation in Week 2, the play calling in Week 6 and the precise wording of Garrett’s pregame speeches in Week 10. Jones will name Rob Ryan interim coach in Week 15, and Ryan will learn what a stroll through the tulips the job can be.
Exact breakdown of how Norv Turner will be fired: A.J. Smith will throw a total snit after the season finale and fire him 30 seconds before Dean Spanos fires Smith.
Exact breakdown of how Andy Reid will be fired: He won’t.
Exact breakdown of how Rex Ryan will be fired: Ever see the tollbooth scene in “The Godfather?”
With the first pick of the 2012 draft … The Arizona Cardinals select Matt Barkley of USC. Then, just for insurance, they sign Chad Pennington out of retirement, and the whole cycle starts over again.