The season is over. The drama in the front office and coaching staff came to a stunning conclusion yesterday. Essentially, now we just wait to see who the Colts will re-sign before Free Agency.
But since the season is over, I decided that it is time to revisit my final Season Predictions from back in August. Some of you may recall, I have three versions of my predictions through the summer.
In that article, I mentioned my crystal ball was often faulty, as evidenced by my Mock Drafts, and I would be lucky to get 1/3 of my picks right. I don't think I hit that 1/3.
Some of you panned them, and some of you wrote emails with "more than a few unkind words about my character." Yes, that's a Firefly quote, had to include it.
But yes, my predictions were...a bit off. But let's revisit them and see just how wrong I went. I'll go in alphabetical order for each division, say what I predicted for the team, and how they actually did.
Dallas Cowboys - I pegged the Cowboys at 11-5 and the 5 seed in the NFC playoffs. In reality, the Cowboys were 4-12, and the worst team in the NFC. It would have been interesting to see how Dallas would have done had both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant remained healthy all season. The only part I got correct about the Cowboys was that they would continue to run the ball effectively. Darren McFaddon was a pleasant surprise (especially to those of us who had him in Fantasy Football) and the Cowboys did run well. Of course, that was because they couldn't throw at all. Yup, missed badly on this one.
New York Giants - Actually, I missed on the entire NFC East, and the Giants are no exception. I had the Giants rolling to a 9-7 record, and the 6 seed in the NFC. In reality, they finished 6-10 in a season marred by missed opportunities. Had New York been able to close out a few games, they very well might have hit that 9-7 mark I pegged them at. They wouldn't have made the playoffs, but it would've made me look a little better. I mentioned that the combination of Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz would have been unstoppable. And they might have been, if Cruz hadn't been out all year.
Philadelphia Eagles - Probably my biggest miss. I pegged Philly at 12-4, NFC East Champs, and the second seed in the NFC. I said Sam Bradford would be an MVP candidate and DeMarco Murray would only bolster Chip Kelly's offense. Instead, Kelly was fired, the offense was putrid, and the Eagles finished 8-8. Yeah, big swing and a miss here.
Washington Redskins - "I just don't see it with this team." That's what I wrote when I projected the Redskins to finish 2-14 this year. As it turns out, Kirk Cousins would lead them to a 9-7 finish and the NFC East crown. I didn't see that one coming, although to be fair I don't think many did. There's always a surprise team in the NFL each year, and this year it was Washington. Plus, Kirk Cousins gave us the best sound of the season.
Chicago Bears - I picked the Bears to finish last, and finish last they did (nailed it!). Although, I had the team winning only three games, as opposed to the six they actually did. Still, I'll take it. I thought the Bears would be a lot worse than they actually were. John Fox did a good job keeping the Bears competitive in most games. They even came away with a win in Green Bay for the first time in a long time. I wouldn't say the future is bright for Chicago, but it's better than I thought it would be.
Detroit Lions - I almost hit the nail on the head here. I had the Lions finishing third with a 6-10 record, and instead they finished third at 7-9. When your old roommate is a Lions fan, you get to know a team better than you would think. What I said about the Lions was accurate. The offense would be fairly good (it was very good once Jim Bob Cooter took over), and the defense was the problem. I'm calling this one a win for me.
Green Bay Packers - Picking the Packers to win the NFC North (at 13-3 no less) seemed like my safest pick. And at the start of the season, it looked to be validated. Then the wheels fell off the Green Bay offense as they only went 3-3 in the division, with two of those losses in Lambeau. Yes, losing Jordy Nelson hurt badly, but the Packers' struggles are still a mystery to me. I thought for sure this pick would be right.
Minnesota Vikings - I had the Vikings as the NFC North runner-up, but only finishing 7-9. Although I mentioned if Teddy Bridgewater improved, the Vikings could hover around nine wins. I said the Vikings were on the rise, but not ready to challenge Green Bay yet. Mike Zimmer got this team ready in a hurry. This team was a pleasant surprise this year, and thrive on running and stopping the run (sound familiar).
Atlanta Falcons - Second place and 8-8. Got it exactly right! I attributed the team's rise to 8-8 on Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in my picks. In actuality, Ryan is the reason for their wins and losses for most of the season. The Falcons got out of the gate hot, but couldn't keep it going, limping down the stretch. This is a team on the rise, especially if they can get that defense fixed.
Carolina Panthers - Another huge miss. I had the Panthers at 6-10 because I didn't think Cam Newton could carry the team with basically only one elite skill player (Kelvin Benjamin). Turns out, he could do that without Benjamin as the Panthers rolled to 15-1 and the top seed in the NFC. I wasn't really a believer in the Panthers before the season. Wrong about that one too.
New Orleans Saints - Another big miss. I had the Saints rebounded to an 11-5 finish and first in the NFC South. Instead they dipped to 7-9, and may move away from Sean Payton and (possibly but unlikely) Drew Brees. The Saints defense was horrid and the offense couldn't keep the team afloat against the NFL's better teams. The Saints are nearing rebuilding mode, something I definitely did not foresee entering the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I did pick the Bucs to finish last, and so they did. I was off by two games (I had them finishing 4-12), but did have the right idea. Before the season I wrote that Tampa could surprise some people and this team was on the up and up. Jameis Winston looked very good for a rookie, which helped Tampa. We'll see if Lovie Smith's team can take another step next year.
Arizona Cardinals - I thought the Cardinals would over-achieve and the return of Carson Palmer would help. I didn't foresee this team going 14-2 though, as I slated them in second at 9-7. The Cardinals look like the class of the NFC, in my opinion, and were definitely a step above what I thought they could be. Also, I had Arizona missing the playoffs. Oops.
San Francisco 49ers - Got this one exactly right as well. I picked the 49ers to finish 5-11 and in last place. I think my opening line about the 49ers in my final predictions still rings true, "Things just keep going wrong for the 49ers." Yes, yes they do.
Seattle Seahawks - I didn't see the Seahawks struggling out of the gate the way they did. I had them finishing 12-4 and winning the division. Not quite, but they are still in the playoffs. I did say the offense would be more dynamic (it is), but because of Jimmy Graham (nope). I still think I'm correct in that the Seahawks reign over the NFC is nearing its end, but it isn't there just quite yet.
Boy was I wrong here. My Predictions: 1. Green Bay, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Seattle, 4. New Orleans, 5. Dallas, 6. New York
So only two of the six NFC teams I had in the playoffs actually made it. And both (Green Bay and Seattle) made it was Wild Cards and not division winners.
On to the AFC
Buffalo Bills - I, like many in the media, had the Bills as the darling team this year. Their defense was great, and now Rex Ryan would give them an extra boost. In their season opening win over the Colts, this looked validated. It didn't come to pass. The Bills finished 8-8 and way out of the playoffs. I had Matt Cassel pegged as the starter. I bet Bills fans are glad that wasn't the case.
Miami Dolphins - Like the Bills, the Dolphins were a team primed to take the next step this year; and I had them at 11-5. Instead, they fired Joe Philbin early in the season, and limped to a 6-10 finish in dead last in the AFC East. Again, the Dolphins couldn't put together a season of promise, and seemed to take a step back. Another miss.
New England Patriots - Another lock. I had New England at 11-5 and division champs, so 12-4 and division champs is close. I also wrote that when Tom Brady was out for the first four games. Obviously that didn't happen, and the Patriots rolled until injuries began to derail the team. I don't like the Patriots, but I don't think any team in the league has done more with less.
New York Jets - Fact. When writing my final predictions I had the Jets at 10-6. Then, right before I published, Geno Smith had his jaw broken. Without their QB, I demoted the Jets to 7 wins and last in the division. Turns out, the defense and strong QB play led the Jets to 10 wins, just like I initially had. Who knew Ryan Fitzpatrick would have a career year? I should just listen to my guy sometimes I guess.
Baltimore Ravens - Probably the biggest disappointment going into this year (yes I'll put them ahead of Indianapolis in that category. A rash of injuries and bad luck derailed the Ravens season early and often. Even when healthy this team didn't look great. I had them at 12-4, but instead they were nearly reversed at 5-11. Baltimore is normally a safe pick too, so I definitely didn't expect this.
Cincinnati Bengals - I had the Bengals at 10-6, so not too far off record wise. However, I slotted them in third place and out of the playoffs. Andy Dalton was playing out of his mind before breaking his thumb, and the Bengals were arguably the most complete team in the AFC before his injury. I just didn't see the Bengals emerging from the tough AFC North again this year.
Cleveland Browns - Much like the Patriots and Packers, the Browns are always a safe pick...just in the opposite direction. The Browns actually did better than I predicted. I had them winning one game, and instead they won three. All of the problems I outlined came to pass, though. And now the Browns are in search for a coach (and probably a QB) again.
Pittsburgh Steelers - I had Pittsburgh in second in the North and the six seed in the playoffs. If I had gotten their record right (I had them 11-5) this would have been my most accurate pick. I said Pittsburgh would rely on Ben Roethlisberger and the offense, and so they have. Good to know I can pick some things correct (every now and then).
Houston Texans - Well, this was wrong. I had the Texans rolling to a 5-11 record and third in the division. I questioned who would play QB, and as it turns out that was a legitimate question. It just happened to work out for the Texans. With an elite defense and an elite receiver (which I didn't anticipate) the Texans were able to emerge from a very weak AFC South.
Indianapolis Colts - Rough. I had the Colts at 12-4 and winning the division (like many). Although, my comment about the offense rang true, "If healthy, the offense should be unstoppable." They weren't healthy, and they were stoppable.
Jacksonville Jaguars - I actually flipped the Jaguars and Titans' records. I had the Jaguars at 3-13 and again cited them as an "improving" team. We can see that improvement on the field, but it just doesn't translate into wins just yet.
Tennessee Titans - I had the Titans at 5-11, instead they finished 3-13 and will have the first overall pick. Had Marcus Mariota been healthy all year, they might have hit 5-11. I said the Titans would be better, and with Mariota in the line-up they were. The future is bright for this team.
Denver Broncos - I said Peyton Manning would take a step back. He did. I said Denver would run the ball more. They have. I said the defense still wouldn't be great. Oops. The defense carried Denver to a 12-4 record and the top seed in the AFC. Manning was poor to start the year, then Brock Osweiler took over, and now Manning is back. Who could have foreseen that? Oh, I had Denver finishing 9-7 and second in the division.
Kansas City Chiefs - I had the Chiefs at 6-10 and said they should be better than that. After 6 games, it looked like a total of six wins might be thinking too highly of the Chiefs. Then they went and reeled off 10 straight wins and rolled into the playoffs without Jamaal Charles. I did say (and still believe) that Alex Smith is the answer at QB, and he did prove that right.
Oakland Raiders - I had Oakland at 5-11, so only off by two wins. I did note that the Raiders would be an improved product on the field with a strong, young core of players. And improved they were. This Raiders team is going places, and a lot faster than I thought when the season started.
San Diego Chargers - Well...I got the number 12 and 4 correct. I just had them reversed. I had San Diego winning the division at 12-4. Instead, they brought up the rear at 4-12. I wrote that I hesitated to take the Chargers because they never, ever do what is expected of them. And sure enough, they let me down.
Well I got some of the division placements correct, which is more than I can say for the NFC. But much like the NFC, I only got two teams correct. My predictions were: 1. San Diego Chargers, 2. Indianapolis Colts, 3. Baltimore Ravens, 4. New England Patriots, 5. Miami Dolphins, 6. Pittsburgh Steelers.
So I got the Steelers exactly right, and the Patriots in the playoffs. I also had the seeding correct for the AFC West and North (which counts for nothing of course.
As it turns out, I got 4 of the 12 playoff teams correct. That works out to 1/3, which is what I said I would get if I was lucky. I'll take it. That's better than I did for the NFL Draft.
And for the record, I had Seattle at Green Bay for the NFC Title, and Pittsburgh at Indy for the AFC. So I could get three of those four still.