NFL Preview: Experts' Predictions Analysis

Jeff PencekCorrespondent IISeptember 9, 2009

SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 04:  The Chargers Girls cheerleaders perform duing the game between the San Diego Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers on September 4, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.   The Chrgers won 26-7.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

This is the fun part of football, where everyone pretends to be an expert by making playoff predictions for the 09-10 NFL season. I warn you, as the common internet reader, that this predicting gig should only be left to experts. The media members who get paid to follow the NFL have more knowledge, background, and understanding of what has happened and what is going to happen this season. Well, at least they think they do.

Below is the amount of new playoff teams that have made the playoffs each year since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990-1991.


In 16 of the 18 years, 5, 6 or 7 new teams have made the playoffs. When making predictions for the upcoming season, no matter which teams are predicted, the experts should pick at least 5 new playoff teams. This is pretty common knowledge that the NFL is constantly changing and new teams come out of nowhere. It’s common knowledge to us, obviously not to the NFL experts. I reviewed 31 predictions from NFL experts (in honor of the amount of blackouts Jacksonville, Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis will have combined) and below are the results.

The Smart Ones:

7 New Playoff Teams – 1 out of 31 – Don Banks of CNNSI – He used intelligent analysis to guess that the NFC will have a lot of turnover and since 3 of the last 4 years 7 new teams have made the playoffs, 7 is a pretty smart guess.

6 New Playoff Teams – 3 out of 31 – Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly, Adam Schefter of ESPN and Seth Wickersham of ESPN – These 3 analysts reviewed schedules and made some bold predictions, yet they are definitely possible. All possibilities except Hub’s pick of the Bills to make the playoffs. I’ll get to the team analysis in a bit.

5 New Playoff Teams – 2 out of 31 – Peter King of CNNSI and Gene Wojciehowksi of ESPN – Two respected football journalists who mostly picked different teams yet came to the same conclusion, just because a team was good in 08 doesn’t mean they will be in 09.


The Passive Predictors:

4 New Playoff Teams – 6 out of 31 – Matt Williamson, Kevin Seifert, Len Pasquarelli, John Banks and Paul Kuharsky of ESPN and Peter Schrager of Fox Sports – I definitely will not question the football knowledge of these 6 people, since I know why they made their predictions. They are the writers who don’t want to receive a lot of mail mocking them for picking the Raiders or some out there team to make the playoffs. Most of their picks are really safe, except John Banks did pick the Texans to win the division.

I have to take a moment out to point out Peter Schrager, a very knowledgeable writer who lives on the edge. His sleeper team was the Bears, go crazy man. From that wild prediction article I pull this quote “Since 1996, 78 teams have made the playoffs after not qualifying the previous season — exactly 50% of the 156 playoff teams over that span. 2008 also marked the 13th consecutive season with at least five new playoff teams in the field of 12.” With that knowledge he picked 4 new teams. Fox Sports must initiate some sadistic torture ritual if a writer guesses too many wrong teams in his predictions.

The Football Experts in Name Only:

3 New Playoff Teams – 11 out of 31 – Kent Somers, Paola Boivon and Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic, Chris Schultz of TSN, Tony Moss of Sports Network, Paul Woody of the Richmond Times Dispatch,, Mike Williamson, Mike Sando, Pat Yasinskas and Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN – Since the NFL has expanded to 12 teams, there has never been a season where 3 or less new playoff teams make the playoffs, yet 61% of the NFL Experts I reviewed think this is the year it will happen. Given the fact that all of them had 1 of the 3 new teams as New England, and you can see where the level of stupidity builds. All of them have the Eagles making it because they got Michael Vick and they are trendy and because these experts don’t pay attention to football.

I’m sure Gregg Easterbrook is a lightning rod for fans, since he does have a lot of strong opinions about football. His punting and passive play analysis is some of the best information I’ve seen a writer discuss in years. Yet with all of the information in terms of facts he puts out there, he picks 3 teams. He also writes an annual bad prediction article, and that probably explains his incredible passiveness in his picks. He should have gone for it.


The Idiots:

2 New Playoff Teams – 6 out of 31 – The Sporting News Staff, Jeffri Chahida, John Clayton, Tim Graham, Jeremy Green and Matt Mosley of ESPN – Consider once again that all of them picked New England, and all 6 of these predictions involve picking one new team. They somehow believe that out of 7 new playoff teams from last year, 5 of them will make it again. Since 1991, that has also never happened. The last 4 years only 1, 2, 2 and 2 teams have returned for a 2nd playoff year. Why do the predictions if they put zero thought or effort into them? At least the ESPN guys were terrible individually; the Sporting News staff had to agree on their awful predictions. I think you seriously have to question their football knowledge if they believe that the NFL will be almost exactly the same as last year.


The Brain Dead Vegetables:

1 New Playoff Team – 2 out of 31 – Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic and James Walker of ESPN – They both picked New England to make the playoffs. Either a 3 year old or the pet parrot or a house plant must have made these picks. These dummies actually believe that the NFC will have the same 6 teams from last year, which of course is almost impossible. Supreme moron Bob actually has the same NFC division winners and wild cards. The odds of that happening are about 1 in 1700. I take offense to this as a sports fan because these two guys are writing to people as experts, and they might as well be making job forecasts (somehow job forecast results are always unexpected, maybe hire some new prognosticators). I hope everyone reading this would be embarrassed to hand those in as predictions and have the predictions published for the internet world to read.


Now onto the team analysis and one thing I’ve learned from studying the media closely the last few years. Groupthink is lethal


Consensus - The Steelers, Chargers and Patriots were picked by all 31 experts to make the playoffs - All of them picked San Diego and New England to win the division. I can see that because of the competition, but not one person took a chance with a different team. New England should win the East, but they are one Brady injury away from a lot of trouble and Miami should still be competitive. The Chargers were 5-8 at one point last year. Are they really worthy of consensus, with Norv Turner as the coach, even if any of the other 3 teams winning would be stretch? The consensus teams of last year were the Cowboys and the Patriots, and we saw how well that worked out for them.


Almost Consensus - The Giants and Eagles were picked by 28 experts and the Colts by 27 experts – The Giants play in a tough division and have a lot of offensive questions. The Eagles are going to take a separate article to show why they won’t make the playoffs. The Colts have two major things going against them. Since 1983, only 1 team has made the playoffs 8 years in a row and that was the 49ers from 83-90. Also, 8 times in the last 9 years, the #5 seed in the AFC have not made the playoffs. With a new coach and a questionable defense, the Colts look far from a sure thing.


Popular Picks – The Falcons, Ravens and Titans were picked by 25 experts – The Ravens and Falcons both came up from bad records the previous year with rookie quarterbacks to make the playoffs. In the last 6 years, 15 teams rose up from 6 wins or less to make the playoffs. Only 3 of them returned to the playoffs the next year. Out of the Dolphins, Falcons and Ravens, at least two of them are not going back.


The rest of the totals are below, and as you can see a lot of teams are already written off. I guarantee at least 1 of those teams with 0 or 1 or 2 people picking them makes the playoffs. How the experts picked the rest of the lot:


18 experts - Packers

17 experts – Cardinals

12 experts – Seahawks

11 experts – Saints

8 experts – Cowboys and Bears

6 experts – Panthers and Texans

3 experts – 49ers

2 experts – Jaguars, Bengals, Dolphins and Bills (good luck with that)

1 expert – Jets and Redskins

Nobody – Chiefs, Raiders, Broncos, Browns, Lions, Rams and Bucs


AFC Fans. Don’t bother watching the regular season since the playoff teams have already been decided by the experts. The Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Chargers, Titans and Ravens are making the playoffs. They are picking a 6 team exacta, and football gamblers know how often those pay off. Thanks football geniuses.