The year ahead in sports

Looking forward to more scoring and less scandal
By SEAN KERRIGAN  |  December 28, 2011

Sports 2012 - Patriots

It has to get better, right?

It seemed for every hail Mary, walk-off homer, and buzzer beater in 2011, the sports pages had a story on work stoppages, performance-enhancing drugs, or mind-boggling college-conference realignments. Not to mention the chicken wings. And the concussions. And the child rape.

The good news is we get to turn the page. The bad news is that making sports predictions is always a risky game — who would've thought that Claude Julien would not only outlast Terry Francona, but that he'd win Boston's lone 2011 title to boot?

Still, the Phoenix is your alternative sports leader, and sports predictions are our job. So here's a look ahead at the next 12 months, from the Super Bowl to the Stanley Cup.

The New England Patriots are rolling right now. The team has already clinched the AFC East division title and appears to be in the driver's seat as far as a first-round playoff bye and a number-one seed. But the PATRIOTS WILL NOT PLAY IN THE SUPER BOWL next year. The last team they played with a quarterback who could throw (sorry, Tim Tebow) was the Giants, and they lost. As good as Tom Brady and his receiving corps have been this year, the Patriots' defense will eventually be exposed. And if the team does make it to Indianapolis, Brady better get his arm loose: Green Bay or New Orleans could hang 50 on these guys.

While we're in Indy, might as well cover the fact that PEYTON MANNING HAS PLAYED HIS LAST GAME FOR THE COLTS. Indianapolis has shown its hand in the "Suck for [stud Stanford QB Andrew] Luck" sweepstakes, and Manning's ongoing neck problems, his upcoming (and staggering) $28-million option bonus, and the fact that this team is falling apart and needs as much draft help as possible means that he'll be doing the Peyton face somewhere else next year. Good news is that it very well could be Miami, meaning we'll see his ugly mug twice a year again.

Football fans will also see a revamping of NFL uniforms and apparel, as Nike takes over as official outfitter of the league. The company has been hyping the switch for months, and how drastic a change this will be is hard to say in a league as stodgy as the NFL — but if their college Pro Combat gear is any indication, NIKE WILL MAKE SOME NFL TEAMS LOOK VERY, VERY DIFFERENT. Let's hope they start with the Broncos, who have perhaps the ugliest uniform in sports.

HARVARD WILL WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME. Boston College will not. The year's looking better already.

At the NFL Draft in April, some brave team will take a chance on an undersize lefty quarterback from Boise State and eventually find out that KELLEN MOORE IS THE NEXT DREW BREES. Knocked for his lack of a big arm and Boise's strength of schedule, all Moore did was win more games over his career than any QB in NCAA history. Whoever gets him will be happy they did.

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