Yeah, so about those NFL preseason predictions ...
With the NFL regular season nearing a close, the preseason has been long forgotten. (How 'bout those 5–0 Giants!)
Here are the five worst predictions the #experts made prior to Carrie Underwood's first official intro song of the 2014 season. While all are horribly, comically wrong, a few still maintain some signs of life.
1. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win the Super Bowl.
Who said it:ESPN analyst Herm Edwards.
When it went wrong: Right as it was coming out of his mouth.
In the three seasons leading up to 2014, the Bucs went 4–12, 7–9 and 4–12. That doesn't much seem like a team building towards a championship. In the offseason they added Lovie Smith and Josh McCown and ... ummmm ... [checks for some other people that would miraculously make an awful team championship-quality, like maybe a reanimated Vince Lombardi and Johnny Unitas?] ... nope, that's it.
Unfortunately, Edwards wasn't the only expert to predict greatness for the Bucs. For one example, it seems the entire staff of Peter King's MMQB watched some sort of preseason Bucs propaganda film, with four of the staff's six writers picking Tampa for the postseason.
King himself made the Bucs his pick as the 2013 non-playoff team with the best shot to win the Super Bowl:
"The Bucs were the best bad 2013 team I saw of the 27 I saw in person on my training camp trip this summer. Lovie Smith has three keystone players at crucial positions on his defense, and a quarterback who's better than people think in Josh McCown."
No. Josh McCown is not better than people think. He's just better than Jay Cutler, who continues to be much worse than many people think. Big difference.
But Mr. King wasn't completely wrong. In a way, the 2–12 Bucs still have a chance to be "the best bad team" if they can lose-out and get the No. 1 overall pick. I think I think I think that maybe that's what he thinks he thinks he meant.
Could it still happen?: No.
The Bucs are so bad they've even been eliminated in the NFC South for several weeks. That's bad. They were so close, though!
2. Jay Cutler will win MVP.
Who said it: NFL Network expert Brian Billick.
Very bold! Extra spicy boldness with insanity!
When it went wrong: Around 2010-2012, when it finally became obvious to everyone with a brain that Cutler isn't, you know, good.
You see, unless you're in the "business," like me, you are probably unaware of an age-old maxim when it comes to player evaluation: "If a player hasn't been good for many years, he will not suddenly get good." A bit complicated, perhaps, but it's stood the test of time.
Jay Cutler has now played nine seasons in the NFL. He's a few months from turning 32. Zero of those seasons ended with Jay Cutler being anywhere near an MVP conversation. In fact, most ended with this conversation: "Should we get rid of Jay Cutler?" The quarterbacks who have won the MVP in the last 10 years are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Never has a season ended with their teams asking: "Does this guy suck too much for us to win with him?"
Quarterbacks with a long track record of mediocrity don't suddenly become great. (See that maxim I referred to above.)
"But Kurt Warner!"
No. In Warner's first season as a starter at age 28, he threw for 4,353 yards, 41 TDs and had a 109.2 QB rating. Cutler has never finished a season out of the 80s.
"What about Rich Gannon?!"
Nope. Gannon did have three bad, Cutler-ian seasons as a starter with the Vikings in his mid-20s. That's true. But then he pretty much didn't see the field again until his late-career, mid-30s success with the Raiders. Cutler's got NINE seasons in the books. He's already thrown more interceptions than Gannon did in his whole career, and Gannon played until he was 39.
Remember, "If a player hasn't been good for many years, he will not suddenly get good."
Billick, of course, thought he knew better. The guy who handed the Super Bowl champion Ravens over to Elvis Grbac, the man who went all-in on Kyle Boller, thought he saw something in Jay Cutler.
Maybe we need to augment the maxim: "If an analyst has been unable to evaluate quarterbacks for many years, he will not suddenly learn how to."
Could it still happen?: No. Jimmy Clausen is going to have to play pretty badly to make it appear that Cutler was running the Chicago offense at a high, MVP level. Okay, so maybe there's still a chance.
3. Eli Manning will complete 70-percent of his passes.
Who said it: New York Giants quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf.
In fairness, Langsdorf's 70-percent completion percentage was stated as more of a goal for Manning than a prediction. But he deserves his share of mocking for entering the job completely unprepared. "I don't know about the history here; maybe they took more shots downfield," Langsdorf said. "I think we've added some more completion throws, some quick gains."
Hahahahahahahahahaha. Oh, Danny. You don't know the history here?
The history is Eli Manning. In between semi-regular Super Bowl defeats of the New England Patriots, there are hundreds of poorly thrown passes. Even if you counted Eli's interceptions each year as completions, his percentage never got anywhere near 70-percent in any of his previous ten previous NFL seasons. Eli's career completion percentage entering this year was 58.4. His career-high was 62.9 in 2010, a season in which he also threw 25 interceptions.
I mean, the greatest pass Eli ever threw hit a guy in the helmet. Seventy-percent was never happening.
When it went wrong: The first time Eli ever threw a pass as a little kid.
There's no way to know this for sure, but it probably got intercepted by a neighbor kid or sailed over his dad's head and struck and killed the beloved Manning Family dog. Eli made an Eli face. And somewhere Tom Coughlin felt a weird inkling that he should scowl and look confused.
Could it still happen?: Yes!
Eli is currently 326-for-516 - a 63.2 completion percentage - with two games left. If he can finish 118-for-118 against the Rams and Eagles, he can do it. The strategy should be to not throw a single pass against the Rams, they have a really good defense, and then go for a perfect 118-for-118 against Chip Kelly's secondary. Target Odell Beckham, Jr., on every throw, Eli, and it could happen. We believe in you! (We don't believe in you.)
4. The Saints will win the Super Bowl.
Who said it:Several people who work for the NFL Network.
NFL Network experts were very high on the Saints in the preseason. While Gregg Rosenthal is not one of the three who picked a Saints title - he went with the still-very-possible Packers over Patriots - he wrote of New Orleans: "Anything less than a Super Bowl appearance will be a disappointment."
Ooof. It's that's true, Sean Payton might need another facelift to turn a frown upside-down.
When it went wrong: Weeks 1–2, Week 4, Week 7, Weeks 10–12, Week 14. Keep refreshing the page for updates!
Could it still happen?: Amazingly, it could. If the Saints win their next two games, against the Falcons and Bucs (combined record: 7–21), they'll win the NFC South and get a home game in the playoffs. They can even split the last two games and still get a home game in the playoffs at 7–9 if Carolina loses just one of its final two games.
Then the Saints would have to win a game at home against a wildcard team. Not impossible. Then go on the road to possibly play Ryan Lindley and the Cardinals, Jim Caldwell and the Lions or the Dallas Cowboys. Possible wins there, as well. Then, if a wildcard team - possibly the defending champion Seahawks or Aaron Rodgers and the Packers - wins their divisional game, the 9–9 Saints would get the NFC Championship Game at home.
Amazing. Outstanding. We should all root for this to happen. And for the Saints to win the NFC title and the Super Bowl because in this, the worst NFL season ever, a 7–9 team deserves to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
5. The Cowboys will finish 3–13.
Who said it: USA Today's Nate Davis.
"Tony Romo's back, defense are looking awfully frail," wrote Davis. "Dallas fans might end up pining for .500 teams."
When it went wrong: Week 5.
After a promising Week 1 loss to the 49ers, the Cowboys ran off four wins in a row to get to 4–1, including a Week 5 overtime win over the Texans.
The 3–13 prediction was over. Yet while Davis' whiffed, the widespread collective 8–8 dream/prediction remained alive. Romo re-aggravated his back, Brandon Weeden had to play some, Dallas lost three-of-five to fall to 8–4 on Thanksgiving. It was going to happen again! The Cowboys were going to collapse in December and go 8–8 for the fourth year in a row!
But then the Cowboys played Jay Cutler. And won - in a blowout - to get to nine wins.
The dream was over.
If only certain idiots had realized that Cutler was worthless - AS HAD BEEN WELL ESTABLISHED - they could have seen this coming.
Oh, well. Dumb people will also provide entertainment for those of us who are smart. #blessed
Could it still happen?: No. The Cowboys always disappoint. Jerks.
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