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Monday, December 30, 2013

NFL Predictions Final Report Card

The 2013 NFL regular season is complete.  For twelve teams, that means it's time to prepare for the playoffs.  For the remaining twenty teams, it's time to regroup for September.  And for Banshee Sports, that means it's time to hold myself accountable for the predictions I made in the preseason.  In 2012, I gave myself an A- for a final grade.  This year ... well, let's just say that I should probably invest in a tutor or some summer school.

AFC East:  I started off the preseason column with a bold prediction.  I declared that the Dolphins would win the division and the that Patriots would miss the playoffs.  I just made two mistakes on that.  I believed in the Dolphins, and I doubted the Patriots.  Despite suffering what should have been a devastating series of injuries, Belichick and Brady guided the Patriots to their twelfth division crown in the last fourteen years.  Meanwhile, the Dolphins eliminated themselves from the playoffs by losing at Buffalo and at home to the Jets in consecutive weeks to end the season.  But, perhaps more shameful than any of that, I predicted that the Jets would be one of the worst teams in the league.  Instead, Rex Ryan did a masterful job of leading a team with depleted talent and a rookie QB to a very solid 8-8 record.  First Quarter Grade: B+  Midterm Grade: C+  Third Quarter Grade: B-  Final Grade: D+

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
AFC North:  I didn't exactly go out on a limb when I correctly picked the Bengals to repeat as winners of the AFC North.  I did go out on a limb when I picked the Browns to make the playoffs.  And, the quarterback play of the Browns basically cut that limb off and allowed me to crash violently to the ground.  Despite that prediction going awry, I am going to give myself some credit for correctly declaring that the ever-steady Steelers and the defending champion Ravens would both miss the playoffs.  First Quarter Grade: A  Midterm Grade: A-  Third Quarter Grade: B+  Final Grade: B+

AFC South:  Before the season started, I picked the Houston Texans to be one of the best teams in the NFL.  Obviously, that was incorrect.  The Texans turned out to be terrible and fired their head coach before the season was over.  But, I was certainly not alone, so I'm not too embarrassed about that error.  My real shame comes from declaring that the Colts were a fluke in 2012.  The Colts easily won the division and did so with some extremely impressive wins over some of the league's best teams.  First Quarter Grade: F  Midterm Grade: F  Third Quarter Grade: F  Final Grade: F

AFC West:  The AFC West is the division that saved my credibility.  I did some pretty good work in this division, if I do say so myself.  Sure, I didn't need a crystal ball to predict that the Broncos would be a great team.  But, picking the Chiefs to make the playoffs took a little foresight.  It took some guts to put that pick in writing and publish it for all to see on the interwebs.  The Broncos finished the regular season with the best record in the NFL.  And the Chiefs easily secured the first wild card slot in the AFC.  I'd gloat more, but I can still see my AFC South grade while I type this.  Also, I did not see the Chargers making the playoffs.  But then again, the Chargers themselves didn't see themselves making the playoffs until Ryan Succop's field goal attempt was about halfway to missing wide right.  So, I still give myself a perfect score in this division.   First Quarter Grade: A+  Midterm Grade: A+  Third Quarter Grade: A+  Final Grade: A+

NFC East:  Heading into the season, I picked the Redskins to repeat as the winners of the NFC East.  Sure, I'm a Redskins fan, but I did truly make that pick with my head and not my heart.  I thought that a healthy defense would mean an improved defense.  I was wrong about that.  I also underestimated the Dan Snyder disfunction factor.  I also undervalued Chip Kelly.  I did not believe the Eagles offense could be totally revamped in just one year, and I certainly did not foresee that Nick Foles would be the man under center during a resurgence.  At 10-6, the Eagles are a deserving division winner.  Of course, I did correctly predict that Dallas would do some very Dallas things and cost themselves a playoff birth.  The Week 15 meltdown at home against the Packers was a perfect example.  It's that Cowboys flop factor that keeps this grade from being an F.  First Quarter Grade: B  Midterm Grade: B-  Third Quarter Grade: D+  Final Grade:  D

(Nam Y. Huh/AP)
NFC North:  When I made my preseason picks, I made just one miscalculation.  I believed that the Bears actually had a secondary.  Turns out I was mistaken.  The Bears defense was abysmal in their loss at Philly in Week 16 and again at home against the Packers in Week 17.  The Packers were able to tread water well enough during Aaron Rogers' 7-game absence to put themselves in a win-and-get-in situation on the final Sunday of the year.  And win, they did.  Although, it did require a bizarre forward-pass-fumble-rooskie to best the Bears at Soldier Field.  Green Bay's 8-7-1 record is nothing to gloat about, but was good enough to win the black and blue division.  And it was good enough to continue the downward slide for my grade in this division.  First Quarter Grade: A  Midterm Grade: A-  Third Quarter Grade: B+  Final Grade:  C+

NFC South:  If you've got a weak stomach, now is the time to turn away.  My picks in the NFC South are more disgusting than a squished skunk in the middle of the road in July.  Okay, maybe not quite that bad.  I correctly predicted that two teams from this division would make the playoffs.  But I picked the wrong two teams.  My picks, the Falcons and the Buccaneers finished the year at 4-12.  To put that in perspective, that's the same record as the Raiders and the Jaguars.  In contrast, the Panthers and the Saints played exactly like I thought those other two teams would.  The Panthers not only won the division, but they earned a first round bye in the playoffs.  Good work by them.  Bad work by me.  First Quarter Grade: F  Midterm Grade: F  Third Quarter Grade: F  Final Grade: F

(Elaine Thompson/AP)
NFC West:  This was the best division in football ... by a long shot.  In the end, only two teams made the playoffs, but the Cardinals barely missed.  And the Rams were certainly no one's doormat.  In a bit of a coin flip in the preseason, I picked San Francisco to edge out Seattle for the top spot in this competitive division.  Turns out, it was the Seahawks that finished just ahead of the Niners.  In fact, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC runs through Seattle.  Still, these teams are both very good and very consistent and performed pretty much exactly the way I thought they would.  So, I'm giving myself an A for this division.  That and I need a little self-esteem boost after that NFC South grade.  First Quarter Grade: B  Midterm Grade: A  Third Quarter Grade: B+  Final Grade: A

Overall Grade:  For a girl that was used to making dean's list throughout college, that report card is hard to look at.  My overall GPA ends up as a 2.0.  In the grand scheme of things, that isn't the worst thing ever.  In fact, if I was a student athlete, I wouldn't even have to be worried about staying eligible with those marks.  First Quarter Grade: B-  Midterm Grade: C+  Third Quarter Grade: C  Final Grade: C

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