Back in the 1960s – – soon after scientists had discovered dirt – – Sammy Davis Jr. posed this musical question:
“What kind of fool am I …?
His foolishness related to his never having fallen in love. I have no such problem; I have been in love with my long-suffering wife for almost 60 years now. My foolishness relates to my obsession with trying to predict the outcome of NFL regular seasons before the first kickoff in the first game on the schedule. And then, I feel compelled to reveal to everyone after the season has unfolded that my “crystal ball” is about as illuminating as a bowling ball.
My predictions for the 2023 NFL season appeared on the website on September 5, 2023; if you want to see the original text, here is the link:
Now the task is to take those predictions and to “grade them” against what really happened between September 5, 2023, and the end of the NFL regular season on January 7, 2024. I will grade my picks and then calculate my “Grade Point Average” over the totality of the picks to demonstrate if I was more akin to “Football Nostradamus” or “Football NostraDumbAss”. You can make the call…
I began with 7 “Coaches on a Hot Seat” for 2023 back in September 2023:
- Dennis Allen: His Saints improved to the point that they were viable division champion contenders through Week 18. They didn’t make the playoffs, but Allen has survived as of this morning.
- Bill Belichick: I said then that this was a “longshot”, but the Pats were uncompetitive too many times in 2023 and Bill Belichick – – as the second winningest head coach in NFL history – – is out of a job with the Pats.
- Mike McCarthy: His Cowboys won the NFC East and then flamed-out in the first round of the playoffs. I thought that missing the playoffs would cost him his job; he made the playoffs – – for a cameo appearance – – and that was evidently good enough to maintain his employment with the Cowboys.
- Ron Rivera: His Commanders stunk out the joint in 2023 and the new ownership in Washington had to relieve him of this position and start afresh. As of this morning. Ron Rivera will have to find a way to live on the approximately $7M that he will get from the Commanders in the 2024/2025 season simply to be unemployed in the NFL. I wish I faced such a challenge …
- Robert Saleh: I had him on my list only because he would be the scapegoat if the Jets’ season was a disaster. It was indeed a disaster as compared to expectations, but that was because Aaron Rodgers lasted about a nanosecond as the team’s QB in 2023. Naturally, Saleh got a pass on the Jets’ poor performance last year.
- Brandon Staley: He did not make it to Thanksgiving as the coach of the Chargers…
- Kevin Stefanski: I said in September that under his leadership the Browns had won 11 games and then 8 games and then 7 games in the regular season and that trend had to be reversed in 2023 for him to keep his job. Well, his Browns did reverse that trend and made the playoffs despite having the equivalent of a “traveling road show” starting at QB during the season.
Three of my seven “Coaches on a Hot Seat” are gone and two outperformed what I said were minimum achievements for 2023 for them to keep their jobs. Robert Saleh gets a pass here because at the time I wrote the predictions, Aaron Rodgers was upright and functional; Dennis Allen has gotten a pass so far – – but he is going to be “on the list” again next year…
Because I had Belichick, Rivera and Staley spot on back in September, I will give myself a B+ for these predictions.
Next, I tried to evaluate the possibility of teams that could go “worst to first” in their divisions in 2023. Remember, Aaron Rodgers was totally healthy at that time. My comment then was that the Jets stood a decent chance to make that leap and that an injury in Week 1 negated any chance of that happening. I was way off base in saying that the Texans had no chance to leap from last to first; here is exactly what I said then:
“Texans – AFC South: The football gods would have to be on a rampage to make this happen …”
Well, the football gods – – along with CJ Stoud, Will Anderson and DeMeco Ryans – – were on a rampage and the Texans did indeed win the AFC South. They were the only ones to do so.
I will give myself a C for these worst-to-first predictions.
After that, I looked at teams that might go “first-to worst” in their divisions. None of them fell that far in 2023; my best guess was the Bucs who finished the 2023 season with a mediocre 9-8-0 record – – but it was good enough to finish first once again in the squishy-soft NFC South Division.
I will give myself a C for those first-to-worst predictions.
Before I get to grading my predictions division-by-division, I made some comments about the potential fortunes for 6 individual teams and about the importance of “young QBs” to their teams in 2023. Rather than repeat those comments here, let me suggest that you go and read those comments in the original posting here. In general, those comments were closer to “accurate” than they were to “off-base”.
So, how it is time to go to the meat of my preseason predictions and I started in the AFC West. I thought the division record as a whole would be 36-32; in actuality, it was 32-36.
I had the Chiefs winning the division – – which they did – – but I had the Chiefs’ record at 13-4. The Chiefs finished at 11-6 and still won the division by 3 games.
I thought the Chargers would finish second in the division at 9-8. That prediction had no relationship with reality; the Chargers finished last with a record of 5-12. Their coach was fired in mid-season and the defense was a sieve.
I had the Broncos finishing third at 8-9 – – and that is exactly what happened.
I had the Raiders in last place in the division at 6-11. Actually, the Raiders finished second (via tiebreakers) in the division with an 8-9 record and a new head coach.
I give myself a D for the predictions in the AFC West.
Then I moved on to the AFC South where I predicted the division’s combined record to be 26-42. When the games had been played the division’s record was 34-34. Clearly, the individual team predictions are going to stink here …
I thought the Jags would win the division comfortably at 11-6. Had they achieved that record, they would have indeed won the division, but the Jags finished at 9-8 and in second place.
I had the Titans finishing second in the AFC South with a 6-11 record. That is exactly the Titans’ record for 2023, but it had them in last place in the division not second place.
I said the Texans would finish third in the division with a record of 5-12. What I said then was that I thought the Texans were improving year over year and the rest of the division was not. I did not foresee in any way that the Texans would end the season at 10-7 and win the division outright and get to host a playoff game.
I put the Colts at the bottom of the division with a predicted record of 4-13. In no way did I envision the Colts surviving the fact of a season-ending injury to Anthony Richardson and then the emergence of Gardner Minshew leading to a final Colts’ record of 9-8.
There is no sugar-coating applicable here; I give myself an F for the AFC South predictions.
Next, I tackled the AFC North and said that the combined record for the teams would be 42-26. At season’s end, that combined record was 43-25.
I had the Bengals winning the division at 13-9; they finished at 9-8 in last place in the AFC North. In this case, I do plead “extenuating circumstances”. Joe Burrow only played in 10 games and played on a gimpy calf/leg in at least two of those games before suffering a season-ending injury. The Bengals’ players and coaches deserve lots of credit for overcoming that loss and finishing the season with a winning record.
I had the Ravens in second place with a 12-5 record. The Ravens won the division at 13-4.
I had the Steelers in third place finishing at 9-8 and making the playoffs. The Steelers’ actual record was 10-7; they finished in third place in the division, and they were indeed a wildcard team in the AFC playoffs.
I thought the Browns would finish last at 7-10; the Browns finished second with an 11-6 record even though they started 5 different QBs in those 17 games. That feat alone is praiseworthy.
Overall, I give myself a C for the AFC North predictions.
And then came the AFC East where I thought the combined division record would be 39-29. No, the combined record was only 33-35.
I thought the Bills would win the division with a record of 12-5. The Bills did indeed win the division but with a record of 11-6. [Aside: One might think that is a good omen foretelling the fate of the AFC East division. Hang on tight…]
I had the Jets finishing second in the division at 10-7. The Jets finished third at 7-10. Once again, I plead “extenuating circumstances”. My prediction was predicated on this statement:
“The Jets were not an easy out in 2022 despite their 7-10 record and to say they upgraded their QB position would be like saying that guy Pavarotti ‘could sing a little bit’”.
Aaron Rodgers played one offensive possession for the entirety of the 2023 season, so that “QB upgrade” never had a chance to show itself.
I had the Pats in third place at 8-9. The Pats ended the season at 4-13 which was sufficiently miserable to get Bill Belichick fired soon after season end.
I had the Dolphins finishing last in the division with an 8-9 record. Actually, the Dolphins finished second at 11-6. I significantly underestimated the Dolphins’ scoring offense and significantly overestimated the strength of schedule the Dolphins faced.
The grade for the AFC East predictions is a D+. The injury to Aaron Rodgers mitigates that erroneous prediction; nothing, however, mitigates the stinker of a prediction relative to the New England Patriots.
Crossing over into the NFC, I began with the NFC West. I had the division with a cumulative record of 34-34. When all the precincts had reported in, the cumulative division record was 35-33.
I said the Niners would win the division with a record of 13-4. They won the division with a 12-5 record.
I had the Seahawks finishing second with a 9-8 record; the Seahawks were indeed 9-8 for the 2023 season but finished in third place.
I said the Rams would finish in third place also with a 9-8 record, but the Rams went 10-7 and finished second in the division.
I had the Cards in last place at 3-14. The Cards finished last with a record of 4-13.
The grade for the NFC West is an A. Now if you will allow me a moment contentment as I enjoy an island of correctness in what has been a sea of mediocre predictions so far…
Next, I went to the NFC South where I predicted an overall division record of 27-41. When the dust settled on the 2023 season, the overall record for the NFC South was exactly 27-41. There are lots of mathematical combinations that can provide that cumulative record; the combination I predicted – unfortunately for me – had no resemblance to reality.
I had the Panthers winning the division at 8-9. The Panthers finished last at 2-15. Talk about a swing and a miss …
I had the Saints in second place also at 8-9. The Saints finished second at 9-8. Not terribly off base …
I had the Falcons in third place at 6-11. The Falcons finished third at 7-10. Can’t complain about that prognostication …
I had the Bucs last in the division at 5-12. The Bucs finished at 9-8 and won the division and hosted a playoff game that they won. I based my prediction on the fact that Tom Brady had retired and that:
“Baker Mayfield and/or Kyle Trask will not replace Tom Brady comfortably.”
Baker Mayfield will never be favorably compared to Tom Brady, but he played QB for the Bucs this year at a high level and deserves nothing but accolades for his performance.
The grade for this division is not an easy decision. The overall division record and the two predictions for the Saints and Falcons are very good. The two predictions for the Panthers and the Bucs are brutally awful. Overall, I will assign the NFC South predictions a grade of D.
The NFC North was next up, and I thought the division’s combined record would be 31-37. The actual combined record was 35-33.
I said the Lions would win the division with a 10-7 record. Indeed, the Lions won the division and posted a gaudy 12-5 record.
I had the Vikes in second place with a 9-8 record. The Vikes finished in third place with a 7-10 record. Once again, this “underperformance” may be attributed to a season ending injury to starting QB, Kirk Cousins who only appeared in 8 games in 2023.
I said the Bears would finish third at 7-10. The Bears finished 4th – – deep into the tiebreakers with the Vikes – – with that same 7-10 record.
I thought the Packers would finish last in the division at 5-12. The Packers finished second at 9-8 and made the playoffs as a wildcard team and won a playoff game.
The grade for the NFC North predictions is a C.
Last but not least, I tackled the NFC East and thought the cumulative record would be 38-30. Looking at the final standings, the NFC East was only 33-35 overall.
I had the Eagles winning the division at 12-5; they finished second at 11-6.
I had the Cowboys finishing second at 11-6; they won the division at 12-5. Not too bad so far …
I said the Commanders would finish third with a 9-8 record. They finished fourth at 4-13. Moreover, I said that a strength of the Commanders would be their defense which I said was a “Top-Ten, caliber unit in the entire league.” That “Top Ten unit” allowed 518 points in 2023 (30.5 points per game); that was 63 more points allowed than the next worst scoring defense in 2023.
I said the Giants would finish last at 6-11. The Giants finished exactly at 6-11 but the Commanders out-stunk the Giants and lifted the Giants to a third-place finish.
The grade for the NFC East predictions is a C+.
So, the overall “Grade Point Average” here comes out to be 1.95.
At least it beats the GPA earned by John “Bluto” Blutarsky of “Zero-point-Zero”.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………