George Orwell portrayed a dystopian future in the novel, 1984. As part of their daily routine, the people of Oceania spent two minutes every day proclaiming their hate for their perceived enemy of the state; they called it “The Two Minutes Hate.” We don’t have anything nearly so frequent here in the cozy confines of Curmudgeon Central, but we do have an annual ritual that will be taken up today.
This is the day when I present myself for public scorn as I do a post-mortem on my NFL predictions prior to the recently concluded 2022 season. It will probably take you about 5 minutes to read this so maybe we should consider it “The Five Minutes Scorn”.
I plan to go through the multiple sets of predictions from September 6, 2022 and grade myself the way grades used to be handed out when I was in college having to use reeds to take notes on papyrus. At the end, I’ll calculate my “NFL-GPA” for the 2022 season.
The predictions began with 6 coaches on a hot seat:
- Kliff Kingsbury (Cards): He was fired.
- Mike McCarthy (Cowboys): I said it might take an appearance in the NFC Championship Game for him to keep his job. The team made the playoffs and lost in the first round – – but McCarthy is still the coach in Dallas. Call this a mistake; I over-estimated Jerry Jones’ itchy trigger finger.
- Frank Reich (Colts): He was fired in mid-season.
- Ron Rivera (Commanders): I said that I did not think he would be fired but that you never knew what could happen with Danny Boy in charge. Well, Danny Boy chose in November to explore the option to sell the team, so there was no way he could fire Rivera after that because no coach would take the job not knowing who the next owner might be. Call this one a “push”.
- Matt Rhule (Panthers): He was fired early on.
- Robert Saleh (Jets): I said he should not be fired but – like Rivera – he works for an organization that has a history of making bad decisions. Fortunately, the Jets did well enough that any urge to move on from him was thwarted and he will be back in 2023. Call this one a “push” too.
The only big error here was Mike McCarthy; the other two “predictions” were not really dependent on a major turn-around by the team. I totally missed the Texans firing Lovie Smith; I am still amazed that the Texans’ “braintrust” thought it was “good optics” to fire two Black head coaches in two consecutive seasons. I also totally whiffed on Nathanial Hackett’s melt-down in Denver with the Broncos. I do not recall anyone predicting how over his head he appeared to be in the head coaching role. He truly earned the moniker:
- Nathanial “Can’t” Hackett.
I give myself a grade of B + for the “Coaches on a Hot Seat.”
The second set of predictions involved six players that I thought would have to fight off Father Time in 2022. I thought they would not live up to their previous levels of play as their careers were on a downward arc.
- Calais Campbell: His sack total in 2022 was significantly higher than it was in 2021 but his total number of tackles (36) in 14 games is significantly lower than back in the salad days of his career. He fought Father Time to a stalemate.
- Fletcher Cox: I whiffed on that one; Cox increased his sack total and his total tackles in 2022 as compared to 2021. He forced Father Time to back off.
- Brandon Graham: This was a totally bad prediction; Graham got votes as the Comeback Player of the Year and as an All-Pro. The only word for my thinking in this case is “Fail”!
- AJ Green: His production dropped off and he announced his retirement in January 2023.
- Alvin Kamara: His rushing and receiving stats did not fall off a cliff, but they did not measure up to those of his “Pro Bowl” years in the past. Also, he only scored 2 TDs in 15 games in 2022 while he had averaged about 9 TDs per season for the balance of his career. He too fought Father Time to a stalemate.
- JJ Watt: He announced his retirement at the end of the 2022 season.
I totally missed on the two predictions about Eagles’ defensive linemen; I totally called AJ Green and JJ Watt; Campbell and Kamara were toss-ups relative to the predictions.
I give myself a C for “Players Versus Father Time.”
The next predictions involved teams that finished last in their division in 2021 and their chances to win that same division in 2022. It was the “Worst-to-First” section of soothsaying. I thought the Ravens had the best chance of going “Worst-to-First” if the Bengals had a “Super Bowl Hangover”. Well, the Bengals did not have such a condition, but the Ravens did finish second to the Bengals in the AFC North.
There were two egregious errors in the commentary in that section, however. Here is what I wrote then:
“Jaguars: No way they win the AFC South”. Well, the Jags did in fact win the AFC South in 2022.
“Broncos: The offense will certainly be better with Russell Wilson in place of Drew Lock and the defense is very good. The AFC West is awfully tough, but the Broncos have a glimmer of hope there.” Well, the Broncos’ offense was awful for most of 2022 and any “glimmer of hope” was extinguished by Thanksgiving when the team was 3-8-0.
I give myself an F for “Worst-to-First” predictions.
Before getting to the meat of these evaluations, I included some commentary on 3 teams that I thought would “be less than mediocre because I do not think they have any plan on how to get better.” Those three teams were:
- Bears: They were “less than mediocre” and are picking first in the Draft in April.
- Falcons: They were 7-10 for the season but finished last in the miserable NFC South. I said they had a bad situation at QB and that certainly turned out to be the case.
- Panthers: They too were 7-10 for the season in the miserable NFC South. They fired their coach early in the season and traded away their best offensive player looking to “start over” in 2023.
I suggest that I called those three situations correctly – – albeit none of the situations were very opaque.
I give myself a B+ for these predictions on these three teams.
Now we get to the specific team predictions and I will start in the AFC West:
- Chargers: I had the Chargers at 12-5 for the season on top of the division; they finished 10-7 and second in the division. I thought their defense was going to be better in 2022 but it was still the part of the team that was a weak link. Even with their 10-7 record, their point differential for the year was a measly 7 points.
- Chiefs: I had the Chiefs’ record as 11-6 for the season and second in the division. I thought that the loss of 3 members of the Chiefs’ WR corps would hurt the offense more than it obviously did; the Chiefs finished at 14-3 and proceeded to win the Super Bowl in February.
- Broncos: Here was a real blunder; I thought the trade for Russell Wilson was going to make the Broncos into a formidable opponent because the defense was so good. I said they would finish 10-7 which is not even close to their actual record of 5-12.
- Raiders: I had the Raiders at 9-8 for the season and they finished 6-11. I did cite, however, that the Raiders’ defense would be a team weakness and that certainly was the case in 2022.
I give myself a D for the AFC West predictions. If you think I deserve an “F”, I will not argue too strenuously against your assertion.
Next, we shall move to the AFC North:
- Ravens: I had the Ravens at 11-6 and winning the division; the actual record was 10-7 and the Ravens finished second. Having Lamar Jackson miss 5 games late in the season did not help the Ravens’ cause at all.
- Bengals: I had the Bengals at 10-7 for the season finishing second in the division and suffering from “Super Bowl Loser Syndrome”. Actually, the Bengals finished 12-4 – – the “missing game” being the one involving the Bills and Damar Hamlin.
- Steelers: I had the Steelers finishing 9-8 and third in the division. That is exactly what happened…
- Browns: I had the Browns finishing 7-10 and last in the division. That is exactly what happened.
I give myself an A for the AFC North predictions. I got two of the teams’ records and position in the race correct and missed on the Ravens record by only one game,
Moving along to the AFC South:
- Colts: I said the Colts would win the division with a 10-7 record and that Matt Ryan would be a significant upgrade at QB from Carson Wentz. Actually, the Colts finished the season at 4-12-1; they fired their coach early on; Matt Ryan was benched for a couple of games to give Sam Ehlinger a shot at the job.
- Titans: I thought they would go 8-9 and finish second in the division; they had a 7-10 record and indeed finished second. Even a blind squirrel …
- Jags: I had the Jags going 6-11 for the season and finishing third in the AFC South. That would have been a significant improvement over 2021 and the “Urban Meyer Era” in Jax, but the team really over-achieved and finished 9-8 to win the division and go to the playoffs.
- Texans: I had the Texans record at 4-13 putting them last in the division. Their record was 3-13-1 which is close. I can pretend that calling the Texans to finish 4th in the division was a “good call”; frankly, it was never really in doubt.
I give myself a D for the AFC South. The predictions for the Titans and the Texans were close – – but the other two predictions were too far off-base to allow for anything more than such a grade.
The last AFC division is the AFC East:
- Bills: I had the Bills winning the division with a 14-3 record. They won the division with a 13-3 record – – the missing game is the “Damar Hamlin Game”.
- Dolphins: I had the Dolphins in second place in the division at 9-8. That is exactly how things turned out.
- Pats: I had the Pats tied for second pace with the Dolphins at 9-8. The Pats finished third in the division with an 8-9 record.
- Jets: I had the Jets finishing last in the division at 6-11. The Jets finished last in the division at 7-10.
I give myself an A for the AFC East. The crystal ball was in working order for that part of the predictions.
It is time to move along to the NFC predictions and I will begin with a review of some bad predictions in the NFC West:
- Rams: Yes, I had the Rams winning this division with a record of 11-6. Actually, they finished third with a 5-12 record. In my defense, I did say that Matthew Stafford’s elbow tendinitis could be a significant problem for the Rams and I said that the Rams’ OL would not be as good in 2022 as it had been in 2021. Both problems surfaced and produced disastrous results – – along with an early season injury to Cooper Kupp.
- Niners: I had the Niners in a tie with the Rams in the division at 11-6; the Niners won the division in a cakewalk with a record of 13-4. My prediction was close for all the wrong reasons. I assumed that Trey Lance would perform the way an overall #3 pick should perform once he was deemed “Sunday-ready” by the coaches. Trey Lance lasted less than a game; Jimmy G and Brock Purdy led the charge for the Niners, and I never had that sort of situation in mind for the team.
- Cards: I had the Cards at 9-8 in third place in the division. The Cards finished last and had a record of 4-13. Yes, they lost Kyler Murray for part of the season, but even with him on the field, they never really looked like a team that was going to finish above .500.
- Seahawks: I thought the Seahawks would go 5-12 and finish way behind everyone else in the division. Actually, the Seahawks finished 9-8 in second place in the division and made the playoffs.
I give myself an F for the NFC West. The only prediction what was close to correct was the record for the Niners and that prediction came to pass for all the wrong reasons. Yuck …!
Next, we shall move to the NFC North:
- Packers: I thought they would go 12-5 and win the division because I thought Aaron Rodgers would play the way Aaron Rodgers had been playing over the past couple of years. That was not even close to the case until it was too late for the Packers to make a playoff run; they finished third in the division with an 8-9 record despite winning 4 of their last 5 games in the regular season.
- Vikes: I had the Vikes with a 10-7 record in second place in the division. The Vikes went 13-4 and ran away with the division.
- Lions: I had the Lions going 5-12 and finishing third in the division; they went 9-8 and finished second ahead of the Packers. In my defense, I did say that they would be improved over 2021 and that they had an impressive young receiving corps and that Aiden Hutchinson would be a stud. All of that came to pass but I underestimated how significant those improvements would be.
- Bears: I had the Bears going 4-13 for the season and they actually went 3-14. That was the best prediction for the division back in September. Not good …
I give myself an F for the NFC North.
Moving along to the NFC South:
- Bucs: I had the Bucs winning the division with a 12-5 record. They did win the division but with a record of only 8-9. The Bucs were merely the least worst team in the NFC South.
- Saints: I had the Saints in second place with a 9-8 record. The Saints had the same record as the other three teams in the division at 7-10.
- Panthers: I had the Panthers finishing third with an 8-9 record. The Panthers also finished at 7-10. I thought the addition of Baker Mayfield would be a lot more positive for the team than the acquisition turned out to be.
- Falcons: I had the Falcons finishing last in the division at 4-13. The Falcons finished at 7-10. I did, however, say that the team counting on Marcus Mariota to be “the guy” at QB was not a way to plan for success. I was right about that, but I overestimated how marginal the Falcons’ offense would be.
I give myself a D for the NFC South.
And finally, we move to the NFC East:
- Eagles: I had them winning the division with a 10-7 record. Obviously, they flew past that record and posted a conference best record at 14-3. However, my team analysis had accurate points. I said the additions of AJ Brown and Hassan Reddick were major pluses for the team. Here is a quote from last September:
“The OL is excellent; the DL has the potential to be very good. The question mark is Jalen Hurts. He showed plenty of improvement as the season progressed last year but there is no way one might consider him a Top-15 QB in the league as this season begins. But if he plays to that sort of level, the Eagles will be hosting a playoff game in January 2023.”
Jalen Hurts played well into the ranks of a “Top 15 QB” and indeed that led to the Eagles hosting two games in the NFC playoffs and a spot in the Super Bowl.
- Cowboys: I had the Cowboys in second place in the division with a 9-8 record. The Cowboys were indeed in second place but their record was 12-5. I said then that the Cowboys’ OL would be a team weakness – – and it was.
- Commanders: I had the Commanders in third place in the division with a 7-10 record. Actually, they finished last in the division at 8-8-1. I said in September that losing Brandon Scherff to the Jags in free agency was a bad thing for the team; and indeed, the Commanders’ OL was a significant weakness all season long.
- Giants: I had the Giants finishing last in the division with a 6-10 record; they finished third at 9-7-1.
I give myself an A for the NFC East.
So, I have given out 12 grades today. Using the old system of 4-points for an A and 3-points for a B and 3.5 points for a B + and so on, my “NFL-GPA” = 2.0. Hey, if I were an NCAA athlete, I would retain eligibility with that GPA.
Finally, since everything here relates to NFL football, let me close today with this observation about football by George F. Will:
“Football defines the two worst features of American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………