We've nearly reached the promised land, people. One day to go before the regular season kicks off in the swamplands of Jersey. Glorious times.
If you're a football diehard -- and if you aren't, what are you doing here? -- you've been inundated with predictions for the 2012 season. We're sure many have been repetitive. The Around the League guys want to give you something different. Here are four predictions you haven't seen anywhere else.
Well, unless you have. Let's just get on with it.
The Colts will finish .500 or betterI strongly considered putting the Indianapolis Colts as my last AFC Wild Card team in our playoff predictions. But it felt like a pick just to be different when my real vision for this team is playoff contention after Thanksgiving. I see 1 p.m. ET games getting moved because the team is winning and fans want to see Andrew Luck. A very soft schedule and a fantastic rookie quarterback can cover up a lot of problems.
Rex Ryan won't survive the seasonRex Ryan says he can't fathom being fired by the Jets. Ryan says this year's team could be his best one yet. He says his defense is special. Sandwiched in between these reveries, he's taking passive-aggressive digs at his general manager, distancing himself from issues, hinting he wanted nothing to do with the drafting of Stephen Hill. Really? This was meant to be nose-to-the-grindstone time in Florham Park, but Ryan is still talking. This team is a media circus. Undisciplined. Lacking weapons on offense. Acting like they've arrived. I don't see it. The Jets will sputter out of the gate as the season opens -- and Ryan won't be here when it ends.
Aaron Hernandez will have more touchdowns than Rob GronkowskiFreshly signed to a fat extension, I expect Hernandez to become an even bigger part of the New England Patriots' offensive scheme in 2012. Please know this isn't an admonishment of Gronkowski, either. He'll still be a beast, but opponents will key on him -- allowing Hernandez to steal a few targets along the way. My prediction sinks or floats on how Hernandez is employed in the running game. If Hernandez is used liberally in the backfield -- as he was in a playoff win over the Denver Broncos in January -- watch out. A 12-to-15 touchdown season is not out of reach.
I-10 Super Bowl in the offingSurely someone on the Internets has made this prediction, but Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans will be played between the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints. The Texans nearly advanced to the AFC Championship Game on the strength of their defense and running game, and are poised to go further with healthy versions of Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Losing Sean Payton certainly hurts the Saints, but that franchise has an established program, and as long as they have Drew Brees, they can match any team in either conference point-for-point on the scoreboard.