Winners and losers: A look back at predictions for 2006
A deal's a deal. Here's what I wrote in early September. Here's how it turned out by the end of January.
100. Vince Young will be the Tennessee Titans starting quarterback by the time they play Houston at home Oct. 29. With the bye date on Oct. 22, that gives Titans coaches two weeks to get VY ready for the home game against the Texans.
Correct, though it's kind of a cheapie. With Kerry Collins playing worse than humanly possible, the winless Titans stuck Young into the starting lineup for the Oct. 1 game against Dallas. Tennessee lost, 45-14, and lost the next week at Indy, 14-13. Then they won eight of their next 11 games.
Correct. Johnson finished with 1,789, thanks to five sub-100-yard games (68, 36, 26, 75 and 84)
98. The 1972 Miami Dolphins can put another bottle of champagne on ice. No team will go undefeated.
Correct. The Colts made it to 9-0 before Don Shula & Associates were able to pop the cork.
Wrong. The Colts couldn't get past their Nov. 19 game against the Cowboys.
96. Steelers coach Bill Cowher will resign at season's end.
Correct. But to be fair, former Steeler Jerome Bettis called this one before anybody else.
Wrong. But Wayne was only nine catches short of tying Marvelous Marvin (95-86). And Marvin only had 56 more receiving yards and three more touchdowns than Wayne.
94. Tony Kornheiser will become the Jon Stewart of NFL announcers, which is a very good thing.
Correct. By season's end, Kornheiser was crackling. He found the storylines, asked good questions, kept his mouth shut when he was out of his depth, and cracked wise at the appropriate times. A keeper.
Correct. (Sort of.) Bush finished with 565 yards, but it wasn't because of a mediocre offensive line. The line did well. The difference was Deuce McAllister's bounce back season from knee surgery (1,057 yards) and Sean Payton's use of Bush as a receiver (88 receptions, 742 yards).
92. But he'll still remind you of Barry Sanders.
Correct. He led the league in Defenders Ankles Snapped.
Wrong. And yet, I'm strangely happy. T.O. still finished with a very respectable 85 catches for 1,180 yards and 13 TDs.
Wrong. Green had 1,059 yards and five rushing touchdowns, which doesn't even get him Wisconsin Comeback Player of the Year.
Wrong. But, c'mon, 89 catches on that team should get you something.
88. Runner-up: Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
Wrong. This should count for, like, 10 wrongs. The immobile Culpepper and his bad knee were good for three TDs and 21 sacks before being benched. Good thing Nick ("I guess I have to say it. I'm not going to be the Alabama coach.") Saban chose Culpepper over Drew Brees.
Correct. Palmer was one of the few Bengals who didn't miss a game because of injury or arrest. He finished with 4,035 yards, 28 TDs and a 62.3 completion percentage.
Correct. Walker lapped Lelie, and then some (1,084/8 TDs vs. 430/1 TD). And he did it despite the Broncos switching to rookie quarterback Jay Cutler during the season.
Half correct. The Chargers were 6-2 and wouldn't lose another regular season game. The Eagles were 4-4 at the halfway point, but finished 10-6 and won the NFC East. But at the time, most people had a football jones for the New York Giants, the Colts, and maybe the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears.
84. If someone is canned -- and there's hardly any pink slip candidates left after 10 coaching changes during the offseason -- the first to go will be Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick.
Wrong. Actually, it was Billick's offensive coordinator and former friend, Jim Fassel, who got the hook. Billick, who led the Ravens to a team-record 13 wins, got a contract extension.
83. No way does Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre finish with his 2005 numbers (nine more interceptions than touchdowns).
Correct. Favre's final season (see, a free prediction) ended with him throwing 18 TDs and 18 interceptions.
82. No. 1 pick Mario Williams will help improve the Houston Texans' dreadful defense (31st overall in 2005), but not nearly as much as Bush would have (and I'd say that even if Domanick Davis wasn't out for the season).
Correct. And I'll just leave it that. The Texans don't need any more reminders.
Correct. Let's put it this way: Benson is going to have offseason surgery for injuries suffered while biting his tongue this year. But you know what? The tag team worked.
80. All those fantasy-league owners who stole Carolina Panthers rookie running back DeAngelo Williams as low as the seventh round of their drafts will cash winners' shares this year.
Wrong. I had him, traded him, and cashed a check (Dear Mr. IRS Person: I would have cashed a check had we actually been playing for real money. But we weren't. I swear.). Williams got hurt, but still finished with 501 yards on 121 carries.
79. All those fantasy-league owners who took Cleveland Browns running back Reuben Droughns as high as the fourth round will cash bupkus.
Correct. That is, unless your league awarded points for sub-100-yard games and no touchdowns. Droughns has 12 sub-100s, and only four TDs.
78. No sixth-seeded playoff team will win two, much less four, postseason games in a row (a la the 2005 Steelers) on the road.
Correct. The sixth-seeded Chiefs and Giants both lost their opening round playoff games on the road. So if you're wondering about one of the great playoff runs of all time, think Steelers/2006.
77. The Minnesota Vikings will win every meaningful award for Ugliest Uniforms by an NFL Franchise.
Correct. The only way the Vikings lose this distinction is if the University of Oregon becomes an expansion franchise.
76. Peyton "Cut That Meat" Manning will lead the NFL in Most Touchdown Passes and Best Acting in Commercials.
Correct. Manning finished with a league-leading 31 TDs. That guy's pretty good, if you like 6-5, 230-pound quarterbacks [with a] laser rocket arm.
75. The Colts will miss Edgerrin James more than anybody, including team president Bill Polian, realizes.
Wrong. Actually, it was the other way around. Rookie Joseph Addai only gained 78 fewer yards (1,159-1,081), but but scored eight total touchdowns to Edge's six. And Addai did just fine on pass protection.
74. The New England Patriots will win the AFC East.
73. The Steelers will win the AFC North.
Wrong. The Steelers struggled to finish 8-8.
72. The Colts will win the AFC South.
Correct. In Peyton we trust.
71. The Denver Broncos will win the AFC West.
Wrong. Somehow the Broncos became the landfill of the AFC West. Baffling that they didn't at least make the playoffs.
70. The AFC wild-card teams will be the Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Wrong. This is what happens when you drink too much single malt Scotch.
69. The Cowboys will win the NFC East.
Wrong. What I meant to say is that T.O. will create his usual drama club, Drew Bledsoe will get benched, and Bill Parcells will retire at season's end.
68. The Bears will win the NFC North.
Correct. Bears hater, huh?
67. The Panthers will win the NFC South.
Wrong. That's OK--the Saints won.
66. The Seattle Seahawks will win the NFC West.
Correct. Not that they had much choice in that division.
65. The NFC wild-card teams will be the Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Half correct. The Giants made it, the Bucs won four games. I'm so stupid. I should have known quarterback Chris Simms was going to get his spleen removed.
64. Knucklehead critics will continue to question the toughness of Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander. He'll answer them with something in the 1,650-yard/22-TD range.
Wrong. Is it my fault he missed six games because of injury? He finished with 896 yards.
63. That said, Seahawks management will be haunted by its decision not to re-sign free agent guard Steve Hutchinson.
Correct. Hutchinson is going to another Pro Bowl, this time for the Vikings.
62. According to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, Deuce McAllister spoke to former Steelers great Jerome Bettis about dealing with a reduced role in the Saints' offense. If McAllister really listened to the wise Bettis, then the Deuce/Reggie tag team will work fine.
Correct. Good guy McAllister didn't pout, and the Saints reached the NFC Championship.
Wrong. Grossman stayed healthy, but his Bad Rex performances against Arizona (10.2 QB rating), Miami (36.8), Minnesota (1.3) and Green Bay (an Animal House-like 0.0) tested the loyalty of Bears head coach Lovie Smith.
60. New Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave, one of the best in the business, will finally solve the mystery that is Michael Vick.
Half correct. Vick's completion percentage was actually lower than in 2005 and 2004, but he had career highs in touchdown passes (20) and rushing (1,039 yards). But no playoffs and his head coach got fired.
59. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Randy Moss will do better than the 60-catch, 1,005-yard, 8-touchdown season of a year ago. If he doesn't -- and a lot also depends on erratic quarterback Aaron Brooks -- then the Raiders will be lucky to win three games.
Correct. Yes, Moss phoned it in (42 catches, 553 yards, three TDs). No star player has become more insignificant than Moss. But... the Raiders were so inconceivably horrible, it's hard to blame Moss for the mess. The offensive line gave up 72 sacks. Raider quarterbacks threw seven -- SEVEN! -- touchdown passes in 483 attempts. Art Shell got canned. And just as I said, they'd be lucky to win three games. They weren't lucky. They won two.
58. Peyton's Colts will beat Eli's Giants in the Manning Bowl.
Correct. Colts 26, Giants 21.
57. Thanks to another dismal season, this is what San Francisco 49ers fans will hear in April from new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell: "With the first selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, the 49ers choose..."
Wrong. The Niners actually played OK, finishing 7-9. So the Raiders will get the first pick and choose between quarterback JaMarcus Russell of LSU or Brady Quinn of Notre Dame.
56. Tennessee Titans rookie running back LenDale White will finish with more touchdowns than former USC teammate Bush.
Wrong. Did I say LenDale White? That was a typo. Bush had nine TDs, White took the O-fer.
55. Detroit Lions wide receiver Roy Williams will go from 45 catches, 687 yards, 8 touchdowns, to 85 catches, 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns -- he's that good. Plus, he finally has a veteran quarterback (Jon Kitna) and an offensive coordinator (Mike Martz) committed to getting him the ball.
Correct. OK, I missed by three catches, but Williams had 1,310 yards and seven TDs on the win-impaired Lions.
54. The Patriots will beat the Jaguars, and the Broncos will beat the Dolphins in the AFC wild-card games.
Wrong. The Patriots beat the New York Jets, and I don't even want to talk about that other prediction.
53. The Giants will beat the Bears, and the Cowboys will beat the Buccaneers in the NFC wild-card games.
Wrong. Sure, rip away. I deserve it.
52. Once again, the Giants will wear the best-looking road jerseys in the NFL.
Correct. Classics. The Steelers' road unis are a close second.
51. The Steelers will struggle to find a true team leader.
Correct. Guys tried, but it was a funky season with a lame-duck coach.
50. The Martz/Rod Marinelli coaching marriage will work better than you think.
Wrong. Even though the offense had its moments, the Lions still finished 3-13. No problem. I'm sure team president Matt Millen will turn it around in what will be the seventh year of his five-year rebuilding plan. Under Millen, the Lions have an NFL-worst 24-72 record during the last six seasons.
Correct. I stand by that statement.
48. San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman will be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Wrong. If he hadn't been suspended four games because he violated the NFL's steroid policy, he might have won the thing over Miami's Jason Taylor.
47. Colts management will make sure Nick Harper's wife has no access to sharp objects once the playoffs begin.
Correct. But poor Harper suffered an ankle injury in the AFC Championship, didn't practice this past week, and probably won't test the ankle until this Wednesday.
46. If Deion Branch doesn't re-sign with New England, then disregard everything I said about the Patriots and the postseason.
Wrong. Branch ended up with the Seahawks, and the Patriots still reached the AFC Championship.
45. A family of four will easily be able to afford an NFL regular-season game -- if that family of four's last name is, say, Buffett or Gates. The average cost of an NFL ticket is $62.38, which means $249.22 just to get through the turnstile. So when the Jets push their slogan, "Show Your Green," they mean it.
Correct. You have to take out a home-equity loan to buy season tickets these days.
44. The AFC team with the toughest September schedule is the Steelers (Miami, at Jacksonville, Cincinnati). The NFC: Giants (Indianapolis, at Philadelphia, at Seattle).
Correct. The Steelers and Giants both went 1-2.
43. The toughest October AFC schedule: Cincy (New England, at Tampa Bay, Carolina, Atlanta). The NFC: Seattle (at Chicago, at St. Louis, Minnesota, at Kansas City).
Correct. Cincy and Seattle both went 1-3.
42. The toughest November AFC schedule: Oakland (at Seattle, Denver, at Kansas City, at San Diego). The NFC: Washington (Dallas, at Philly, at Tampa Bay, Carolina).
Half correct. Oakland went 0-4, Washington 2-2.
41. The toughest December AFC schedule: Cincy (Oakland, at Petyon-apolis, at Denver, Pittsburgh). The NFC: Tampa Bay (at Pittsburgh, Atlanta, at Chicago, at Cleveland, Seattle).
Correct. The Bengals went 1-3, the Bucs 1-4.
40. Dolphins coach Nick Saban will unseat Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden for Best Sideline Meltdown.
Correct. He also wins for Only Lies When He Moves His Lips Award.
39. The Chargers will have two of the best players in the game -- Merriman and LaDainian Tomlinson -- and still not make the playoffs.
Wrong. Of course, winning a playoff game is a whole other story.
38. Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow will age like he's on dog years.
Wrong. Chow, as always, was smart enough to understand what his quarterback (Vince Young) does best, and then adjust the offense accordingly.
37. Ricky Williams will do something ridiculous, but this time no one will care.
Correct. Does playing in Canada count?
36. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, not knowing it was just a movie, will try to sign Mark Wahlberg to play on Washington's special teams.
Correct. It might have helped this year.
35. Nobody will know what XLI means.
Correct. Unless you're a Roman centurion.
34. The NFL Network will keep new announcer Bryant Gumbel on a short leash.
Wrong. Gumbel was positively ordinary on his own. Meanwhile, partner Cris Collinsworth deserves a raise for, A) Having to make sense of Gumbel, and, B) Never being afraid to offer an informed opinion.
33. None of the four wide receivers who caught 100 passes last season -- Arizona's Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, Carolina's Steve Smith and St. Louis' Torry Holt-- will reach triple digits in 2006. And that's a good thing.
Half correct. None of them reached the 100-catch mark, but it wasn't necessarily a good thing. Arizona, Carolina and St. Louis all failed to reach the playoffs.
32. Your NFL rushing leader will be Larry Johnson.
Wrong. Damn. Tomlinson beat him by 26 yards.
31. Stung by the criticism from last season's scandal involving two Panthers cheerleaders, the team will unveil its new "family values" cheerleading outfits designed by Mennonite's Secret.
Correct. No Carolina cheerleader scandals this year.
30. The Patriots will beat the Steelers, and the Colts will beat the Broncos in the AFC Divisional playoffs.
Half correct. I had the Patriots and Colts advancing, didn't I?
29. The Panthers will beat the Giants, and the Cowboys will beat the Seahawks in the NFC Divisional playoffs.
Wrong. No reason to linger on this one.
28. Saban will politely decline to have lunch with President Bush at his Dolphins office. Saban will cite a pressing need to work on his A-Gap schemes.
Correct. Luckily, Saban won't have to worry about any more presidential invites.
27. Broncos rookie quarterback Jay Cutler will not challenge Jake Plummer for playing time. Cutler and Plummer will become fast friends after Plummer shows him how to hide a cellphone in his beard.
Wrong. Cutler replaced Plummer in the starting lineup after the Broncos' 11th game.
26. Players and media types will express outrage over a handful of Pro Bowl selections and snubs. Then nobody will want to play in the game, cover it, or watch it.
25. Few people will be able to name the only quarterback who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in each of the last three seasons. (Yeah, I had to look it up too: the Chiefs' Trent Green).
Correct. Injuries cost Green eight games and his 4,000-yard streak. He finished with 1,342 yards.
24. Forget about T.O.; the best wide receiver in the league will be Miami's Chris Chambers.
Wrong. Spectacularly wrong.
23. My John "The Million-Dollar Man" Anthony week-one upset special is...Green Bay over Chicago.
Wrong. The Bears won, 26-0.
Wrong. McGahee nearly nudged past the 1,000-yard mark (990), but it wasn't a memorable season for him or the Bills.
21. If the Falcons' Musgrave can't figure out the mystery that is Michael Vick, remember this: Musgrave coached Falcons backup Matt Schaub at Virginia. I'm just saying.
Wrong. Schaub only got 27 passing attempts.
20. Arizona's Neil Rackers will not make 40 field goals this season. Not even close.
Correct. He had 28.
19. If 49ers second-year quarterback Alex Smith doesn't throw 20 times as many touchdown passes as he did last season (1), then SF is doomed.
Correct. Smith threw 16 TD passes.
Wrong. Thanks, Kev: 40 receptions, 479 yards, four TDs.
17. Chester Taylor will struggle to make the transition from Baltimore Ravens backup to featured back for the Vikings.
Wrong. Some struggle: 304 carries, 1,214 yards.
16. Jaguars running back Fred Taylor will stay healthy for exactly 11 minutes.
Wrong. I'll give the lug credit. He only missed one game and rushed for 1,146 yards. I'll draft him next year and he'll pull a hammy getting off the bus.
15. If I'm wrong about Bush not gaining 1,000 yards, it's going to be a very, very long season for the Texans.
Correct. Try 6-10 long.
Correct. Brunell played well enough during the first nine games of the season, but Joe Gibbs benched him before the Nov. 19 game against Tampa Bay.
13. I don't know if Smith can get him the ball, but there are worse ways to spend part of your Sunday watching linebackers and safeties try to cover 49ers rookie tight end Vernon Davis (4.38 40).
Correct. Too bad a broken leg cost Davis so many games.
12. The NFL Rookie of the Year will be Arizona quarterback Matt Leinart.
Wrong. OK, it was a flyer pick. But I don't apologize for it.
11. The Eagles will miss the playoffs by thismuch, but it won't be because of quarterback Donovan McNabb, who will flourish in the post-T.O. era.
Wrong. They made the playoffs, despite losing McNabb to a knee injury.
10. Of the 10 new coaches, St. Louis' Scott Linehan will finish with the best first-year record.
Wrong. New Orleans' Sean Payton and the Jets' Eric Mangini led their teams to identical 10-6 regular season records.
9. Goodell will finally figure out a way to put an expansion team in Los Angeles.
Correct. I didn't say when he'd do it.
8. Keeping with his same-name policy, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan will order his scouts to evaluate Colorado State running back Kyle Bell. Just in case the Bells fall out of favor, Shanahan also has instructed his scouts to look at running backs Aaron Brown of TCU, Andre Brown of North Carolina State, Curtis Brown of BYU, and Thomas Brown of Georgia.
Correct. (Not really, but I need some right answers.)
7. Nothing will come of it, but at least one NFL team will make a discreet, back-channel inquiry about Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis' availability.
Correct. And that team was probably the Giants.
6. Katie Couric will not also anchor CBS' NFL Today show.
Correct. Though I wish she could replace Gumbel on the NFL Network.
5. Peyton Manning will be the league MVP.
Wrong. All hail L.T.
4. The Colts will beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship.
Correct. Take that.
3. The Panthers will beat the Cowboys in the NFC Championship.
Wrong. Ignore that.
2. The Colts will beat the Panthers in Super Bowl XLI (41, for the Roman numeral impaired).
Wrong. I'll explain in a later column.
1. I know, I better start getting ready for my Joey Porter speech and sprint.
Correct. I only got 53 right. Anybody have Joey's cell number?
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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