With Week 16 in the books, and most fantasy seasons concluded, let's look back and take stock of my preseason predictions in this space. (This also has the virtue of being easier than coming up with original material on Christmas Day).
These "non-obvious predictions" were all made before Week 1:
• The Cowboys win less than eight games. Verdict: wrong – they've already got eight wins, though they're underdogs this week.
• Stevan Ridley finishes as a top-12 back. Verdict: right – in non-PPR, Ridley is No. 10.
• Demaryius Thomas outperforms Eric Decker. Verdict: right – in non-PPR, Thomas is No. 5 among WR, Decker No. 10.
• Braylon Edwards finishes as a top-30 WR. Verdict: not even close.
• Mark Sanchez keeps the job all year. Verdict: barely wrong – he kept it through Week 15, albeit through no merit of his own.
• Adrian Peterson doesn't break 1,000 yards rushing. Verdict: have a good laugh.
• Frank Gore does eclipse 1,000 yards rushing. Verdict: right.
• Reggie Wayne finishes in the top-five in targets, but is not a top-15 WR. Verdict: barely wrong. Wayne is No. 2 with 183 targets, but 12th in non-PPR points.
• Michael Turner is a top-10 back in standard formats, leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns. Verdict: wrong. Turner is No. 18 in non-PPR and tied for eighth with nine rushing TDs.
• Ahmad Bradshaw is a top-10 back. Verdict: wrong.
• Michael Crabtree catches 80-plus passes for 1,000-plus yards. Verdict: not yet in: Crabtree has 77 catches for 933 yards through 16 games.
• Justin Blackmon is a top-25 WR. Verdict: barring a massive Week 17, wrong – he's No. 38 right now.
• One of the Redskins RBs is a top-15 back. Verdict: right – Alfred Morris is No. 6 in non-PPR.
• At least one of the non-Cam Newton second-year QBs (Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, T.J. Yates) is a top-12 QB. Verdict: right. Andy Dalton is No. 11.
• The Seahawks make the playoffs. Verdict: right.
• The Lions miss the playoffs. Verdict: right.
• No one in the AFC West makes the playoffs. Verdict: wrong, (though it was a long shot).
• Some of these predictions are wrong (including the penultimate one). Verdict: right – I wanted to make sure I didn't get shut out.
• 2011's predictions can be found here (Scroll down).
Things to Take Away from Week 16
• The Giants played as badly in Baltimore as they did in Atlanta the previous week, to the point where one wonders why they bothered to make the trip. A forfeit would have been more dignified.
• It's hard to fathom how Eli Manning became one of the worst quarterbacks in the league over the last 11 weeks and an absolute killer in fantasy (h/t Scott Pianowski). And the defense is even worse, totally unable to rush the passer, cover receivers or tackle.
• One of the craziest stats in all of football is that the Giants have been 6-2 or better in the first half of every season since Tom Coughlin took over except 2004 when they started 5-2 and finished 6-10 and 2009 when they started 5-0 and finished 8-8. In other words, in nine seasons, the Giants have started off 6-2 six times, 7-1 once, 5-2 and 5-0. That all sounds great until you consider how reliable their terrible finishes are, mitigated greatly of course by two improbable Super Bowl runs.
• As it stands, the Giants are not out of it – they'd need to beat Philly (70%), the Packers to beat the Vikings (60%), the Lions to beat the Bears (40%) and the Redskins to beat the Cowboys (60%). Put it together, and it's about 10 percent. Considering the Giants blew out the Packers and Niners this year, if I could get 100 to 1 on them to repeat in Vegas, I might throw a few bucks down on it for kicks.
• Jim Schwartz should have been fired over the stadium loudspeaker for about the fifth time this season when he went for a field goal on 4th and goal from the three, down eight early in the fourth quarter. It's sad when even an out-of-contention coach doesn't have the courage to do the right thing.
• Calvin Johnson broke the record for receiving yards in Week 16, and you can bet the Lions will do everything they can to get him to 2,000 against the Bears in Week 17.
• The Falcons were a fraud with a good record earlier in the year, but if the 9-7 Giants could suddenly become juggernauts in the playoffs last year, why can't Atlanta grow into their 13-2 record? Just because they were lucky earlier in the year doesn't mean they won't be good now.
• The Texans are the opposite – the formerly legit No. 1 seed that shrunk into a fraud. Does anyone think they'll get by Denver or New England in the playoffs, assuming they don't get taken down in the divisional round?
• Unlike the Lions, the Vikings are resembling a playoff team rather merely than an NFL-record-delivery-system for their star player. If Christian Ponder completely doesn't crap the bed, they might not be an automatic out should they make the playoffs, either.
• The Buccaneers were never contenders even though it might have looked that way for 10 minutes this season. Josh Freeman is one of those "franchise quarterbacks" you wonder whether the team wouldn't be better off not having.
• In the unlikely event the Rams win in Seattle this week, they'd be above .500 on the year. That might be better than the Cowboys or Giants.
• The Eagles losing on an intentional grounding penalty while knocking on the door was pretty disappointing. Plus I needed the points from RGIII in overtime. Michael Vick starts against the Giants this week and could be a good pickup for those in points leagues that go 17 weeks.
• Next year, Calvin Johnson will be the No. 1 WR on almost everyone's board, but Dez Bryant should contend with A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall for No. 2. Very quietly Tony Romo might wind up with 5,000 passing yards this year (along with Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford).
• In another cowardly move, Saints coach Joe Vitt punted on 4th and 1 from his own 30 up seven with under two minutes left. Not only are the Saints eliminated from contention, but going for it was clearly the right move as making the first down ends the game, and failing only gives Dallas the ball on the 30 while needing a TD. By punting, Dallas got the ball back with plenty of time and of course drove for the easy tying score. Moreover, if they failed and Dallas got the ball at the 30 and scored quickly, Drew Brees might have had time for a game-winning FG. Luckily for the Saints, they won in overtime anyway.
• Why does Indy always seem to play down to its competition for three quarters, then cover the spread in the final minutes? Jamaal Charles should sue the Chiefs for neglect given what he's able to do when they decide finally to give him the ball.
• If you only watched the Jaguars play the 12-3 Texans, 11-4 Patriots and 11-4 Packers, you'd think they were pretty good.
• Aaron Hernandez was one of the underrated fantasy killers in Week 16, given how valuable he was the previous two weeks. Tom Brady, too.
• The Steelers name brand wasn't enough to carry them into the playoffs this year, though it wasn't the fault of their defense which held Cincy without an offensive score. The Bengals defense played a fantastic game, too.
• Like Jamaal Charles, C.J. Spiller's is virtually automatic when he gets the work. Reggie Bush finally got reps as a receiving back the last couple weeks, and it turns out he can still catch.
• The Titans really have no quit in them, scoring a TD with 1:39 left and covering what should have been the spread. Aaron Rodgers certainly delivered on his top-five status in the finals, but you probably didn't get there if you had him. It's interesting that James Jones leads the NFL with 13 TD catches on 722 yards while Calvin Johnson has five on 1,892. (And Jason Witten, who set the single-season receptions record for tight ends and leads all TEs with 983 yards has only two scores).
• The Jets attempted only 25 passes, yet gave up 11 sacks. That ratio has to be a record.
• I don't want to comment much on the late games because not only were they terrible, but frankly I left at around 3:30 PT to head to the beach.
• The Seahawks are a dangerous team in the playoffs, but they're like the Saints were last year in that they're good on the road, but unbeatable at home. Unless they somehow win the division though – unlikely as the Niners get Arizona at home this week – they'll be travelling.
• The NFC is wide open now with the Niners, Seahawks, Falcons and Packers all capable of winning it, and the Redskins even having a chance. I'd be mildly shocked if someone other than Denver or New England comes out of the AFC.
Things to Watch in Week 17
• The Redskins, Cowboys, Vikings, Bears and Giants all vying for the NFC East and/or second Wild Card spot.
• The Texans go to Indianapolis (who might or might not be trying) with a bye and home-field advantage at stake.
• Adrian Peterson needing 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson's rushing record while the Packers fight for a first-round bye.
• Calvin Johnson needing 108 receiving yards to get to 2,000, and Matt Stafford needing only seven pass attempts to break Drew Bledsoe's record of 691.
• Michael Vick's audition for 2013.
Beating the Book
Line: Rams +10.5 at Seahawks
I know it's crazy to fade the Seahawks at home, but if ever there were a time to do so, this is it, coming off a stock-inflating blowout win over the Niners and facing the out-of-contention Rams before heading to the playoffs. The Rams had no problem slugging it out against the 49ers this year and beat the Seahawks 19-13 in St. Louis in Week 4. Moreover, as of this writing, there's a chance star corner Richard Sherman will be suspended for the game (his appeal will be heard Thursday). I still expect the Seahawks to win, but the Rams – who have a chance to finish above .500 – should put up a fight. Back St. Louis.
Prediction: Seahawks 21 – 17
Last week we lost with the Steelers to put us at 6-10 on the season in this forum and 111-124-5 overall. Last year we went 10-7 in this forum and 124-125 overall. Over the last five years we've gone 50-34 in this space. You can read the full Week 17 column here.
Surviving Week 17
Last week, only the Texans and Steelers were upset, and I imagine few people were on either team. The Panthers, Colts, Redskins, Dolphins and Bears – as well as the Pats, Packers and Broncos all prevailed. Let's take a look at this week's slate:
|Team||Opponent||%Taken||Vegas ML**||Vegas Odds|
Home Team in CAPS
* according to OfficeFootballPools.com
** average of the two moneylines
Week 17 is always the most interesting for survivor because a team like the Falcons might announce on Friday that Matt Ryan is only playing a quarter, and suddenly the Bucs become viable. (As of Tuesday, Falcons coach Mike Smith says the Falcons will treat this like any other game, however). So you have to wait until the last possible second to make your call.
It also looks like there's no especially popular choice this week, so "pot odds" considerations should depend solely on what teams people in your league have available. And given the unpredictable nature of the week, you might be better off ignoring pot odds altogether.
Assuming you've used the Niners, Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks and Texans, I'd go with the Giants first, then the Chargers. If I'd used all of those, then I'd probably wait for more news about who's starting and sitting to pick from the rest and could see myself elevating a team like the Bucs or Steelers above the Giants, depending on what we hear later in the week. The full article comes out on Thursday.
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chris_Liss.