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With a little less than a week to go before the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys get the NFL season underway in New Jersey, it's time to make some predictions about what we might see in the coming season.

Some of these predictions may be obvious, while others may shock you, but both categories are based in fact and come with specific numbers attached. Pay attention and you just might learn something that will make you seem really smart to your buddies, help you win your fantasy league, or both!

Here we go:

1. The Restrictions Placed On Cowboys WR Dez Bryant Will Lead To a Monster Year
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According to reports, the Cowboys recently came to an agreement with their talented but troubled receiver that leaves him with, among other things, a curfew and a personal security team around the clock. Some people have said that the added restrictions will only increase the likelihood that Dez Bryant gets in trouble again.

I think that the presence of a third party at all times will lead Bryant to increase his focus on the game. He is a big (6-3, 220 pounds) target in the red zone for Tony Romo, he scored nine touchdowns last year, he is entering his third year in the league, which is when many receivers tend to breakout, and tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Miles Austin are already banged up.

I say 80 receptions for 1,200 yards and 10 scores, and it's not even a stretch.

2. Aaron Hernandez Is This Year's Rob Gronkowski/Jimmy Graham
Tight end Aaron Hernandez now stands at the precipice of becoming the favorite and most dangerous target for quarterback Tom Brady on a Super Bowl quest.
Elise Amendola/AP
Aaron Hernandez is a talented dude, and was one of the top tight ends in the league last year despite the presence of the aforementioned Rob Gronkowski. This year, the New England Patriots even upgraded Tom Brady's collection of toys by adding deep-threat Brandon Lloyd, who led the league in receiving under current offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with the Denver Broncos two years ago.

Defenses will have to focus on Lloyd, Gronkowski and Wes Welker. Hernandez could make the leap with defenses forced to leave him in single coverage with a slower linebacker or a smaller defensive back. Starting with last year's 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns, Hernandez could make it 90 for 1,150 and 12 TD's this year if Gronkowski simply regresses to the mean in a historically difficult-to-predict touchdown category.

3. Danny Amendola Emerges As a Wes Welker Type of Player In St. Louis
When looking for breakout candidates, you tend to look for a player with talent or a specific skillset that hasn't been used to its potential yet due to injuries. Using that criteria, Danny Amendola seems like a great bet to catch a lot of footballs this year for the St. Louis Rams.

Just two years ago, he caught 85 balls from No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, and probably would have repeated that effort last year had he not gotten hurt in Week 1. This has led to people forgetting about the diminutive Amendola. Wes Welker has shown that being undersized and fast can be an advantage. Amendola seems primed to be the next great example of this trend.

I don't think expecting another 85 catches for 1,000 yards and four scores is out of the question.

4. Drew Brees Is Not a Top 5 Quarterback In 2012
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This is definitely one of the less obvious predictions that I mentioned above, but hear me out because there are many reasons to think Drew Brees has the biggest downside of any elite signal-caller this year.

First of all, offensive mastermind Sean Payton was suspended for the year and prohibited from making any contact with the New Orleans Saints in his absence in the aftermath of the bounty scandal uncovered by NFL investigators.

People seem to forget that before joining forces with Payton, Brees was an average quarterback with the San Diego Chargers despite having LaDainian Tomlinson in his prime. Payton didn't like to run on the goal line, and with a new coach, we're bound to see more touchdowns go to the Saints' deep stable of running backs.

The Saints also lost starting receiver Robert Meachem to the aforementioned Chargers in the offseason. By itself, this is not the biggest deal, as New Orleans still has Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles and Lance Moore to make catches. The problem is that last year seemed to have been a best-case scenario for Graham and Sproles, and Colston can never stay healthy.

It would not be surprising to me if someone we haven't mentioned was starting at one of the skill positions by midseason. Overall, I've got Brees down for a still respectable 4,200 yards to go with 32 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Ten years ago, that made him the top QB by far, but in today's game, he's just outside the top 5.

5. The Detroit Lions Do Not Make the Playoffs
The Detroit Lions are the NFL's most talented young team. So what gives?

For starters, they play in the same division as the Green Bay Packers, who won the Super Bowl two years ago and were the league's best team last year before the Giants beat them in the playoffs. Also, Matthew Stafford has had problems staying healthy in the past. If he can't stay on the field, the Lions won't go anywhere.

Finally, after dumping Jerry Angelo as GM, the Chicago Bears acquired a stud wide receiver in Brandon Marshall for the first time in decades, giving Jay Cutler someone to throw the ball to. I see Detroit finishing a respectable 9-7, but with both the Packers and Bears ahead of them.

6. A.J. Green Has a Sophomore Slump In Cincinnati
Daniel Shirley-US-PRESSWIRE
The conventional wisdom used to be that receivers tend to break out in their second or third years in the league. Lately, more and more rookies have been very successful. Cincinnati BengalsA.J. Green and his Atlanta Falcons counterpart Julio Jones were the best examples of this last year.

However, history has shown us that tremendous rookie seasons are very difficult to repeat after defensive coordinators all over the league have an entire offseason to figure out how to stop them (See Mike Williams of the Tampa Bay Buccaners last year).

I think Jones improves because of Roddy White on the other side of the fields, but Green is all there is as far as receivers go for the Bengals. I see 60 receptions for 900 yards and five TD's in store for him in 2012.

7. Ben Tate Starts At Least Five Games For the Texans
Ben Tate Wade Smith #74 springs teammate Ben Tate #44 of the Houston Texans for a first down during a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on August 11, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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Arian Foster has been the top running back in the league for the past two years, averaging 15 TD's per season. This type of excellence has typically been short-lived (see Priest Holmes), as workload, especially around the goal line where the hits are harder, makes injury more likely.

Foster already missed three games last year with a hamstring problem, a notoriously hard problem to shake. Moving on to his backup, Ben Tate showed last year that a large part of Foster's success was the Houston Texans' stellar offensive line by putting up over 900 yards on the ground in part-time work.

If Foster gets banged up, the Texans won't hesitate to give him some rest in a weak division that they should run away with. I've got Tate down for a little bit more than 1,000 yards and seven TD's filling in for Arian the Barbarian this season.

8. Darren McFadden Finishes the Year As a Top-5 Running Back
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Since being drafted 4th overall in 2008, the man known as Run-DMC has shown flashes of explosiveness while battling injuries to stay on the field.

This pick is more of a gut feeling, but I think this is finally the year where Darren McFadden stays healthy and breaks out, with Carson Palmer and his young but talented receivers steadying the passing game with the Oakland Raiders.

1,700 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns is not out of the question with former handcuff Michael Bush now backing up Matt Forte in Chicago. Oakland is my sleeper team in the AFC if you couldn't tell.

9. Philadelphia Finally Makes the Leap
Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25) celebrates after his second quarter touchdown against the New England Patriots during an NFL preseason football game in Foxborough, Mass., Monday, Aug. 20, 2012. Photo: AP / AP
Obviously, anything can happen in the playoffs, where the phrase “Any Given Sunday” really starts to take effect, but the Philadelphia Eagles simply have too much talent to repeat last year's debacle.

I think Michael Vick stays healthier this year and plays 12-13 games, and DeSean Jackson is primed for a bounceback year now that his contract situation was resolved.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles spent some more money to shore things up. They return the best pair of cornerbacks in the league in Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a huge plus in an increasingly pass-happy NFL.

I think Philly finishes no worse than 10-6 in a tough NFC East.

10. The Patriots Will Win the Super Bowl Over the Eagles
As I just said, the playoffs are nearly impossible to predict, but I have to make a pick, so I'm going with the teams with the most explosive talent to make the year's biggest game.

The offenses get the focus, but the Patriots added two first-round draft picks on the defensive side of the ball after another disheartening loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI last year. The young blood should make an instant impact, and Tom Brady will never be .500 in Super Bowls (he's currently 3-2).

Patriots 31, Eagles 20.

No matter what happens, I hope everyone enjoys the season. I know I will.

Michael Goldstone is a die-hard football fan. He bleeds Giants blue, but always tries to see the other side of the coin over being a total homer. When not watching or writing about football, Michael likes to play chess and frequently takes advantage of some of the best casino promotions on the web. In the off-season, Michael counts down the days until kickoff. We are under 7 to go!


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