Slightly Less Cowardice

ESPN has their big prediction page for the NFL season. Easterbrook documents how many picks were wrong post-facto. Last year, I documented how spineless the picks were in the first place. Less than half of NFL playoff teams repeat the next year. But the typical ESPNer predicts eight to nine teams to repeat and usually picks six or seven division winners to repeat.

This year, they aren’t nearly as spineless. The picks are:

AFC East — Everyone picks New England, which seemed reasonable until Brady got hurt

AFC North – Twelve pick Pittsburgh to repeat, Four pick Cleveland

AFC South – Ten pick Indy to repeat; six take Jacksonville (but those six all have Indy as the Wild Card)

AFC West – All pick San Diego to repeat, which seems reasonable given how crappy the AFC West is.

AFC Wildcard – Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Jets, Indy, Pittsburgh, Houston, Denver and Buffalo all get picks. Only the Dolphins, Bengals, Ravens, Raiders and Chiefs get no votes (although Denver and Buffalo only get one each).

The AFC has a lot of repeat picks, with two commentators spinelessly picking the entire slate of 2007 playoffs teams to repeat exactly. I’m guessing most people would currently believe the AFC is the superior conference. But it’s not. The NFC outperformed them by two games last year. Moreover, the AFC is incredibly unbalanced, with several great teams and a lot of horrible teams. The NFC is much more competitive, which is reflected in the picks

NFC East – 14 pick Dallas, one each pick Philly and the Giants

NFC North – Evenly split between Green Bay and Minnesota

NFC South – New Orleans gets all but one vote, that one going to Carolina

NFC West – Seattle gets 14 votes, with two extremely deluded people picking Arizona.

NFC Wild Card – Minnesota Giants, Carolina, Philly, Green Bay, Washington, Tampa, Dallas and St. Louis all get votes.

San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit are the only teams not picked to make the playoffs by anyone.

Going analyst by analyst, while Chadiha and Clayton pick seven division repeats, no one picks more than nine overall repeats and Wickersham takes over Tafoya’s spot as the only analyst with real balls, picking only five division winners and six teams overall to repeat.

So my non-spineless somewhat randomized picks?

AFC East – Pats, even if Brady is hurt.
AFC North – Pittsburgh
AFC South – Jacksonville
AFC West – Denver

Wild Cards – Indy and Cleveland

NFC East – Philadelphia
NFC North – Green Bay
NFC South – Carolina
NFC West – Seattle

NFC WC – Dallas and New Orleans

That’s four division repeats and seven overall repeats. I deliberately picked to not have as many repeats — which was tough in the very unbalanced AFC. I suspect that one of Indy and Pitt will not make the playoffs, but since I like both teams I unfairly bounced San Diego. I’m still not happy having seven repeat teams, but it’s the best I can do.