Monday, December 29, 2008

NFL-Examing My Preseason Prognostication

The NFL Regular Season has ended, and that means I need to re-examine my Preseason Picks. I have a feeling I'll be in for some terrible discoveries, but who knows. Perhaps I did well. Nah...who am I kidding?? My pre-season picks actually weren't bad, outdoing my week-to-week picks. The record was 152-102-1, compared to my week-to-week 147-107-1. Anyway, let's just get into it.

Miami (11-5, projected 7-9, 3rd in East) I predicted a 6 game improvement in Tony Sparano's first season in Miami, and, I'd probably do it about the same way again. There was no way to tell that Chad Pennington would have such a good season or that the Wildcat would become a game breaker for the playoff bound Dolphins. Congrats on a great season.

New England (11-5, 12-4, 1st) If I could have foretold that Tom Brady would go down 7 minutes into the season, I never would have thought they'd go 11-5, let alone 12-4. As is, Matt Cassel had a great season, and it's a shame they won't have a chance to go to the playoffs because I think they are one of the three most impressive teams of the second half of the season.

New York Jets (9-7, 9-7, 2nd) I knew the Jets would improve with Brett Favre at the helm, and after they knocked off the Titans, I thought I underestimated them. Turns out I was just right. Favre reverted to pre-2007 form, and the Jets defense fell to pieces.

Buffalo Bills (7-9, 4-12, 4th) The Bills got off to a rapid start, making me look like a complete fool. Then, just as quickly, they turned into the big joke I thought they would be. Some changes should be in store for the boys of Orchard Park.

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4, 9-7, 1st) I knew they'd win the North, but it would seem I vastly underestimated the North. Pittsburgh ended up 3 games better than I expected by winning the games they were supposed to all season.

Baltimore Ravens (11-5, 4-12, 3rd) One of my biggest misses of the season. At the beginning of the year, I felt like the Ravens defense was no longer the force it was in previous years. Turns out, I was very very wrong. The defense was dynamite, Joe Flacco was great, and the Ravens will be a team to be feared in the playoffs.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1, 2-14, 4th) I was looking right on the money until the Bengals "caught fire" and won their final 3 games. It may have been just enough for the idiotic Mike Brown to keep things the same and enter 2009 with another pathetic team built to lose.

Cleveland Browns (4-12, 8-8, 2nd) The Browns fooled a large group of people at the beginning of the season, including myself. I didn't forecast them to win the division like some did, but I still gave them 4 more wins than they would earn themselves. It's rebuilding time again in the Land of Cleve.

Tennessee Titans (13-3, 7-9, 4th) When the Titans finished last season, I saw Vince Young as a quarterback who just wasn't getting it, and the Titans as an overachieving bunch that would drop back to earth in 2008. What I didn't see was Chris Johnson rushing for over 1,000 yards as a rookie, LenDale White being a scoring machine and Kerry Collins leading the Titans to the number one seed in the playoffs. I'm still not a believer though. As well as the Titans have played this season, I think they hit their prime too early and won't be able to beat the Colts, Ravens, or Steelers, all of which should make the Divisional Round.

Indianapolis Colts (12-4, 11-5, 2nd) I was close in terms of final record, but I never would have predicted the way it was done. After fumbling out to a 3-4 start, a finally healthy Peyton Manning put his team on his back, and the team that has won 9 straight has suddenly become very dangerous now that the playoffs have arrived.

Houston Texans (8-8, 9-7, 3rd) Well, I felt like this would be the year the Texans became relevant, and, had Matt Schaub stayed healthy all season, I probably would've been right. Some poor late game play on the part of Sage Rosenfels, highlighted by his fumble and interception leading to a 21-point turnaround with under 5 minutes remaining in a 4 point loss to Indy moved Houston to 8-8 instead of the winning record they deserved. Watch out, though. Schaub showed some real potential, Andre Johnson is a Pro Bowl receiver and Steve Slaton had a heck of a rookie year.

Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4, 5-11, 1st) I've been duped. And so was nearly every other sports prognosticator, including my esteemed colleague Matt Barnes. The efficiency of David Garrard and the running of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew foretold great things to come. Unfortunately, the Jags' line fell apart, the running backs stalled, and Garrard became not-so-efficient. This ranks with the Ravens as one of my worst calls of the year, especially because I predicted them to make the Final Four of the NFL season.

San Diego Chargers (15-1, 8-8, 1st) To predict a team to go 15-1 was probably a bad idea, especially because it's a Norv Turner coached team. They were 7 games worse than I predicted, LT was a shell of his former self basically until Week 17 against Denver, and last year's phenomenon cornerback Antonio Cromartie had an historically bad season. Super Bowl Champs still qualified for the Super Bowl Tournament, so not all is lost. Can they really knock off anyone else in the field, let alone Indy in the Wild Card round?? Doubtful.

Denver Broncos (8-8, 10-6, 2nd) I thought Jay Cutler would continue his play of 2007 with an even better season in 2008, and, while he did break the Broncos' mark for passing yardage, he also threw 4 interceptions in the redzone, something he had never done before this season. All in all, the Denver D was a joke, and that was their downfall.

Oakland Raiders (6-10, 5-11, 3rd) I foresaw a great turnaround for the downtrodden Raiders in 2008..."great" being a relative term of course. With a late season surge that happened. Not how I thought though. I thought that Darren McFadden and Michael Bush would form a rushing tandem that could kill opposing defenses. That didn't exactly happen, but JaMarcus Russell seems to have actually developed some toward the end of the year. It will be interesting to see what 2009 holds for Da Raidas.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-14, 5-11, 4th) Well, I predicted the 1-4 finish of the AFC's Western Division, but it would seem I didn't guess any of the records correctly. Oh well. Larry Johnson was even worse than I assumed he would be, and the Chiefs struggled all season to even compete. Tyler Thigpen did an admirable job at quarterback, but I don't see great things in the near future for the Chiefs.

New York Giants (12-4, 9-7, 4th) I was only 3 games off with the G-Men, but, that was last place in what I (and everyone else) assumed would be a completely stacked NFC East. The defending Super Bowl Champs really got things done in the 2007 post-season with a ferocious defensive line. I knew Justin Tuck would be a force, but with Michael Strahan retiring and Osi Umenyiora getting a season-ending injury, I didn't think New York could repeat. Turns out, the d-line is just as good as ever, and the Earth, Wind, and Fire running game was fantastic. They'll be tough to beat.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1, 11-5, 2nd) I foresaw great things from the Eagles this season, and they looked like a huge disappointment in a tie with the Bengals and a dismantling at the hands of the Ravens. They put things together, though, after Donovan McNabb got done being benched and Brian Westbrook got back on the field, and they ended up almost as good as I predicted. Anybody want to play this team right now?? I doubt it.

Dallas Cowboys (11-5, 9-7, 1st) They're only two games worse than my prediction, but those two games make this one of the most disappointing teams of 2008, along with the Jags. This team is in need of a total revamp because what they're doing right now just isn't working. Also, how long do we give Tony Romo before we can actually label him as a failure in big games??

Washington Redskins (10-6, 8-8, 3rd) Jason Campbell really impressed me last season, and I felt that he, Clinton Portis and Chris Cooley would wreak havoc on opposing teams in 2008. That happened as they started 6-2, but in losing 6 of the last 8, they showed who they really were, a .500 team.

Minnesota Vikings (10-6, 11-5, 1st) I hated picking them to finish first in the North to start the year, I hated picking them to play in the Super Bowl, and I hate them in general. But...the Vikings won 7-of-9 to finish the season and wrapped up the NFC North title. This team needs two things before it will actually challenge for a championship...a competent quarterback (Hello?? Is this Matt Cassel?? Would you like to play with Adrian Peterson??), and Adrian Peterson to stop fumbling the football. 10 fumbles in one season?? An MVP doesn't do that.

Chicago Bears (9-7, 2-14, 4th) So, I'll take the credit. This was a terrible call on my part. As bad as Da Bears were last season only a year after being in the Super Bowl, could only get worse in my opinion. 2-14 worse?? That was pushing it. Kyle Orton actually played well, the Bears Defense got things back together, and this was a team that was in it until the very end.

Green Bay Packers (6-10, 10-6, 2nd) Being a Packers fan, this team was a huge heartbreak all season. This is all you need to know about the Pack in 2008...They lost 10 games...7 of those losses were by 4 or less points...6 of those 7 losses were lost either in the final 3 minutes of the game or in overtime. That's six games that the Packers couldn't close out. This is a talented team, but 3 things held them back. They couldn't close a game, they couldn't stop the run, and Aaron Rodgers, despite a fantastic season, had a penchant for game-clinching interceptions after the defense lost him the lead. Fix those three things and this team can compete with anyone.

Detroit Lions (0-16, 3-13, 3rd) Well, what can be said about the first 0-16?? Jon Kitna guaranteed 10 wins again this year, and I was smart enough not to believe it, but even I couldn't have foreseen an 0-16 campaign. Motown better hope the new coach can get some work done in 2009. Build around Kevin Smith and Calvin for everyone else...who cares??

Carolina Panthers (12-4, 10-6, 2nd) I predicted Jake Delhomme would make a triumphant return to the big stage and Jon Stewart would be a hoss in his first season in the NFL. Stewart was great, Delhomme was average. Fortunately for the Falcons, there was DeAngelo Williams. The second year man out of Memphis scored 18 touchdowns, and turned it up when the Panthers needed it most. If the rushing duo can keep up what they're currently doing, they may not be able to be stopped.

Atlanta Falcons (11-5, 7-9, 4th) In probably the best division in football top to bottom this season, I predicted they'd improve, just not the drastic way in which they did. My thinking was that Michael Turner would win them more games than they won last season, but I didn't foresee the development of Matt Ryan. This team is a blessing for Atlanta and embattled owner Arthur Blank. I wouldn't be surprised to see them stomp the Cardinals this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7, 9-7 3rd) There were only two teams I picked completely correct in terms of record, and both, coincidentally, went 9-7. The Bucs are another disappointment in 2008. After starting 9-3, they went 0-for-December for the second year in a row, and if Jon Gruden's job isn't on the line, it should be after not winning a playoff game since his Super Bowl Championship 7 years ago.

New Orleans Saints (8-8, 10-6, 1st) They were only 2 games worse than I predicted, yet went from first to last. It wasn't because of Drew Brees. The diminuitive passer came 15 yards short of Dan Marino's seaon passing record, recording over 5,000 yards through the air. The Saints couldn't come up with any running game, though, and their vertical pass defense was atrocious. Get a power rusher and some quick defensive backs, and this is a team to give a second look to.

Arizona Cardinals (9-7, 3-13, 3rd) Every year people say that the Cardinals are going to turn it around, and every year I fall for it. This season, though, I didn't, and wouldn't you know it, I was wrong. Kurt Warner had a renaissance, much-aided by the unbelievable Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Give those two a real team, and they'd be about unbeatable. This team, on the other hand, packed it in already, and I'd be surprised if they win Sunday against Atlanta.

San Francisco 49ers (7-9, 2-14, 4th) This division just killed me. I couldn't really make an accurate prediction for any team. All I do know is that this team played hard for Mike Singletary, and I hope, for his sake, they continue to do that now that he has a five-year contract to his name.

Seattle Seahawks (4-12, 12-4, 1st) Statistically speaking, this was my biggest miss of the season. I thought, like almost every other season, this would be the only competitive team in the West. Turns out, they were terrible and gave Mike Holmgren a pretty pathetic swan song. The cupboard isn't bare, but I doubt they'll compete next season.

St. Louis Rams (2-14, 4-12, 2nd) It says a lot about what I thought about this division, considering I picked a 4-12 team to finish second. So, I was a little harsh. I wasn't far off on the Rams though. They have fallen hard since "The Greatest Show on Turf", and, while Steven Jackson is an incredible talent, he can't stay healthy long enough to get this team some wins.

Playoff Seeds
1. Tennessee-The Titans jumped out to an 11-0 start, then lost 3-of-5 to finish, though only one of those losses really had meaning. Injuries and fatigue seems to be getting to the Titans, and they had better hope both of those can be fixed with their upcoming two week break.

2. Pittsburgh-The Steelers have one of the most ferocious defenses in NFL history, and teams had better hope to be tough if they want to compete. Big Ben Roethlisberger, like his defense, is tough as nails, but the problem is that he has to prove it repeatedly because he has to get hit all the time. Hopefully he can recover from Sunday's concussion for their Divisional Round.

3. Miami-The Dolphins are one of the two biggest surprises in the NFL this season (along with the Falcons), and many will probably assume they'll fall to the Ravens in the Wild Card Round, because they're "just happy to be there". I, though, think the game will be more competitive than the 27-13 Ravens win in Miami earlier in the year.

4. San Diego-The Chargers have their work cut out for them, but they have picked the perfect time in the season to hit their prime. They're going to need it with Peyton's boys coming to San Diego for a rematch of Indy's 23-20 last second win a few weeks ago. A lot of this game will come down to the status of LT, who strained his groin late against Denver.

5. Indianapolis-Peyton Manning's knee injury was much more serious than anyone let on (Tiger Woods-esque are we??), and he didn't feel fully healthy until Week 8. So what has he done since he finally felt like himself again?? Won every single game.

6. Baltimore-When this is the 6th seed in the playoffs, you know it's a stacked field. I could see any of these six having a shot at the Super Bowl, and even with rookie Joe Flacco at the helm, I would rank Baltimore as the 3rd best shot, behind Indy and Pittsburgh. Flacco has developed nicely, and that defense, led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, has been outstanding.

1. New York-The Giants have the icy Meadowlands on their side, which should bode well, since the Eagles are the only other team in the field used to playing in the cold. The biggest thing for the G-Men, though, will be the health of Brandon Jacobs. If they lose their 265 pound running back, they lose a lot of their offensive swagger, even with Derrick Ward rushing for over 1,000 yards.

2. Carolina-Carolina hasn't been to the playoffs since their Super Bowl loss to the Pats, but their running game is built for postseason success. Another matchup between the Giants and Panthers could be something special.

3. Minnesota-The Vikes started off 3-4, but won 7-of-9 to go 10-6 and wrap up the NFC North. Tarvaris Jackson was benched, then reinstated, the Williamses were suspended then re-instated, then Pat Williams broke his scapula, Adrian Peterson looked like an MVP rusher but fumbled 10 times. What I'm trying to say is, this is an unpredictable team, and I have no idea what to expect from them.

4. Arizona-The Cards have "just happy to be here" written all over them, and I expect nothing out of them in the playoffs. Congrats to Boldin and Fitzgerald though for easily being the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL.

5. Atlanta-The Falcons are looking great, and Matt Ryan has passed everyone's expectations. If they want to advance in the playoffs, though, it's going to lie on the legs of Michael "The Burner" Turner.

6. Philadelphia-The Eagles were left for dead, and I think their rise to the playoffs has more to do with the return of Brian Westbrook than the awakening of Donovan McNabb. What it comes down to, though, is that this is a suddenly dangerous team playing with house money, and that's nothing to turn your nose up at.

Playoff Predictions
Wild Card
Indianapolis-38, San Diego-24
Baltimore-24, Miami-14
Atlanta-35, Arizona-17
Minnesota-28, Philadelphia-24
Baltimore-17, Tennessee-14
Indianapolis-21, Pittsburgh-20
New York-28, Minnesota-10
Carolina-35, Atlanta-28
Indianapolis-17, Baltimore-7
Carolina-23, New York-21
Super Bowl
Indianapolis-34, Carolina-24

It looks like my predictions for the year weren't fantastic, considering I guessed only one full division and 10 out of 32 teams correctly in terms of placement, including only 2 teams with the correct record. My playoff teams weren't good either. In the AFC, I was correct with San Diego, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, and in the NFC, Minnesota and Philadelphia. Let's hope my playoff predictions go a little better. It's been fun

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems like your playoff predictions were pretty off too.

you should predict the super bowl now :P