NFL ODDS-ON HARD-HITTING REVIEW
At the beginning of the season, I gave out some guesses and picks as to what I thought would happen this season in the NFL (AFC & NFC). Some things I hit pretty spot on, others not so much. Instead of doing a comprehensive overview of the season, we’ll just do some quick hits on the success (or lack thereof) of my predictions.
I told you not to bet on the Broncos to win anything because the value was not good enough to merit decent action. This turned out to be a good call, as the Broncos won the division easily, clinching a first-round playoff bye in the process. Unfortunately, I recommended taking Peyton Manning, coming off of a record-breaking season, to be brilliant again. Well, he was brilliant again, but not brilliant enough to hit the overs for passing yards (4900) or Touchdowns (40.5), instead getting only 4,727 yards and 39 TDs. Manning did not look like himself this season, looking a little older and a little more brittle; even so, his stats were only extraordinary, not other-worldly.
The AFC West was not completely barren however, as I liked the Chargers to go over 8 wins on the season, which they did at 9-7. Admittedly, they were not as good as I thought they would be, but injuries certainly played a role in that.
I told you quarterback play would be the difference between the Colts and the resurgent Texans, who would bounce back strong after a 2-14 2013 season, make some noise in the division, but ultimately fall short. The Texans went through 3 QBs this season (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, and Case Keenum), whereas Andrew Luck threw more TDs (40) than anyone else in the league. That said, the Texans were in the playoff hunt straight through week 17, and definitely have much to look forward to for next year, especially a healthy Jadeveon Clowney joining MVP candidate J.J. Watt (20.5 sacks, 1 INT, 4 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries… and 3 receiving TDs), who put up Lawrence Taylor-like numbers, and cemented his status as the best, most impactful defensive player in the NFL today.
I told you to take the Pittsburgh Steelers at +200 to win the division. WINNER! It was a super close race, and an ultra-competitive division, as predicted, with all 4 teams in playoff contention for most of the season (including the Cleveland Browns!), and with the Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens all making the playoffs. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and LeVeon Bell led the Steelers offense through the air and on the ground, making the difference in the division and making Pittsburgh a really interesting team in the playoffs.
I told you not to bet on the Patriots to win the division because there was absolutely no value in doing so given the disparity in coaching and quarterback talent between the Pats and everyone else. As it turned out, New England went 12-4, and no one else in the division made the playoffs. Buffalo was a nice story, going 9-7 with one of the league’s premier defenses, and Miami took a step or two forward at 8-8. Ultimately, the division was never in question.
While we will have to wait to see how my predictions work out for the Patriots’ AFC Championship and Super Bowl odds in the next month, the Pats were able to do me a solid by going over the 11 wins total and clinching the #1 seed in the AFC in the playoffs. This definitely makes me more confident in their chances to win the AFC and perhaps a Lombardi Trophy as well.
Well, the AFC picks went pretty well I would say. While were on a high note, let’s throw in a little bad news. My pick to win the NFC East, the Eagles, didn’t fare so well. Nick Foles got hurt, Mark Sanchez couldn’t carry the team to the playoffs, and that was that. The biggest story here was the Cowboys. Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, and Tony Romo were all monsters this year, and Rolando McClain led what was thought to be a dismal defense to be a competent unit, good enough for a 12-4 record and a division win. (Insert joke about Cowboys not going 8-8 for the first time in 84 years). Alas, the season wasn’t a total loss for my fellow Giants fans; at least we have the Rookie of the Year! OBJ!!! OBJ!!!
I told you to take the Seahawks to win the division. While they, and the Cardinals, made the race interesting to say the least, the Seahawks took the division title and the first overall seed in the NFC playoffs, solidifying home field advantage throughout and letting the 12th Man have another chance to will Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the Legion of Boom to another NFC championship game.
Quick note: I thought the 49ers would struggle because their missing pieces on defense and because of their tough schedule. I never predicted a) Colin Kaepernick’s disaster of a season, showing a complete lack of confidence and regression in decision-making; or b) the Jim Harbaugh saga, seeing the coach who led the team to an immensely impressive string of playoff runs, including 3 NFC championship games, and a Super Bowl appearance, leave/be fired/part ways with/be forced out of San Francisco. I’m sure there were signs for both, but there were just as many signs pointing to the 49ers overcoming the injuries to make another deep playoff run. It’ll be interesting to see who coaches in Levi Stadium next year and whether Kaepernick is the quarterback of the future for the 49ers.
I told you this division would be fun, and that the win totals for the teams in the division would likely go under. That was correct. New Orleans (10.5, won 7), Atlanta (8.5, won 6) and Carolina (7.5, won 7) all went under their projected win totals, while the Buccaneers managed to win less than everyone else, capturing the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, going 2-14. Carolina’s 7-8-1 record captured the division title over my pick, New Orleans (7-9). Even though a tie foiled my pick to win this division (the same tie that put the Bengals behind the Steelers for that division by the way, so I guess I can’t really complain), New Orleans as a team, including Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton struggled to string any wins together, especially at home, and never came close to looking like the team I thought could take the division with a 9 or 10 win season. It’ll be interesting to see whether this was an off-season for the Saints or a permanent decline in a division that is sure to only get better.
I told you to do a lot of things with the Green Bay Packers, and I hope you did. The Packers dominated the NFC North, winning the division and catching a first round bye in the playoffs, finishing 12-4. While you might need to hold your breath if the Packers make the NFC Championship game if they have to go to Seattle, surely you can relax after seeing Aaron Rodgers come back after halftime in week 17 to likely claim his MVP trophy, and the Comeback Player of the Year as well. While Watt might get some love for MVP, in all likelihood it’s Rodgers who will be the choice – cash it in. Finally, although Eddie Lacy did not go over the 1,150 rushing yards (he had 1,139) or 10.5 TDs (he had 9), Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb BOTH went over 1,000 yards receiving for the season (1,519 and 1,287 respectively).
My pick to win the Super Bowl was the New England Patriots at 8/1. They are now 3/1 heading into the playoffs, so that’s looking pretty good. Furthermore, the Packers were 11/2 as my pick to win the NFC before the season; they are now 3/1, not too shabby either. Even though the Seahawks, at 12/5, are the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl, I feel confident in both the Pats and Pack to meet up in February, ending in Tom Brady raising the Lombardi Trophy yet again.
Photo by: Parker Anderson under Creative Commons license.