So, first things first.
I won our Pick 'Em contest for the regular season and the regular season trophy arrives in Denver.
I would like to congratulate my opponents, Ms. Monica Roberts and Mr. Eli Blake for a hard fought season. Ms. Roberts improved on her 2013 picks and I expect in 2015 she will be eying the title.
From Week 5 to Week 14, I either had the week's best record or tied. I finished the season on a strong note with a 46-18 record resulting in me finishing with a 177-78-1 record. However, I think my 15-17 start at the beginning of the season cost me a .700 winning percentage. I finished the 2014 regular season with a 177-78-1 record translating to a .693 winning percentage.
In the final week of the season, four AFC teams were vying for the last playoff spot. Baltimore claimed the last spot by virtue of their win over Cleveland and Kansas City's win at home over the Chargers. Houston beat the Jaguars, but due to those results the
In Pittsburgh, the Steelers won their first AFC North title since 2010 when they appeared in Super Bowl XLV. Seattle won the NFC West and claimed the conference's number 1 seed.
The Cowboys made easy work of division rival Washington and finished with a perfect record on the road. Running back DeMarco Murray broke the franchise's record for rushing yards in a single season that was set by Emmitt Smith in 1995. Dallas had faint odds of claiming a bye week, but knew that with a win there would be a chance. Detroit still hasn't won at Green Bay since 1991 and will be playing at Dallas in the wild card round while the Packers will be waiting for their next opponent in the divisional round.
The Panthers won the dumpster fire that is the NFC South with their blowout win over the Falcons. Carolina started the season 3-2 and then followed it up with a 0-6-1 stretch. When the calendar turned to December, Carolina won every game played that month resulting in becoming the first NFC South team to win back-to-back division titles since the division was created in 2002.
Because of that loss at home with a division title on the line, the Falcons said farewell to Mike Smith after going 10-22 over the last two seasons. Smith was named coach of the team in 2008 and the team made the playoffs in his first season with Smith being named coach of the year. Despite not making the playoffs in 2009, the Falcons 9-7 finish marked the first time that the team finished with back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history. The streak of winning seasons would continue in 2010, 2011, and 2012, but they did not produce success in the playoffs.
Atlanta was the NFC 1-seed in the playoffs in 2010 and were humiliated at home by eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay in the divisional round.
In 2011, the Falcons were 10-6 and traveled to New York for a playoff game against the Giants where they scored only 2 points. The Giants would go on to win Super Bowl XLVI.
In 2012 the Falcons started the season 8-0 and ended up again as the NFC 1-seed. Though they did beat Seattle in the divisional round, Atlanta nearly blew a 20-0 halftime lead. In the NFC Championship game against San Francisco, Atlanta lost a 24-14 lead as the 49ers would play in their first Super Bowl since January 1995.
The 49ers and Coach Jim Harbaugh "mutually agreed to part ways." Harbaugh was key to San Francisco's recent resurgence having led the team to three consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances with a Super Bowl appearance sandwiched in there. Part of the reason why San Francisco finished 8-8 this season is because either injuries or their players were suspended. There were also the constant rumors of whether Harbaugh would be let go after the season.
Within 48 hours of leaving San Francisco, Jim Harbaugh was introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Michigan. Harbaugh was a quarterback for the Wolverines from 1983 to 1986. This marks Harbaugh's return to the college ranks having previously coached at Stanford from 2007 to 2010.
The Jets bid farewell to Rex Ryan and their general manager John Idzik. Ryan had early success with the Jets leading them to the AFC Championship Game in 2008 and 2009 going 24-14 over those two seasons. In Ryan's last four seasons as Jets head coach, he posted a 26-38 record and the team's highest finish in the AFC East was 2nd in 2011 and 2013. The bottom fell out in 2014 with the Jets losing 8 straight games and by that time the Jets were out of playoff contention.
As did the Bears also with Marc Trestman who had a 13-19 record in 2 years at Chicago. There were growing tensions between the coaching staff, quarterback Jay Cutler, and other players. NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk said that Cutler gets a lot of offensive coordinators fired. Cutler might be playing elsewhere in 2015.
The Bills had their first winning season in 10 years, but Doug Marrone opted out of his contract.
Looking back at my predictions at the start of the season, my picks do come with this disclaimer that these are strictly for entertainment purposes only and any monetary transactions involved are at your own risk.
“But Blanche, you gotta help me out here, please! I’m sixty-four grand in the hole! They’re gonna take my thumbs!” pic.twitter.com/k0Ye6vmFiC
— SimpsonsQOTD (@SimpsonsQOTD) October 16, 2014
Let's see… I was right about the Seahawks being the NFC 1 seed. And the Patriots and Broncos being 1 and 2 in the AFC. I was right about the Steelers, Colts, and Packers winning their divisions, just not about seeding. And I was correct about the Ravens being the 6 seed.
As for my other playoff teams… wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.
Time to send those predictions to the shredder…
And bring out some new ones for the playoffs.
Yes, Jim Mora, we are talking about the playoffs.
Every team in the playoffs have won 10 or more games with the exception of Carolina who won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record. Seattle still holds the title of team with the worst record to make the playoffs having a 7-9 record in 2010. Though the worst division was not the 2014 NFC South. It was the 2008 NFC West, but it should be noted that Arizona played in that season's Super Bowl and led 23-20 with 2 minutes to play against Pittsburgh.
This could be an interesting playoff season.
The AFC won the coin toss and has elected to go first in my analysis.
After Denver and New England, I am not too confident about the postseason prospects of the other AFC teams.
Pittsburgh COULD go to either one of those places and win a playoff game with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger came close to his first 5,000 yard passing season and threw for 32 touchdowns. Brown led the NFL in receiving yards, receptions, and was second in touchdown passes. Running back Le'Veon Bell rushed for 1,361 yards, had 854 receiving yards, and scored 11 total touchdowns but is expected to miss the playoff opener against Baltimore due to a knee injury.
As has Steelers safety Troy Polamalu who has missed the last two games due to a knee injury and missed four of the last seven due to a variety of injuries. Polamalu is expected to start against the Ravens on Saturday night.
Andrew Luck set the Colts' single season record for passing yards with 4,761 yards and threw 40 touchdowns vs. 16 interceptions. Though the Colts of late have stumbled. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has had a lot of big games but has been sidelined with a knee injury. The Colts 42-7 loss at Dallas should be a concern.
The Bengals still have not won a playoff game since the Bush administration.
No… not the George W. Bush administration, the GEORGE H.W. BUSH administration.
Even the top two seeds in the conference have their flaws.
Denver has discovered they have a running game, but Peyton Manning has not thrown a touchdown pass in two of his last four games. In the game at Cincinnati, Manning threw 4 interceptions, one was returned for a touchdown and another clinched a playoff spot for the Bengals. The Broncos will live and die by Manning's success in the postseason.
The Patriots started the season 2-2 and were written off as an also ran. Then they won 7 games in a row before losing at Green Bay in Week 13. New England then won their next 3 games to win the AFC East and due to Broncos loss at Cincinnati claimed the AFC 1-seed. Their game against Buffalo last Sunday was effectively for nothing. Will their preformance in the regular season finale translate over to their divisional round matchup game?
As for the NFC, the Seahawks are playing the best football out of any team in the conference. Seattle finished the regular season on a 6-game winning streak. Since giving up 24 points in their loss at Kansas City in Week 11, no opponent has scored that many points against Seattle since then. Even though the offense struggled to put points up on the scoreboard against the Rams, Seattle's defense ranked #1 in points and yards against forced three turnovers. One was an interception returned 49 yards for a touchdown by defensive end Bruce Irvin.
Dallas finished with a 4-0 December. Quarterback Tony Romo was named the NFC offensive player of the month and led the NFL in passer rating. Running back DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,845 yards. Add the 416 receiving yards and Murray led the NFL in yards from scrimage. Receiver Dez Byrant led the league in touchdown receptions.
The surprising thing about the Cowboys is their defense which has played better than expected. Dallas ranked 15th in points against, 14th in yards against, tied for 8th with Arizona in yards per play, and 8th in rushing yards. The concern is still their pass defense. Even though it ranked in the top 10 in fewest touchdown passes given up and most passes intercepted, the Cowboys defense was 7th worst in passing yards given up and 5th worst in quarterback sacks.
Green Bay started the season 1-2, but finished winning 11 of their final 13 which included putting up 50 plus points in back-to-back wins over Chicago and Philadelphia and hard fought 26-21 win over the Patriots at Lambeau in Week 13. The Packers have the bye week so they can get quarterback Aaron Rodgers healthy. The concern I have about Green Bay is as shown in their loss at Buffalo where Rodgers and his receivers were not on the same page. If that happens again in the playoffs, the Packers are in trouble. Also, since starting undefeated at home in the franchise's long and storied history, the Packers are 4-5 in home playoff games since the turn of the millennium.
As for the Panthers, Cardinals, and Lions, they are playoff filler. These teams at best will make the divisional round and advance no further.
So… here are my projections for the playoffs.
WILD CARD ROUND
Cardinals at Panthers
Ravens at Steelers
Bengals at Colts
Lions at Cowboys
Ravens at Patriots
Panthers at Seahawks
Colts at Broncos
Cowboys at Packers
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY
Broncos at Patriots
Cowboys at Seahawks
SUPER BOWL XLIX
Seahawks over Broncos
There are a number of teams that could give the Seahawks a run for their money. Carolina plays the same style of ball control and has a quarterback who can do what Russell Wilson does. The Packers could, but Seattle did beat them on opening night. Dallas could and they did in the regular season.
The Broncos and Seahawks met in Seattle earlier this season and the game was closer than the one played in New York City back in February 2014.
My pick at the start of the season was a Seattle repeat and I will keep it that way.