When you compare the preseason predictions for an NFL campaign with the results at the end of the season ,you find out just how “smart you aren’t!”
Additionally, this exercise illustrates the sheer volatility of an NFL season where unexpected good or poor play and the plague of injuries more than any other factors dictate the success or failure of any team.
In the NFC no defending division champion from 2016 retained its division title. As a matter of fact, of the four division champs of 2016, only Atlanta made it back to the postseason party but just barely, as the #6 seed.
Overall in the NFC, of the six playoff teams of 2016, only the Falcons qualified for the post season this year!
In the AFC, three of the four division champions of 2016 repeated (New England, Pittsburgh and Kansas City), but half of the AFC playoff field from last year failed to make it back this season (Houston, Miami and Oakland).
Time to compare my first power poll of 2017, the pre season poll, with the final regular season tabulation. Here is my week Final regular season NFL Power Ranking.
1) New England Patriots (13-3; 1st preseason) - Top seed in the AFC, just like I thought they’d be.
2) Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3; 3rd preseason) - Their “JV” squad was good enough to keep the Browns winless.
3) Minnesota Vikings (13-3; 16th preseason) - One slip up by the Eagles and the Vikings could play the entire postseason at home, including the Super Bowl!!
4) Philadelphia Eagles (13-3; 25th preseason) - Shut out by the Cowboys. I know it didn’t mean anything, but still for the number one seed in the NFC to be shut out may speak to how wide open the NFC really is or maybe not.
5) L.A. Rams (11-5; 28th preseason) - NFC West Champions this year, lost to next year’s champs the San Francisco 49ers and their new franchise quarterback Jimmy G!
6) New Orleans Saints (11-5; 20th preseason) - Backed into the NFC South title with a loss at Tampa Bay.
7) Atlanta Falcons (10-6; 2th preseason) - The defending NFC Champs get to defend their conference title in the postseason after earning a spot with a tough win over division rival Carolina.
8) Carolina Panthers (11-5; 15th preseason) - Falcons had more to play for on the final Sunday of the regular season.
9) Kansas City Chiefs (10-6; 9th preseason) - Chiefs finished the season strong and will be the only AFC West team in the postseason. Sunday they gave the game to their quarterback of the future Pat Mahomes, and he did not disappoint completing 22 of 35 passes for 284 yards with just one interception.
10) Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6; 27th preseason) - Blake Bortles was Blake Bortles on the final weekend of the regular season, 15 of 34 passing for 158 yards 2 interceptions and no touchdowns, but the Jags had nothing at stake against the Titans.
11) Tennessee Titans (9-7; 8th preseason) - Earned their way into the AFC Tournament with a victory over the AFC South Champion Jacksonville Jaguars.
12) Buffalo Bills (9-7; 29th preseason) - For the first time in nearly a generation, the Bills are in the postseason. They break a 14 year drought with a win over Miami.
13) Los Angeles Chargers (9-7; 18th preseason) - Philip Rivers deserves a playoff run, a long playoff run—someday.
14) Baltimore Ravens (9-7; 19th preseason) - They got to the brink of the AFC playoffs and then blew it vs. the Cincinnati Bengals!
15) Detroit Lions (9-7; 22nd preseason) - First back to back winning seasons since 1994-95.
16) San Francisco 49ers (6-10; 30th preseason) - Five straight wins to finish the season behind Jimmy Garoppolo will carry into next year! The Niners feel like they can beat anyone, and next year they just might prove it!
17) Seattle Seahawks (9-7; 4th preseason) - Lost another at home but it wouldn’t have mattered; Atlanta’s win over Carolina eliminated the Seahawks regardless of their outcome against the Cardinals.
18) Dallas Cowboys (9-7; 5th preseason) - Zeke got his hundred, Dac didn’t throw a pick and the defense did the rest as the Eagles rested for the playoffs.
19) Cincinnati Bengals (7-9; 17th preseason) - Played the role of spoiler like it's never been played before! They ended the playoff hopes of the Lions and Ravens on consecutive weeks to close a disappointing regular season.
20) Arizona Cardinals (8-8; 14th preseason) - One last stand for Bruce Arians with a victory at Seattle.
21) Oakland Raiders (6-10; 6th preseason) - They fire head coach Jack Del Rio who had just signed a four-year contract extension last winter.
22) Green Bay Packers (7-9; 7th preseason) - Season ended with a thud, three straight losses and a streak of eight straight postseasons is over.
23) Washington Redskins (7-9; 23rd preseason) - Lost the Dissolution Bowl to the Giants.
24) Miami Dolphins (6-10; 21st preseason) - They could have won six games without Jay Cutler.
25) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11; 13th preseason) - Late game heroics by Jameis Winston against the Saints a portent of things to come?
26) Chicago Bears (5-11; 24th preseason) - Defensively they aren’t that far away from being good. Offensively the quarterback must mature and develop next year. That will have to happen under a new coaching staff.
27) New York Jets (5-11; 32nd preseason) - They won three more games than I thought they would.
28) Denver Broncos (5-11; 12th preseason) - Big changes coming for a franchise that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago!
29) Indianapolis Colts (4-12; 26th preseason) - One last “Chuck Strong” victory for the coach.
30) Houston Texans (4-12; 11th preseason) - Lost season ended with a thud at Indianapolis.
31) New York Giants (3-13; 10th preseason) - A season ending win failed to hurt their draft standing.
32) Cleveland Browns (0-16; 31st preseason) - History is made; the 2017 Cleveland Browns are the second team in NFL history to go winless through a 16-game season. The 2008 Detroit Lions are the other to accomplish that ignominious feat.
Only four of my pre season top ten teams remained in the top ten at the finish of the regular season: New England, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Kansas City.
Seattle and Dallas fell into the middle ten of the rankings while Oakland, Green Bay and the New York Giants all took big dives into the bottom third of the power rankings.
I was really wrong about the Rams, who rose from 28 to number five, the Eagles who were ranked 25th and jumped all the way to No. 4 capturing the top seed in the NFC, and the Vikings who vaulted from 16th in the pre season pole to number three in the rankings securing the second seed in the NFC playoffs.
In the preseason "second ten" I had Cincinnati about right ranking 17th to start and 19th at the finish, the L.A. Chargers were 18th in the preseason and still in the second ten coming in at 13th in the season ending tabulation and the Baltimore Ravens who were 19th at the outset and finished 14th.
As for the bottom 12, I was much more accurate in predicting this segment of the league. Miami started 21st and finished 24th, Washington started 23rd and finished there; Chicago was pegged at 24 in the preseason and finished 26th, Indy went from 26 to 29th, Cleveland from 31st to 32nd, and the Jets were 32nd to start and came all the way up to 27th with their five wins.
Hindsight is usually 20/20 but when you do hindsight like this, looking back on a projection from the reality of the results, it illustrates just how foolhardy pre season prognostications can be.