It's that time in the season when I look back at my pre-season NFL predictions and compare my thoughts at the time to the current reality. I have yet to meet anyone who can predict the NFL with 100% accuracy and I highly doubt that I ever will.
When I made my picks in August, I was using both logic and feel, which I know is a contradiction, but I figured it would be the best way to go.
Let's see how I did.
Prediction: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Dallas, 3. NY Giants, 4. Washington
Actual: 1. NY Giants (9-7), 2. Philadelphia (8-8), 3. Dallas (8-8), 4. Washington (5-11)
The story of the NFC East this season was that the Eagles could not capitalize on all the free agent talent they purchased in the offseason. The second story was the emergence of Eli Manning at quarterback for the Giants. Both the Eagles and Giants defeated the Cowboys both home and away, and those four losses took Dallas from a possible 12-4 to their 8-8 record and no playoff opportunity
Prediction: 1. St. Louis, 2. Seattle, 3. Arizona, 4. San Francisco
Actual: 1. San Francisco (13-3), 2. Arizona (8-8), 3. Seattle (7-9), 4. St. Louis (2-14)
I have no defence for my prediction in this division. I honestly believed that St. Louis would win the division and that the 49ers would finish last. The reality is that the 49ers have a first round bye in the playoffs and allowed the fewest points in the NFL (202), while only losing three times. Once again, I have no defence for my pre-season pick here.
Prediction: 1. Green Bay, 2. Detroit, 3. Chicago, 4. Minnesota
Actual: 1. Green Bay (15-1), 2. Detroit (10-6), 3. Chicago (8-8), 4. Minnesota (3-13)
This was an easy division to predict, as everyone knew how good Green Bay was, and how much Detroit had improved. Minnesota was rebuilding and the Bears were all about quarterback Jay Cutler. They were 7-3 when Cutler got hurt, and they finished the year with an 8-8 record. That tells you all you need to know.
Prediction: 1. Atlanta, 2. New Orleans, 3. Tampa Bay, 4. Carolina
Actual: 1. New Orleans (13-3), 2. Atlanta (10-6), 3. Carolina (6-10), 4. Tampa Bay (4-12)
I should have put my faith in Brees and the Saints, but I thought this would be Atlanta's year. The Panthers are going to improve from their 6-10 record this year because of soon-to-be rookie of the year Cam Newton and his growth at quarterback. The Buccaneers went from a 10 win team in 2010, to a 4 win team this year.
Prediction: 1. New England, 2. NY Jets, 3. Buffalo, 4. Miami
Actual: 1. New England (13-3), 2. NY Jets (8-8), 3. Miami (6-10), 4. Buffalo (6-10)
The story of the AFC East are the New York Jets. After two straight AFC Championship appearances, they finished the year out of the playoffs at 8-8. The other story in the division is the New England Patriots, who will need to continue to outscore everyone if they want to progress in the playoffs. The Bills regressed after September, while the Dolphins improved in December. Either way, this should be the Patriots division for years to come.
Prediction: 1. San Diego, 2. Kansas City, 3. Denver, 4. Oakland
Actual: 1. Denver (8-8), 2. Oakland (8-8), 3. San Diego (8-8), 4. Kansas City (7-9)
Tim Tebow was the surprise of the division and not for his ability at the quarterback position, but rather his personality and beliefs. San Diego was a surprise 8-8, as they have a much higher level of talent than that record shows. Jeff Fisher is most likely the number one candidate if the Chargers should fire coach Norv Turner.
Prediction: 1. Pittsburgh, 2. Cleveland, 3. Baltimore, 4. Cincinnati
Actual: 1. Baltimore (12-4), 2. Pittsburgh (12-4), 3. Cincinnati (9-7), 4. Cleveland (4-12)
Well, I guess it's safe to say that I completely underrated the Baltimore Ravens and totally overrated the Cleveland Browns. I also did not see the excellence that rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green would bring to the Bengals. The Ravens may be the toughest team in football and they'll be tough to beat with rest in the Divisional playoff game.
Prediction: 1. Houston, 2. Tennessee, 3. Indianapolis, 4. Jacksonville
Actual: 1. Houston (10-6), 2. Tennessee (9-7), 3. Jacksonville (5-11), 4. Indianapolis (2-14)
I don't know which is the most significant story: the Texans winning the division and making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, or the complete and total regression of the Colts without Peyton Manning. The only saving grace for the Colts is that they can now draft Andrew Luck, who could be the next great quarterback and would immediately serve as insurance because you don't really know what to expect from Manning in 2012.
Just for fun, here is a comparison for what my top 6 predictions were in August for each conference in comparison to reality.
NFC Playoff Teams
Prediction: 1. Green Bay, 2. Atlanta, 3. Philadelphia, 4. St. Louis, 5. New Orleans, 6. Dallas
Actual: 1. Green Bay, 2. San Francisco, 3. New Orleans, 4. NY Giants, 5. Atlanta, 6. Detroit
AFC Playoff Teams
Prediction: 1. San Diego, 2. New England, 3. Pittsburgh, 4. Houston, 5. NY Jets, 6. Kansas City
Actual: 1. New England, 2. Baltimore, 3. Houston, 4. Denver, 5. Pittsburgh, 6. Cincinnati
My Super Bowl prediction was the San Diego Chargers over the Green Bay Packers. I have no excuses.