In Preparation For Our Annual NFL Predictions
Steve Lalla Looks Back on the 2011 NFL Season
Gearing up for the end of summer and the onslaught of the winter months, we have little to look forward to other than NFL Football, death and taxes. In preparation for the pomp and bravado of prediction season, we must make the mandatory review of last year's projections.
The 2011 NFL Season should go down in history as the Year of the Quarterback, as 3 NFL QBs achieved the 5000 yard plateau. Only Drew Brees and Dan Marino had achieved this milestone in the entire history of the NFL. While many people were astounded at the sudden explosion of yards passed, one can't help be surprised that it took so long. When Joe Namath threw 4007 yards in a 14-game season in 1967 the 24-year old, third-year QB shocked the world. Totalling 250 yards more than the previous record, Sonny Jurgensen's 3747 yards of 1966, Namath set milestone that seemed unbreakable at the time. Unbelievably, it would take the expansion to a 16-game schedule in 1978 for San Diego QB Dan Fouts to finally, in 1979, inch past Namath with a 4082 yard season. In retrospect, it seems absurd that Marino threw 5084 yards a mere 5 years after Fouts became only the second QB in history to eclipse 4000. The real oddity is that it took NFL quarterbacks twenty seven years to equal Marino's totals from that fated year. One factor that helped them do so in 2012 was the higher incidence of touchbacks caused by moving the kickoff line back to the 35 yard line, increasing the number of touchbacks almost three-fold, and giving offenses longer fields to work with. Only one player has ever caught more than 1800 yards worth in one season; how long will it take for someone to break Jerry Rice's 17-year old single-season record of 1848 yards? How long is it going to be before someone grabs 2000 yards receiving?
Dan Marino in 1984
Contrary to my predictions, Philadelphia and San Diego did not make the playoffs -although they did establish themselves as the strongest teams of December, winning 7 of 8 games in the month. New York's ability to continue their strong winter into the Playoffs and finally, the Super Bowl, confirmed what this sportswriter already knew: that the championship game goes not to the best team at the beginning of the season, but to the hottest team at its culmination. Picking two 8-8 teams to make the Super Bowl doesn't seem so absurd when we compare it to the reality that a 9-7 team won it. One less Philip Rivers fumble, one less missed tackle by an Eagle linebacker, and it could have easily happened. Although I did not correctly pick the Super Bowl winner I'm still at 50% at picking the Champ since I started my predictions, so that's pretty damn good, and as we'll see from a breakdown of my results, I still had a season that would make many gamblers rich.
Of 256 regular season games I correctly predicted the outcome, before the season had even started, of 158 games (61.7%) compared to last year's total of 161. Once again I picked nine out of twelve playoff teams, surprised only by Denver, San Francisco and the Giants. Funnily all of my competitors (listed below) also erroneously picked San Diego, the Eagles and the St-Louis Rams to make it into the playoffs last year. Due to a lack of religious fervor I was not able to predict Tebowmania -perhaps my greatest failing. My analysis of Green Bay was particularly astute, as I clearly envisioned their near-perfect season and early playoff elimination. I was also able to predict that A. Rodgers would win the Offensive MVP award, and correctly projected Denver's Von Miller to win the Defensive Rookie award (young pass rushers, like Aldon Smith as well, tend to have early success getting to the quarterback and generating the sack totals that are needed to win awards in the NFL). The continuing innefficiency of K. Kolb -similarly foretold, as well as the burst of productiveness from NO's TE Jimmy Graham. With the lack of OTAs and the sudden announcement of Peyton Matting's season-ending neck surgery only on opening day of the season (I foresaw the Indianapolis Colts finishing with a 13-3 record), I'm astonished at the accuracy of my calls.
Correctly predicted outcome of game: 62.9%
Correctly predicted team's won-loss total: 83.8% (accurate within 2.6 wins)
Amount of playoff teams projected (out of 12): 9
Correctly predicted outcome of game: 61.7%
Correctly predicted team's won-loss total: 80.0% (accurate within 3.2 wins)
Amount of playoff teams projected (out of 12): 9
Last year I compared my own projections to the leaders in the field, Football locks and Bleacher Report, and bested both of them. In 2011 the majors improved their game a bit and were able to compete with my standards, as the following graphs show.
Deviation in Final Records (accuracy in predicting Teams' final regular season records)
-this number represents the total difference in NFL Win totals, team-by-team, from my predictions. For example, I projected the Giants to finish 10-6; instead they finished 9-7, giving me a total deviation of 1 for that team. The total represents the total deviation across all 32 teams in the league.
SteveLallablogs 84 102
Footballlocks 99 102
Bleacher Report 92 83
Fox's Peter Schrager had the best results I could find, deviating only 75 wins from the NFL's final records, and correctly predicting that the Pats would lose the Super Bowl, though he had the Packers winning it, and next year Schrager will be my target.
My next NFL-related post will be my annual projection sheet for the entire season, until then, happy pre-season!