Last spring I stuck my neck out and made my predictions for what I thought would be the first three teams in the AFC North. Here are my Steelers, Ravens and Bengals predictions. Not only did I give a game by game prediction of who would win, but by what score and how. Many people called me crazy, others called me worse.
The Baltimore and Bengal fans were really upset with me. The Cincy fans more than the Raven fans. Who could blame them. Coming off of an AFC North championship season, I predicted that the Bengals would fall off the track and finish 8-8. Who knew that would be my worst prediction, as the Bengals have actually gone further off the tracks than that.
In the meantime, my Steelers and Ravens predictions look pretty good. I am going to give you a week by week look at my prediction and the actual results. While I am not perfect, all in all I am amazed that it has turned out the way it has.
Now with the season three-quarters over, I thought it would be a good time to revisit them.
My Steelers prediction:
Mike Tomlin will give Dennis Dixon the start.
Though Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense puts up a valiant try, the Steelers now-healthy defense and renewed power running game of Mendenhall and Dwyer pound the birds into submission.
Steelers win 24-13!
Actual result: Dixon started, Dwyer didn't play. Mendy scored the only touchdown of the game in OT to give the Steelers a 15-9 win.
My Ravens prediction:
Between the new stadium and Rex Ryan looking to show up his old team, the Jets come in sky high for this opening Monday night game of the year.
Their shut-down corners do the job on Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.The rest of the defense smothers the Baltimore running game. The Jets D looks a lot like the Ravens; for good reason too. The Jets open up the new stadium with a 24-17 win!
Actual result: The Ravens won a no-offense slug-fest 10-9
My Bengals prediction: Patriots win a close one, 21-18 to kick off the NFL season
Actual result: Pats win 38-24
Ravens play Bengals, Steelers play the Titans
My Bengals-Ravens predictions: 36-12 Ravens, for their first win of the season.
Actual result: I had this one all wrong. In what might go down as the highlight of the season for the Bengals, they beat the Ravens 15-10
Steelers prediction: The power running game will be featured by the Steelers, but Dixon will break one long run and have one long pass to keep the Titans honest. The Steelers win this one going away, 31-17
Actual result: I didn't foresee Dixon getting hurt and Batch coming in. I also underestimated how good the Steelers D would be. Steelers win 19-11 on a whole bunch of turnovers by the Titans.
My Steeler prediction: The Steelers run wild with over 250 yards of rushing offense and the defense runs wild over the hapless Bucs. The Steelers win their third straight, 24-3.
Actual result: I didn't think Charlie Batch would be leading the charge, but I did have the Steelers routing Tampa Bay (who has had a surprising season themselves). Steelers win a laugher, 38-13.
Ravens prediction: A very balanced Baltimore offense fires on all cylinders. Ray Rice runs for 100 yards, and Boldin goes over 100 yards receiving for the day.
The Ravens win this one 28-14.
Actual result: Ravens win 24-17. I was close.
Bengals prediction: The Bengals, feeling the frustration of opening the season with two straight losses, notch their first win of the season. Both Chad Ochocinco and Antonio Bryant have TDs in a 29-16 win
Actual result: I didn't know TO would take Bryant's spot, but the result is similar. The Bengals beat the worst team in the league, 20-7.
My Steelers-Ravens prediction: It is a real un-Steelers-Ravens game, with a final score of 31-28. The Ravens win on a last second field goal.
Actual result: It wasn't so un-Steeler Raven like. But the Ravens did win, on a last second TD, though. Final score 17-14.
Bengals prediction: The Bengals win the game 21-15, but it really is not that close.
Actual result: In the first sign that something is wrong in Cincy, the Browns upset the Bengals 23-20.
While the Steelers were off on bye,
My Raven prediction: It's a party Sunday as the Ravens win an easy one, 28-10.
Actual result: Ravens 31-17 in a laugher
My Bengal prediction: The Bucs have little they can do to stop the Bengals from running away and hiding in a 38-17 blowout.
Actual result: Confirmation that something is rotten, the Bengals lose a 24-21 heart breaker to the Bucs!
Week 6 saw the return of Ben Roethlisberger against the Cleveland Browns at home. Meanwhile, the Ravens played the NE Patriots.
My Steelers prediction: The Steelers run at, through and around the hapless Browns. Ben lights it up, but conservatively. The Steelers defense befuddles the Cleveland offense. The Steelers win this one big, 36-10.
Actual result: The Steelers win 28-10. I was off by 8 points.
Ravens prediction: Brady leads a late drive in the fourth quarter, and the Pats take one from the Ravens, 24-21
Actual result: Pats win 23-20.
All three teams in action this week with a familiar result, the Steelers and Ravens win, the Bengals lose.
My Steelers prediction: The Dolphins offense gives the Steelers D a run for their money, but the Steelers escape Miami with a hard-fought 28-24 win.
Actual result: The Steelers escape Miami with a harder fought, lucky to have, 23-22 win!
My Ravens prediction: It isn't pretty, but the Ravens rest a lot of starters in the fourth quarter, giving some rookies some playing time.
The Ravens win this one 31-6
Actual result: I underestimated the tough Bills. The Ravens win a close one, 37-34
My Bengals prediction: The birds will give the cats as much as they can handle, but Palmer will lead the Bengals on a late drive, and the Bengals will escape Atlanta with a hard fought 24-21 win.
Actual result: Not this year. The Falcons down the Bengals 39-32.
A spooky Halloween night has the Steelers down in the dome. The Bengals play the underachieving Dolphins.
My Steelers prediction: The game is a shootout between Drew Brees and Big Ben. Both QBs throw for 350-plus yards. But the Steelers get away from the power running game, leaving the D on the field too long.
The Steelers lose 38-31 and will look for revenge against the Saints, perhaps in the Super Bowl.
Actual result: Steelers lose a tough 20-10 game.
Bengals prediction: This week, it is the Dolphins driving late in the game for a win. But the Bengals D comes up big, as rookie Carlos Dunlap sacks Chad Henne on a 3rd-and-5 on the Bengals 42-yard line. The Bengals hold on to win a close one, 19-16. This game could have gone either way.
Actual result: Dolphins win 22-14 on a lot of field goals.
My Steelers prediction: The Steelers win this one and the score makes it seem closer than it was. The Steelers run down the Bengals by a 23-13 score. At the halfway mark they are 6-2 and trail the Ravens by one game in the AFC North.
Actual result: The Steelers hold on to win 27-21 as James Harrison breaks up a last second pass near the goal line by Palmer.
My Ravens prediction: The Ravens give as good as they get in one of the toughest games of the season. The Ravens are very lucky to escape with a 21-17 victory over the 'Fins.
Actual result: The Ravens have an easier time of it, rolling the Dolphins, 26-10.
A bad week for the AFC North as all of the teams in the division lose (including the Browns in a heart breaker to the Jets).
My Steelers prediction: The Steelers win a close one, holding on for a 21-18 win.
Actual result: The Pats kick our butts, 39-26 in a game that was not that close.
Ravens prediction: The Atlanta defense is not up to stopping the Ravens' balanced attack. Flacco lights up the scoreboard, and the Ravens win a surprisingly high-scoring game 27-24.
Actual result: Matty Ice and team beat the Ravens 26-21!
Bengals prediction: The Bengals offense is able to score a bit on the Indy D, but Manning is the sheriff in this town. The Colts take this one 32-24.
Actual result: Colts win 23-17.
My Steelers prediction: The Raiders make a return visit to Heinz Field this year and it is payback time. Forget any last second miracles, the Steelers run all over the Raiders and with Troy Polamalu in the game, Jason Campbell has an awful day, throwing three interceptions.
The Steelers win this one easy 30-10
Actual result: The Raiders only threw two ints, plus a fumble as the Steelers roll, 35-3.
Ravens prediction: The Ravens again put 28 points up on the board and hold the Panthers to 14 points. But the punishing Panther runners again beat up some of the Ravens defenders.
The Ravens win this one 28-14.
Actual result: The Ravens beat up the Panthers good, winning 37-13.
Bengals prediction: The Bengals show them no mercy, though. In a flashback to last year, the Bengals dominate and send the Bills packing with a 28-13 win.
Actual result: You can't go back to last year. The Bills outscore the Bengals and win 49-31!
My Steelers prediction: The Bills don't have a QB to challenge the D and rookie CJ Spiller becomes just another back not to break 100 against the Steelers. Steelers win a low scoring game 23-9.
Actual result: Another game that was much closer than I thought it would be; the Steelers escape with a 19-16 win.
My Ravens prediction: Flacco has all he can handle to lead the Ravens to a late touchdown and preserve a 17-14 win for the Ravens.
Actual result: Not as close as I thought, but the Ravens win 17-10. I wasn't off by much here.
My Bengals prediction: But the Bengals have not forgotten the sting of that loss in the playoffs, and come in looking to show the Jets something. It is a tight defensive game, but Palmer does it again for the Bengals. They win on a late field goal 20-18.
Actual result: The Bengals tripped me up again. They don't show up against the Jets and lose 26-10.
In the game of the year, the Steelers out slug the Ravens to win and grab the lead in the AFC North.
My Steelers prediction: Ben is the difference in this game. He finds a way to beat the Ravens in a typical fashion with a last second field goal. The Steelers win this one 16-13 to claim first place by themselves.
Actual result: You all know how this one went. Steelers win 13-10. I wasn't off by much here.
Bengals prediction: The Bengals keep it close with some big plays, but the Saints come out the winners 28-24.
Actual result: The Bengals do keep it close and come up just a little short on a late TD by the Saints. They lose 34-30.
Heading into the home stretch, who would have thought that the biggest hole in my predictions were that the Bengals are doing much WORSE than I thought they would. For all of those Cincy fans who ripped me about saying the Bengals would finish 8-8, they would be happy to take that right now.
In the meantime, the Steelers and the Ravens are two of the top four teams in the AFC. One of them has an excellent chance to go to the Super Bowl.
I underestimated the Browns. Though their record is not great, they are a much better team than I thought they would be. I did not make a prediction for them in the pre-season because I thought it might be like throwing dirt on them while they were down. But to give them their due, they are no pushover for anyone in the league. Just ask Tom Brady and the Pats.
My prediction is that the Steelers and Ravens will finish just the way I have it in my earlier articles. The Steelers win the division with a 13-3 record, squeezing by the Ravens at 12-4. That gives the Steelers a bye in the first round and a home playoff game.
MY PREDICTION FOR THE AFC PLAYOFFS—The Steelers will go up to New England and take revenge against Tom Brady and the Pats. The Steelers are going to the Super Bowl and Dan Rooney will get Lombardi No. 7.
Remember, you read it here first.
If you are interested in my full week-by-week predictions, please visit my earlier articles. Links are on page one of this one.