Owning up to preseason predictions

1/21/2009 - NFL

Sometimes you have to man up and admit when you're wrong. After analyzing each of my 43 NFL preseason predictions, I can now tell you I'm qualified to own the Dallas Cowboys or become president of the Detroit Lions.

The ugly truth:

1. The Patriots will make another serious run at perfection

Then: "The Pats won't be as dominating as 2007, but there's a reason why they've won 14, 14, 10, 12 and 16 regular season games during the past five years: They adjust better than any other franchise."

Now: Had this one nailed until someone named Bernard Pollard screwed it up.

The Kansas City Chiefs safety ended Tom Brady's season -- and any thought of another 16-0 regular-season record -- during the second drive of the Patriots' opening game. Brady suffered a torn ACL and MCL. Men and women wept.

In came Matt Cassel, who actually did a decent imitation of Mr. Bundchen (3,693 yards, 23 total touchdowns). The Patriots were barreling toward the postseason (four consecutive wins, five of their final six, including a 40-point victory against Arizona), but got squeezed out by two other teams with identical 11-5 records: the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens. Nothing against the amazing Dolphins, but nobody wanted to play the Patriots by season's end.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

2. NFC Rookie of the Year

Then: "Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina."

Now: Stewart finished with a respectable 836 yards, 4.5 yards-per-carry average and 10 touchdowns. But nobody was going to beat out Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

3. AFC Rookie of the Year

Then: "Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee."

Now: Johnson (1,228 yards, 4.9 average, 10 total TDs) finished second to Ryan in the overall offensive rookie of the year voting. Johnson didn't like it, but life is full of disappointments, right?

Prediction outcome: Correct.

4. And the winner of the "Who's Better: Reggie Bush or Mario Williams?" debate is …

Then: "Year 1 went to the New Orleans running back. Year 2 went to the Houston defensive end. Year 3 becomes sort of the tiebreaker."

Now: Williams had 12 sacks (nearly 50 percent of the team total) and played all 16 games. He's going to the Pro Bowl -- and this won't be his last one, either.

Meanwhile, Bush can't stay healthy. He appeared in 16 games as a rookie, 12 games in 2007 and 10 in 2008. When he plays, he's productive (2 rushing, 4 receiving and 3 punt return TDs this past season; 52 receptions). Bush had surgery on his left knee and has vowed to return stronger than ever. We'll see.

Prediction outcome: No decision. But Williams is clearly the better player at this stage of his career.

(Footnote: I did mention in September that the Texans basically admitted they liked the idea of a Bush-type player. That's why they drafted West Virginia's Steve Slaton in the third round of the 2008 draft. As a rookie this year, Slaton rushed for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns, and caught 50 passes for 377 yards and a TD. The combined 1,659 total is only 183 fewer yards than Bush gained rushing and receiving during the past two seasons.)

5. NFL Most Valuable Player

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego.

Then: "It was between Tomlinson, Philadelphia running back Brian Westbrook and Gisele's boyfriend.

"Tomlinson is 29, so I think he has one final 2006-like freakish season (Remember? 1,815 rushing yards, 31 total TDs, 56 receptions) left in him."

Now: Move along … nothing to see here. LT was hurt the entire season, but did deliver a freakish season: just 1,110 rushing yards, a telling 3.8-yard average and 11 TDs.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

6. Brett Favre will lead the J-E-T-S to the P-L-A-Y-O-F-F-S

Then: "It'll be close, but I think he gets them a wild-card spot. The schedule is mostly kind, the running back situation is solid and the offensive line is improved. I'll take my chances with No. 4. He'll have his clunkers as he learns the playbook and his teammates, but I can see a nine-win season."

Now: I was dead-on with the number of wins. Didn't figure on the Dolphins' winning 11 games, or the entire Jets roster, including Favre, going into the dumper during season-ending crunch time.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

7. NFC East (order of finish)

Then: "Philadelphia Eagles -- Rookie DeSean Jackson gives Philly a much-needed speed weapon in the receivers rotation, as well as a legitimate punt return threat. It might not sound like much, but the Eagles finally have a kickoff return man, too: Quintin Demps. And as long as Westbrook is an Eagles employee, life is usually good. The offensive line has age and depth issues, but I'm still rolling the bones on these guys.

"Dallas Cowboys -- You remember the 12-1 start; I remember the 1-3 finish (6, 6 and 17 points in those three losses). … On paper, the Cowboys are the best team in the division. But I just can't take the full leap of faith yet.

"New York Giants -- Enjoy that NFL Films commemorative Super Bowl DVD, fellas, because there will be no repeat. There might not even be a playoff spot.

"Washington Redskins -- Daniel Snyder is the owner. Jim Zorn is the first-time head coach. The NFC East is merciless. Gee, what could go wrong? Seven wins, tops."

Now: The Eagles didn't win the division, but they did beat the Giants two out of three and advanced to the NFC Championship. The Giants didn't two-peat, but they did surprise me with 12 wins. Dallas was a football mushroom cloud. I had the Redskins winning seven; they won eight and Zorn almost got himself fired.

Prediction outcome: Wrong on Philly's winning the division, correct on Cowboys, wrong on Giants, correct on Redskins.

8. NFC South (order of finish)

Then: "Carolina Panthers -- Maybe they even get to 10 wins.

"Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Truth is, the Bucs are probably a push with Carolina for the division.

"New Orleans Saints -- Anything is possible in this division, including the Saints' marching past Tampa Bay and Carolina.

"Atlanta Falcons -- I'll start with the good news: Bobby Petrino is Arkansas' problem now; the Falcons open at home against the Matt Millens; Jerious Norwood is one of the league's most underrated running backs; and No. 1 pick Matt Ryan doesn't even own a pit bull. The bad news: I'm not sure Atlanta would be a double-digit favorite against the University of Georgia."

Now: Carolina won the division (and 12 games). The Bucs did a Jets down the stretch. New Orleans was undone by injuries and a shaky defense. The Falcons stunned everyone, including the Falcons, by reaching the playoffs.

Prediction outcome: Correct on Panthers, whiffed on everyone else.

9. NFC North (order of finish)

"Green Bay Packers -- Old cornerbacks, new quarterback. Otherwise, Packers are built for a long playoff run.

"Minnesota Vikings -- Tarvaris Jackson needs to do four things: stay healthy, figure out a way to complete more than 58 percent of his passes, throw more than nine touchdowns and quit fumbling so much.

"Chicago Bears -- How's this for an equation: Kyle Orton, inconsistent O-line, forgettable wide receivers, rookie running back, injury prone defense = another 7-9 season.

"Detroit Lions -- Words they'll hear from Roger Goodell next spring: 'With the fourth pick of the 2009 NFL draft … '"

Now: The Vikes won the division and Jackson avoided injury. What he couldn't avoid was getting benched or fumbling so much. He started only five games and his numbers were eerily similar to 2007: 59.1 completion percentage, 9 TDs, 5 fumbles, 3 lost. The Bears went 9-7, but missed the playoffs. The Packers won three less games than the Jets. Their six victories were the second-lowest Packers total since 1991. Afterward, Mike McCarthy fired eight assistant coaches and is switching to a 3-4 defense. Mayoral scandal, auto industry meltdown, Lions go 0-16. Let's just say there have been better years in Michigan. And hello, No. 1 pick in the draft.

Prediction outcome: Wrong on Pack, wrong on Vikings, mostly correct on Bears, correct on Lions.

10. NFC West (order of finish)

Then: "Seattle Seahawks -- The final season of coach Mike Holmgren's Seattle career deserves as much.

"Arizona Cardinals -- If you need a starter for your hot tub beer bong team, then Matt Leinart is your man. But the Cardinals need an actual NFL quarterback, so they're going with Kurt Warner, even though he's 36, had a combined 26 interceptions/fumbles in '07 and is as mobile as the Lombardi Trophy. But you do what you have to do, and right now Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is going old school. It might work. Arizona's defense won't be much fun to face, and nobody is in a hurry to line up across from wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and disgruntled Anquan Boldin. If veteran Warner can reduce the mistakes, the Cardinals could cause the Seahawks to perspire a bit.

"San Francisco 49ers -- Mike Martz will be the sixth 49ers offensive coordinator in as many years. The team could be looking for a seventh guy -- and a new head coach to replace Mike Nolan -- if this latest move doesn't work.

"St. Louis Rams -- They'll score points, give them that much. They'll also give up points. Lots and lots of points."

Now: Died on the Seahawks pick (they went 4-12). Knew the Cardinals would be better. But Super Bowl better? Nuh-uh. Martz and Nolan are both gone, but the Niners appear in good hands with the impassioned Mike Singletary. The Rams gave up the second-most points in the league. The stunner: They tied for the second-fewest points scored.

Prediction outcome: Wrong on Seahawks, sort of correct on Cardinals, correct on Niners, correct on Rams.

11. Shaun Alexander will be on someone's roster before Cedric Benson

Then: "Benson is five years younger and has more tread on his tires than 30-year-old Alexander. But the No. 4 overall pick in the 2005 draft wasn't well-liked within the Bears locker room and is building a portfolio of police mug shots."

Now: Benson was signed long before Alexander and actually played well. He finished with 214 carries and 747 yards (including three 100-yard games) for the Cincinnati Bengals. Alexander, who eventually signed with the Redskins, did zilch (11 carries, 24 yards).

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

12. The most vulnerable coach is …

Then: "Mike Nolan, 49ers. Hanging by a jersey thread.

"Wait, make that Detroit's Rod Marinelli. No, Oakland's Lane Kiffin."

Now: Nolan and Kiffin were both fired during the 2008 season (Nolan after 7 games, Kiffin after 4). Marinelli was canned at season's merciful end. Nolan is now the Denver Broncos' defensive coordinator, Marinelli is the Bears' assistant head coach/defensive line coach and Kiffin is the head coach at the University of Tennessee.

Prediction outcome: Correct on Nolan and Kiffin. Wrong on Marinelli, who lasted the season.

13. Followed by …

Then: "Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals."

Now: The Bengals finished 4-11-1, but Lewis kept his job.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

14. Honorable mention …

Then: "Scott Linehan, St. Louis Rams."

Now: Linehan was fired after a 0-4 start.

Prediction outcome: Correct.

15. The two AFC teams most likely to surprise us

Then: "Denver Broncos -- Jags, Jets or Texans (yes, Texans) falter in wild-card race, allowing Broncos to sneak in.

"Pittsburgh -- In 2005, the Steelers won a Super Bowl. The 2008 Steelers are hoping for a playoff spot."

Now: The Broncos led the division until the final day of the regular season, and then yakked away a playoff spot to the San Diego Chargers. The Steelers are Super Bowl bound.

Prediction outcome: The Dolphins' winning the AFC East is the surprise of the conference. But a Steelers' trip to the Super Bowl makes the short list. So a wrong and a correct.

16. The two NFC teams most likely to surprise us

Then: "Arizona -- The Cardinals are actually trending up. Go figure.

"Atlanta -- Consider the season a huge success if the Falcons win five games and Matt Ryan still has a spleen."

Now: Arizona Cardinals fans have such short memories. They rip me for picking the Eagles over the Cards in the NFC Championship. I prefer to recall the warm feelings I had for Arizona before the season began. Sure, I was wrong on how many games the Falcons would win. But give me props for making them one of the NFC surprises.

Prediction outcome: Correct and correct.

17. The most underpaid person in the NFL is …

Then: "Whoever had to write Millen's bio in the 2008 Lions media guide. Millen probably gave the author a choice: Scrub the Ford Field roof with a toothbrush or write the bio."

Now: Even Millen admitted recently that he should have been fired as Lions president and CEO. His record in seven-plus years: 31-84.

Prediction outcome: Correct.

18. AFC East (order of finish)

Then: "New England Patriots -- All New England-related predictions go down the tube if Brady is hobbled. But if he isn't, the Pats remain the AFC favorites to reach Tampa in February. (Warning: Pay close attention to the development of rookie inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, as well as the cornerback situation.)

"New York Jets -- Still, the Jets will more than double their four-game win total of 2007.

"Buffalo Bills -- This is a nice, young team, poised to cause some unexpected damage.

"Miami Dolphins -- Baby steps, that's what the Fins are taking. But at least the steps are forward, not backward."

Now: The Patriots tied Miami for the division lead, but the Dolphins won based on tiebreakers. Mayo, by the way, was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Jets did indeed more than double their win total from 2007. Mostly the Bills caused damage to themselves, though there's still hope. Some baby steps, eh? The Dolphins won 11 games and made the playoffs. Think the Cowboys miss Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano?

Prediction outcome: Technically speaking, half-correct on Patriots, correct on Jets, wrong on Buffalo, extremely wrong on Dolphins.

19. AFC SOUTH (order of finish)

Then: "Indianapolis Colts -- If healthy, or close to it, Peyton Manning will be Manning (touchdowns in the mid-to-upper 30s), wide receiver Reggie Wayne will be Wayne (awesome) and the Colts will punch their regular playoff ticket. Manning's injury gets the pub, but pay attention to the return of defensive end Dwight Freeney and the weekly health status of strong safety Bob Sanders.

"Jacksonville Jaguars -- I wouldn't want to play these guys.

"Houston Texans -- Two wins in 2005. Six in 2006. Eight in 2007. Notice a trend? The Texans are getting better. Just think if quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson can stay healthy this season.

"Tennessee Titans -- I'm not sure what to make of the Titans. I never bet against coach Jeff Fisher, but Tennessee is doomed if Vince Young finishes with anything close to his 2007 totals (9 TD passes, 17 interceptions)."

Now: Manning's knee came around, but injuries caused problems on the offensive line and the running game was a mess (Joseph Addai: 544 yards). Manning finished with 27 TDs, but 4,002 passing yards. Sanders started just six games. Turns out that, yeah, you did want to play the 5-11 Jaguars. The Texans won eight games again, partly because Schaub got hurt again. So much for the Titans' being doomed. Young was replaced by Kerry Collins, and the Titans finished 13-3. Like I said, never bet against Fisher.

Prediction outcome: Wrong on Tennessee, half-correct on Indy (the Colts didn't win the division, but they reached the playoffs), wrong on Jacksonville, correct on the Texans.

20. AFC North (order of finish)

Then: "Pittsburgh Steelers -- I was going to pick Baltimore, but the Ed Reed shoulder/neck injury and the Ravens' offense (or lack of it) was enough to give me the heebie-jeebies. … Ben Roethlisberger won't throw 32 TDs again, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Who knows what's going to happen with the offensive line, but the defense should be just good enough to help eke out a division title.

"Cleveland Browns -- The schedule isn't going to be much fun (Dallas, Pittsburgh, at Baltimore, at Cincy, New York Giants, at Washington, at Jacksonville, Baltimore, Denver, at Buffalo, Houston, Indianapolis, at Tennessee, at Philly, Cincy, at Pittsburgh), and did anyone notice that Derek Anderson threw 19 interceptions and completed only 56.5 percent of his passes a year ago? The division is weak enough that the Browns could still win the thing, but no way do they repeat their 10-victory performance of 2007.

"Baltimore Ravens -- The Ravens need Reed at safety. His replacement, Jim Leonhard, didn't exactly distinguish himself while with the Bills. The less said about the offense, the better.

"Cincinnati Bengals -- Quarterback Carson Palmer deserves better than this. Too bad he won't get it."

Now: Roethlisberger didn't throw 32 TDs; he threw 17 as the offensive line struggled at times and the Steelers kept losing running backs to injuries. But the defense became the best in the league. Anderson was replaced by Brady Quinn, who was replaced by -- well, does it matter? The Browns won four games. Reed played and was his usual amazing self. And I owe Leonhard an apology. Baltimore's pass offense still has some serious lifting to do. Cincy won four games but didn't finish last in the division, thanks to a tie with Philly.

Prediction outcome: Correct on Pittsburgh and Baltimore. And let's split the difference on Cincy and Cleveland. One wrong, one correct?

21. AFC West (order of finish)

Then: "San Diego Chargers -- It's not as though the Chargers are going to disappear because Shawne Merriman has a bad wheel.

"Denver Broncos -- Still a year from being football relevant.

"Kansas City Chiefs -- If Herm Edwards was alive, this never would have happened. Oh, wait, he is?

"Oakland Raiders -- The Raiders have exactly three playoff appearances in the past 14 seasons. Make it 15."

Now: Honestly, I don't know what to say about the Chargers. They did make the playoffs after a 4-8 start, so that counts for something. I know this: I wouldn't trade LT. It was probably time for Mike Shanahan to rotate out of Denver. I knew KC wouldn't be a playoff contender, but 2-14? I'm shocked the Raiders won even five games this season.

Prediction outcome: Two correct, two wrong.

22. The team with the best chance to go winless

Then: "To be honest, I don't think any team fits the winless profile this season. But if you held a yard marker at my head, I'd say the Raiders have all the ingredients for a meltdown."

Now: Al Davis fired another head coach, but the Raiders won two of their last three games and might have been responsible for the firing of Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden, who angered Davis by ditching the Raiders in 2002.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

23. Player most likely to break the Madden Curse


Now: The Curse lives.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

24. AFC Flop of the Year leading candidate

Then: "The Raiders don't count because nobody expects them to be any good. But the Bengals … now there's a team with some actual talent.

"Chad Johnson officially changed his name to Chad Javon Ocho Cinco. If the Bengals aren't very careful in 2008, their record could end up being seis-diez (6-10)."

Now: They were worse than 6-10.

Prediction outcome: Correct.

25. AFC Flop honorable mention

Then: "The Browns."

Now: Yawn. You could see this one from Lake Erie.

Prediction outcome: Correct.

26. NFC Flop of the Year leading candidate

Then: "The Bears."

Now: The Bears flopped, but they didn't leave the same size crater marks as the Packers, Cowboys, Lions and Seahawks. I know the Lions didn't win a game, but the Cowboys were a human disaster film.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

James Harrison

James Harrison

#92 LB
Pittsburgh Steelers

2008 STATS

  • Tot101
  • Solo67
  • Ast34
  • FF7
  • Sack16
  • Int1

27. NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Then: "He isn't as flashy as Merriman, but I'm going with second-year Niners linebacker Patrick Willis."

Now: Willis was the Niners' leading tackler and earned another Pro Bowl selection, but Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison won the award. And rightly so.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

28. At season's end, your fellow fantasy league owners will marvel at your wisdom if you have these three sleepers (and one star in the making) on your roster

Then: "Robert Meachem, WR, Saints

"Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: Draft him higher than you think you should. Then thank me later.

"Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers: I see lots of goal-line scoring opportunities.

"Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets: Only two TDs last year, but that will change fast with Favre."

Now: An amazing 25 percent of Meachem's receptions went for touchdowns this year! Sadly, he had only 12 receptions. Johnson was a fantasy god. Mendenhall would have seen lots of goal-line scoring chances if Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis hadn't broken Mendenhall's shoulder. Cotchery's TD total rose to five, but his yardage totals actually dropped.

Prediction outcome: Wrong, correct, wrong, wrong.

29. Your Week 1 Upset Specials

Then: "Tampa Bay, a 3½-point 'dog, beats New Orleans on the road. Houston, a 6½-point pooch, beats Pittsburgh at Heinz Field."

Now: Sigh. The Bucs not only didn't win, they lost by four. And the Steelers were up 35-3 in the third quarter before settling for a 38-17 victory.

Prediction outcome: Wrong and wrong.

30. Three quarterbacks who will make biggest improvement from a season ago

Then: "In the not-injured-a-year-ago category, Trent Edwards of the Bills is the choice.

"In the bench-warmer category, the Packers' Aaron Rodgers.

"In the injured-a-year-ago category, the Texans' Matt Schaub."

Now: Sorry, Trent. The Cardinals' Warner is the clear pick here. The Chargers' Philip Rivers and the Saints' Drew Brees tie for second. Rodgers made his share of mistakes, but you can't ignore a 28-touchdown, 4,038-yard season. Still, the winner of this category is the Patriots' Cassel. The Dolphins' Chad Pennington is a close second, and Tennessee's Kerry Collins is in the team photo, too. Carolina's Jake Delhomme edges out Schaub.

Prediction outcome: Wrong, wrong, wrong.

31. Matt Ryan will have a better season than JaMarcus Russell

Then: "Russell has been in the league a year longer, but he's essentially still a rookie. While Russell was inactive for most of the 2007 Raiders season, Ryan was starting all 14 of Boston College's games."

Now: Russell improved, but he still passed for only 2,423 yards with 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions, a poor 53.8 completion percentage and a 77.1 passer rating. Ryan led the Falcons to the playoffs as a rookie and completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 3,440 yards, 16 touchdowns and an 87.7 passer rating.

Prediction outcome: Correct.

32. Surefire bar bet winner

Then: "Again, this comes courtesy of Pro Football Prospectus 2008: Name the quarterback who, if he passes for at least 3,000 yards this season (he threw for more than 4,000 last year) will move ahead of such QBs as Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Terry Bradshaw. And, if he can scrape together another season or two of comparable numbers, likely will end his career as one of the top 20 passers in league history.

"Give up?

"Jon Kitna."

Now: Kitna and your bar bet have to wait. Kitna threw for only 758 yards last season for the Lions.

Prediction outcome: A prediction in progress.

33. AFC playoffs: Last team in

Then: "Jacksonville."

Now: The Chargers were technically the last team to get in (they played Sunday night of the final regular-season week), but of the wild cards, it was the Ravens. The Jags were playoff no-shows.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

34. NFC playoffs: last team in

Then: "Dallas."

Now: The Eagles got in by beating the Cowboys.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

35. AFC playoffs: last team out

Then: "Houston."

Now: Technically, Denver was the last team out. But the Patriots were the last team eliminated in the wild-card chase.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

36. NFC playoffs: last team out

Then: "New Orleans."

Now: The Cowboys controlled their postseason destiny, but suffered one of the great late-season collapses, losing to the Eagles 44-6 in Week 17.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

37. Best Comeback Story -- Preseason Division

Then: "Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins."

Now: Williams put up solid numbers (659 yards, 4.1 average, 4 rushing touchdowns), but his own teammate -- Pennington -- was the league's comeback player of the year.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

38. This year's Wes Welker

Then: "Anthony Gonzalez had 37 catches, 576 yards and three touchdowns during his rookie season for the Colts. Even if Marvin Harrison is close to his usual self, Gonzalez's numbers are going to dramatically improve."

Now: Gonzalez wasn't much of a factor. But Denver's Eddie Royal was (91 catches, 980 yards, 5 TDs).

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

39. Dear Geno, I have the first pick in my draft. Who should I take?

Then: "If you have to ask that question, you don't deserve the first pick. Tomlinson, of course.

"First three running backs: LT, Westbrook, All-Day Peterson. (Marshawn Lynch was a very close fourth.)

"First three quarterbacks: Brady, Manning, Brees.

"First three wide receivers: Moss, Andre Johnson, Terrell Owens.

"First three tight ends: Gates, Jason Witten, Dallas Clark."

Now: Tomlinson, of course -- unless he turns out being hurt. If he's hurt, then you stick your head under a running lawn mower and hum "You Had a Bad Day." Michael Turner was on my radar, but DeAngelo Williams wasn't. Nothing you can do about Brady. And, no, I didn't see Rivers' throwing 34 TDs this season. Did you? I'll never have Owens on a top-three list again. Larry Fitzgerald is a no-brainer, as are the two Johnsons: Andre and Detroit's Calvin. Screwed up by not putting KC's Tony Gonzalez on the tight end list.

Prediction outcome: Wrong, mostly correct (not responsible for Brady's injury), wrong, mostly correct.

40. AFC Championship

Then: "New England vs. Indianapolis."

Now: Not even close.

Prediction outcome: Wrong.

41. NFC Championship

Then: "Philadelphia vs. Green Bay. … And, no, I've got nothing against the Cowboys, but I do think Dallas could struggle more than you -- or Jerry Jones -- expect. I know the chalk says go with Dallas, but I'm taking the educated flier on the Eagles."

Now: Please. Don't even act like you thought the Cardinals were going to reach the NFC Championship.

Prediction outcome: Half-correct.

42. NFC Championship -- Part II

Then: "If the Buccaneers win the NFC -- and it's not out of the question -- they would become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium."

Now: I'll admit it: I was just trying to fill out the predictions column at the time. You try coming up with 43 things to write about.

Prediction outcome: Gruden got fired. That answer your question?

43. Super Bowl XLIII

Then: "Philadelphia vs. New England."

Now: If anyone can tell me who kidnapped the Eagles' defense in the NFC Championship, I'd appreciate it.

Prediction outcome: Wrong and wrong. So sad.


Seventy-four possible definitive answers.

Grading scale: 60-74 (Should move to Vegas and bet what's left of your 401[k]); 50-59 (Break down game film with Ron Jaworski); 40-49 (Bet Jaworski's 401[k]); 30-39 (Turk visits; wants you to bring your playbook); 20-29 (Al Davis calls for advice); 10-19 (You think Wade Phillips will be the 2009 Coach of the Year); 0-9 (People start calling you "Millen").

My score: 28. Hello, Al?

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.