A few days ago, to demonstrate the silliness of pre-season projections, I took a look at Peter King's Sports Illustrated article from the September 6 (2010) issue in which he predicted the records of all the teams, and predicted every playoff game. He didn't do great in that regard, but was very helpful in my thesis that bullshit predictions are well and good and fun, but maybe 80 pages based on conjecture in August isn't really all that worthwhile.
As I said before:
That's the thesis here, and our lab rat, fat on Owner Box freebies, is SI's Peter King. It would be fun, wouldn't it, if SI and Peter King reviewed his predictions from the September 6th issue, and talked about what he got right, and where he went incredibly wrong? But they won't do that. But I will! Yay, accountability!
But let's be fair--even in a season that has only 16 games, it is ridiculous to predict an exact record. On the other hand, that's my point--it is ridiculous to predict an exact record. And if a guy who has Hall of Fame votes can't do better than predicting a 3-13 season for the Rams, for example, what the hell is the point? Or that the Chiefs would win six games, and finish at the bottom of the AFC West? We pay money for this expert analysis? (and to fair, in on online column, King seems to suggest that all of this is foolishness)
Let's score 2 points for a getting the team in the right spot in the standings, and 1 point bonus for each record that's correct. So that's 16*2+16, or 48 points total per conference.
After I finished reviewing King's 25% success rate (12 out of 48 points) I said that eyeballing the NFC, it appeared he had done much worse. Which I guess is understandable, as everyone thought the NFC was a bit more wide-open. But let's see if King's predictions suffered for it.
NFC East: Eyeballing done right on this one. King had this division all sorts of funked up--Giants at the top, Cowboys right below them (with a Wild Card!) and the Eagles just missing out. And, hey, let's be fair--lots of people got this division all sorts of wrong. But on the other hand--let's be unfair, and talk about how many points in my slapped-together, arbitrary system King got. He nailed the Drunken Savages, last place, 6-10 record. 3 points. He got the Eagles record right, he just thought that the Giants and Cowboys would be ahead of them. 1 point. 4 out of 12 points.
NFC North: The Eyeball test is again proven right on in the North. Poor Pete bought into, even a little bit, the legend of Brett Favre (shocking, consider how Peter King has not once dreamt of gently tickling Favre's balls. Really!) Yes, King anointed the Packers the best team, but had the Vikings right behind them (which I could have told you was trouble in August). King saw the Bears as a sub-.500 team, which might be his biggest miss in the whole Conference, until the next division (foreshadowing!), and didn't like the Lions to get much better at all. Let's be clear, before we get this total--it is hard to get a 4 team race so wrong that you don't get one team in the right place. Surely first place or last place is locked up. Even if you were picking, blindfolded, from a bag of tennis balls that had each team written on them, you'd have a 25% chance to get the first team right. King goes 0-4. He doesn't get a record right, either. 0 out of 12 points.
NFC South: No one can blame King for picking the Saints to finish first, though a cursory look at how they dominated last year might lead one to wonder whether their defense could rack up the turnovers and short fields that made victories for the Saints so damn easy in 2009, and from there, wonder if 12-4 might be a little high for a team that won the Super Bowl the year before. But King's most hilarious miss (and the reason I held onto this magazine from the day it came out) was his contention that Matt Moore and the running attack of Carolina, despite looking like shit all pre-season would somehow be a 10-6 team. I have read King's reasons for why he thought that a couple of times, and they still don't make any damn sense. The Falcons finishing behind Carolina? That was hilarious in August. To be clear--King had the best team in the NFC (record-wise) missing the playoffs, and had the 2-14 Panthers in the playoffs. an emphatic 0 out of 12 points.
NFC West: King correctly labeled this as a garbage dump, with the best record at 8-8. I'm sure he looked at all of these teams, and said to himself, "No way can I predict that the best team in the conference will finish below .500." And so, he didn't. Can't fault him. Except that I can. Zero records correct (biggest miss, not shockingly, was putting the Rams at 3-13. Who knew Sam Bradford could grow up that fast? Second biggest miss was that San Fran could weather Singletary's Head Coaching incompetence and lack of a real QB, and count on Frank Gore being healthy all season to get to 8-8 and win the division). Zero records correct. 0 out of 12 points.
Grand Total: 4 out of 48 points, or 8.3% success. And let's keep in mind, 3 out of those 4 points came from predicting that the garbage dump that is Maryland's Drunken Savages would in fact ingest too much firewater and go wandering off their reservation. Nice job, Peter King, paid writer on the NFL! Sports Illustrated wanted you to predict the season, and I know you weren't too sure of yourself, and sure enough--I'm pretty sure SI could have had one of those painting cats, or dancing elephants or a woman do better than you did.