Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 NFL Season Predictions in Review (plus playoff predictions)

Before making the standard "cheap content" joke I usually make when writing these pieces, I would like to apologize to the few of you that still bother to click on this link for the lack of content this year. I got lazy. One of my New Year's resolutions I will try my best to keep will be to write more here, and not lazy season predictions in review pieces such as this. But looking back on how awful my preseason predictions were, it's worth making fun of myself as a nice goodbye to 2018. Let's look back at the carnage:

Division Winners (Mine): NE, PIT, JAX, LAC, PHI, GB, NO, LAR
Division Winners (Actual): NE, BAL, HOU, KC, DAL, CHI, NO, LAR

Three out of eight ain't bad...? To be fair, at least the Chargers and Eagles did make the playoffs even as wild cards, but it was quite a bad year for the Packers, Jaguars and Steelers, who all fell off a proverbial cliff. It's probably the fewest division winners I've picked correctly in the years I've done them on this website, and the gory evidence is plain for all to see. I got four of the six AFC playoff teams right, missing on the Steelers and Jaguars (in place of the Chargers and Ravens) and in the NFC, I got three of the six right, missing on Seattle, Dallas and Chicago (in place of Green Bay, Minnesota and Atlanta). Seven out of 12 is at least a passing grade.

Worst overestimations: Jacksonville, Green Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta, Minnesota

My team at the top of the list. I legitimately thought even the Jaguars couldn't screw up what they did last season, and boy was I ever wrong. I will never predict the Jaguars to be good again until they make the postseason in three consecutive seasons, that's a hard and fast rule. Green Bay, Atlanta and Minnesota all collapsed for various reasons, injuries, defensive lapses and less than stellar QB play, and we'll never know how good the 49ers could have been because of Jimmy G's injury.

Worst underestimations: Indianapolis, Chicago, Dallas

Andrew Luck's comeback this year is only one of the great transformations from Frank Reich's Colts. Their defense and offensive line play have sparkled this year, which is why they're such a dangerous team. They have an underrated running game too. The Bears made bold moves in adding Khalil Mack and now have a lethal defense to go along with a growing Mitchell Trubisky, and now this Bears team is dangerous too. But the best Bears teams in recent years have flopped at home in the postseason and turned out to be one-and-done teams, so that is a concern. Dallas took advantage of a bad division to win it, even after a 3-5 start.

Award Predictions (mine first, then thoughts):

MVP: Aaron Rodgers (Not even close, it will be either Mahomes or Brees and I lean Mahomes)
OPOY: Antonio Brown (good season but not great, whoever loses MVP wins this)
DPOY: Aaron Donald (lead the league in sacks and was dominant, so he could actually win)
OROY: Saquon Barkley (there are good choices, but Saquon will win this)
DROY: Roquan Smith (good season but overshadowed, Darius Leonard of the Colts had a spectacular year)
Comeback: DeShaun Watson (would be the winner if not for the QB he's facing in the playoffs)
Coach: Bill O'Brien (nothing wrong here, but Frank Reich and Matt Nagy will be the leading contenders).

Now, for some playoff predictions, with a few thoughts on each game along the way:

Wild Card Round:

(6) Indianapolis over (3) Houston)
(5) Seattle over (4) Dallas
(5) LA Chargers over (4) Baltimore
(3) Chicago over (6) Philadelphia

The Colts have a solid defense that will be able to get after DeShaun Watson, who was sacked 62 times this season. That's a critical weakness that Indy will exploit, and their offense is more balanced. It's easy to trust Russell Wilson over Dak Prescott, and Seattle has just enough to edge out Dallas, even though this is the most even game of the round. The Chargers are a nasty team to face when they're on the road, and the Chargers won't play as poorly as they did two weeks ago, and will now defend Lamar Jackson better. The Bears have the balance to frustrate Nick Foles and end his magic carpet ride while making the plays on offense that are needed.

Division Round:

(1) Kansas City over (6) Indianapolis
(3) Chicago over (2) LA Rams
(2) New England over (5) LA Chargers
(1) New Orleans over (5) Seattle

Kansas City has too many weapons for the Colts to contend with, which means the Chiefs will win a playoff home game for the first time in multiple presidential administrations. The Bears have the balance to frustrate the Rams again, just as they did in Week 14. New England is such a great proposition at home, which the Chargers won't be able to contend with. New Orleans is a force that has too much for Seattle to keep up with in the Superdome.

Conference Title Games:

(1) New Orleans over (3) Chicago
(1) Kansas City over (2) New England

Both one seeds have too much for their opposition, but these games will be fascinating tilts. Chicago can maintain balance on both sides of the ball that will keep New Orleans at bay, but that can only happen for so long. New England's weaknesses will be exploited by Kansas City even though they already beat the Chiefs once before, but in Foxborough.

Super Bowl 53:

New Orleans over Kansas City

If these predictions hold, we'll have the highest scoring Super Bowl ever. New Orleans has just enough defense to hold out over Kansas City in this scenario.

Happy new year, and I'll do my best to put more content on this website in the next 365 days.

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