So far, Bleacher Report writers have written hundreds of preseason predictions per division, conference, and Super Bowl picks, almost as soon as the "offseason" began.
So, maybe I'm a little late writing this, or maybe I will just be stating the obvious: At least one-half of the preseason predictions by each preseason prognosticator (professional or amateur) will fall short.
I think 2008 was THE classic example of the pitfalls of making preseason predictions, yet we are going to make them in 2009 anyway. I mean, if we are wrong, no one is going to crucify us, even if we get paid to do so, or even if "bettors" are "betting" on what we predict. So we don't get to pay the price for wrong predictions, but our egos are bruised.
It has been said that roughly half the division winners (because who cares about the rest?) from 2008 will not pan out in 2009. No one (not even me!) has picked or will pick the Dolphins to win the AFC East again.
Okay, maybe the most die-hard Fins' fan will (uh...I AM a die hard Fins' fan!). But you can count the number of "Fins-in-first-pickers" on one hand or less because folks, it is just too easy, too safe, and too predictable to pick the Pats.
Brady is back, in case you haven't heard.
Now, my life is too busy to read each and every preseason prediction by BR writers and everyone else, but the consensus seem to be Pats-Steelers-Colts-Chargers in the AFC and Giants/Eagles-Vikings/Bears-Falcons and Cards in the NFC.
Thus, roughly half of the division winners in 2009 are predicted to be those who did not win the division, or even make the playoffs, in 2008.
In fact, taking preseason predictions for 2008, more than half of the predicted division winners were wrong! Instead of Pats-Steelers-Colts-Chargers in the AFC we had the Fins-Steelers-Titans-Chargers (half of the picks were wrong). Instead of Cowboys-Packers-Bucs-Seahawks in the NFC, we had Giants-Vikings-Panthers-Cardinals...NONE of the preseason picks worked out.
Most Super Bowl predictions had Pats-Cowboys.
Preseason predictions NEVER take into account what cannot be foreseen. No one saw Brady's injury coming because no one saw that perhaps New England's OL wasn't as good as everyone thought it was. That is to say, everyone assumed it would protect Brady.
Thus, there is peril in preseason prognostication!
Folks, I wouldn't want to have to stake my life on whom I pick as playoff teams in 2009!
1. An injury to a franchise QB can kill your prediction—a la Brady in 2008. And, if you make the prediction too early, you might wind up having to change it later.
2. You can't assume that this year's division winners ought to be based on last year's winners. This is particularly true for weak divisions. The Cardinals, for instance, do NOT have a lock on the NFC West.
I think the Seahawks and possibly even the Niners have a decent chance of winning that division this year. The Hawks were not as bad as 4-12 last year and were in most of their games, being a botched 2-pt. conversion away from tying Miami and nearly beating the Pats and a couple of others. And the Niners, under Singletary, played fairly well.
3. You can't assume the stated "difficulty of schedule" will actually mean the schedule difficulty turns out that way. The Steelers had the most difficult schedule in the NFL for 2008, but that didn't stop them from going all the way.
This year, Pittsburgh has an "easy" schedule, and, if the Steelers "play down" to that level, it will be very hard for them to get back to the Super Bowl.
4. You can't assume the rosters at the beginning of preseason will be the same as rosters at the start of the season. See 2008, Chad Pennington Effect.
5. Great teams on paper DO NOT necessarily mean great teams on the field. Exhibit A: Dallas Cowboys.
6. Teams that are rebuilding do not necessarily mean last place. Exhibits B, C, and D: Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, and Baltimore Ravens.
Some say the 2008 Dolphins are a one-hit wonder. But here is why I beg to differ. The 2008 Dolphins have Parcells-Ireland-Sparano, proven winners from Dallas (and Parcells' legacy is well known). Romeo Crennel, Marv Lewis and Eric Mangini simply do not have that kind of moxie, nor do their front offices.
In picking legitimate up-and-coming teams, one needs to look at who is running the team, who is doing the drafting and trading, and who is coaching, not just who is doing the playing.
As stated in a previous article, it is front office savvy that leads me to believe that the Fins, Falcons, Chiefs, and Eagles will be the elite of the future.
8. You can't go by reputation alone, good or bad.
9. You can't simply go by who is quarterbacking the team. Remember, a relative mediocrity like Trent Dilfer won the Super Bowl with the Ravens. He doesn't need great arm strength, either. Think Joe Montana, the anti-Joe Namath. Compare: which one won more Super Bowls?
10. Defense doesn't necessarily win championships. Exhibit E: the 2008 Cardinals.
11. Don't just go by what ESPN or FOX Sports or the Sporting News or any other major sports-media outfit is picking. They are all pretty much picking the same teams as division winners, with a bit of variation in the wild-card picks. In other words, they are playing it safe.
In other words, at least half of their predictions will wind up wrong. Be bold!