As I continue the process of weaning myself away from Football Fridays, I will take the opportunity to use a Friday as the time to look back to last September when I made all my predictions for the upcoming NFL season. I made predictions about NFL coaches who were on the hot seat; I predicted that Father Time might catch up with some very good players and I predicted the final records for all 32 teams. Making predictions is easy – – so long as there is no accounting for those predictions down the road.
Here in Curmudgeon Central, we believe in accountability. In addition, I have no difficulty admitting when I am wrong as I usually am in endeavors such as these. So, I will review what I predicted and grade myself on the various categories of the predictions here the way report cards were given out when I was in school.
Let the carnage begin… I had eight coaches on my hot seat list. However, three of them were there with a very specific caveat. I said that Matt LaFleur could have been on the hot seat if his relationship with Aaron Rodgers totally deteriorated. It did not. I said Mike McCarthy needed a playoff slot to meet Jerry Jones’ expectations for the team and thereby keep his job. The Cowboys made the playoffs and McCarthy is still the coach of the Cowboys. I said I fully expected Zac Taylor to be the coach of the Bengals next year (in 2022) but the pre-season expectations for the Bengals were so sky high that he might fall victim to them. The Bengals met all of the pre-season expectations and Taylor will be the coach in Cincy next year.
I did not see the complete flame-out that Urban Meyer delivered to Jax. I do not feel too badly about that since I do not recall reading anywhere that he would not make it through the season in his first year with the Jags. I also missed on Brian Flores’ departure from Miami and – to be candid – I still do not see why he was fired and replaced by someone whose résumé is underwhelming.
I hit on four of the coaches who were fired at the end of the season:
- David Culley – Texans
- Vic Fangio – Broncos
- Matt Nagy – Bears
- Mike Zimmer – Vikes
I missed on one coach I thought would be fired without a playoff slot. I had Kliff Kingsbury in that category and he is still the coach of the Cards despite staring the season at 7-0 and then going 4-7 in the final 11 games. Mark this down; Kingsbury will be on my hot seat list in 2022…
So, for the category of “Coaches on the Hot Seat” I will give myself a solid “B” .
The next prediction category had to do with Father Time catching up to some recognizable players. Here is the list – – and how 2021 went for those players:
- Calais Campbell: He continued to play well – – but he was not selected to the Pro Bowl as he had been for the previous 7 consecutive seasons, and he registered only 1.5 sacks for the season which is the fewest since his rookie season in 2008.
- Ezekiel Elliott: He is still a productive running back – – but his rushing yards per game and his total yards per game were lower in 2021 than in any prior season.
- Derrick Henry: He had carried the ball 681 times in the previous 2 seasons and this year he got hurt and missed 9 regular season games.
- A.J. Green: I totally missed on this one; Green caught more passes in 2021 than he did in 2020 or in 2018 and his yards per catch were increased as well. He missed all of the 2019 season with an injury.
- Ben Roethlisberger: I doubt that any objective observer of the NFL in 2021 would not acknowledge that Big Ben’s Hall of Fame career was over and done with at the end of the season.
- Andrew Whitworth: He played in 15 of the 17 regular season games and was not a “weak link” on the Rams’ offensive line. Count that one as a missed prediction.
My assessment here is that four of the six Father Time predictions were on target and two were not. In the world of soothsaying, that deserves a grade of “C”.
Now comes the time when I have to face up to my specific predictions for teams and divisions. I will start with the AFC East. Here are my predictions:
- Bills – – 13-4
- Pats – – 10-7
- Dolphins – – 9-8
- Jets – – 3-14
I have the teams finishing in the exact order they would up the season and I have two of the teams – – Pats and Dolphins – – with their exact record. I had the Bills winning two more games than they did, and I had the Jets winning one game fewer than they did. Overall, I will give myself a grade for the AFC East of an “A”.
The next division I covered was the AFC North. Here are the predictions:
- Ravens – – 12-5
- Browns – – 12-5
- Steelers – – 9-8
- Bengals – – 5-12
Other than the prediction for the Steelers who finished 2021 with a record of 9-7-1, every other prediction here is an unmitigated disaster. I hang my head in shame. The grade for the AFC North is a well-deserved “F”.
Next up was the AFC South and here are the predictions:
- Titans – – 11-6
- Colts – – 9-8
- Jags – – 3-14
- Texans – – 2-15
The Titans won the division with a 12-5 record and the Colts finished second at 9-8. Moreover, the Jags finished exactly at 3-14. The only miss here was the fact that the Texans won 4 games this year instead of the two I had predicted. I believe the proper grade for the AFC South predictions is an ”A”.
The last division in the AFC was the AFC West. These were the predictions:
- Chiefs – – 14-3
- Chargers – – 10-7
- Raiders – – 7-10
- Broncos – – 5-12
I over-estimated the Chiefs – – but they still won the division by 2 full games; I underestimated the Raiders significantly; they won 10 games not only 7. I think the grade for the AFC West predictions is a “C”.
Continuing on with the predictions for the NFC, I began with the NFC West. Here are the predictions:
- Seahawks – – 13-4
- Niners – – 10-7
- Rams – – 10-7
- Cards – – 9-8
Obviously, I had by head in an anatomically impossible place when I evaluated the Seahawks back in September. They finished last in the division with a 7-10 record. Both the Rams and the Cards won two more games than I had predicted but I did hit the Niners record on the head. Overall, my grade for the NFC West is a “D”.
Next up was the NFC South and here is how I read those tea leaves:
- Bucs – – 14-3
- Saints – – 10-7
- Panthers – – 6-11
- Falcons – – 5-12
I over-estimated the Bucs and the Saints by one game each and the Falcons were better than I thought by two games. In my defense, all the teams here were pretty close to what I expected in terms of how the division would wind up. Overall, I think the grade for the NFC South should be a “B”.
The next division I took up was the NFC North. These were my prognostications:
- Packers – – 13-4
- Vikes – – 8-9
- Bears – – 6-11
- Lions – – 3-14
Ladies and gentlemen let me bask in the glory of those predictions for a moment here. OK, basking time is over… The only error in my record predictions for these four teams is that I had the Lions finishing at 3-14 when they actually finished at 3-13-1. The grade for the NFC North is an “A+”.
Having basked in the glory of success for a moment, let me now sink into the muck and mire of some bad predictions for the NFC East. Please try not to giggle when you look at these predictions:
- Football Team – – 10-7
- Cowboys – – 9-8
- Giants – – 7-10
- Eagles – – 5-12
In this unmitigated disaster of predicting, the closest I came to reality were the Football Team, Cowboys and the Giants; those predictions were off by “only” 3 games; the Eagles prediction was off by 4 games. As I gather up my dunce cap to go and sit in the corner of shame, I will accept that the grade for the NFC East must be an “F”.
Let me review the “grades” in order to come up with a “Grade Point Average”
- A+ = 1
- A = 2
- B = 2
- C = 2
- D = 1
- F = 2
GPA = 2.35
Hey, that beats the GPA earned by the future US Senator John “Bluto” Blutarsky at Faber College…
Having dispatched the specific numbers in the predictions, let me now go back and find tidbits in there that turned out to be right on or dead wrong.
In assessing the upcoming season for the Patriots, I said:
“I am not ready to anoint Mac Jones as a star QB at the NFL level – and truth be told he does not have an outstanding set of pass-catchers with him – but I do believe that he can operate in the Josh McDaniel offensive milieu.” That turned out to be accurate.
Speaking about the NY Jets and Zach Wilson, I said:
“Zach Wilson shows a lot of promise, and many folks think he will be a star in the NFL for a decade or so. Even if that is completely correct, it is not going to matter much in 2021; he will see lots of pressure behind an offensive line that was damaged by an injury to Mekhi Becton.” Zach Wilson was sacked 44 times in 13 games in 2021.
Regarding the Baltimore Ravens, I said:
“Lamar Jackson took a half-step back last year; I think he takes a full step ahead this year.” Actually, Jackson took another half-step backward in 2021 before he was injured for the final 5 games.
I completely whiffed on assessing the Browns in September. Here is probably part of why that was the case:
“What the Browns need most is for that defensive unit to improve from last year; the offense was fine, but the defense was just okay.” The Browns’ defense this year was fine; it was the offense that let the team down.
Regarding the Colts’ prospects in 2021, I said:
“The early part of the 2021 season could be “make or break” for the Colts. Here are the first 5 weeks: host Seahawks, host Rams, at Titans, at Dolphins, at Ravens. Ouch!” After the first five games in 2021, the Colts’ record was 1-4. Ouch indeed…
Here is part of what I said about the Chiefs in the upcoming season:
“For the first 7 weeks they host the Browns, at the Ravens, host the Chargers, at the Eagles, host the Bills, at the Football Team, at the Titans. I think the Chiefs will be 5-2 at that part of the season and then assert themselves in the mid-season and down the stretch.” Actually, the Chiefs were only 3-4 at that part of the season before coming on stronger than I had anticipated in the latter parts of the schedule.
I had this assessment of Sam Darnold as the Panthers’ QB very wrong:
“I am not nearly as sour on Sam Darnold as many other commentators seem to be; I think he was saddled with a mediocre roster and a goofy coaching staff in NYC.” Darnold only started 11 games for the Panthers in 2021 before being benched.
Here is everything I had to say about the Bears back in September:
“I think the Bears will finish third in the division at 6-11. Then, the Bears will be looking for a new head coach in the offseason. Maybe Justin Fields is their QB of the future, but Andy Dalton is their QB of the present and with what is around Dalton that is a ticket to mediocrity.” That seems to have been pretty accurate.
Here is part of what I had to say about the Football Team:
“Is Ryan Fitzpatrick good enough at age 38 to play an entire season under center effectively? He need not be a star; he needs only to be steady and effective. I think he can get it done.” Ryan Fitzpatrick played less than one game before being injured; he completed 3 passes for the season for a total of 13 yards.
Here is a mixed bag of observations related to the Eagles:
“There are plenty of question marks here including who their QB is, the game management skills of their new head coach, the corps of wide receivers and the corps of linebackers. I am not a “Jalen Hurts-hater”, but I am not sold on his ability to be a #1 QB in the NFL. Joe Flacco’s days as the QB of a contending NFL team are in the past. Gardner Minshew is Jalen Hurts with a better arm and worse legs.” Hurts got the team to the playoffs, but I still do not see him with a high ceiling. The coach could have been a bit better on game day, but he also could have been a ton worse than he was. I stand foursquare behind my assessments of Joe Flacco and Gardner Minshew.
I will close today with Winston Churchill’s assessment of Clement Atlee because after you have seen how I fared on my predictions for the NFL season, you will probably agree that Sir Winston could easily have said something similar about me:
“Mr. Atlee is a very modest man. But then, he has much to be modest about.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………