Before a ball could be kicked or tackle could be made in anger, our NFL experts gazed into their crystal ball to see which franchises would be making a splash in the 2016 season. That preview back on September 7 featured a lot of bold calls, with some falling far short of the mark.
Now in January and on the cusp of the Wild Card weekend to make for a bumper 2017 playoffs, much can be made of the campaign that was. From the most to gain to the most to lose, first sacking, retirement, MVP and Super Bowl Champion, three of our guest pundits faced the music and assessed what has taken place.
Jarrod McGrouther @J_McGrouther
Most to gain – Oakland Raiders
I’ll stand by this one. They have been outstanding and would be in an ever better position without the injury to Derek Carr. Still have hopes they can make the AFC Championship, but will be hard to beat NE.
Most to lose – New England Patriots
Whoops. Should never have doubted Tom Brady… I’m hoping to see someone other than New England play in February though.
First coach sacked – John Harbaugh
I thought they’d struggle, 8-8 was always enough to keep him safe. I guess when you play the Cleveland Browns twice a year it’s hard not to win.
First to retire – Adam Vinatieri
Went for age, but he just keeps getting better. Totally wrong here!
MVP – Aaron Rodgers
Obviously had a rough patch for a while there mid season, but without a decent RB he’s been great. Think he’ll finish behind Dak and Ryan in the MVP race.
Super Bowl Champion – Green Bay or Carolina Carolina
That was a pick from the heart. Hopeless. Green Bay are still a chance, but I can’t look past the Falcons. I’m after a fairytale. I’ll say Patriots v Falcons
Host of In The Pocket Jay Mueller @bad_producer
Most to gain – Carolina Panthers
Most to lose – Carolina Panthers
First coach sacked – Jim Caldwell
First to retire – Reggie Bush
MVP – Carson Palmer
Super Bowl Champion – Arizona Cardinals
After reviewing my predictions for the 2016 season, I am of the belief that I predicted what is currently happening in an alternate NFL universe. Somewhere Arizona’s number three is enjoying a week’s break before the divisional playoffs.
The only thing I came close to correctly predicting in the pre-season is the Panthers would have the most to lose. They did, and they did.
As for my other predictions? Maybe Jack Del Rio and Jim Caldwell received a copy of the NFL News Australia 2016 preview and it motivated them to greater heights. Yeah right, and maybe Carson Palmer is MVP in that previously mentioned alternate universe.
Sticking to the current 12-team universe that is the NFL playoffs, I predict this: a repeat of the game that kicked it all off, Super Bowl I. The Packers and Chiefs will play in Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas.
This requires two things to happen:
1 The Packers have to remain insanely hot for the next five weeks (it will be tough to do after their current insanely hot, aka ghost chili form.
2 The Chiefs will have to win in Foxborough.
Of course, given the way things have gone in 2016, anything can happen. Except for a Detroit vs. Miami Super Bowl. That will not happen.
Daniel Juchima @juicefizzle
Preseason predictions seem like a lifetime ago, and it is kind of cool to look back and see how accurate or how off the mark I was in all things NFL.
Team with most to gain this season
I tipped the Oakland Raiders, and I must say that I was happy with this prediction. Although I tipped them to finish third in their division, I also said that they will be the most improved team which fortunately was accurate. I think they can continue to build next season and become a Super Bowl threat for years to come.
Team with most to lose this season
My preseason prediction was the Buffalo Bills. I think this was relatively accurate with head coach Rex Ryan getting the sack after another disappointing season.
First Coach to be sacked
My preseason prediction was Mike McCoy. Although the Chargers head coach was not the first coach to be sacked, he did end up losing his job at seasons end.
First player to retire
I predicted Steve Smith Sr. to be the first player to retire. I am not sure if he was the first player to retire this season, however, he did officially hang up the cleats after the 2017 season.
MVP for the season
I tipped Big Ben Roethlisberger. I was off the mark with this tip, with Big Ben finishing 17th for total yards this season amongst all quarterbacks. He is huge part of the Steelers explosive offence and just might find himself hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the third time in his career.
Super Bowl Champion
My original tip for this was the Pittsburgh Steelers to beat the Arizona Cardinals. But after watching the documentary in the preseason called All or Nothing I changed my mind. All or Nothing was a documentary on the Cardinals 2015 season, with full access of how the team prepared for the NFL draft, preparation for games, injury rehabilitation and exclusive footage of board room meetings etc.
If you have not seen this, I highly recommend it. I got swept up in the emotion of this documentary and decided to change my prediction swapping it around and tipping the Arizona Cardinals to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers! I should have gone with my first choice; however I am confident that at least one of the teams that I chose will make and win the Super Bowl (Steelers).
Stuart Prendergast @stuartprend
Most to gain – LA Rams or Denver Broncos
Most to lose – Carolina Panthers
First coach sacked – Jason Garrett
First to retire – Rob Gronkowski
MVP – Cam Newton
Super Bowl Champion – Carolina Panthers
I have to say I didn’t expect the Panthers to be so bad this year. Sure, I know, the whole ‘Super Bowl Losers Curse’ thing. But the Panthers looked so good for the bulk of 2015 and I thought they were on the up; most of my picks revolved this.
Other than that, I don’t think anyone thought the Dallas Cowboys would be as good as they are, especially after Tony Romo’s injury. I suppose you should never underestimate the power of a good o-line.
As for the Super Bowl – I’m going for a sentimental long-shot. 2016 was the year of the underdog: The Cubs, Leicester City, Western Bulldogs and Sharks all went against the odds of history. And if there’s a city that needs a Super Bowl victory it has to be Detroit.
Think about it: after the s*** that Detroit’s gone through in recent years, how good would it be if they won? But their performance in recent weeks have been a little underwhelming.
They’ve lost their last three games against playoff teams and they didn’t come across many strong opponents throughout the season, so they really are a long-shot. But with Matt Stafford at the helm, you never know, just don’t put your last dollars on it happening.