Collective Cowardice Redux

Earlier this year, I blasted ESPN’s gang of experts for making utterly spineless predictions for the upcoming season. Let’s see how they did.

All 16 picked New England to win the division. Check.

Eleven picked Baltimore for the division, while two more tapped them for wild card. Bzzt.

Fourteen of 16 expect Indy to repeat in the AFC South, with the other two bodly predicted a wild card. Check.

All but one expected San Diego to take the AFC West once more, with the outlier only predicting Denver would knock them back to the wild card. Check.

Nine of 16 expected Philadelphia to repeat as NFC East champ. Seven more said they would take the wild card with Dallas winning the division. Bzzt.

All 16 expected Chicago to repeat as NFC North champ and New Orleans to repeat as NFC South champ. Double Bzzt.

9 of 16 expected Seattle to repeat as NFC West champ and five of the remainder expected a wild card with St. Louis or San Fran taking the division. Partial Bzzt. St. Louis and San Fran were terrible.

Eight expected Dallas to repeat as wild card; seven tapped them to win the division. Check.

No one one thought the Giants would repeat. Bzzt.

No one picked KC to repeat. Ding!

The most common wild card picks were Denver (Bzzt) and Cincinnati (Bzzt), Dallas and Philly (15 of 16 expect both to make the playoffs. Bzzt-ding) and Seattle (ding!).

Buffalo, Miami, Cleveland, Tennessee, Houston, Kansas City, Oakland, Giants, Minnesota, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Arizona were given no chance at the playoffs. Washington, Green Bay and Detroit are given only one vote. I said at least one of those would make the playoffs and at least one would win the division. Green Bay and Tampa took their divisions. Washington and New York made the playoffs. One of Tennessee or Cleveland will win it. Meanwhile, Buffalo, Minnesota and Arizona made runs. Bzzzt bzzzt bzzzt bzzzt bzzzt!

Going expert by expert, Palantonio and Smith won the pool by going 7 for 12. Pasquerelli, Jackson, Schlereth, Clayton, and Mosley got 6 of 12, while McAllister, Scouts Inc, Theismann, Tafoya, Chadiha, Hoge, Allen, Sando and Symmes got 5/12. So all their conservatism meant they would have been as well off — probably better, just randomly selected six of last year’s playoff teams and six of last year’s non-playoff teams.

I told you that only half the teams would make the playoffs again at best. And sure enough, six teams repeated from 2006. My own predictions got 6 of 12 right. And no one pays me to do analysis.

And the computer idiots at Football Outsiders? They got 7 of 12 but with far more insight as to which teams had a chance and which teams didn’t.

I would also like to point out — since no one else has noticed — that, as of this writing, the “weak” NFC basically matched the “strong” AFC this season head-to head. People forget this because the AFC has two monster teams. But they also have the Jets, Fins, Ravens, Raiders and Chiefs, who were awful all year.

A few years ago, the AFC was far stronger than the NFC and Easterbrook hysterically and unnecessarily called for the wild card teams to be drawn at large. The cycle swings back, doesn’t it?