Monday, January 3, 2011

Reviewing My NFL Preview Picks Part I: The AFC

I really thought I had something going with my NFL picks in my The Attic Fan’s Colossal NFL Preview columns. I was right in a few aspects (see: Kansas City Chiefs), but horribly wrong in most (see: Miami Dolphins). I scoured through numerous publications at the beginning of the year, and even bought an NFL magazine on my tight budget. I went through every single game that would happen this year, all in order to get every single team’s record exactly right. I soon learned that this was impossible after I went .500 in my NFL picks in Week 1. Ah, the growing pains of a new column. Eventually, I turned my fortunes around, ending the season 142-114 against the spread, and 158-98 non-spread. Yeah, I am pretty good. But in one of biggest columns of my first year writing, my NFL Preview, my picks did not stand well over time. Here is a review of what went horribly wrong.

AFC East

1. New England 14-2 (My Pick: 9-7, 3rd )

Here is what I wrote in my preview:

A lot of guys just past their prime, and Ty Warren's season ending injury kills them. They do not really have any game breakers on offense anymore

Little did I know, that Danny “Freaking” Woodhead would be a superstar. Apparently, game breakers can come in any shape, size, or skin color (You can’t even say that my last sentence is racist. Would anyone really think that a 5' 8’’ white guy would have an impact in a sport primarily dominated by 6’ 4’’ black men?). The loss of Ty Warren had almost no impact on the Pats, as they scored an NFL-leading 518 points. Defense was not really that big of a concern.

In reality, no one thought that this team would win more than 10 games, much less be the best team in football. Now, they are on the fast track to the Super Bowl, as every generic sportswriter would say.

2. New York Jets 11-5 (My Pick: 10-6, 2nd)

Boom! Only one game off! I knew that they were a bit over-hyped, and that Rex Ryan was blowing smoke out of his hindquarters. Here is what I wrote about them:

This is one of the tougher divisions in football, and with this guy (Mark “Jerk” Sanchez) as your quarterback, I cannot see you getting past the first round.

Sanchez was the 28th rated quarterback this year (75.3 QB Rating, or 6 points better than the fantasy team killer himself, Brett Favre), but he did play much more efficiently (17-13 TD/INT ratio) than he did last year. Yet, as I said in the beginning of the season, I still do not see the Jets going past the second round. I just do not. I know that will upset my local readers, but even they have to be worried about this team. The offense can seem unconscious at times, and not in a good way.

But hey. I picked this team almost exactly, and that is really what it is all about, isn’t it?

3. Miami Dolphins 7-9 (My Pick: 10-6, 1st)

Now how was I supposed to know that Chad Henne would be the worst quarterback since Shane Falco? Miami’s offense was catatonic at times. Well, most of the time. Only the Brownies scored more points than the Dolphins in the AFC. Good God, why did I ever think this team was going to be good? I feel like my career in stocks is ruined after picking a seemingly average team so high, then refusing to sell the stocks. I was like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, except I never was bailed out by my previously-dirt poor townspeople.

I also did not count on the fact that Miami would be one of the worst home teams in NFL history, going 1-7 at home and 6-2 on the road. How is that even possible? I mean, other than the fact that Miami barely fills half of its seats in its cavernous stadium, how can this happen?

Oh wait, I know. It’s the always-forgotten rule in life that there should be no professional sports teams in Miami. No one gives a (expletive) down there.

4. Buffalo Bills 4-12 (My Pick: 2-14, 4th)

The Bills were not as historically bad as I thought they would be (They stayed close in most games, and even gave the Patriots a decent game in the first half of the season, when the Pats had not fully utilized The Great White Hope himself, Danny Woodhead. That is the only reason why it was so close, but I still give the Bills credit). I was borderline mean to this team and their (pains me to say) loyal fans.

It will be another obscure year for a team people are starting to forget about.

Wow. I am a jerk.

AFC North

1. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4 (My Pick: 10-6, 2nd)

This year, I learned a few things. One was do not trust Chris Berman’s NFL picks (Sub-.500 record 12 years and counting!). Another was do not bet against the Steelers. After I picked the Steelers to lose in Week 1 against the Falcons (part of my reasoning was no to seem like an off-putting homer in my first two months of internet existence. I thought that the Roethlisberger suspension would “kill” them. It didn’t, and the Steelers now have a first round bye. How could I go against my favorite team like this? Heretic! Heretic!

Quick Note: When I was going through every team’s schedule and picking the games that way, I actually had the Steelers at 14-2. I just did not want to seem so over-the-top. I swear on Troy Polamalu’s ankle that this is true. You can just ask my dad if you do not believe me:

Me: Dad, I have the Steelers at 14-2, but that doesn’t seem right, does it?

Dad: What?

2. Baltimore Ravens 12-4 (My Pick: 12-4, 1st)

Whammy! Sure they did not come in first like I predicted, but I was dead on with the 12-4. Here is what I said about the Ravens:

These team probably scares me the most out of any, and that kills me to say as a diehard Steeler fan. Boldin gives them a legitimate threat now in the passing game. Flacco should have a breakout season in year three. Ray Rice (My #4 Overall Fantasy Pick) is a smaller version of 2000 Marshall Faulk. The defense is disgusting and will be even more vile once Ed Reed aka Young Redd Foxx comes back from his hip surgery. Gah! I hate myself now.

Other than my poor grammar within the first two words, a few things stand out in that paragraph. I honestly do not know what scared me about this team in the beginning. They were basically the same team as last year, all they did was add a receiver who gets injured feeding his dog. Flacco was okay, but was Flacco-esque (Very average, could be better, bailed out by defense. Other Flacco-esque QB’s are Mark Sanchez and Jay Cutler) most of the season. Ray Rice was 2003 Faulk at best, and I can only assume that I was referring to Foxx’s beard when I compared him to Ed Reed. Again, if the Steelers have the fortune of playing the Ravens in the playoffs, I am no longer scared.

Hard to believe I was scared of a professional football team. Weird.

3. Cleveland Browns 5-11 (My Pick: 2-14, 4th)

I was really tough on this team:

Every year, there is one team where you look at their roster and you say: "Hey! This team has a chance to go 0-16!" This year it is the awful Cleveland Browns. Jake Delhomme is a shell of himself. Honestly, I think they would be better if Josh Cribbs spent the entire game as the quarterback in the Wildcat offense. They have no offense and no defense. It will be another long year for Cleveland fans, doing nothing to distract them from LeBron.

Once again, I am a jerk. The Browns, (like the Bills) ended up being competitive in the majority of the games they played, and even somehow managing to beat the Patriots (once again, the Pats had not fully utilized the superpowers of Danny Woodhead). My 2-years-late statement about Delhomme was proved wrong when the Browns wheeled out Colt McCoy, who actually did not look too bad (A big complement from a guy who says “I am going to go take the Browns to the Super Bowl” at least twice a day). Browns fans sought comfort from a large white man throughout the majority of the season. No, not Santa, but Peyton Hillis, yet another white running back who his marginally-famous because he is white (for those who feel uncomfortable about race-relations in America, this is the column for you!). Seriously, Hillis actually played well in the middle of the season, bruising tacklers with a few 100+ yard games, and reminding America of former Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott (if only because they both were big. And nothing else).

4. Cincinnati Bengals 4-12 (My Pick: 7-9, 3rd)

Maybe I bought into the hype from the T. Ocho show. Who knows. But I really oversold this team. I did guess that Carson Palmer would be really bad. That has to count for something.

Really, for a team that has two of the most alienating sports personalities of the past 25 years, this is all I could write about them? Wow. That speaks volumes for how little impact T. Ocho had.

AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts 10-6 (My Pick: 13-3, 1st)

Here is what I wrote about the Colts:

The number one seed in the AFC, and easily too. Even though they play in one of the tougher divisions in football, they will still get it done with little effort/emotion. They have their deepest receiving core in years, with Anthony Gonzalez finally at full health. If Bob Sanders can actually stay healthy for the entire season, the Colts will be scary good. That is asking a lot, because Bob Sanders has played eight games the past two seasons, and played in only two more games than I did last season. Even without Sanders, they are still the team to beat in the AFC.

I really should have remembered one of the Laws of Modern Football.

Law #267: Bob Sanders is to get hurt every 2 weeks, no matter what he does.

I really should have looked over the list before I picked the Colts so high. Why did I think that they would be the number 1 seed in the AFC? Why did I think Anthony Gonzalez, of all people, would have any impact? Since when was the great equalizer? It is not like the Colts had a bad season. Before Manning’s mid-season disaster, it appeared that they were headed for the 11-13 win range, and Manning would win an MVP. They just did not have the classic “Start off 8-0, go 14-2” season we are so accustomed to from the Colts. As far as the playoffs are concerned, everyone is touting them as the team to beat the Patriots because “they can score with the Patriots”. So? Wouldn’t it be important to actually stop the Patriots every once in a while? Like a Ravens or Steelers could do. Sure the Steelers got wrecked by the Pats at home, but I would still take them over Indy as the team to top the Pats. Damn it, I am being a homer again.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars 8-8 (My Pick: 5-11, 4th)

I was pretty harsh on the Jags in my preview, doubting that they had any ability whatsoever. I think I was almost tempted to call them the “Jacksonville Kitty-Kats” at one point, except I did not want the words “Kitty-Kat” to be seen in an article of mine. After looking pretty bad the first few weeks, the Jags lucked in to a few wins, and had Mo-Jo Drew basically carry the offense for them. This team was like the Jets as far as luck is concerned, they just did not have the talent to be a playoff team. Oh well.

3. Houston Texans 6-10 (My Pick: 9-7, 3rd)

I correctly said this about the Texans:

Anyway, the Texans always seem to have a lot of optimism going into the season, and always fall short. Just as they will this season.

Whatever that means, it was true. The Texans have been “the team” going into the past few seasons. This means they are always expected to be the team that finally gets over the hump and becomes a legitimate contender (San Francisco is the NFC version). Matt Schuab is always “the quarterback”, the one who is also expected to take the leap to be a legitimate quarterback, but could not do it this year.

The only good thing the Texans gave us this year were two fights: The Andre Johnson v. Cortland Finnegan fight, and the Brian Cushing v. The Houston Texans fight. You can guess which one proved that the Texans had no team chemistry.

4. Tennessee Titans 6-10 (My Pick: 10-6, 2nd)

Vince Young solidified himself as one of the most unstable athletes of the past 25 years. Congratulations! Jeff Fisher (finally) lost his vice grip on the team, but somehow managed to turn Randy Moss into a complete mute. (Was there any acquisition other than anyone the Washington Redskins signed that did less than the Moss/Titans deal? He at least did a few things for Minnesota.) A real hellhole of a team, and boy, was I happy.

AFC West

1. Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 (My Pick: 10-6, 2nd)

What’s up America? I picked this dead on. I wrote this at the time:

I have to expect this pick will draw the most amount of hate mail directed toward me, so bring it on!

I got no mail about this, and have not for a long time. Please email, if you have anything to say to me!

Anyway, the Chiefs were able to stay alive due to their average division, and their 7-1 home record. Join that with arguably the NFL’s best running back, JaMaal Charles, and you have yourself a football team. I am not going to brag about this pick too long, but it is pretty apparent that I know what I am talking about.

2. San Diego Chargers 9-7 (My Pick: 11-5, 1st)

Although the Vincent Jackson holdout did not kill them as I thought it would, something still did kill this team. Who would have predicted that the Chargers would arguably have the worst special teams in NFL history. It honestly looked like they were fielding a middle school team when it came to football’s third phase. They had a world class offense and defense, yet they could not block a guy who was trying to block a punt. How does a team of professionals allow this to happen? Why does Norv Turner still have a job? If a team is that bad and undisciplined on special teams, that has to go back to the head coach. This was not a luck thing.

3. Oakland Raiders 8-8 (My Pick: 7-9. 3rd)

What the hell? I honestly did not know that the Raiders finished 8-8. It had to have been the loss of JaMarcus Russell. Just having that be lifted from a team can do wonders. It is like the Raiders were a boat, and they were beginning to sink. The boat was going down, and appeared that nothing could stop it. All of a sudden, somebody woke up the previously-thought dead captain. This captain realized that there was this mammoth weight at the end of the boat that was doing nothing to help. Once the weight was thrown overboard, the boat began to even out, just like the Raiders did this year. Darren McFadden also helped too. He was like the semi-conscious captain’s assistant who actually did all the work.

(Hint: The captain symbolizes Al Davis)

4. Denver Broncos 4-12 (My Pick: 5-11, 4th)

Tim Tebow did breath some life into this team (even though I bashed him in my preview column. Jeez, what was up my butt when I wrote that?). But other than a small late-season resurgence, the Broncos were pretty awful during the course of the year. Although the future does appear to be fun, due to Tebow and the loss of micro-manager coach Josh McDaniels, this team was still bad. Really bad.


Come back later in the Week for Part II: The NFC/NFL Playoff Wild Card Picks.

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