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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 10 August, 2020

Everything we got right - and what we got terribly wrong - about the 2018 NFL season

Few could have predicted the 12 teams that make up the playoffs, writes Steve O’Rourke.

Tom Brady: Patriots ready for another playoff push.
Tom Brady: Patriots ready for another playoff push.
Image: Charles Krupa


In the blink of an eye, another NFL regular season is over.

This year was, at times, utterly unpredictable; the Bills beating the Vikings by 21 points despite being 17-point underdogs in week three springs immediately to mind.

Of course, with the Patriots clinching their ninth straight first round bye — no other team in NFL history has more than four in a row — there were also times it went exactly as expected.

But how do the 2018 NFL playoffs compare to our preseason predictions? Well, let’s just say some were more accurate than others.


Predicted AFC Super Bowl Team: LA Chargers

What we got right
The Chargers and Chiefs looked the two best teams in the conference going into the season and, we’d argue, are the two most complete sides coming out of it too.

What we got wrong
Not only did they fool themselves, but the Jags tricked me into thinking that they could play competitive football with little to no quarterback production.

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2018 prediction: Another team with Super Bowl aspirations, the big question mark over the Chiefs is how Patrick Mahomes will react to being named the starting quarterback.

2018 actual: Well, they still have Super Bowl hopes, and Mahomes had an MVP calibre season so this went pretty much as expected for Kansas City.

2. New England Patriots
2018 prediction: It will be interesting to see how they cope with the loss of their defensive coordinator to the Lions but, until Tom Brady retires, they’ll remain the standard bearers in the AFC.

2018 actual: Despite a losing road record and both Brady and Rob Gronkowski showing signs of aging, the Patriots still ended up exactly where we thought they would.

3. Houston Texans
2018 prediction: It’s easy to see why the Texans are the media darlings of the 2018 offseason; Deshaun Watson, if healthy, is billed as the best dual threat QB in the league since Michael Vick.

2018 actual: Watson showed flashes of brilliance this year but the much vaunted defence didn’t live up to its full potential, forcing him to win more games for his team than most would have expected.

4. Baltimore Ravens
2018 prediction: Joe Flacco is still the quarterback and that ends their playoff hopes.

2018 actual: Moving on from Flacco has proved to be an inspired decision — even if Baltimore’s hand was forced somewhat — with few teams relishing the prospect of facing the Ravens in the postseason.

5. LA Chargers
2018 prediction: The Chargers have a good offence, a great defence, and an elite quarterback. They’re the Super Bowl contenders you wouldn’t mind seeing doing well.

2018 actual: All of the above proved to be true and the Chargers were just a late Denver field goal in their first game away from finishing as the number one overall seed.

6. Indianapolis Colts
2018 prediction: The entire Indianapolis Colts season rests on Andrew Luck’s shoulder. It’s been so long since he’s played, it’s easy to forget just how good Luck can be.

2018 actual: After starting 1-5, it didn’t look good for Indy, but once Luck’s shoulder returned to full health, Indy never looked back.


Predicted NFC Super Bowl Team: New Orleans Saints

What we got right
The Rams and Saints both won their division and look the most likely to face off in the NFC championship game.

What we got wrong
The NFC North was a mess this year with the Vikings, Lions, and especially the Packers all seriously underperforming, especially on offence where they were supposed to have a huge advantage over the Bears.

1. New Orleans Saints
2018 prediction: If anything, the Saints should be even better this year and everything points to New Orleans playing meaningful football deep in January.

2018 actual: Despite a shock week one loss, New Orleans were still good enough to secure the one seed and rest all their players in week 17. You can’t ask for much more than that.

2. LA Rams
2018 prediction: Having jumped from last to first in scoring in 2017, expect the Rams to fall back to the pack this year, making the divisional race a little tighter than most expect.

2018 actual: The Rams finished second in scoring so it’s fair to say we badly underestimated Sean McVay’s ability to continue to out-coach most NFL defensive coordinators.

3. Chicago Bears
2018 prediction: After four consecutive losing seasons, Bears fans will be looking for anything close to .500 or above in 2018.

2018 actual: Hands up, with all the offensive weapons in the NFC North, we overlooked the Bears. That said, the season predictions were made before the season-altering addition of Khalil Mack.

4. Dallas Cowboys
2018 prediction: Despite being in charge since 2011, Jason Garrett has only managed to guide ‘America’s Team’ to the playoffs twice, so this is a career-defining season.

2018 actual: Make that three times now. But you’d have to suspect their divisional title was more to do with injuries on other NFC East teams than Garrett out-coaching anyone.

5. Seattle Seahawks
2018 prediction: While I’m not as low on the Seahawks’ prospects for 2018 as some, they’re still likely playing for a wild card spot this season.

2018 actual: And Pete Carroll’s side, by allowing Russell Wilson to flourish behind much better offensive line play, delivered on that promise and made wild card weekend.

6. Philadelphia Eagles
2018 prediction: The Eagles get to welcome back Carson Wentz — a player legitimately in the MVP conversation before his injury — at quarterback. The reality is, Philly may be even better in 2018 than they were last season.

2018 actual: This prediction aged about as well as a bottle of your dad’s homemade wine and it is only thanks to another Wentz injury that the Eagles are once again in the playoffs.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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