The Goldner Standard: 2012 NFL Predictions from nF's Stats Expert

All of those other predictions don't mean a thing, because we've got the numbers to back it up. numberFire's main stats guru is here to tell you who's going to win before it actually happens.

Keith Goldner is numberFire's stats expert. Each year, he posts predictions on his own personal, very math-heavy website Drive-By Football. Here's his picks for this year, posted here for you, the numberFire football fan.

Welcome to the 2012 NFL Season. If you are as giddy as I am, you're counting down the minutes until Sunday morning. We had our first taste on Wednesday as the Cowboys took down the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. As an Eagles fan, I watched, but was not particularly happy about watching. So, here are my predictions for the year (one of the few posts a year you'll see nonsensical and outlandish guesses from me - I'm a very serious human being).

If you remember, I picked the Patriots over the Packers last year 27-21 in the Super Bowl. Didn't quite happen, but can't say I was too far off as both teams were dominant.

2012 NFL Predictions

Division Winners:

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
No. 3 defense last year after adjusting for strength of opponents. Will come down to their season series with Pittsburgh per usual.

AFC East: New England Patriots
Belichick, Brady and the Bandits are back at it again.

AFC South: Houston Texans
Titans are the closest thing to a threat in the South, but Texans are dominant on both sides of the ball when healthy. Matt Schaub may be comeback player of the year.

AFC West: Denver Tebows Broncos
Count on a healthy Peyton Manning to lead the Broncos back to the playoffs. They had an average defense in the AFC, but their offense was miserable in 2011. Manning is an enormous improvement.

AFC Wildcard: San Diego Chargers & Pittsburgh Steelers
Chargers dealt with the worst year of Philip Rivers' career since 2006 but he still added 129.64 points above expectation to his offense. Steelers are a perennial threat to take home a Lombardi Trophy, and turnovers (one of the most random stats on a year-to-year basis) were not in their favor in 2011. Expect that to regress upwards to the mean.

NFC North: Green Bay Packers
Not much to say here, my man-crush on Aaron Rodgers is well documented.

NFC South: New Orleans Saints
Everyone is jumping off the Saints bandwagon due to offseason bounty issues. No Sean Payton and blows to the defense are significant, but remember they have one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL and know how to use it. They added 0.20 points for every single play run on offense including the No. 4 adjusted rushing NEP/P in the league at +0.06.

NFC West: San Francisco 49ers
I actually think this division will be extremely close, with Seattle giving San Fran a run for their money. The 49ers surely will not finish as well as last year, mostly due to their ridiculous positive turnover margin. I don't expect them to win more than 10 games.

NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles were one of the teams to perform most under expectation in 2011, as they finished 8-8 instead of an estimated 9-10 wins. They blew 4th-quarter lead after 4th-quarter lead, resulting in severe physical and psychological harm to myself. Expect the East to be as tough as always with the Eagles coming out on top.

NFC Wild Card: Chicago Bears & Dallas Cowboys
It pains me not to put the Atlanta Falcons in here, but the Bears were dominant before Jay Cutler and Matt Forte went down last year. They finished the year with the No. 1 opponent-adjusted defense. The Cowboys owned the No. 3 opponent-adjusted passing offense in 2011, but shot themselves in the foot by running the ball so poorly (and frequently).

Super Bowl Prediction:

Green Bay Packers def. New England Patriots 31-24

I know that I really went out on a limb with some of those projections, especially diverging from my crazy Super Bowl pick last year. Tough luck, I go with the odds. Thank God, football is back. Enjoy Week 1.