Looking back at predictions! Fun!
Patriots – Because their management is way better than the Sawx.
Actual finish: First. No back pats, here. Still the best team in this division easily. A surprising injection of youth means the New England machine gets to roll on in a weak division. Hard to see any challengers arising from the rest of this mess.
Bills* – Wishcasting, certainly. But assuming the defenses are a saw-off, I like Ryan Fitzpatrick…
Actual finish: Last (tie). I apparently forgot about Fitzpatrick’s second half. The Bills defense wasn’t good after some big money being thrown around in the offseason. It’s a weak division, but there’s not enough top end talent for the Bills to break through. Unless Fitzpatrick gets good again, there’s a few more mediocre years coming.
Jets – …more than Marktim Sancheztebow.
Actual finish: Last (tie). And Tebow didn’t even play when the season got out of hand! The Jets, too, have an uncertain future: there’s not a lot of youth, they’re unsettled at QB, and there’s not a lot of money to spend. Outside of that, they’ll be fine.
Dolphins – May actually pass the Jets, if things break right. Too bad they’re playing a rookie QB.
Actual finish: Second. Rookie QB Ryan Tanehill held his own, and their defense was better than Buffalo’s. They will probably get some sleeper buzz next year if they can improve in the offseason, given the rest of the division. Hard to see them making a serious run at the playoffs otherwise.
Steelers – Terrified of this season for them- old on defense, O-line still awful, Ben already hurt- but still a clear favourite.
Actual finish: Third. Turns out my terror was justified, and I should have seeded them lower. Their defense did get old, their offensive line still sucked, and the injury to Big Ben submarined an already leaking ship. There’s some changes coming here. As a Steelers fan, I don’t know if I can talk about this rationally. Let’s just move on.
Ravens* – Again assuming defensive equality (with the Steelers), their QB is worse.
Actual finish: First, won the Super Bowl. They got good at the right time after backing into the playoffs. At least Joe Flacco and Paul Kruger will be overpaid, Ed Reed might leave, and Ray Lewis will be gone, and people can keep ignoring that he was no worse than an accessory to a double murder.
Yeah, I DEFINITELY can’t talk about this team rationally. Screw the Ravens.
Bengals – Some hope, but let’s see them beat a good team. Could sneak into a wildcard.
Actual finish: Second, got second wild card. Pretty close on the thinking here. Might be better than the Steelers next year. Uuuuuugh.
Brown – Still the Browns, thankfully.
Actual finish: Last. Yep, still the Browns.
Texans – Thought about picking them last year, didn’t have the balls. Don’t need ’em this time. To pick the Texans, I mean.
Actual finish: First. Another easy call. With young players on defense, and loads of skill on offense, these Texans are setting up to be the class of the division for a while. Also, haha, balls.
Titans – Mostly by default, I think this is a step back year under a younger QB.
Actual finish: Third. Right on the thinking, wrong on position. And we’re not sure if the young guy’s any good. If I’m the Titans, I’m concerned about that going forward. Could be a couple 6-10 seasons in their future unless they sort out their identity.
Jaguars – Not sure what they’re good at any more.
Actual finish: Last. Still don’t know what they’re good at. Justin Blackmon and Maurice Jones-Drew provide some talent, but that QB situation is just awful, and the defense doesn’t provide much either. In a tough division, they’ll be the doormats for a while yet.
Colts – They’ll need to be Luck-y to get higher. Eh? Eh?
Actual finish: Second, won first wild card. I am rewarded appropriately for my horrible pun by being horribly wrong. Though advanced metrics don’t like the Colts, they’re still the second best team in the division easily. Luck was part of a quick turnaround for them, and they’ll be back in the hunt next year.
Broncos – Assuming Peyton Manning doesn’t snap his neck. Might be an 8-8 season again.
Actual finish: First. Manning, uh… did just fine. The Broncos rolled into a first round bye before getting upset by the Ravens. Overall, they have to be very pleased with how things have gone since the trade for Manning, and young defensive pieces ensure a bright future, even if Peyton’s only got a few years left.
Chargers – Getting older, not better. The Rivers will soon run dry here (BAHAHA alright no more puns)
Actual finish: Second. This pun turned out a little more prescient, as Rivers strangely had a bad year. Maybe firing Norv Turner (FINALLY) will help, but the talent well has run dry. They need a lot of help to be relevant.
Chiefs – Hard to know. Were they unlucky, or actually terrible last year? Probably a little of both.
Actual finish: Last. Yeah, turns out they were actually terrible. The Chiefs’ point differential was an astonishing -214, which is them losing by almost two touchdowns a week, every week. The Chiefs have a few good players, but they’re a long way from being good.
Raiders – Did some necessary culling, but still employ Carson Palmer.
Actual finish: Third. 4-12 isn’t really anything to be proud off, but it was going to be a transition year for the Raiders anyway. The process is correct: let go of overpaid veterans, and let the youngsters grow at a good rate. They will get beat on for a couple years yet, I figure.
Giants – I don’t know.
Actual finish: Second. I sure don’t.
Eagles* – Really, I have no idea.
Actual finish: Last. And by a country mile. Despite some high-profile talent, the Eagles had a miserable season, which led to the firing of Andy Reid. I expect a couple of transition years before they’re good again, unless Michael Vick finds the fountain of youth (or a potion of invulnerability).
Cowboys – I’m historically bad at picking this division.
Actual finish: Third. Huzzah! Two games out of first, and in the playoff race until the last couple of weeks, but the Cowboys didn’t have quite enough to play with the big boys. If they can consistently play to their talent level, they can win this division. But then, what team can’t say that?
Redskins – Feel good about this spot, despite an obvious improvement at QB.
Actual finish: First. This sentence is especially hilarious to read in hindsight (which is part of the point of this, really). The improvement at QB ended up making the Redskins relevant again, though Griffin’s injury puts some questions as to how good they’ll be next year.
Packers – Won’t be as lucky, but could win four fewer games and still be the class of the division.
Actual finish: First. Not a tough one to pick either, though the Packers still have the same problems they’ve always had the last few years: defense and the running game. Aaron Rodgers is probably the best QB in football, and they have great receivers. They’re the champ until they’re not.
Bears – Close last year until Cutler went down.
Actual finish: Third. No surprises here, either, though there’s more leaks in Chicago than a competent backup for Cutler. Firing the coach was a bit of a surprise after 10-6. Should be in playoff contention again next year under Marc Trestman, even with the defense aging.
Lions – Will be right there with the Bears, just feel like they take a step back this year.
Actual finish: Last. Right on the thinking, but wasn’t agressive enough in predicting a step back. Another team with high-profile talent, but unable to put it together consistently. The Lions need some help on defense if they’re going to jump back into the race.
Vikings – Not as strong defensively as they used to be, and growing on the other side of the ball.
Actual finish: Second, got second wild card. Adrian Peterson carried an otherwise below average team into the postseason. He’s the best running back in football by far, and returned amazingly from a season ending injury. The Vikings have some defensive pieces, and an unsettled quarterback situation, but should be in the mix beneath the Packers again next year.
Falcons – Same ol’ Falcons: Win the division, quick playoff exit. See no reason for that to change.
Actual finish: First. The Falcons DID win a playoff game, narrowly avoiding a historic collapse against the Seahawks before succumbing to the 49ers in similar fashion. A stouter defense to complement a very explosive offense would go a long way in preventing future playoff exits, but they should be great for a while yet.
Saints* – All signs point to “struggle”.
Buccaneers – Can’t be as bad as they were last year.
Panthers – Could be, but on an upward trajectory.
Actual finish: Second (tie). A three-way tie for 7-9 in this mishmash means none of them get separate lines. The Saints DID struggle, the Buccaneers did improve despite a late swoon, and the Panthers needed some cheap wins late to sneak into the tie. I would probably order the division the same for next year, but we’ll have to see what the offseason holds.
49ers – Like the Pack, won’t be nearly as lucky this year, but won’t need to be.
Actual finish: First. Though they lost the Super Bowl, the future is still bright in San Francisco. Colin Kaepernick has turned their QB situation from a detriment to a strength, and the defense continues to be excellent, despite some troubling signs in the playoffs.
Seahawks – Feel like they’ll be closer to the 49ers than most think, depending on whether their offense is any good.
Actual finish: Second, won first wild card. After a slow start, the Seahawks finished strong under young QB Russell Wilson, and they should be in contention for a few years, as they have a very young core. Though they had a disappointing showing in the playoffs against Atlanta, the season was a huge success for them, and they should be very pleased with their direction.
Cardinals – Kind of like the Jags: Not sure what they’re good at.
Actual finish: Last. The Cardinals can play a little defense, but their QB situation got bad in a hurry when Kevin Kolb (already a question) went down. They replaced former Steelers offensive co-ordinator Ken Whisenhunt with former Steelers offensive co-ordinator Bruce Arians in the hopes of making Kolb competent, but it’s hard to see that happening.
Rams – I remember when they were good. Been a while, huh?
Actual finish: Third. Though it was hard to know which Rams team would show up from week to week, they had some strong games this year, and should also be pleased with their progress. Though their division has become tough, with some improvement and additions on offense they should be back in the mix soon, depending on Sam Bradford’s progression.