This Week’s Sports Illustrated: NFL Preview Issue – Packers Over Broncos in Superbowl XLVII; The Crazy, Insane, Perfect Life of Rob Gronkowski

NFL Preview: Aaron Rodgers Will Lead the Packers Past Peyton Manning’s Broncos to Win Superbowl XLVII

Rob Gronkowski’s Crazy, Insane, Perfect Life

Detroit’s Dynamic Duo Look to Keep the Lions’ Success Going

6,000 Passing Yards in a Season Could Be Right Around the Corner

The Last American Badass: The 49ers’ Justin Smith

(NEW YORK – August 29, 2012) – Can senior NFL writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) correctly predict who plays in the Super Bowl for the second time in three years? King was on the money two seasons ago when he said the Packers and the Steelers would reach football’s promised land.  His prediction last year didn’t pan out, but after a three-week road trip through more than 20 training camps, King predicts the Packers will take down the Broncos 33–30 in Super Bowl XLVI. This year’s NFL Preview contains detailed scouting reports for each team, along with playoff and award predictions.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski appears on the cover of the Sept. 3 issue, on newsstands now. Gronkowski had a historic 2011 season, setting NFL touchdown (17) and yards receiving (1,327) records for tight ends. Senior writer Chris Ballard (@SI_ChrisBallard)got an exclusive look at Gronkowski’s highly social life. The All-Pro tight end is well known throughout New England for his joyous personality and love of a good time. Ballard spent time with the 23 year old at a young woman’s 21st birthday party, an appearance for which he was being paid five figures (page 54).

He tells Ballard, “People say, ‘He’s doing way too many things,’ but [I do them] because I got nothing to do. That’s why I hit up every charity event, why I hit up every party I’m invited to. If I’m just sitting at home, that’s not productive. That’s boring. I like going out, meeting new people, having a good time. I guess that’s why I’m all over the papers. I don’t have any girlfriends, no kids. Basically I work out two hours every single day, and then I have 12 hours to do whatever I want.”

Gronkowski enjoys life right now, and if he continues to improve on the field, he could end up being the best tight end in history.

To download a hi-res JPEG of this week’s cover click here

On the Tablets: Podcast with Richard Deitsch and Chris Ballard. Slideshow and Youtube videos of Rob Gronkowski.

PETER KING’S PREDICTIONS (page 66)

REGULAR SEASON

AFC EAST AFC NORTH AFC SOUTH AFC WEST
1. Patriots (12–4) 1. Ravens (10–6) 1. Texans (12–4) 1. Chiefs (10–6)
2. Bills (9–7)* 2. Bengals (9–7) 2. Titans (7–9) 2. Broncos (10–6)*
3. Jets (7–9) 3. Steelers (8–8) 3. Colts (5–11) 3. Chargers (8–8)
4. Dolphins (4–12) 4. Browns (5–11) 4. Jaguars (4–12) 4. Raiders (6–10)
 
NFC EAST NFC NORTH NFC SOUTH NFC WEST
1. Cowboys (10–6) 1. Bears (11-5) 1. Falcons (11–5) 1. 49ers (11–5)
2. Giants (9–7) 2. Packers (11–5)* 2. Saints (10–6)* 2. Seahawks (9–7)
3. Eagles (9–7) 3. Lions (9–7) 3. Panthers (8–8) 3. Cardinals (5–11)
4. Redskins (6–10) 4. Vikings (4–12) 4. Buccaneers (6–10) 4. Rams (3–13)

*Wild-card team

 

 

PLAYOFFS

AFC WILD-CARD ROUND NFC WILD-CARD ROUND
(3) Chiefs 20, (6) Bills 20 (6) Saints 29, (3) Falcons 24
(5) Broncos 30, (4) Ravens 25 (5) Packers 34, (4) Cowboys 27
AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND
(2) Patriots 30,  Chiefs 17 Saints 30, (1) 49ers 20
Broncos 23, (1) Texans 20 Packers 20, (2) Bears 16
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Broncos 19, Patriots 17 Packers 27, Saints 25

SUPER BOWL XLVII

Packers 33, Broncos 30

 

2012 AWARDS

Most Valuable Player: Peyton Manning, QB Broncos
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers
Defensive Player of the Year: Brooks Reed, LB Texans
Coach of the Year: Romeo Crennel, Chiefs
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Andrew Luck, QB Colts
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Bruce Irvin, DE Seahawks
Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, QB Broncos

Executive of the Year: Rick Smith, G.M. Texans

MEGATRON AND MEGA-ARM – MICHAEL ROSENBERG (@Rosenberg_Mike)

After Peyton Manning left the Colts for Denver, Matthew Stafford did a little research. He looked up the NFL records Manning shares with receiver Marvin Harrison—953 passes completed from Manning to Harrison for 12,766 yards and 112 touchdowns—and, while impressed, saw that he and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson might someday rewrite the record books. Stafford said, “I remember thinking to myself, that’s a hell of a number. But there’s a chance(page 40).

Stafford and Johnson have overcome enough suffering in Detroit—the team went 2-14 in Stafford’s first season and 0-16 in Johnson’s second—to make them value their chance at stardom. Last year Stafford bounced back from shoulder surgery and a broken forefinger on his passing hand to have one of the best seasons of any quarterback in the league, and Johnson has improved all aspects of his game, from blocking to route-running. But can they keep the Lions in contention year after year?

On the Tablets: A look at the top five QB-WR duos in history.

 

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT – PETER KING (@si_peterking)

The passing game has taken over in the NFL in recent years, so much so that senior writer Peter King wonders if there is a chance that a 6,000- yard-passing season is on the horizon. In 2005 two men threw for more than 4,000 yards. Last year three quarterbacks surpassed 5,000. Four of the top six passing-yardage seasons in history took place last year. There are many factors that have contributed to this surge including the rise of the no-huddle offense, the greater production that teams are getting from tight ends and the more frequent use of three-wide-receiver sets (page 32).

Regarding his no-huddle offense, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, “I believe in attacking. I’m not trying to shorten the game when we run the no-huddle. I’m not trying to win by three, or win by making fewer mistakes. That’s not us.”

 

AMERICAN BADASS – JIM TROTTER (@si_jimtrotter)

San Francisco’s Justin Smith is everything a defensive football player should be. Smith is fast, relentless and as strong at the end of the game as he is at the beginning. Last season, at age 32, Smith played 91% of the Niners’ defensive snaps and was named All-Pro at both defensive end and defensive tackle. His workout regimen has become legendary, not because of the amount of weight or types of exercises he does, but because he never lets up. He inspires his teammates to work as hard as he does. San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith calls Justin, “the last true American badass” (page 48).

Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer, who was teammates with Smith in Cincinnati from 2003 to ’07, says, “He was a great teammate, a phenomenal teammate. Wherever his place was in the locker room, whatever chair he was sitting in, guys would gravitate toward him. He was so funny and got along with guys from every background. Just a great dude. He was respected because he treated everyone the same and worked so hard.”

SORECARD: FINISHED – DAVID EPSTEIN (@SIDavidEpstein)

Late last week, Lance Armstrong finally gave up. Rather than take his chances in an arbitration hearing with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which had accused him of cheating his way to seven consecutive Tour de France titles, Armstrong is allowing his titles to be taken away (page 14).

With the USADA coming after him with “overwhelming” evidence of his past doping, and faced with a potential parade of ex-teammates testifying about injections and transfusions in hotel rooms and on team buses, he concluded  that getting on with his life was more important than defending one of the most extraordinary careers in sports.  The question remains, do you think Armstrong would have rolled over if he had won all those Tours clean? Do you think he would plead guilty to a crime he hadn’t committed, rather than fighting those charges to the death?

POINT AFTER: WAY OFFSIDES, FIVE-METER PENALTY – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)

With the possible exception of Bond villains, no one is more eager to conquer the world than executives from professional sports leagues. So how is the NFL doing, as it might put it, “strengthening global brands”? According to senior writer Phil Taylor, not so well (page 150).

 

THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD

·         Charlie High (Knoxville, Tenn./Christian Academy) – Football

·         Nikki Kimball (Bozeman, Mont.) – Ultramarathon

·         Braden Thornberry (Olive Branch, Miss./DeSoto Central High) – Golf

·         Carson Dingler (Ellijay, Ga./Clear Creek Middle School) – Track and Field

·         Emerson Gibbs (New Orleans/Tulane) – Baseball

·         Frances Silva (Overland Park, Kans./West Virginia) – Soccer

 

To submit a candidate for Faces in the Crowd, go to SI.com/faces. Follow on Twitter @SI_Faces

-SI-

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