2019 Pre-Season NFL Picks Post-Mortem

Think back to when you first read George Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984.  At first, I had a difficult time resonating with the idea of “Hate Week” or the daily and obligatory “Two Minute Hate” for the citizenry.  That was when I was in the 9th grade.  Today, I have a greater appreciation for the concepts there and today’s writing exercise sort of fits into something like

  • Two Great Hours of Humiliation.

Today, I will dig out my predictions for all 32 of the NFL teams and how they would do in the 2019 regular season.  I will grade myself on the accuracy (would that it were so…) of those predictions and then sit here and absorb the laughter that those predictions will certainly provide.  If you want to follow along with the hilarity, here is the link to what I wrote back in September 2019.

I will start with my “coaches on a hot seat” predictions:

  • Jason Garrett – – indeed he was fired
  • Jay Gruden – – indeed he was fired.
  • Doug Marrone – – he was retained but there was a short span of time when a lot of folks thought he would follow Tom Coughlin to the unemployment line
  • Bill O’Brien – – his Texans won the division again in 2019 and he got promoted to take on the jobs of head coach AND general manager.
  • Matt Patricia – – he was retained despite a bad record; the loss of Matthew Stafford at QB for half the season made a decent record all but impossible.
  • Ron Rivera – – indeed he was fired.
  • Dan Quinn – – he was retained after the Falcons rallied in the second half of the season to post a record that was not embarrassing.
  • Mike Zimmer – – he was retained and the Vikes picked up the 2020 option in his contract after the team made the playoffs as a wild-card team.

I did not have Freddie Kitchens on my hot-seat list at all.  I did not have the Browns as a “Super Bowl Sleeper” as did some other prognosticators but I also never imagined how incompetently the Browns’ team would be organized and managed.

I did not see the Giants firing Pat Shurmer as quickly as they did, but the Giants were bad once again and his record over two seasons in NY was 9-23

Of the 5 coaches who were fired, I had 3 of them on my list.  That is the good news.  The bad news – for me – is that owners of teams that underperformed expectations/talent levels did not pull the trigger and get a new coach.  The best I can do in giving myself a grade here is a “D”.  The “misses” on O’Brien, Quinn and Zimmer were big misses…

I started with the AFC West and I projected that the division as a whole would go 35-29.  Actually, the AFC West combined record was 31-33.

  • I had the Chiefs winning the division with a 13-3 record.  That was pretty close to the actual Chiefs’ record of 12-4.  And let me pat myself on the back here and point out that I singled out Frank Clark and Tyrann Matthieu as key additions to the Chiefs’ defense for 2019.  I need that sort of “bragging space” because of what comes next …
  • I had the Chargers finishing second in the division with a record of 11-5.  I must have been looking in a mirror while typing that out because the Chargers finished with a record of 5-11 – – putting them dead last in the division.
  • I had the Raiders finishing third in the division with a record of 6-10.  The Raiders came in with a 7-9 record, so I wasn’t all that far off in that prediction.
  • I had the Broncos at the bottom of the division with a 5-11 record.  The Broncos finished 7-9.  I did not see the demise of Joe Flacco as the Denver QB and the emergence of Drew Lock at that position.

The overall grade for the AFC West is another “D”.

Next up was the AFC North and I projected that the division as a whole would go 29-35 tied with the AFC South for the worst division in the NFL.  In fact, the AFC North combined record was 30-34.

  • I had the Steelers winning the division with a record of 10-6.  That was not even close although I have to say that the inability of Ben Roethlisberger to participate in more than two games in the 2019 season certainly affected the Steelers’ fortunes for the year.  The Steelers did manage to finish second in the AFC North with an 8-8 record.
  • I had the Ravens next with a record of 8-8.  I thought that their losses on defense would make the team vulnerable and I did not foresee Lamar Jackson emerging as the league MVP.  The Ravens had the best record in the NFL at 14-2.  Ouch …!
  • I had the Browns also finishing at 8-8.  The team was a dumpster fire for much of the year and struggled to finish at 6-10.
  • I had the Bengals bringing up the rear in the division with a record of 3-13.  Actually, the Bengals managed to underperform even that low standard and finished at 2-14.

The overall grade for the AFC North is a flat-out “F”.

            Moving on to the AFC South, I projected that the division as a whole would go 29-35.  Looking at the final standings, the AFC South combined record was 32-32.

  • I had the Texans winning the division with a 10-6 record.  That is exactly what happened in the 2019 season.  I said that the Texans would need to protect Deshaun Watson better in 2019 than they did in 2018 – – and indeed they did that too.
  • I had the Colts finishing second in this division with a 9-7 record.  I said – along with just about everyone who follows the NFL with an IQ greater than a thermostat setting – that the loss of Andrew Luck as their QB would be a big drag on the team’s performance in 2019.  The Colts finished 7-9 for the year.
  • I had the Titans in third place in the AFC South with a 6-10 record.  The Titans finished the season at 9-7 and made the playoffs as a wild card team.  That disparity is embarrassing to begin with, but I went further and shot myself in the foot by saying this:

“New additions to the roster include Adam Humphries, Ryan Tannehill and Cameron Wake; they will certainly not hurt the team, but I doubt they are the engine that propels the Titans to playoff contention in 2019.”

  • I had the Jaguars bringing up the rear in the division at 4-12.  Indeed, the Jags finished last in the AFC South but with a 6-10 record.

The overall grade for the AFC South is a “D-minus” and I might be a bit generous there…

The last stop in the AFC was the AFC East.  I projected that the division would go 31-33 for the season.  In fact, the combined record for the AFC East was 34-30.

  • I had the Patriots winning the division – as did every other prognosticator who was not trying to come up with a “bold prediction” as opposed to a “sensible prediction”.  I said that the Pats would go 12-4 which is exactly what they did in 2019.  Let me pat myself on the back here by pointing out that I did indeed foresee a significant Patriots’ weakness in 2019:

“The only question mark for this year in my mind is the receiving corps for the Pats.  Yes, they signed Julian Edelman to a contract extension and that is a good thing.  However, after that, there are good players with question marks all over them.  Is rookie N’Keal Harry the real deal?  [Not in 2019 he wasn’t.]  Can Philip Dorsett do anything other than run fly patterns?  [No.]  How long until Josh Gordon is suspended yet one more time?  [Much too soon.]

  • I had the Bills finishing second at 9-7; the Bills came home with a 10-6 record in second place in the division.
  • I had the Jets finishing in third place with a record of 8-8.  The Jets did finish third with a record of 7-9.
  • I had the Dolphins stumbling home with a 2-14 record in 2019.  Clearly, I did not foresee another bout of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s “Fitzmagic”; he somehow got the Dolphins to 5-11 record.

The overall grade for the AFC East is a solid “B-plus”.  It would have been an “A” if the prediction of the Dolphins’ record had been closer; c’est la guerre…

At this point in the post-mortem, I have to hope that things will get a whole lot better in the NFC portion of this rant because if it doesn’t, my “Two Great Hours of Humiliation” might morph into “Two Long Months of Humiliation” …

In the NFC West, I projected that the division would go 33-31.  Actually, the NFC West combined record was 38-25-1.  That is not a good omen for the grade that will be assigned to this division very shortly…

  • I had the Rams winning this division with a 12-4 record.  In fact, the Rams were a disappointing 9-7 for the season and finished a distant third in the division.  I mentioned in September the “Super Bowl curse” associated with teams that lost the Super Bowl the year before and then dismissed it.  I don’t know if the Rams fell victim to that “curse”, but they were exposed more than a little bit last year.
  • I had the Seahawks finishing second in the division at 10-6.  Looking at the standings, the Seahawks did finish second with a record of 11- 5.  That looks rather prescient and indeed I mentioned in September something that was key to the Seahawks’ season:

“With the dissolution of the Legion of Boom, there were some questions on defense for the Seahawks including who will provide their pass rush [Answer:  Jadeveon Clowney acquired from the Texans at the 11th hour.]  and who will be their shut-down cornerback [Still TBD…].”

  • I had the Niners finishing third in the division with a record of 7-9.  I guess I must acknowledge that the Niners did better than that; they finished the season at 13-3 and had home field advantage throughout the playoffs and then played in the Super Bowl game.
  • I had the Cardinals “looking up at the rest of the division” with a 4-12 record.  The Cards were indeed last in the NFC West, but their record was 5-10-1.

The overall grade for the NFC West is another flat-out “F”.

            Next up was the NFC North and I projected that the division would go 34-30.  In reality, the division combined record was 34-29-1.  At this point I am feeling rather good about my crystal-ball-gazing for the NFC North – – until …

  • I had the Bears repeating as NFC North champs in 2019 with a record of 11-5.  The Bears finished 8-8 and a distant third in the division.  Ooops…
  • I had the Packers finishing 9-7; their actual record was 13-3.  Ugh…  At least I was sort of on target with this comment:

“Based on last year’s results, the Packers’ defense needed a whole lot more pass rushing so they went out and acquired “the Smith Brothers” – Preston and ZaDarius – in addition to drafting Rashan Gary with their first-round pick.  Hopefully, that will produce some positive results there.”

  • I had the Vikings finishing 9-7; their actual record was 10-6.  Not bad … plus I had this observation that was more correct than incorrect:

“This should be a put-up-or-shut-up season for Kirk Cousins, and it will lean toward the “put-up” side of that scale if Dalvin Cook can stay healthy for the entirety of the 2019 season.”

  • I had the Lions in last place with a record of 5-11.  With Matthew Stafford sidelined for about half the year, the Lions limped home at 3-12-1.

The overall grade for the NFC North is a “D” avoiding yet another flat-out “F” based on the combined record prediction and the closeness of the Vikings prediction.

Here we go to the NFC South where I had the division going 34-30.  Look at the standing and you will see that the NFC South combined record was 32-32.

  • I had the Saints on top of the division at 12-4.  Indeed, the Saints did win the division with a 13-3 record.
  • I had the Falcons finishing second here with a 10-6 record.  The Falcons started the season losing 7 of their first 8 games and then coming on with a rush to finish 7-9 for the season.  I had them in second place – – and that is where they finished.
  • I had the Panthers finishing third at 8-8.  Not quite … the Panthers finished last at 5-11 and fired their coach in the process.
  • I had the Bucs bringing up the rear in the division with a 4-12 record.  Not close … the Bucs finished 7-9.

The overall grade for the NFC South is yet one more flat-out “F”.  Missing the Saints record by a single game was good, nothing else in this mix was even marginally close to correct.

The last stop on this “Walk of Shame” is the NFC East where I predicted a combined record of 31-33.  The division’s actual combined record was 24-40 making it far and away the worst overall division record in the league.

I did start off on sort of a high note here declaring:

“The four teams here split nicely into two ‘Haves’ and two ‘Have-Nots’.”

What I did not realize at the time was that the two “Haves” were not nearly as good as I thought they would be and that the two “Have-nots” would be a lot worse than I thought they would be.

  • I did have the Eagles winning the division – on a tie-breaker – with an 11-5 record.  The Eagles rallied to win their last 4 games of the season – – all against division opponents – – to win the division at 9-7.  I said that the addition of DeSean Jackson and Malik Jackson were positive moves for the team; neither Jackson played much at all.
  • I had the Cowboys also finishing with an 11-5 record.  Actually, the Cowboys were 8-8 and got their coach fired in the process.  I said that the back end of the Cowboys’ schedule would be difficult for them and indeed, the Cowboys lost 5 of their last 8 games.
  • I had the Skins finishing third at 6-10.  The Skins’ record was 3-13; they lost their first 5 games and got their coach fired; then they finished the season with a 4-game losing streak.
  • I had the Giants finishing last at 3-13.  Hey, I was close; the Giants finished 4-12 and got their coach fired in the process.  [Aside:  Demonstrating once again the insignificance of the NFL Exhibition Games, the Giants were 4-0 in Exhibition Games.  Big “Bleeping” Deal…]

The overall grade for the NFC East is a “D”.

As it comes time for the summation here, I recall Frank Sinatra crooning:

“And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain…”

The following results will not be pretty; there are 9 grades in total and they are – in the order they were presented:

  1. D
  2. D
  3. F
  4. D-minus
  5. B-plus
  6. F
  7. D
  8. F
  9. D

            I won’t belabor the point here but if an NCAA “student athlete” had those grades on his record, he would not be eligible for intercollegiate athletics for long…  No matter; I’ll be back and try to do better come next September.  Anthony Bourdain had an observation that seems pertinent here:

“We learn as professionals by repetition, by getting it wrong, getting yelled at and doing it again.”

See you in September.

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