It is time to put my preseason prophecies to the test. Just before opening day of the NFL season I went through my annual ritual of predicting the won-loss record of all 32 NFL teams – along with my playoff participants and Super Bowl finalists/winners.
I had my usual hits and misses, and my blind faith in the San Diego Chargers winning the AFC. To recap further…
- Seven of my 12 playoff picks did actually advance to the postseason tournament.
- I correctly predicted the record of seven teams, and was off by one win/loss on eight others and two wins/losses off on seven more – accounting for 22 of the 32 teams. I picked the correct order of finish in the AFC South, only being off by a combined three games among the four teams. I also came close to predicting the correct order of finish of the AFC East – technically Miami finishes ahead of Buffalo based on better divisional record.
- Teams I missed the mark on the most: Rams (2 wins v. predicted 10), Bengals (9 wins v. predicted 2), and 49ers (13 wins v. predicted 7).
I also have a baseball version of last year’s predictions I still haven’t gotten to. Maybe it was because of that Red Sox/Braves World Series I predicted.
On to the rundown…
New England: predicted record 13-3, actual 13-3
As I said back in September, the Pats don’t start to get graded until the playoffs. If both No. 1 seeds hold this year, a Pats/Packers Super Bowl could turn into the Alamo Bowl all over again, as both teams are mirror images (unstoppable offenses plus shaky D).
NY Jets: predicted 10-6, actual 8-8
Does the NFL playoffs proceed without EITHER of the Ryan brothers? The Jets are so good at collecting attitudes that maybe they should contact the Sacramento Kings and trade for DeMarcus Cousins — he’d fit right in.
Miami: predicted 4-12, actual 6-10
You can’t come back from 0-7, but winning six of final nine builds momentum for next season with new coaching staff.
Buffalo: predicted 7-9, actual 6-10
I predicted improvement with the Bills this year, and for the first half of the season, I was right.
Baltimore: predicted 11-5, actual 12-4
I had the AFC North as a dead heat before the season, and the season played out exactly so, except the Ravens scored a huge sweep on Steelers. Result is No. 2 seed and first home playoff game in four years. This may be the Ravens best chance since the Super Bowl 35 winning team.
Pittsburgh: predicted 11-5, actual 12-4
The Steelers have many more issues than the Ravens: Roethlisberger hobbling, Mendenhall out, and it is not medically safe for Ryan Clark to play in Denver this weekend. Steelers should make it through Round 1, but repeating as AFC Champs is now a long shot.
Cincinnati: predicted 2-14, actual 9-7
Obviously exceeded the expectations of everyone, and squeezed out the final Wild Card spot beating the teams they were supposed to. 9-0 v. non-playoff teams, 0-7 v. playoff opponents.
Cleveland: predicted 7-9, actual 4-12
The Madden Curse has made a believer out of Peyton Hillis. The offense scored more than 20 points only once all season and lost to the Steelers by scores of 14-3 and 13-9.
Houston: predicted 10-6, actual 10-6
Indeed took advantage of the Colts’ nosedive to gain its first-ever playoff berth. Despite a season-ending, three-game losing streak and being down to a third-string QB, the Texans have a good shot to at least win a playoff game.
Tennessee: predicted 9-7, actual 9-7
Chris Johnson picked it up in the second half of the season with 893 combined yards, but still finished with just four touchdowns on the year. The jury will remain out on Jake Locker as a future QB.
Jacksonville: predicted 6-10, actual 5-11
Correctly predicted that Jack Del Rio was more than overdue to get his walking papers. Maurice Jones-Drew led the league with nearly 2,000 combined yards, which is even more impressive considering rookie Blaine Gabbert kept no one honest.
Indianapolis: predicted 4-12, actual 2-14
Just before the season started I predicted Peyton Manning would not take a snap all year. Next prediction, Peyton Manning wants out after Indy selects Oliver Luck’s kid.
Denver: predicted 8-8, actual 8-8
Wins AFC West despite a point differential of -91.
San Diego: predicted 11-5, actual 8-8
Dug such a huge hole in October/November that not even December could bail the Bolts out this time.
Oakland: predicted 5-11, actual 8-8
May need a loan modification after mortgaging future on a well-used Carson Palmer.
Kansas City: predicted 7-9, actual 7-9
Said KC would take a step back this year, and the 2011 season was almost over before it began, especially when Jamaal Charles went down. One of many teams in the market for a QB, and no I don’t mean Donovan McNabb.
NY Giants: predicted 8-8, actual 9-7
Suddenly trending as everyone’s dark horse darling for the playoffs. Well Eli Manning pushed 5,000 yards, and next to Cam Newton, Victor Cruz was the fantasy football breakthrough of the year. NYG’s road to the promised land is about the same as 2007, through Green Bay and possibly the Patriots. And if Giants make it to big game, they will do so after being outscored in regular season (394-400).
Philadelphia: predicted 11-5, actual 8-8
The “Dream Team” would had snuck into the playoffs had the Jets beaten Giants a couple weeks back, which was way too much to ask.
Dallas: predicted 10-6, actual 8-8
Another crazy, roller-coaster, checkered year in Big D. First Sunday Nighter v. Giants proved to be one blown lead too many.
Washington: predicted 5-11, actual 5-11
Shanny says team much better off than a year ago. Anyone buy that after a 2-10 finish?
Green Bay: predicted 11-5, actual 15-1
Good news is Pack has “easy” road this year, only needing to win two home games. Bad news is opposition (possibly Giants/Niners/Saints) will be more than formidable, and defense showing disturbing signs.
Detroit: predicted 11-5, actual 10-6
Breaks 12-year playoff drought but now has to go to New Orleans in Round 1, and we saw that movie (minus Suh) just a few weeks back. RB will be a draft need. Jahvid Best’s concussion history definite issue at this point.
Chicago: predicted 7-9, actual 8-8
I called this as a Bears “down year” in September. Cutler/Forte will keep team in mix, but receiving corps must be upgraded.
Minnesota: predicted 5-11, actual 3-13
Even a rougher road than I thought back in September. Leslie Frazier likely gets a mulligan but purple still faces uphill battle in tough division.
New Orleans: predicted 12-4, actual 13-3
NFL’s second-best team? Have routed Giants, Lions, and Falcons at home – but will likely need to win two games in postseason on the road.
Atlanta: predicted 10-6, actual 10-6
Only difference is I had A-T-L being squeezed out of postseason, but 10-6 wound up more than good enough. But Atlanta proved in regular season that they can’t quite hang with the heavyweights (Saints/Packers).
Carolina: predicted 4-12, actual 6-10
Cam Newton’s development has accelerated rebuilding process. Can see Panthers as a Wild Card entrant in 2012.
Tampa Bay: predicted 7-9, actual 4-12
I said they would regress like KC in AFC, but wheels came off much worse than I envisioned. Historic 26-game losing streak still defines franchise’s history, but current 10-game slight not that far off.
San Francisco: predicted 7-9, actual 13-3
When the Lights Go Out in the City. Niners should like their current position, being given little respect and no chance in the playoffs by the national pundits. MNF game v. Pittsburgh proved franchise resurgence is for real, but divisional playoff a referendum on QB Alex Smith’s future.
Arizona: predicted 7-9, actual 8-8
Don’t think Larry Fitzgerald is tough? Turns out he finished season finale with an INJURED LUNG.
Seattle: predicted 5-11, actual 7-9
Back-to-back 7-9 campaigns open Pete Carroll era. Year No. 3 will be key with upgrade needed under center.
St. Louis: predicted 10-6, actual 2-14
My preseason pick regressed to the point of the front office cleaning house and starting over from square one. Unlike Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford has not been given a fair shake with a supporting cast.
Revised Playoff Predictions
AFC Championship – New England over Baltimore
NFC Championship – Green Bay over San Francisco
SUPER BOWL 46 – Green Bay over New England (staying with preseason prediction)