NFL: Season Wrap-up and Playoff Predictions

I almost picked the Falcons to win the NFC South. Too bad I'm not playing horseshoes.

At the start of every sports season, everyone and their mother makes predictions on what’s going to happen.

Few of those pundits come forth at the end of the season and recap how foolish they are. I see Gene Wojciechowski and Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com do it. Bill Simmons sometimes mentions in passing how good or bad a prediction was. But rarely does it ever get brought up against after the initial predictions are made.

I don’t like that. I want the handful of idiots who predicted a Cincinnati Bengals-Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl to come forward. So owning up to that thought, here’s my recap of my preseason predictions, which can be read here, as well as my revised playoff predictions how that the field is set.

AFC East

Preseason prediction:
1. Patriots (11-5)
2. Jets (10-6)
3. Dolphins (7-9)
4. Bills (1-15)

Actual finish:
1. Patriots (14-2)
2. Jets (11-5)
3. Dolphins (7-9)
4. Bills (4-12)

Analysis – Probably my closest-to-accurate prediction of the season. Not too difficult. The only stretch I made was picking the Pats to finish ahead of the Jets (not many did). Everyone knew the Bills would suck and the Dolphins would be mediocre.

AFC North

Preseason prediction:
1. Ravens (14-2)

2. Steelers (11-5)
3. Bengals (8-8)
4. Browns (3-13)

Actual finish:
1. Steelers (12-4)
2. Ravens (12-4)
3. Browns (5-11)
4. Bengals (4-12)

Recap – I’m proud that I didn’t fall into the “Bengals are going to be awesome!” trap. But still, I thought they’d at least be respectable. I don’t think anyone predicted they’d finish behind the Browns. I think it was a no-brainer that the division title would be a toss-up between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Browns actually over-acheived to my expectations. But it still got their coach fired.

AFC South

Preseason prediction:
1. Colts (13-3)
2. Titans (9-7)
3. Texans (8-8)
4. Jaguars (3-13)

Actual finish:
1. Colts (10-6)
2. Jaguars (8-8)
3. Texans (6-10)
4. Titans (6-10)

Recap – Not breaking news that the Colts won the south again, what was surprising to me was how well the Jaguars did. I thought they would be miserable after cutting several key parts of the defense, and I thought David Garrard wasn’t any good. I was wrong on many levels.

AFC West

Preseason prediction:
1. Chargers (14-2)
2. Raiders (5-11)
3. Denver Broncos (5-11)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)

Actual finish:
1. Chiefs (10-6)
2. Chargers (9-7)
3. Raiders (8-8)
4. Broncos (4-12)

Recap – You’d think this was my most epic fail of predictions, but wait until I get to the NFC East. In reality, I knew the Chiefs had a good, young core and were going to be good eventually. I even wrote that I liked what they were doing with the young players they were bringing in. I just thought it would still be another year or two before they competed. I was wrong.

NFC East

(Here’s where it gets really ugly)

Preseason prediction:
1. Cowboys (12-4)
2. Redskins (11-5)
3. Giants (8-8)
4. Eagles (7-9)

Actual finish:
1. Eagles (10-6)
2. Giants (10-6)
3. Cowboys (6-10)
4. Redskins (6-10)

Recap – That’s right, I almost completely flipped this divisional outcome in my preseason predictions. To be fair, nobody expected the Eagles to be good and nobody expected Mike Vick to A) Be the quarterback, and B) Be this good. I, like everyone, because sold on the Cowboys. But in reality, my biggest whiff here was on the Redskins. I believed in the Shanahan-Redskins combination. I even wrote: “Donovan McNabb has comeback, revenge streak written all over him. Let’s not forget how good this guy really is, and playing with a coach who can build quarterbacks, and with revenge against the Eagles on his mind, I think he’s going to have a season unlike we’ve ever seen from him before.” I also wrote: “The key to this team, though, is Mike Shanahan… He has the veteran quarterback he needs… He can easily out-coach any team in this division and arguably any team in this conference. He’s going to re-make the Redskins and they’re going to be the surprise team in the league.”

I just have one word for all of that: Doh!

NFC North

Preseason prediction:
1. Packers (12-4)
2. Vikings (11-5)
3. Bears (5-11)
4. Lions (4-12)

Actual finish:
1. Bears (11-5)
2. Packers (10-6)
3. Lions (6-10)
4. Vikings (6-10)

Recap – Obviously way wrong on both the Bears and Vikings. Still don’t know what to make about the Bears turnaround. Didn’t see that coming anywhere. But I should’ve seen the Vikings’ fall coming. I knew they wouldn’t be as good as 2009, but didn’t imagine the collapse they suffered.

NFC South

Preseason prediction:
1. Saints (12-4)
2. Falcons (11-5)
3. Panthers (7-9)
4. Buccaneers (5-11)

Actual finish:
1. Falcons (13-3)
2. Saints (11-5)
3. Buccaneers (10-6)
4. Panthers (2-14)

Recap – I came very close to going out on a limb and picking the Falcons to win this division. Woulda, coulda, shoulda… right? I even wrote: “If there’s one team to challenge the Saints in this division, it’s the Falcons.” But I didn’t have the balls to do it, and it would’ve been a nice predictions. NOBODY expected the type of season we got out of the Bucs, so I don’t feel bad about missing that. But I also missed out on how bad the Panthers would be, even writing: “I actually like the Panthers’ offense this season.” and “Matt Moore will be impressive in his first season as the full-time starter.” Dumb.

NFC West

Screw this division. It’s not even worth recapping. OK, kidding. (Sort of)

Preseason prediction:
1. 49ers (10-6)
2. Cardinals (5-11)
3. Rams (4-12)
4. Seahawks (3-13)

Actual finish:
1. Seahawks (7-9)
2. Rams (7-9)
3. 49ers (6-10)
4. Cardinals (5-11)

Recap – Seems pretty dumb that a team I predicted would go 3-13 won the division, right? Well, not really. The Seahawks really did suck this year. So did every team in this division. It was a crapshoot and I defy anyone to show me proof that they predicted the division to play out the way it did.

Playoff Predictions

Preseason:

NFC Championship: Saints over Packers

AFC Championship: Ravens over Colts.

Super Bowl: Ravens over Saints.

Revised – You know what? It’s rare that I go into the playoffs with all of my final four teams still intact. I can’t stray from those predictions now, right? So I’m going to hang on to the fact that the 5-seeded Saints will beat the 6-seeded Packers in the NFC Championship, and the 5-seeded Ravens will beat the 3-seeded Colts in the AFC Championship.

Seems unlikely, right? But what kind of man would I be to change it now. Anyway, here are my picks for the Wild Card Playoffs.

New Orleans Saints (-11) at Seattle Seahawks
They can’t make this line high enough. Saints to win and cover.

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts (-3)
You guys saw what Jay Cutler did to the Jets’ pass defense, right? Yeah… this is Peyton Manning. Colts to win and cover.

Baltimore Ravens (-3) at Kansas City Chiefs
I still like the Chiefs (I even put a $5 bet on them to win the AFC when they were 21/1 odds earlier in the season), but the Ravens are the worst possible matchup for them out of all of their first round playoff possibilities. This one could be ugly. Ravens to win and cover.

Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles (-3)
I know, I know, I’m a homer. But my logical thought process for why the Packers can beat Philadelphia is that A) The Eagles have no home field advantage (only 4-4 at home during regular season), B) The Packers’ defense is fast enough and unpredictable enough to give Mike Vick fits, and C) The Eagles’ pass defense is atrocious and Aaron Rodgers should be able to light them up. That said, the “4th and 26 Game” still gives me nightmares, and for that, I’m terrified of what could happen in this game. Even still, Packers to win outright.

Records

Week 17 – 10-6 (5-11 against spread)
Final Regular Season Record:
153-101 (130-121-3 against spread)

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