NFL 2006 Pre-Season Analysis – – Post Mortem

After last year’s less than laudatory pre-season analysis, I toyed with the idea of not doing one this year. But fools rush in where angels fear to tread; and if you’ve read these rants for any length of time now, you realize that I have a propensity for foolishness. And so, it is now time for me to go back and look at what I predicted four months ago and give myself a grade.

I made all of the predictions here back on 4 September 2006. It shouldn’t take anyone very long to see that was before any of the regular season games happened. Of course, after you see the sorry state of many of these predictions, you’ll not harbor any suspicions that I fudged any of the predictions.

AFC West:

I had the Broncos winning this division “comfortably”. That didn’t happen. I said they’d even have a bye in the playoffs; they didn’t even make the playoffs. However, I did say that it would take a meltdown of Chernobyl proportion by Jake Plummer for them to lose the division; and indeed, he led the Broncos offense so far south that he lost his job to a rookie QB who was clearly not ready to start in the NFL. I gave the Chargers a 10-win season and they exceeded that total by 4 wins; I thought the Chiefs would only win 7 games; turns out they only lost 7 games. And while I had the Raiders last in the division, I thought they’d win 6 games. Take the two they won this year and add it to their wins in September plus October next year and you might not come up to 6 wins. At least I had two things dead on with regard to the Raiders. I said that Aaron Brooks was mistake prone (actually, I said he committed more errors in a month than Jake Plummer did in a season.) and I said that the Raiders offensive line stunk. You have to admit, I had those two things “spot on” as they might say in Britain.

I’ll give myself a C – for the predictions here.

AFC South:

I said that all the talk about Jax being ready to replace Indy as the top dog in this division was pre-mature. I picked Indy to win the division and I said they’d have 12 wins, which was exactly on the mark. I also thought that would earn them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which it did not. After that auspicious start at the top of the AFC South, the predictions came apart at the seams. I had Jax finishing second with 8 wins. Once again, I got the 8 wins on the mark, but the Jags lost a tiebreaker with Tennessee for second place in the division. I thought Houston would improve to 5 wins and third place in the division this year. The team won 6 games but finished fourth. I totally missed the Tennessee Titans; I thought they’d win 4 games for the year and they won 8.

I’ll give myself a B for the predictions here.

AFC North:

I thought that the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens would all have 10 wins for the year. The Ravens won 13 games and the other two teams won 8 each. I did say that the Cincinnati Bengals might become known as the Cincinnati Trail Blazers as their off-field shenanigans continued to spin out of control; while I haven’t yet seen anyone refer to the Bengals in that way, you’d have to agree that the off-field antics of these players captured more than its fair share of attention all season long. I did say that Steve McNair’s value to the Ravens would be his toughness and his leadership and not his physical prowess – which is waning. And, I did say that the Browns were out of it from the opening coin toss in September. I said the Browns had little depth particularly at QB; that was on the mark. I said that Willie McGinnest would provide more leadership and maturity to the team than he would add in terms of sacks and tackles; that was on the mark. I said that Charlie Frye seemed to have the tools to develop as a QB; that seems to have missed the mark by more than a small margin.

I’ll give myself a C + for the predictions here.

AFC East:

I had the Pats winning the division with 11 wins. They did win the division and they won 12 games so that looks pretty good. Sadly, I fell for the 2005 late season surge by the Miami Dolphins – – after the games really didn’t matter and when they went up against the soft part of their 2005 schedule. I thought the Dolphins would also win 11 games and make the playoffs. Not only did they fall short of my prediction by 5 whole games, the Dolphins are a team on the brink of collapse at the end of the Nick Saban Fiasco – – er, Nick Saban Era. I had the Bills finishing third – which they actually did – with only 5 wins. But I saved my biggest miss for the NY Jets; I thought the Jets would stink and win only 3 games and be “on the clock” for the April draft. The Jets won 10 games and made the playoffs.

I’ll give myself a D – for the predictions here.

However, I stand by my remarks that there would be huge entertainment value in having NY Jets’ fans “on the clock” for the draft for four months as they dissected each and every possibility as to what the team should do with that #1 pick…

NFC West:

I said that the “Super Bowl Loser Jinx” would be violated this year. I said the Seahawks would not do as well as last year but they would win their division anyway. That was all true. I gave the Seahawks 12 wins and a comfortable walk to the division crown; actually, they won only 9 games and needed a win on New Year’s Eve to lock down their division title. Then I went totally goofy in my NFC West predictions. I actually thought that Dennis Green could squeeze 8 wins out of the Arizona Cardinals this year; that would be like squeezing orange juice out of a spare tire. Let me say for the record that the Cardinals team is flawed and Dennis Green is not nearly as good a head coach as he tends to portray himself as. I had the Rams finishing third with 7 wins; the Rams finished second with 8 wins; that looks like a decent prediction but, in truth, the Rams won games I never thought they’d win and lost some I thought were “gimmees”. I was really surprised by the improvement of the 49ers. I had them winning 5 games only because I wanted something positive to come from the work of Mike Nolan who seems like a good and well-meaning person. The 49ers won 7 games and finished third in the division – ahead of the no-account Cardinals.

I’ll give myself a D for the predictions here.

NFC South:

Even in light of the less than precise nature of the predictions that I’ve chronicled thusfar, let’s just say the crystal ball was REALLY cloudy for this division. I had the Panthers winning 10 games and the division championship based on a tiebreaker. That’s bad enough; the team I had tied with them was Tampa Bay who only won 4 games. Granted, Chris Simms missing the whole year and the absence of anything resembling a journeyman NFL QB in Tampa for the rest of the season made their record one that was below just about everyone’s expectation. I had Atlanta third in the division with 9 wins, which is two more than they actually got. I said then that Michael Vick would have been a great single wing tailback and is a damned fine running back but the problem for the Falcons is that he plays QB and that’s a shame. Oh, and I specifically said the Falcons’ WR corps will not “strike fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators around the league”. I believe that those two statements about the Falcons stand out as irrefutably accurate. Worst of all, I thought the New Orleans Saints would win 4 games for the year and battle the Jets for the first pick in the draft. The only solace I can take with regard to my predictions for the Saints is that I haven’t found a whole lot of other folks who picked them to play for the NFC Conference Championship back in August 2006.

I’ll give myself a flat-out F for the predictions here. The only way they might have been worse would have been if I had predicted that OJ Simpson would have revealed the identities of the “real killers” at one of the NFC South divisional games.

NFC North:

I had the Bears winning the division with 11 wins because they were the “least flawed team” in the division. They won comfortably and had 13 wins for the season. I thought the Vikings and Lions would chase the Bears – which they did if you take my statement literally. Sadly, I had the Vikings with 8 wins and the Lions with 7 wins for the year; they had 6 wins and 3 wins respectively. And the actual second place finisher in the division was Green Bay whom I wrote off as a mess of a team that would have to scratch to win 4 games; they won 8.

I’ll give myself a D for the predictions here.

NFC East:

I had the Cowboys winning the division with 10 wins and the Eagles to finish second as a wild-card team with 9 wins. Actually, the two teams reversed that prediction and both made the playoffs. I had the Redskins finishing third with 8 wins; they didn’t get near that total but I did nail the problems facing the Skins. I said I was “not really enamored with the WRs”; in actuality, the Skins’ WRs were miserable despite the additions in the off-season that were widely heralded. I said the offensive line was paper thin with no reserve strength. Fortunately, the starters played most of the time; but when the reserves came in, there was a noticeable “deprovement” in performance. And I said they had problems at safety with Archuletta and Taylor neither of whom “can be counted on to cover the goal line pylon.” Actually, that might have been unfair since both players are significantly bigger than the goal line pylon and so they could indeed cover it if they could ever catch up to it; but they couldn’t cover an Easter Island statue… I did put the Giants in last place in the division and I thought the reason would be that their defense could not hold up. The Giants broke even for the year finished third in the division and missed the playoffs.

I’ll give myself a C for the predictions here.

After this retrospective, I’m reminded of an observation by humorist/philosopher Evan Esar regarding economists:

    “An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.”

Nonetheless, I’ll do it again next season because it’s fun and because I don’t mind admitting my mistakes. I’ve never participated in any political activities for a boatload of reasons one of which is that politicos seem incapable of admitting a mistake. Politicians are folks who are much more comfortable at “hindcasting” than they are at “forecasting”. Consider the words of a consummate politician, Sir Winston Churchill, on that topic:

    “I always avoid prophesying beforehand because it is much better to prophesy after the event has already taken place.”

That’s sort of like the gambling on last weekend’s games; it’s pretty difficult not to come out ahead. And that’s precisely why they don’t let you bet on last week’s – or last season’s games in the present…

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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