Owning Up to 2008 NFL Predictions

It's a pretty standard tradition for sports writers to make bold predictions about anything and everything sports related. I've come to realize, however, that it is not that common of a thing for sports writers to say how their predictions went. I made many predictions at the beginning of this NFL season and here I am about to own up to those predictions, fully accepting where I was absolutely dead wrong. So here we go.

NFC North

My predictions:

Green Bay Packers 8-8
Minnesota Vikings 8-8
Detroit Lions 5-11
Chicago Bears 3-13


Minnesota Vikings 10-6
Chicago Bears 9-7
Green Bay Packers 6-10
Detroit Lions 0-16


I predicted that this division would be the one to see a champion emerge at .500. Well, I picked the wrong division. Surprisingly, that was the AFC West, not the NFC North.

Green Bay might be the most confusing team in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers played well throughout the year. Their defense created numerous turnovers. They ended the season outscoring their opponents by 39 points (better than Chicago and barely worse than Minnesota at 46) and yet, they were 6-10. The Pack very easily could have carried a record of better than .500 this year and next season, I think they will.

The Vikings were lucky to escape this division above .500, beating the Giants third-stringers for their 10th win. The Vikings were plagued all season by playing to their opponents' level, which meant almost losing to Detroit, the worst team ever. That 12-10 victory was all that kept them above Chicago for division title. I have no idea what to expect from the Vikings in the future. Adrian Peterson remains an all-pro running back, but his fumbles are a real concern. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has been getting some solid interviews at head coaching positions and may be gone next year. The Vikings have a very bad habit of hanging on to the wrong guy. They've lost defensive coordinators such as Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin to head coaching positions, while hanging onto more ineffective head coaches. Brad Childress may be the most hated NFL head coach in his team's state that continues to keep his job.

Obviously, the Detroit Lions were the most pathetic team in the NFL and perhaps in all of history. Most people figured they'd be bad, but not that bad. Poor performance by Jon Kitna and the trading of Roy Williams stacked the deck against the Lions, but they've since made some promising moves. They fired Matt Millen and Rod Marinelli. I think by next season, Detroit will be back to its standard pathetic 3-13 to 5-11 season instead of its beyond pathetic 0-16.

Chicago was a team that I royally messed up. One of not too many, but I fully admit failing on the Bears prediction. Why did I fail? Two reasons: because Kyle Orton isn't as bad as everyone thought and because Matt Forte came out of nowhere to give the Bears a much-needed boost on offense. If Forte wouldn't have been such a force in his rookie season, I think Orton would have been far worse and the Bears would have struggled to reach 6-10. Forte was most definitely the team's savior. Again, I have no idea what to expect out of the Chicago Bears for next season. An offseason move to secure a decent quarterback would give me much more confidence in their chances.

NFC South

My predictions:

New Orleans 11-5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-8
Carolina Panthers 7-9
Atlanta Falcons 3-13


Carolina 12-4
Atlanta 11-5
Tampa Bay 9-7
New Orleans 8-8


New Orleans had a pretty typical year with the league's best offense and a weak defense. I expected to have a better division record than 2-4, which ultimately kept them out of the playoffs. The Saints are a good team and I expect them to make some solid moves in the offseason to pickup some help on defense.

I actually got pretty close with Tampa Bay, and their meltdown helped that quite a bit. They'll need to invest in a new quarterback and soon. Matt Cassel signing with the Patriots is bad news for the Bucs, who could have used some youth at quarterback. Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese are getting too old and beat-up to lead a team into the playoffs.

I did not expect Jake Delhomme to recover so well from his Tommy John surgery, but he proved to be ready to lead his team to another playoff run. Also, DeAngelo Williams might be the most underrated player in the NFL. Carolina's only home loss all season came to the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs after a bye week. Delhomme did not look like himself in that game and truly laid a giant egg.

My predictions on the Falcons were an epic fail and the most epic of my epic fails. Mike Smith has turned this team around and made them respectable once again. I truly thought Matt Ryan would be a gigantic bust as an NFL starter and I apparently could not have been more wrong thus far. Michael Turner has been a huge help to this offense. He had my vote for MVP. Look for the Falcons to be right in the mix of this very competitive division once again in 2009.

NFC East

My predictions:

Dallas 13-3
New York 11-5
Washington 7-9
Philadelphia 5-11


New York 12-4
Philadelphia 9-6-1
Dallas 9-7
Washington 8-8


The Dallas Cowboys are probably the most talented team in the NFL, but they are also the team with the least heart and least brains. I honestly believe that if Tony Romo hadn't broken his pinky finger, the Cowboys would be in the playoffs and very little of the bickering and badmouthing would have played out the way it did. Great teams persevere through hard times. The 2008 Dallas Cowboys proved they were not a great team.

The Giants were one of the few teams I felt quite confident with my prediction for. Eli Manning is another person I have been wrong about. Toward the end of the 2007 regular season, I was calling for him to be benched, only to see him excel to a Super Bowl victory and MVP performance. I think the Giants have built themselves a nice program of players with a solid balance talent, heart, and brains. (That is the Giants without Plaxico Burress, not the Giants with Plaxico Burress.)

I was close enough on the Redskins. This team was a bit of a disappointment this season. At every point in the season, each of the NFC East teams looked like they were capable of being an elite team and all but one has shot themselves in the foot at some point. (How interesting that the one team that didn't shoot themselves in the foot had a player shoot himself in the leg?) The Redskins have been the most overlooked team in the NFL who had an absolute meltdown, but theirs was perhaps the worst. 6-2 after the first half of the season, the Redskins managed only to defeat the Pathetic Seahawks by three and the Eagles by seven in the second half of the season. In that time, they lost to good teams, but also to Cincinnati and San Francisco. Now that, my friends, is a meltdown.

The Philadelphia Eagles have been up and down all season long. Is there another team in the NFL that can boast of scoring three points one week and 44 the next? Is there another team in the NFL against the same division rival allowed 41 points, then 6? Donovan McNabb has been erratic and brilliant and stupid and everything in between. I have no idea where this team is going, but any one of their three major meltdowns this season could have rendered them incapable of getting back up, but they outperformed my prediction, proving me obviously wrong.

NFC West

My predictions:

Seattle 10-6
Arizona 9-7
St. Louis 5-11
San Francisco 4-12


Arizona 9-7
San Francisco 7-9
Seattle 4-12
St. Louis 2-14


The Seattle Seahawks were a major disappointment this season. They also were perhaps the most injury-prone team in the NFL (other than perhaps the Detroit Lions). Another problem was that in between injuries, Matt Hasselbeck was not himself. His statistics were incredibly poor whenever he got a chance to play. But the truth of the matter is the Seahawks underachieved on every single level. In 2007, they scored 393 points and allowed 291. In 2008, they scored 294 and allowed 392, from +102 to – 98, a 200-point swing in one year. That's pretty much can tell you things didn't go well.

Once you accept the fact that the Seahawks are no longer a playoff lock out the NFC West and that they need to revamp quite a bit, we can see a few bright spots. I'd argue the main one is rookie tight end John Carlson. Carlson was quite impressive as a receiver (not so much as a blocker), leading the Seahawks in receptions (55), receiving yards (627), and receiving touchdowns (5). I think he'll soon rise to the heights of the elite tight ends.

Even though I got Arizona's record exactly correct, I almost consider them a loss because of their postseason success. I would never have predicted that. I expected them to be an early exit if they made the playoffs, but they're the last team standing in the NFC. The offseason should prove interesting for the Cardinals. They'll have to decide (much like many other teams) whether or not to keep the young guy (Matt Leinart) on the bench for the wily veteran (Kurt Warner). They'll also have to decide how many running backs to try and woo and keep around. It was difficult keeping J.J. Arrington, Tim Hightower, and Edgerrin James happy week in and week out in 2008. It's interesting that there were only two teams in the entirety of the NFL that went 6-0 in their division and they're both playing in the Super Bowl.

I sincerely thank the St. Louis Rams for showing up for two weeks of the season to beat the Redskins and the Cowboys, essentially keeping them both out of the playoffs. Though I wasn't too far off in predicting their record, I truly did not expect the Rams to be anywhere near as bad as they were. The Rams ranked 31 in scoring offense and 31 in scoring defense. The Rams closed their season losing 10 straight and I wouldn't be surprised to see them lose another 10 to open 2009 unless some major changes occur.

I would have been dead-on with the 49ers had they not decided to oust Mike Nolan in favor of Mike Singletary. Singletary seems to really have the 49ers pointed in the right direction. I expect them to be a bubble team in 2009 with the Cardinals winning the division once again. The 49ers are a team with decent talent and if Singletary coaches anything like he played, undoubtedly a lot of heart. I would not be surprised to see a dynasty being built under Singletary over the next 10-15 years.

AFC North

My predictions:

Cleveland Browns 12-4
Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5
Baltimore Ravens 7-9
Cincinnati Bengals 4-12


Cleveland Browns 4-12
Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
Baltimore Ravens 11-5
Cincinnati Bengals 4-11-1


The Browns we an incredible disappointment this year. Romeo Crennel looked more incompetent and idiotic than perhaps every coach in history (other than Marty Mornhinweg who elected to kickoff in overtime). It's become clear that Crennel is not a head coach. Derek Anderson was a flop. Brady Quinn initially looked promising, but injury led to him not taking advantage of a pathetic Anderson. The Browns failed offensively, tying St. Louis for the second worse scoring offense in the NFL. Defensively, they improved upon last year, allowing 32 less points, but what good is that when the offense scores 170 less points? It's impossible to say whether or not the Browns will have a shot for a real turn around next season under former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini, but something needs to be done so that Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow stop wasting their talent on this once promising, now pathetic team that scored only 17 touchdowns in 2007 — ouch.

The Steelers did not disappoint this season. They didn't lose a beat from last year under Mike Tomlin, who is quickly rising to the ranks of the NFL's elite coaches. There were concerns early in the year that the Steelers' offensive line was not handling the blitz very well at all. Overall, they allowed 49 sacks and about 8,000 hits on Big Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers will continue to be a major contender for the title for years to come because of their spectacular defense that Mike Tomlin was smart enough not to mess with.

When I predicted the Ravens' outcome for 2008, I did not expect John Harbaugh to be able to hit the ground running as he did. After all, the Ravens were 5-11 in 2007, their defense allowed 384 points, more than it had in the entire decade. Why would things turn around so fast from 384 to 244? Not to mention, who thought Joe Flacco of all people would turn out as a decent quarterback in his rookie season? Certainly not me. If Joe Flacco can continue not making major mistakes and the defense can continue to create turnovers, the Ravens have a very good chance of being contenders again next season.

I was rather close on the Bengals (a whole tie instead of a loss away), but I expected them to be bad where they were mediocre and good where they were bad. The Bengals had the worse offense in the NFL scoring only 204 points. This is mostly due to Carson Palmer missing the majority of the season with an elbow injury, but to drop that much is insane. They nearly halved their point total from the previous year with their defense improving little. It's difficult to say if the Bengals can turn things around or not in 2009, hopefully with Palmer back in the huddle. They did show more than any other poor team, however, that they had heart, winning their final three games.

AFC South

My predictions:

Indianapolis Colts 14-2
Jacksonville Jaguars 12-4
Houston Texans 8-8
Tennessee Titans 6-10


Indianapolis Colts 12-4
Jacksonville Jaguars 5-11
Houston Texans 8-8
Tennessee Titans 13-3


The Colts played extremely well toward the end of the regular season. If Peyton Manning would have been healthy right away, I think 14-2 would have been very reasonable, but he wasn't, so I'll accept 12-4. Their early exit from the playoffs was a very big surprise to me. I thought they'd be the ones to knock off Pittsburgh and soar onto the Super Bowl and I was wrong again. Tony Dungy's retirement is a big blow to the organization, but so long as Peyton Manning is at the helm, expect the Colts to be just fine.

The Jacksonville Jaguars join the Cleveland Browns as co-biggest disappointments if 2008. The Jags had established themselves in 2007 as another tough AFC team, focused on running the ball and stopping the run. The only problem was, they weren't able to do either of those things in 2008. David Garrard turned the ball over 13 times in 2008 and while that doesn't seem like a very high number, realize that he only turned it over 3 times in 2007. That Garrard was so dependable with the ball and mistake-free allowed the Jags to make the playoffs in 2007. That he couldn't do so in 2008, paired with Fred Taylor's inability to run the football, cost the Jags a lot of games.

I hit the Texans right on the head. They are a decent team that just needs a bit more out of their quarterback and defense and they'll be poised for the playoffs. Steve Slaton was a very pleasant surprise at running back for the Texans and I personally think he was quite shafted in the Rookie of the Year voting. While Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals is an amazing receiver, I would not put him above Andre Johnson. They might be on the same level as the best receivers in the NFL, but I don't think Fitz is above Johnson quite yet. If Matt Schaub can stay healthy, the Jaguars stay mediocre, and the Colts waver a bit, the Texans could make the playoffs in 2009.

I was utterly surprised by the Tennessee Titans. Perhaps it was the fact that Kerry Collins played instead of Vince Young for the vast majority of the year, perhaps it was the impressive play of Chris Johnson, or perhaps it was the fact that this defense finally played up to its ability, but the Titans looked great in 2008. Their early exit was rather surprising to me, but they did run into one heck of a determined Baltimore Ravens team. Reports are showing that Collins will be back at starting QB in 2009, which I'd argue is a good thing for 2009, but perhaps not for the years beyond. I don't expect them to start the season 10-0 again, but the Titans could very easily find themselves playoff-bound once again in 2009.

AFC East

My predictions:

New England 12-4
Buffalo 10-6
New York Jets 7-9
Miami 4-12


New England 11-5
Buffalo 7-9
New York Jets 9-7
Miami 11-5


I'm surprised I got so close with the Patriots even after Tom Brady went down in Week 1 with a devastating knee injury. Matt Cassel did a fine job as Brady's replacement and all signs point to Cassel staying with New England as backup, leaving teams like Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota leaning on the draft or on their own mediocre current quarterbacks. I think with Brady at the helm, the Patriots will be right back to the top of the conference. Missing the playoffs on a tie-breaker this season, they very well could have made a run in the playoffs much like the Ravens did.

The Bills started the season much like I'd hoped, but their final 10 weeks were downright pathetic. In the final 10 weeks, they went 2-8, defeating the hapless Chiefs and floundering Broncos. And worse of all, six of the Bills nine losses were division losses. They went 7-3 outside of the division and you just can't make the playoffs with no division wins. The Bills are already at the bottom of the division and they may be looking at staying there, depending on how the Jets can recover from their own meltdown.

The New York Jets are well chronicled as being 8-3, then slipping down the slippery slope to end 9-7 and utterly miss the playoffs. Many have been quick to blame Brett Favre and ask for his second retirement. I do not think Favre should retire, but I don't think he should play for the New York Jets or anywhere that is cold and outdoors. Think about it, every kicker over 40 moves to an indoor stadium and kicks for another couple years. Why wouldn't that work for Favre? It is fairly obvious that his stats in November and December have decreased to rubbish and he's played September and October beautifully. Move indoors, Brett, and enjoy the result.

The Dolphins made a huge turnaround and they exceeded my every expectation. I thought it would take two years for them to return to the playoffs or even get close to them, but Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano know what they're doing and they've done a great job. Chad Pennington was a great success story this year. He's found his rhythm back in Miami and should be solid there for another four to six years. The Dolphins will more than likely be battling the Patriots for the division again in 2009.

AFC West

My predictions:

San Diego 13-3
Kansas City 9-7
Denver 6-10
Oakland 5-11


San Diego 8-8
Kansas City 2-14
Denver 8-8
Oakland 5-11


I struggled more with the AFC West than any other division. Though the Chargers escaped with a division title, they were far worse throughout their first 12 games than anybody would have expected. L.T.'s lack of production hurt the Chargers for sure and the bickering that's occurring currently between L.T. and the front office is going to hurt them for next season. I think in L.T. we see the need running backs have to not take so much punishment week in and week out. The concept of two solid backs is becoming more and more prevalent throughout the NFL and I think the Chargers should keep L.T. and just make good use of that with Darren Sproles. If they do that, they should be atop the division again in 2009, hopefully better than .500.

I made my boldest prediction with the Kansas City Chiefs and I was most embarrassed by my bold prediction of the Chiefs. I thought Herm Edwards would be able to groom his young team into winners, but the Chiefs blew more leads than perhaps anybody in the NFL. It seemed like every week they started the game up 14-0, only to lose 21-17. They could not preserve a lead, even when their typical horse, Larry Johnson was healthy and not in legal trouble. The Chiefs have yet to hire a new coach and their success in 2009 will depend on how well that individual can work with a young team.

If I can pride myself on one thing in these predictions, it is that I was right about Mike Shanahan's time being up in Denver. He's been a great coach for them, but things were not working as they should have recently and their descent that resulted in them missing the playoffs was quite embarrassing. Things will turn around for the Broncos, but I expect things to get a bit worse before they get better.

I was dead-on with the Raiders. They were an erratic team that would show up one week against a good team and not show up the next week against a poor one. Only one of their wins came against a team that ended the season below .500. The inconsistency at head coach has many people calling for Al Davis to give it up and retire (which I doubt would happen), but it seems like until Davis can let go of a bit of control, the Raiders will continue to compete with Detroit as the league's longest-lasting poor team.

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