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The Schein Nine

Peyton Manning, Broncos win out; other midseason predictions

We're halfway through a wild 2012 season, and it's time, once again, to get bold. I was looking back at my bold predictions from the preseason, and I did pretty well. (Just pretend I never wrote that the Buffalo Bills would have the best defensive line in football. But how 'bout them Cowboys?)

We know the Kansas City Chiefs will clean house. The San Diego Chargers will end the Norv Turner and A.J. Smith era. In this edition of The Schein Nine, we present some bigger predictions for the second half of the NFL season.

1) The Denver Broncos win every game in the second half.

In the preseason, I picked Denver to finish with a 9-7 record. I thought the Broncos would lose to teams like the San Diego Chargers or Cincinnati Bengals while Peyton Manning got his arm strength back and learned his new teammates.

But the Broncos won the AFC West when they mounted that comeback against the Chargers in Week 6. It's over. Looking into the crystal ball, I don't think Denver loses again in the regular season. Seriously.

Manning is back to being Manning. Denver has a strong run game and a legit pass rush.

And look at the schedule. The Broncos visit the Carolina Panthers this Sunday, then host the Chargers, visit the Chiefs, face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, and travel to the Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens before ending the season in Denver against the Cleveland Browns and Chiefs again. The only potential loss would come against Baltimore, though even that game is winnable, because the Ravens defense isn't trustworthy. And, frankly, neither are Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, quarterback Joe Flacco or the rest of that offense.

Denver will run the table and get the No. 2 seed in the AFC behind the Houston Texans, who will get the top seed because they beat the Broncos in Week 3.

2) Michael Vick is benched, ending his career as an NFL starter.

As if you didn't already realize it, Andy Reid's wonderful career with the Philadelphia Eagles likely unofficially ended with another dreadful Monday Night Football performance, a lopsided loss to the subpar New Orleans Saints. Vick, yet again, played hot potato with the football, inexplicably forcing a throw to tight end Brent Celek that resulted in a pick-six for New Orleans.

Reid will go down swinging. He likes rookie quarterback Nick Foles. Switching signal-callers won't help the Eagles' awful defense or boost their porous pass protection, but the team needs a change.

Looking at the bigger picture, I think Vick is done. He has totally regressed as a player and a leader on this rudderless ship. As former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook told me on SiriusXM Blitz, "This team doesn't have heart or leaders."

After the Eagles part ways with Vick, I don't think he'll ever be an unquestioned starter again.

3) Mark Sanchez takes a seat.

On Sunday, the New York Jets will be facing the Seattle Seahawks and their nasty, physical defense. Sanchez's completion percentage, decision making and football IQ have been dreadful this year. It should all make for a combustible brew.

The Jets will be 3-6 after this week. Saving the season will become a bigger priority than saving Sanchez's precious and fragile psyche. Sad that hasn't already happened.

4) The Indianapolis Colts make the playoffs.

The Indianapolis Colts are 5-3. If they can go 4-4 in the second half and get to 9-7, they should have a shot at a wild-card berth. With games coming up against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars, the anemic Buffalo Bills, the suddenly inept Tennessee Titans and the absolute worst Chiefs, Indy will hit that number and seal the deal on a dream run, playing in the postseason while coach Chuck Pagano continues to recover from leukemia.

Andrew Luck is a star. He will win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and be in the MVP mix. Veteran receiver Reggie Wayne is also a star. The Colts' running game is solid. The defense is better than anyone anticipated and is only improving. What a story.

5) Bill Polian emerges as the NFL's most coveted free agent.

Bill Polian is a Hall of Famer. What he did in the front offices of the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts will earn him a trip to Canton. Bad luck and the owner's need for a fresh direction cost him his job with the Colts last season. Imagine what would have happened if he would've drafted Andy Dalton.

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Polian would be perfect as the next general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. He would have full autonomy and energize a demoralized fan base, which is suffering through a truly dreadful season.

I think current general manager Gene Smith could be axed in Jacksonville. Polian would also be ideal for that team, which has been clueless when it comes to personnel.

Don't rule anything out. San Diego? Back to Carolina? The Philadelphia Eagles? Or, another team could fire its current general manager to get Polian, who is a master. He's worth it.

6) Ryan Fitzpatrick winds up on the bench, while Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix wind up without a job.

Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix recently said he wants to give Buffalo the franchise quarterback it deserves. This is coming from the man who signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a contract a year ago, ostensibly to be that franchise quarterback. This is also the same Buddy Nix who told that he would be asleep at midnight when the free-agency period started this past March.

I whiffed badly with my preseason prediction for the Bills. Their situation is worse than I could ever have imagined. Fitz keeps throwing picks, and he will be benched. Gailey is an offensive "guru" who can't call plays or remember he employs running back C.J. Spiller. Nix signed Mario Williams and put together this mix. Bag it, Buffalo.

7) Washington wins more games than Dallas and Philadelphia.

Mike Shanahan's press conference following Sunday's inexplicable loss at home to the Carolina Panthers was alarming. It sounded like he was giving up on the season and just evaluating for next year.

The Redskins, Eagles and Dallas Cowboys all have three wins at the midway point of the season, and the NFC East has clearly become the worst division in the NFL. None of these teams reach 8-8. The 'Skins are flawed. Washington's defense is awful, albeit injury-plagued. But the Eagles have quit. The Cowboys are a mess. And Washington has Robert Griffin III and a strong run game.

8) Mike Munchak keeps his job with the Tennessee Titans.

Titans owner Bud Adams went all in. He publically bashed his coaches and players after the Chicago Bears embarrassed and pounded the pathetic Titans like a high-school varsity squad stomping on a Pop Warner team.

However, I don't think Mike Munchak is a bad coach.

He won nine games last season, as many as the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Running back Chris Johnson has basically been stealing Adams' money since singing a big contract last year. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray is overmatched and should be dismissed. But Munchak's guy, quarterback Jake Locker, will get healthy, and the team will play for him in the second half.

9) Both Chicago Bears cornerbacks make first-team All Pro.

The Bears' defense is a legit show. Veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher is the heart and soul of the unit, and makes game-changing plays. But the true difference-makers this year have been cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.

How good have Tillman and Jennings been? I predict they make history by both earning first-team All Pro honors from The Associated Press.

Tillman was the NFC's defensive player of the month in October. For good measure, he started November off with a bang, forcing four fumbles against the Titans on Sunday. Jennings, meanwhile, is the unsung hero of Chicago's defense, collecting six picks so far.

In the second half, this duo gets to face Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder twice, and a visit to the Arizona Cardinals right before Christmas should be a great early gift. You can count on Tillman and Jennings to continue to play sensational ball and rack up the statistics.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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