WASHINGTON - Well. That didn't go so well.
I've done this NFL recap for five years, and this is far and away the worst I've done at predicting an NFL season. Blame it on a rough summer, (blame it on the rain) , (blame it on the alcohol) ... but I'm a grown man so I'll take my medicine, division by division.
So to save you from clicking here to see what I predicted (I still suggest you do so you can get the full scope of the stuff I've been saying), I'll show you what I said and then what actually happened.
So let's commence the pointing and laughing, starting with the division I botched worst of all:
NFC EAST:What I predicted:
Best call: "You can always pencil in two games in which (Jason) Garrett and/or Tony Romo make a mind numbing decision to cost the Cowboys a win, and there's no reason to believe that trend will stop now."
Worst call: "If (the Redskins) can get thru the season with few (injuries), they'll be really good."
I got this division completely upside down. The Eagles found Nick Foles and got better as the season wore on, while the Redskins never looked like the team that won the division in 2012 despite enjoying a virtually injury-free season. The Giants and Cowboys (were who we thought they were.)
NFC NORTH:What I predicted:
Best call: "Last season, Minnesota benefited from a favorable schedule. In 2013, it will be their downfall."
Worst call: "...guys like Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, and Peanut Tillman won't let (the Bears defense) fall apart."
The huge discrepancy in Green Bay's record notwithstanding, I called this division almost exactly right. Chicago's defense let me down, but their offense was better than expected -- even with (freshly paid QB Jay Cutler) sidelined for five games.
The Lions lacked the bite their offensive firepower would suggest, and Minnesota proved last season's unexpected playoff run was fluke.
What I predicted:
Best call: "If Tampa is again home for the holidays, it'll be because (Josh) Freeman didn't get it done."
Worst call: "...if the sum total is better than the individual parts, (the Falcons) might be doing the Dirty Bird in the Dirty South come February."
Considering my best call in this division is still technically wrong, I totally botched this one. Freeman was far from the biggest problem in Tampa, and they stunk with or without him. Nobody saw Carolina coming, New Orleans rebounded better than I anticipated, and the Falcons crashed and burned in a way nobody could have predicted.
What I predicted:
Best call: "On paper, Seattle is the best team in the league...(Pete Carroll)'s got a championship-level roster that should be the favorite to get home-field advantage."
Worst call: "...if (Carson Palmer) plays all 16 games in Arizona it'll be a coup considering how bad that offensive line is...Count on another drought in the desert."
I knew this would be the league's best division, and they certainly didn't disappoint. Seattle and San Francisco were the class of the league, as expected.
The only thing I got wrong was the third, darkhorse team in the division. Arizona looks like a team on the rise, while St. Louis is still stagnating despite having a good, young roster.
AFC EAST:What I predicted:
Best call: "This is as close to a given as there is in the unpredictable NFL: New England is the team to beat in this division."
Worst call: "Enjoy the soap opera one last time, New York...it's the Broadway finale for the Rex Ryan Era."
As expected, nobody was up to the task of taking the division away from New England. I was right not to buy Miami's preseason hype, and the Bills are who we thought they were. I'm still begging Rex Ryan's forgiveness for fitting him for a pine box before the season. He actually did a masterful job of keeping the Jets competitive despite a lack of talent.
AFC NORTH:What I predicted:
Best call: "...don't be surprised if the Bengals generate more wins and finally make some noise in the playoffs."
Worst call: "(Norv Turner will) make Brandon Weeden and the Browns offense better, but I'm not sure it'll compensate for a rookie head coach (Rob Chudzinski) and a shaky D.
Perhaps I should start covering the AFC North for a living.
I nailed this division, and finally got off my personal schneid of misdiagnosing the Bengals by pinning them exactly right. The Ravens and Steelers were middle-of- the-road as expected, and the Browns assumed their usual position in the AFC North basement.
If you told me before the season my worst prediction in this division is the assumption that Norv could make Weeden a viable NFL starter, I'd happily take it.
AFC SOUTH:What I predicted:
Best call: "Jacksonville's current state of affairs can be summed up by its new uniforms: change was warranted, the team's heart was in the right place when it did so, but it ultimately looks like a team from the now-defunct NFL Europe and falls flat."
Worst call: Literally everything I said about the Texans.
Let's address the elephant in the room, shall we? I've been in the tank for Houston for years. And this year they tanked ... a full 10 games worse than I predicted, and rank as the biggest flop in my five years doing these recaps.
Indianapolis was able to repeat their 11-5 record despite a tougher schedule, Tennessee remained mediocre, and Jacksonville was every bit as bad as expected (although they played better down the stretch).
AFC WEST:What I predicted:
Best call: "(Alex) Smith--under the tutelage of QB-whisperer Andy Reid--has the tools to help the Chiefs legitimately challenge Denver for the AFC West. Think last year's Colts."
Worst call: "Montee Ball will be the feature back in Denver before the season is out."
In what might have been my best prediction all year, Kansas City indeed replicated Indy's rebound from 2-14 trainwreck to 11-win wild card darling. Denver is the force of nature we expected them to be, and Oakland stayed largely irrelevant. The only surprise here was San Diego ... Mike McCoy deserves Coach of the Year consideration for getting that team to the playoffs in Year 1.
Well, that's every division and every prediction. Like at least 31 NFL teams, I'll just have to hope I do better next season.
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