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Ten Thoughts on the NFL: Predictions Revisited

What I got right and wrong from the preseason

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

I think it’s important to revisit predictions columns. Why did I think something would happen and why did it go so badly? Or, conversely, what was I seeing that others didn’t? I think it’s the only way to check ourselves and it’s an honest way to reflect. I don’t think anyone can truly have a crystal ball and we’ll all get some things right and some things wrong from time to time. I am fortunate enough to have a platform to make my predictions public and I put plenty of thought into the column. Further, I placed a number of bets on some of those thoughts when I liked the odds and I’ll add that information into each below.

  1. NFC South prediction

I started off the column with the “easiest division to predict” as the Buccaneers were “the only team seriously trying to win the division,” which, to be fair, was 75% correct. The rest of the division is predictably bad, I just figured the Bucs would be good. The Bucs could still finish off the division this weekend, but this has been a disaster. They look like they’re headed for a quick exit in the first round.

I said the Panthers would be the first team to fire their coach, specifically calling out Baker Mayfield as not enough to save his job. I also called the Saints living on borrowed time coming back to haunt them. I even made a reference to the workaholic QB “who can’t be bothered to stay at home with his supermodel wife,” which I don’t feel good about calling that out. All in all, I was way too high on the Bucs to continue to roll but had the structure of the division fairly well nailed.

Grade: B+

Bets: None. The Bucs were -270 to win the division and that kind of line on a divisional winner doesn’t interest me at all.

2. NFC East prediction

I did not see the Giants and Commanders as potential playoff teams. That’s an absolute shocker. I didn’t believe in Carson Wentz, but that’s like the free square on a bingo sheet - I don’t get credit for that. Those two teams have played much better than I expected. The same can be said for Dallas, a team I faded hard at the beginning of the year. I thought it was yet another classic case of the Cowboys getting love because of the market and the smart money was to short them with their losses in free agency and the fact that Mike McCarthy is still there. Good for them for putting it together.

On the other side of the ledger is arguably my best prediction, which was the Eagles being the best team in the division. The Eagles have been one of the best teams in the league and had a chance to win the division last week with Gardner Minshew filling in for Jalen Hurts against the Cowboys. They’re going to be an absolute force in the playoffs and should finish out the year as the #1 seed.

Grade: C+, bumps to a B+ for the bets listed below

Bets: Eagles division +150, Eagles NFC winner +360 (placed 9/26), Nick Sirianni Coach of the Year +1800, Eagles alternate wins over 10.5 (+170), Cowboys under 10.5 wins, Micah Parsons over 10 sacks. Profitable division with a couple big swings left.

3. NFC North prediction

Sometimes you can see your own division well and other times you’re blinded by your bias. This year, I had it pretty well figured out. I called out the Vikings as the team to take advantage of Rodgers and the Packers crashing down to earth. It was one of my favorite bets of the preseason and proved to be the right one. Saying that the Bears and Lions were rebuilding and weren’t going to compete was an easy call at the time, but I will note that I said in multiple other spots I liked the Lions and thought they’d hover around the .500 mark. Their year has been a bit odd in how it unfolded, but they’re about where I had them.

Grade: A

Bets: Vikings division +250, Packers alternate under 10 wins +192, Aidan Hutchinson over 7.5 sacks. Hutchinson needs one more to cash the sacks bet and the other two are already good. I thought about taking Justin Jefferson most receiving yards prop, but the +600 wasn’t enough juice. Oops.

4. NFC West prediction

Aye, aye, aye. Okay, in my defense, I pivoted very early. I was caught up in the hype of the opening game, finishing the column before kickoff. Everyone was excited about both the Rams and the Bills and I fondly recall my big Rams SB bet cashing back in February. When the Rams laid their egg on Thursday Night Football, I did what you’re really not supposed to do - I relieved myself of my betting position by betting on the 49ers. That deserves at least some extra credit. In hindsight, I ignored all the warning signs. The coach was thinking about retirement. Their best player was thinking about retirement. Their QB had an elbow that didn’t work. Key pieces retired or moved on. Another assistant coach left. I ignored it all for this column and for that I feel terrible.

I totally nailed the Cardinals being bad but the Seahawks have been better than I expected. Good on them even if they’re fading in the final stanza of the season.

Grade: C- improved to B- with the early shift to the 49ers, improved to B+ with Bosa bets

Bets: Rams Division +120, 49ers Division (placed after the Rams/Bills opener) +140, Nick Bosa over 11.5 sacks, Bosa most regular season sacks +1800, Bosa Defensive Player of the Year +1400, Cardinals alternate under 8 wins +130, Seahawks alternate under 5 wins +158. Overall, it’s a profitable division with a good chance that Bosa makes this a big, big winner.

5. AFC East prediction

The Jets are better than I thought they’d be. That’s about the only criticism I can give myself in this division. I called the Patriots dysfunction with hiring Matt Patricia to call plays and that the Dolphins would be the more interesting squad, but that none of them would truly challenge Buffalo for the crown. The Dolphins were more fun to watch. Unfortunately, Tua’s repeated concussions are a cause for major concern for his long-term health. That’s bigger than football, of course. Absent those serios health issues, this division might’ve been closer.

Grade: A-

Bets: Bills Super Bowl +525, Bills best regular season record +250, Bills alternate wins over 12.5 +170, Jets alternate wins under 4.5 +210, Patriots alternate wins under 7.5 +185, Sauce Gardner Defensive ROY +330 (placed mid-season). There’s still plenty left here for me to follow. If the Bills win it all, the grade could improve to an A+.

6. AFC South prediction

I called this the “down-bad” division and yeah, I kinda nailed it. I took the Colts because I believed in Matt Ryan fitting “hand-in-glove with Frank Reich’s play calling.” Oops. I also thought no one would really compete with the Colts because the Titans were sort of caught in the middle of two worlds and the Jaguars weren’t really in a position to challenge for the top spot. I don’t think my read on the rest of the division was wrong, but the Jags are outperforming my expectations.

Betting on Trevor Lawrence in some way should have been a little more obvious. For me, it was a stay-away team because I had no idea what kind of long-term damage Urban Meyer might’ve done to that team. Doug Pederson deserves a ton of credit for producing solid results in his first year at the helm there.

Grade: C

Bets: None! It was a gross division with a lot of squishiness. I’m glad I stayed away.

7. AFC North prediction

Nailed it. I get that this division isn’t settled and I’m certainly not taking a victory lap yet, but as it stands right now, I feel really good about this division. I liked the Bengals to win the division and prove that last year wasn’t a fluke and that the division was a two-team race with Baltimore. Check. I predicted the Browns having a lost season with the QB situation and that the Steelers would have a tough time avoiding a losing season - something Tomlin hasn’t had in his tenure.

Grade: A

Bets: Bengals division winner +160, Tee Higgins most receiving yards +3500, Tee Higgins over 1025.5 yards, Bengals alternate wins over 10.5 +175, Steelers under 7.5 wins. Overall profitable, particularly if the Bengals clinch the division. The Higgins bet was a nice longshot odds - he’s currently 11th in the league. At least he’ll top the prop bet.

8. AFC West prediction

Can we just move on? Please? Oh, this is embarrassing.

I was in the bag for the Chargers. I believed in the Russell Wilson trade. I thought losing Tyreek Hill would hurt the Chiefs offense. I thought Josh McDaniels would make the Raiders at least interesting. Yikes.

The Chargers are at least putting something together down the stretch as they look to solidify the top Wildcard spot and the chance to play the Jaguars or Titans in the first round. The Chiefs seem to not miss Hill in the least and the Broncos situation... well, you could mistake the HBO series Chernobyl for this year. Holy smokes I was wrong about this division.

Grade: F

Bets: Chargers division +220, Justin Herbert MVP +900, Herbert most TDs +800, Chargers highest scoring team +900, Herbert most yards +700, Chargers alternate over 11 wins +140, Chargers SB winner +1400. Oh, these hurt. Big losses here on the Chargers. They can push the wins total bet for me and I suppose they’re alive for the SB bet. Mahomes would have to sit the final week (unlikely) for any chance at the yardage crown.

9. SB bets

You will have noted above that I took preseason positions on the Chargers and Bills to win the SB. I took another bet in the middle of the year that I found interesting. The prop was Bills, Chiefs, or Eagles to win the SB at -110. Alternatively, you could take the field. I took the three teams just because it reinforced my early belief in the Eagles and Bills and it gave me a little taste on the Chiefs. I also have a friendly bet with Sam Householder for the same. It’s an interesting bet and I’m curious how you all feel about it now that we’re a full two months after I placed it.

10. Justin Freaking Fields

Here’s what I said:

As always, the 10th spot in the column will be reserved for the Bears and specifically for Justin Fields. This is it, the time to figure out if Justin Fields is the guy to lead to Bears back to prominence. Tune out the national media nonsense and focus on what he can do in Luke Getsy’s system. This year builds the foundation of the Poles-Eberflus pairing. The first thing you do when building a foundation is to dig a hole so don’t act surprised when there’s not enough talent on the field to compete with some of the better squads in the league. Focus on the process and the progress as the Bears install a sturdy floor and show the scaffolding for the façade, the vaulted ceilings, and the spiral staircase. The blueprint will reveal itself with time.

Prediction: He’s the real deal

Grade: A1 - he’s the real deal

Bets: Fields over 18.5 passing TDs. He’s currently at 16. I think he’ll get it.