Even with championship games that pitted the best teams in their respective sports, this football season has had its fair share of intrigue and unpredictability. While all of the new developments have been exciting in the NFL and NCAA, they’ve also torn apart many of my predictions. These are the best and worst of my predictions from last fall.
Best: Clemson Tigers over Alabama Crimson Tide in CFP Championship
Most football fans predicted that the sport’s two powerhouse teams, Clemson and Alabama, would meet in the championship yet again. I picked underdog Clemson entering the season based off their stellar defensive line, but the emergence of quarterback Trevor Lawrence and their demolition of Alabama in the title game were big surprises.
Worst: Notre Dame as 17th best team in the country, while Miami ranks eighth
Two teams on the opposite sides of the Catholics vs. Convicts rivalry tripped me up in my college football predictions. Notre Dame’s difficult schedule made me see them as far from a playoff contender, but their wins in those games catapulted them to third place in the College Football Playoff standings and the program’s first CFP bid. On the other hand, the Miami Hurricanes, who I thought would challenge for the ACC crown, finished 7-6, lost 35-3 in the Pinstripe Bowl, and moved on from Head Coach Mark Richt. Ouch.
Best: Correctly picked four of five Power Five conference winners
Alabama and Clemson were favorites to win their respective conferences, while Oklahoma and Washington also made me look good by taking their conference titles. Ohio State’s Big Ten championship was the only surprise, as Penn State had an off year.
Worst: Kirk Cousins wins NFL MVP
The former Redskins quarterback didn’t justify his fully guaranteed, $84 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings and the team I thought would be a Super Bowl contender was left on the outside of the playoffs looking in during January. Cousins’ performance was so lackluster that the team fired their offensive coordinator midseason and lost to the Bears in Week 17, even though the playoff-bound Bears had nothing to play for.
Best: Saquon Barkley as Rookie of the Year
My awards picks were not all off, as no. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley took home Rookie of the Year in a tightly contested race. Barkley wowed even his biggest supporters with over 2,000 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns, though the Giants missed out on the postseason.
Worst: Steelers win Super Bowl LIII
I feel like I should deserve credit for jinxing the Steelers, who had the most tumultuous season in recent memory and collapsed in the season’s final weeks, ceding the division crown to the Ravens. The road ahead doesn’t look promising either, with the likely departures of running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown.
Best: Cowboys upset Eagles to win NFC East, but both teams make playoffs
The NFC East rarely has a repeat winner, and the trend of turnover continued this year. My Cowboys rode an excellent win streak to take their division, while the reigning Super Bowl champs snuck into the playoffs as a wild card in Week 17. I also predicted the Cowboys to win their first playoff game, though my prediction of a Super Bowl appearance was a bit off.
Worst: Packers reach NFC Championship
The NFC North wasn’t a great division for me, as I picked the Packers and Vikings to make the playoffs and the Bears to miss out. Aaron Rodgers, my Comeback Player of the Year pick, didn’t look like himself for the majority of the season and the Packers missed out on the postseason for the second consecutive year.
Best: Correctly picked 8 of 12 playoff teams
Though I didn’t foresee the rise of teams like Kansas City and Chicago, I predicted most of the NFL playoff teams correctly, including bounce-back campaigns from the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens.
Worst: Falcons take NFC South, Saints miss out on playoffs
I was going back-and-forth on the NFC South division pick before the season kicked off and ultimately chose the Falcons based off the Saints’ tendencies to finish 7-9 in previous seasons. Not the case in 2018. Atlanta looked horrendous at times and were never a serious playoff contender, while the Saints rode an MVP-caliber campaign from Drew Brees to the doorstep of the Super Bowl.