When I played for the Buffalo Bills I got a request during the 1992 season to read the Gettysburg Address during Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” an orchestral tribute to Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech. Lincoln delivered his words on November 19th, 1863 on the battlefield as a sort of recap of the Civil War. Copland and his orchestra bring the words to life in a stirring rendition.
It starts, of course, with the famous phrase “Four score and seven years ago,” referring to the American Revolution of 1776, and later Lincoln adds these chilling words: ”The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” Now, long after Lincoln’s three-minute speech the world long remembers what was said and done there in rural Pennsylvania. So in honor of the 16th president, here are some predictions for the 2012 NFL season that, I must assume, “The world will little note!”
Non-QB Offensive Rookie of the Year: Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville
If I were to pick a QB, I could toss into the hat Andrew Luck, RGIII and Russell Wilson and make compelling arguments for all three. Dissect the numbers up and down, left and right, but for right now, I’d rather look elsewhere.
Keep an eye on new Jacksonville wide receiver Justin Blackmon. I loved him at Oklahoma State. He plays big and tough, is sure handed and a good route runner. I know he had a little trouble off the field before the preseason began, but that should keep him hyper-focused. I think by pushing the ball to Blackmon, the Jags may send a subtle message to MJD.
Offensive MVP: Calvin Johnson, Detroit
The Lions don’t have a great run game, but they don’t need one. To keep pace in the NFC North with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, they must and will throw the ball to #81. Remember the week 17 loss to the Packers and Payday Flynn? Stafford ended up with 520 passing yards. Calvin Johnson is the NFL’s Magic Johnson – he’s the only receiver who makes everyone around him better. That’s linemen, running backs, TEs and even his quarterback. Megatron is a monster.
Defensive MVP: Clay Matthews, Green Bay
What can I say, I like the NFC North. Packers GM Ted Thompson has vision! Release Brett Favre and go with Aaron Rodgers? He got a big Super Bowl ring for that much-questioned decision. Now, in the 2012, he drafted six straight defensive players. When those guys help make some stops, it will go a long way toward making the current incarnation of Matthews look a lot like the 13.5-sack version from 2010. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has never looked happier.
Super Bowl Match-Up: Green Bay Packers vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Packers are a semi-easy pick after a 15-1 regular season in 2011. Lots of offense and, as I said, I like the direction of the defense. But when it comes to the AFC, I must be loony, right? The Ravens lost their best defensive player in Terrell Suggs to an off-season Achilles injury and their next two best defenders are getting ready to collect social security — 37-year-old Ray Lewis and 33-year-old Ed Reed. But Joe Flacco tends to win games and someday that will translate deep into the postseason. Add to that the fact that the Ravens under GM Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh restock better than anyone. Tough and physical, you take a beating when face this team. Nobody enjoys playing the Ravens and no one wants to face them in the playoffs. Don’t forget, they were a dropped pass away from Super Bowl XLVI.
So those are my predictions for 2012. Maybe they’ll come true, maybe they won’t. Either way, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.”
– James Lofton