Scott Shapiro reviews his 2021 NFL preseason predictions
After an incredible two-week stretch of playoff football, there is time to breathe a little before the Super Bowl in Los Angeles on February 13. With no games to analyze until then, I thought it was a good time to take a look back at my preview articles from before the season kicked off. Spolier alert: it was not much fun.
Over the last several seasons, I have had solid success with preseason wagers. Most of it has come by successfully attacking Over/Under win totals. However, that was not the case whatsoever in 2021, where it was an overall losing proposition.
Broncos a bust
In the AFC, I correctly forecast a bounce-back season from Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots and was on the right side of the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, I whiffed badly in the AFC West, where I thought Denver was poised for a big season, while I thought the Raiders were looking at a last-place finish.
I also was way off in the AFC South, where I thought Tennessee was overvalued in the market. Not only did the Titans win the division and earn the No. 1 seed in the conference, but they did so while experiencing a number of injuries to key skilled position players.
My biggest whiff came with the Browns. It is easy to point to injuries in Cleveland, but the bottom line is even if the Browns were healthy, leaning on Baker Mayfield in a conference with so many talented quarterbacks was a poor decision. There is a lot to like about the Browns' rebuilding job over the last few seasons, but they are going to struggle to contend for an AFC championship as long as Mayfield is calling signals.
Packers, Rams come through in NFC
The NFC was not much better. Fortunately, I was able to correctly predict the winners in both the North and West. The Packers (-177) was an easy victory, while the Rams (+200) barely beat the Cardinals to the wire in what has proven to be the best division in football.
From there, it was a mess. The Washington Football Team took a major step backward on defense and lost Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1. They were a bad squad.
On the other hand, the Cowboys struggled down the stretch and in the Wild Card Round, but they were by far the best team in the NFC East.
I have had success in the past playing OVER a team or two each year with a low win total. Not in 2021, though, where the Lions lost a couple of tight ones early and never recovered. The Panthers got off to a great start and looked poised to at least get to eight wins, but reality kicked in when they encountered quality competition.
Kupp, Chase turn in record performances
I am a little more forgiving of my losing wagers in the individual futures markets. But not much. Calvin Ridley was never going to outproduce Cooper Kupp during Kupp's historic campaign, but obviously his off-the-field issues kept him from having a chance.
I will take the “L” there, as well as with predicting Kevin Stefanski to win Coach of the Year. Not only was the Browns’ head coach underwhelming in 2021, but it was really poor analysis to expect him to win the award in back-to-back seasons. It simply does not happen.
In terms of the Rookie of the Year, I can live with my wager because the thought process was solid. I was not sold on any of the first-year signal callers, so I opted to take a chance with a non-QB. Unfortunately, I landed on Najee Harris, not Ja’Marr Chase. What can you do?
My apologies for those that followed me to the windows back in late August/early September. Hopefully, those that did were able to get some of their money back during a profitable NFL Playoff run.
I will be back with one last NFL article next week. Let’s close things out strong.