In particular, the NFC looks more equal than it has in some time. There is literally no team which, if it won 12 games or so, would stun me – Arizona, Carolina, and Tampa bay are probably the longest shots, but I given their talent at certain positions I could see each doing rather well.
My prediction about predictions held up pretty well, with far more variance in the NFC results than the AFC. That said, there were some good hits in the NFC as well. I missed big on the Redskins, Panthers, Cardinals, and Falcons, but I correctly predicted the big changes for the Eagles, Vikings, and Saints.
Predicted: 10-6. I think they rebound from last year’s disaster not unlike the Colts did last year. A lot of this is contingent on health – Vick is fragile, and they’ve already lost Maclin and Benn for the season. That said, I’m buying Kelly’s offense, and I think the defense rebounds. I’m in.
Actual 10-6. Nailed this one. Vick turned out not to matter very much, and the defense was poor early on, but the offense set franchise records so yay me.
Predicted: 8-8. A lot of pressure on Romo and the receivers, given that the runningback lacks a true feature back. Murray could emerge, but he could also miss half the season, so I’m not projecting him to carry this team. The defense should be fine – pressure, ballhawks – but this team rises and falls with Romo. Given their schedule, 8-10 wins is doable, but I think they break even and fall short of the playoffs.
Actual 8-8. Well, other than underestimating Murray and calling the defense fine (it was awful), this was not bad.
New York Giants
Predicted: 8-8. I think they’ll have trouble protecting Manning, and I’m not yet sold on David Wilson as a full-time starter (my fantasy team notwithstanding). The defense has suffered injuries, too. My biggest concern with them is turnovers: I’m not sure they’re strong enough to dig themselves out of those holes this year. That said, would you be surprised if they made a late run?
Actual: 7-9. Close enough, I suppose. Turnovers and running backs turned out to be big problems for them.
Predicted: 10-6. Another team that needs to stay healthy to win, but they’re well-coached and have a capable backup quarterback in case RGIII goes down again. Solid rungame, upgraded receivers, and a decent, if unspectacular defense.
Actual: 3-13. Ah yes. “Unspectacular defense” was probably not the way to describe a terrible defense, or terrible special teams. Big miss.
Green Bay Packers
Predicted: 12-4. A little less depth at receiver and a rickety offensive line means the Packers will be a little less dominant than we’ve been used to. That said, an improved defense should help, and they still have Aaron Rodgers, now backed with a running game.
Actual: 8-7-1. The injury to Rodgers hurt them here, but they still finished at the top of the division. The run game was in fact helpful.
Predicted: 10-6. New coaching so it’s tough to predict, but the talent is there. Offensive line has some question marks, and I think their defense is overrated. They’ll create turnovers, though, and I think that takes them to double digit wins.
Actual: 8-8. The injury to Cutler lost them a game, and the run defense was far worse than anyone expected. Offensive line held up though.
Predicted: 6-10. Offense could be impressive with the additions of Bush and some young receivers, but they were impressive last year, too, to no avail. The defensive line is talented but undisciplined, and the remainder of the defense is average at best. I don’t see them making the great leap forward.
Actual: 7-9. Offense was very good, defense was undisplicined, and coaching did not help.
Predicted: 5-11. Perhaps a year away from mattering. I have little faith in Ponder, even with improved receivers. Peterson will carry the offense, but I don’t think he can take them as far as he did last year. I wish them well but given their schedule, I think they struggle.
Actual: 5-10-1. Nailed it, basically.
Predicted: 4-12. This team is not this bad, but I just don’t see a whole lot more on the schedule for them. They have a tough home slate and still lack threats on defense or in the receiving game to contend. Wouldn’t be stunned if they got to 8 wins, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Actual: 12-4. Big miss here. I can’t even take credit for giving them 8-win upside, considering how good they’ve been.
New Orleans Saints
Predicted: 11-5. I still don’t like their defense, but they can generate enough of a passrush and some turnovers. Could see them slipping to 8-9 wins if a few close games go wrong, but I think they do well.
Actual: 11-5. Yup, basically on the money.
Predicted: 11-5. They probably repeat last season, more or less – they’re a better team but will be a little less lucky and face better teams. They could add a win or two to this total, but they’re likely playoff-bound.
Actual: Another huge miss. Defense fell apart, and offense was crushed by injuries.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Predicted: 5-11. There is upside here and I wouldn’t be stunned to see them get 9 wins, but I’m afraid they’ll blow some games they should win, and they’re not good enough yet to win games they should lose.
Actual: 4-12. Close enough, and now they have no coach.
Predicted: 11-5. This projection is more about their defense than the continued growth of Russel Wilson. I think the running game/defense combo is what takes them back to the playoffs.
Actual: 13-3. Underrated them a bit, though Wilson hasn’t improved that much. They did run and defend their way to the title.
San Francisco 49ers
Predicted: 13-3. Well-coached and pretty complete team. Have had some injury problems, particularly with receivers, but they’re deep at RB and I think Kaepernick keeps it up. Defense is deep, too, at all three levels. The team to beat in the conference.
Actual: 12-4. Struggled early and then came on very strong late in the year. Still might be the team to beat in the conference.
Predicted: 3-13. Significantly improved from last year on offense (yes, with Carson Palmer), but I just don’t see where more wins will come from. The defense has playmakers, and Palmer/Fitzgerald/Floyd is solid. If they won 6 games I would not be surprised; if they won 9 I would be.
Actual: 10-6. A fourth big miss in the conference. Palmer was an interception machine, but the defense played far better than I thought.
St. Louis Rams
Predicted: 9-7. Their schedule isn’t really conducive to nine wins, but they’ve been so tough in their division and have improved their talent base enough to make me think they can get there. I’ll say that there’s more downside than upside here.
Actual: 7-9. The downside happened, and they finished 7-9 despite losing Bradford. Interesting offseason for them.