The Super Bowl has ended and yours truly took the following weeks off (sorta) to rest up after the onslaught of football posts. Now, before the offseason begins in earnest, it’s time to look back at my preseason predictions and see how terribly wrong I was. Because if a sportswriter (and I use that term loosely for myself) can’t comment on their sheer idiocy, they’re not doing their job. But before we start to enjoy Joe’s failed prognostications, here’s how I’ll be determining my correctitude.
This is based on a self-created system of accuracy that adjusts itself based on how many wins off I was on my prediction. Simply saying “I was wrong because I predicted 13-3 and they went 12-4” isn’t giving that pick enough credit or taking into account things like injuries and teams having nothing to play for at the end of a season. Here’s how it works:
No balls- Six games or more. So I messed up HARD..
Those balls will be added up and divided by the possible number to arrive at a percentage, which I’ll then use for divisions, conferences, and the NFL on the whole.
Ready? Time to evaluate my screw-ups in the American Football Conference. I can’t wait.
The Ravens’ offense took a gigantic step back in 2013, unable to maintain the magic of their Super Bowl run. And of course that led to offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell being hired in Detroit. Yeah, I don’t get it either. The defense was above average but that $20 million quarterback (hey Joe Flacco) regressed terribly, negating the rest of the team’s improvements. They traded for left tackle Eugene Monroe during the season, and now they have to sign him to an extension or lose him in free agency. And if Ray Rice doesn’t turn out to have been injured all season then he should be shipped off to the running back glue factory.
That’s right, I’m pulling no punches here.
My first “mostly” hit of the review! The Bengals came through for me and won the division thanks to the regular season growth of Andy Dalton under OC Jay Gruden (who departed for Washington) and a defense that had no clear weakness under DC Mike Zimmer (who went to Minnesota). Unfortunately, that progression didn’t help them in their postseason outing, where Dalton imploded with four interceptions. They’ll be on the look-out for a new quarterback (but probably not a “high-profile” name) to give Dalton a little incentive for improvement.
After a garbage start to their season, the Steelers managed to not make me look like a total idiot. Their offensive line took time coming together, but it was their inconsistent running game that put the Steelers in early holes, forcing Ben to whip the ball all over (mostly to Antonio Brown) Actually, not only was their rushing offense ranked 28th, but their rush defense was ranked 21st, which is a poor mark for any Dick LeBeau defense. I’m not saying LeBeau needs to be fired, but he’s not above criticism like everyone on that team says. He had a bad season coordinating that defense, which stayed semi-healthy for once. This team needs to get MUCH younger on defense and more talented on offense.
I wrote about the Browns’ offseason craziness already. Their season highlights include an extremely capable defense and a Josh Gordon break-out year in which he led the league in receiving yards. I didn’t know Brandon Weeden would be that effing bad though. Had Brian Hoyer not torn his ACL on an unnecessary scramble, 6-10 was certainly possible. Now? Who the hell knows. Oh, and their Pro Bowl center Alex Mack might be hitting free agency. Whoops.
AFC North Accuracy: 70%
Hey, I passed. That’s more than I can say for some divisions.
2013 Prediction: 11-5
2013 Record: 2-14
Here’s what I think of you Houston.
I take solace in the fact that everyone got this one wrong. Matt Schaub turned into a pick-six machine and derailed any playoff aspirations this team had, much less their Super Bowl chances. Their defense was commendable for much of the season, but even when Case Keenum came in for Schaub the offense wasn’t considerably more explosive. Arian Foster was a travesty and Ben Tate showed that he’s ready to leave in free agency. Andre Johnson rebounded after a poor year and DeAndre Hopkins had an excellent season for a rookie receiver. Gary Kubiak was fired during the season, leaving Wade Philips to pick up the slack in the interim. Now Bill O’Brien is coming in from Penn State to hopefully lead this team back to respectability. They have the number one pick in the draft and are primed to take a quarterback… or so everyone would think.
Indy took advantage of a weakened Texan squad and pilfered two of their wins. At least, that’s how I’m looking at it. Because the Colts were not an 11-win team. They were soft, which we all saw when they played against the Patriots in the playoffs. Andrew Luck took another step forward during the regular season, but kept turning the ball over in the postseason. Without Reggie Wayne, this offense desperately needed another receiver to take coverage away from T.Y. Hilton. Their offense wasn’t as dynamic as I had expected, but their defensive roster still hasn’t completely been re-tooled for their 3-4 scheme. But hey, Robert Mathis apparently will get to the quarterback regardless. So that’s nice.
Jake Locker looked like the quarterback the Titans were expecting when they drafted him… for about four games, until he got injured. He came back (a little early it seemed) and didn’t quite look the same, leaving them in the same position as every offseason since they acquired him: unsure. They fired coach Mike Munchak when he wouldn’t let go of a few assistant coaches, so now Ken Whisenhunt gets to come in and try to make anyone give a shit about the Titans.
I thought I was being nice when I gave the Jags a one game improvement over their 2012 record. Instead, they doubled their two wins and became not god-awful. Now if only they can FIND A FREAKING QUARTERBACK. With the third overall pick, it’s possible for them to stumble onto a signal-caller. But let’s face it, Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert will return as a back-up. Ew.
AFC South Accuracy: 55%
Well, aside from the stupid Texans, I sorta knew what I was talking about when it came to the AFC South.
New England Patriots
The Patriots were even more capable of dealing with the loss(es) of Gronkowski than even I gave them credit for. 12-4 nabbed them the two seed in the AFC, where they stomped on the incoming Colts. It’s their loss to the Broncos in the AFC championship that calls into question their offensive talent, especially at receiver. Danny Amendola was a serviceable fill-in for Wes Welker (when he was on the field), but Julian Edelman did most of the damage at receiver, catching 105 passes. And since he’ll be a free agent in a few weeks, the Patriots may once again lose Brady’s top target to another team. But like last year, they might make another run at Emmanuel Sanders of the Steelers.
BOOM. Damn right they went 8-8. I knew it all along. What I didn’t know is that their offensive line would be more troublesome off the field than they would be on it. And that’s certainly saying something, because Ryan Tannehill got his ass kicked in 2013. The Dolphins need more than just Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline at receiver, but their lack of talent at running back was extremely evident.
New York Jets
DId this at any point in the season feel like an 8-8 team? With the up and down play of Geno Smith, the constant question of Rex’s future with the team, and the utter lack of talent at receiver, tight end, and running back, this team’s negatives far outweighed the positives. But a stout defense and a running back- by-committee approach made up for the 31st ranked pass offense. With a band-aid contract given to Rex Ryan, he has another year to put this team back in the hunt. That only happens with dramatic improvements at the offensive skill positions.
I mean, it’s the Bills. Did we ever really doubt this? They’re the Lions of the AFC.
AFC East Accuracy: 75%
Hell, that might be my best percentage of any division. It can only go down from here, folks.
I don’t even feel like it’s fair to count this one (because who didn’t have the Broncos winning at least 12 games), but I need the ego boost right now. Manning had a historic season and got the Broncos to the Super Bowl, where they were subsequently put down by the Seattle Seahawks. (This would be another great place for a glue factory joke, just FYI.) The Broncos will have decisions to make on Eric Decker (free agent) and Wes Welker (cap number jumps to $8 million, which means the Broncos may jettison him) in order to keep some of their other talent like corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
San Diego Chargers
Okay, so I didn’t believe in the Chargers. And well, I still don’t. But Philip Rivers had the best year of any AFC quarterback not named Peyton Manning, putting his team into the playoffs and past the Bengals in the opening round. And hey, we all forgot about the Manti Te’o story. Instead everyone focused on the “x-factor” that was Danny Woodhead, scrappy short white guy. Well done Chargers.
WOO! 4-12 baby! In actuality, the Raiders did a lot with a very underwhelming roster. But now that they’ll be out of salary cap hell (they have over $60 million in available space for 2014), they can bring in some valuable free agents to go along with the fifth overall pick in May’s draft. Matt Schaub at quarterback? Maybe. They could even re-sign Darren McFadden, but that would be wasted money for a guy that’s injured half the year, every year. Oakland has to shore up its receiving corps and its secondary to keep pace with their division rivals.
Kansas City Chiefs
KC beat up on an easy schedule, winning their first nine games of the season. But that means they lost five of their last seven (including a meaningless final game). Alex Smith has earned the right to start for the Chiefs next season under a new contract, because it was his play that allowed a stacked roster to finally flourish. I’ll maintain that Smith isn’t spectacular, but we can all see how the Chiefs excelled when they weren’t held down by mediocre quarterback play. As far as their roster goes, Kansas City will need to make decisions on returner Dexter McCluster and left tackle Branden Albert.
AFC West Accuracy: 65%
As much as I’d like to, I can’t blame the Chargers for this entirely. I also short-sold the Raiders and Chiefs. The over-achieving AFC West, everyone!
AFC Accuracy: 65%
So the only team I got exactly right was the Miami Dolphins. Yeesh. However, I was only one game off for seven teams, which means I wasn’t totally suckular. Well, be on the look-out later this week for the NFC installment of the post-season reviews. I’m sure I’ll be WAY more accurate than 65%. For realz. Honestly. Fo’ shizzle.