Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Way Too Early 2014 Fantasy Football Rankings

I realize it's January and we haven't even officially completed the 2013 NFL season, but I don't care.  The fantasy season has long been over, and I want to get an early jump on next season.  I could have called this the "Never Too Early Rankings", but let's be real.  This list is going to look very different in the months to come, and it's way too early to be anything close to accurate.  But let's get the discussion going, shall we?  For your reference, here are some key dates to keep an eye on once the NFL season is officially over this Sunday:

I won't rank Sammy yet, but he'll make the list in the summer.
February 18th: Draft Combine starts.  I might do an article at this time on guys to watch when the draft comes around, but probably not.  With fantasy, a lot depends on which teams draft which players.  If Sammy Watkins goes to Oakland, he might not be on my radar as much as he would if he goes somewhere like Detroit.  Will Houston take a QB with the #1 pick?  Most likely.  Will it be Teddy Bridgewater?  Maybe not.  February is too early to speculate on these things, at least for me.  I'll leave that to the 4-letter guys.

March 11: Free agency begins.  Here is a good article from Michael Fabiano over at NFL.com discussing 2014 free agents-to-be.  And while I agree with him that Jimmy Graham will most likely be a Saint for life, there will surely be some shuffling around with other players.  I'd especially keep an eye on running backs, and I might be updating my rankings in the spring if there are any big signings.  Look out for guys like Ben Tate and Rashad Jennings to potentially find themselves in position for feature roles in 2014.

May 8: NFL Draft starts in NYC.  You might not hear anything else from me until May, but I promise I'll at least do a post-draft article once we see where all of the collegiate position players land.  Looking at the 2013 rookie class, there were several big impact players.  Some of these guys were top picks in fantasy drafts, and some were mid-season waiver wire gems.  Either way, it's especially important to look at RBs and WRs in each draft...and to a lesser extent, QBs and TEs.  I don't want to discount rookie QBs.  It's just not every year you have a class with Luck, Wilson, and RGIII.  Anyway, here are some of the top fantasy rookies this past season: Eddie Lacy, Gio Bernard, Le'Veon Bell, Keenan Allen, Zac Stacy, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jordan Reed, and DeAndre Hopkins.  Not bad, right?

Jimmy Graham dunks second TD
If I can't land Graham at the end of the 1st round, I'm going RB
So here's my initial list for the 2014 fantasy football season.  Like I said, a lot will change between now and August (or whenever you do your fantasy draft).  A lot might even change in the next 2 or 3 months.  But this is a start.  I'll leave the rookies out of my top-168 for now, but some will find their way in there in May.  And I haven't forgotten about guys like Eli Manning and Sidney Rice...or question marks like David Wilson and Jermichael Finley.  I have several names that didn't quite make the top-168.  They might make the cut when things start really taking shape.  But that's a long time from now.  You may also notice I have 15 RBs in my top-20 and 32 in the top-66.  I just feel like good QBs and WRs are plentiful as you go through the list, but  quality RBs are always tough to find later in drafts.  You'll find defenses and kickers at the very end of the list, but I'll end up moving the defenses around a bit (the kickers will stay at the tail end though).  There's no way the Seahawks, Niners, or Panthers last into the double-digit rounds of fantasy drafts next year.  I just didn't want to get that detailed yet.  But enough talk.  Here's my first edition of the 2014 rankings!


1. Jamaal Charles
2. LeSean McCoy
3. Adrian Peterson
4. Marshawn Lynch
5. Matt Forte
6. Eddie Lacy
7. Jimmy Graham
8. Calvin Johnson
9. Le'Veon Bell
10. Alfred Morris
11. DeMarco Murray
12. Reggie Bush
13. Aaron Rodgers 
14. Peyton Manning
15. Drew Brees
16. Knowshon Moreno
17. Zac Stacy
18. Doug Martin
19. Chris Johnson
20. CJ Spiller
21. AJ Green
22. Dez Bryant
23. Josh Gordon
24. Demaryius Thomas
25. Arian Foster
26. Ray Rice
27. Giovani Bernard
28. Brandon Marshall
29. Antonio Brown
30. Julio Jones
31. Alshon Jeffery
32. Ryan Mathews
33. Ben Tate
34. Frank Gore
35. Maurice Jones-Drew
36. Andre Brown
37. Andrew Luck
38. Cam Newton
39. Pierre Garcon
40. Jordy Nelson
41. Vincent Jackson
42. Keenan Allen
43. Randall Cobb
44. Eric Decker
45. DeSean Jackson
46. Shane Vereen
47. Julius Thomas
48. Vernon Davis
49. Nick Foles
50. Matthew Stafford
51. Larry Fitzgerald
52. Andre Johnson
53. Trent Richardson
54. Rashad Jennings 
55. Lamar Miller
56. Torrey Smith
57. Wes Welker
58. Michael Crabtree
59. Roddy White
60. Rob Gronkowski
61. Andre Ellington
62. Montee Ball
63. Steven Jackson
64. Fred Jackson
65. Stevan Ridley
66. Percy Harvin
67. Kendall Wright
68. Michael Floyd
69. TY Hilton
70. Victor Cruz
71. Marques Colston
72. Cordarelle Patterson
73. Matt Ryan
74. Tom Brady
75. Darren McFadden
76. Chris Ivory
77. Danny Woodhead
78. Tony Romo
79. Russell Wilson
80. Jordan Cameron
81. Mike Wallace
82. Cecil Shorts
83. DeAndre Hopkins
84. James Jones
85. Julian Edelman
86. Colin Kaepernick
88. Justin Blackmon
89. Tavon Austin
90. Reuben Randle
91. Greg Olsen
92. Jason Witten
93. DeAngelo Williams
94. Benjarvis Green-Ellis
95. Joique Bell
96. Darren Sproles
97. Reggie Wayne
98. Danny Amendola
99. Hakeem Nicks
100. Dwayne Bowe
101. Anquan Boldin
102. Brian Hartline
103. Philip Rivers
104. Jay Cutler
105. Andy Dalton
106. Charles Clay
107. Dennis Pitta
108. Coby Fleener
109. Marvin Jones
110. Aaron Dobson
111. Marlon Brown
112. Rashard Mendenhall
113. Daniel Thomas
114. Pierre Thomas
115. LeGarrette Blount
116. Donald Brown
117. Stevie Johnson
118. Steve Smith
119. Greg Jennings
120. Jeremy Maclin
121. Emmanuel Sanders
122. Riley Cooper
123. Bernard Pierce
124. Shonn Greene
125. Bilal Powell
126. Jacquizz Rodgers
127. Roy Helu
128. Ryan Tannehill
129. Ben Roethlisberger
130. Alex Smith
131. Golden Tate
132. Denarius Moore
133. Terrance Williams
134. Kenny Stills
135. Robert Woods
136. Harry Douglas
137. Mike Williams
138. Bryce Brown
139. Mike Tolbert
140. Ahmad Bradshaw
141. Jordan Todman
142. Mark Ingram
143. Knile Davis
144. Toby Gerhart
145. Seahawks DEFENSE 
146. 49ers DEFENSE
147. Panthers DEFENSE
148. Chiefs DEFENSE
149. Rams DEFENSE
150. Bengals DEFENSE
151. Cardinals DEFENSE
152. Patriots DEFENSE
153. Ravens DEFENSE
154. Bills DEFENSE
155. Broncos DEFENSE
156. Bears DEFENSE  
157. Stephen Gostkowski
158. Matt Prater
159. Justin Tucker
160. Dan Bailey
161. Steven Hauschka
162. Blair Walsh
163. Nick Novak
164. Matt Bryant
165. Mason Crosby
166. Phil Dawson
167. Sebastian Janikowski
168. Jay Feely

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fantasy End of Year Review

I know what you're thinking.  It's not the end of the year...it's the beginning of a new year.  It's 2014, dude!  Take it easy.  If you've ever been in the corporate world, you know you really have most of Q1 to get that previous year's review done anyway.  So I'm taking advantage of using the first week of January to take a look back at some of my calls in the 2013 fantasy season.  I'm not going to bore you with a recap of everything, but this very well could turn into a long article.  I'm also going to try not to cherry pick too much.  I'll tell you what I got wrong too.  But if you really want to see all of the good/bad calls I made, just go back and read it all (yeah right!).

It was a good year for me in fantasy, but I didn't win a championship.  I did finish with the most points in my league though, and I was pretty consistent too (I only had two weeks in which I scored less than 90 fantasy points).  This will probably come off as sounding really bitter, but I also had the most fantasy points in Week 16.  But I'm not bitter.  That's just how fantasy works out.  If I had won just one more regular season matchup, then the bracket would have looked different and I could have won the whole thing.  But it didn't, and that's on me (and my little fantasy guys).  Better luck next year.

There's no bronze medal in my fantasy league.
So I finished 3rd, and my finishes from 2003-2013 are now as follows: 1st, 4th, 3rd, 7th, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 4th, 7th, 3rd.  I guess I'll take it.

But speaking of next year, I've set myself up with some decent keeper options too.  In our league, you can't keep anyone who was drafted in the first two rounds.  So McCoy and Bush are out for me.  I even waived Ray Rice before the Week 16 games because he had no use being on my team any longer with no keeper eligibility.  But I did make trades this year to get guys like Peyton Manning and Jordy Nelson, both of whom can be kept next year.  And if for some reason old "Lego Neck" wins the Super Bowl (sorry...the "big game") and decides to retire, I have a few other decent options: Torrey Smith, Cecil Shorts, and Cordarrelle Patterson.  I also have Shane Vereen and Riley Cooper, but I'm not sure either will be the best keepers.  Who knows though?  I picked up a few running backs who could find themselves in better situations after the offseason: Dennis Johnson, Bryce Brown, and Bernard Pierce.  Like I said, you never know...

But enough about my team.  Let's get into some of those calls I made before the fantasy season kicked off in 2013.

First off, the list of guys I said I'd let someone else draft.

Running Backs
Bell might be a 1st-rounder next year.  Ball, probably not.
Montee Ball and Le’Veon Bell: With Doug Martin’s success in 2012, the experts were ranking these guys way too high for me (even before training camp had even started).  I thought someone in my league would draft at least one of these rookies way higher than I’d consider taking them, and that's exactly what happened (both were taken in the 3rd round).  Le'Veon Bell actually ended up as a top-15 RB, but Montee Ball played second fiddle to Knowshon Moreno all season.  He came on a little at the end, and he could be a decent keeper.  But either way he wasn't worth a high draft pick.

DeAngelo Williams and Pierre Thomas: I have a hard time drafting a running back for either of these NFC South teams, and these guys will surely be on my fantasy "hate list" again next year.  But for what it's worth, both did end up as top-25 RBs this year.  However, I feel like Pierre got most of his fantasy points in just a couple of games, and DeAngelo was pretty inconsistent in the 2nd half of the season...to the point which I'm sure it was tough for owners to actually start him in Weeks 15 & 16 (when he actually put up good numbers).  I realize the stats for these two, but even still, I'm glad I didn't draft either.  

Wide Receivers
Eric Decker and James Jones: These guys were both going too high for me in drafts, and I'm actually not disappointed I ended up with neither.  Yes, Decker was ultimately a top-10 fantasy WR this season.  But I bet he was a headache to own until that Week 13 40+ fantasy point explosion.  And even then, I bet he was on some benches for that game (since he only had a combined 17 fantasy points in his previous FOUR games).  As for Jones, he never really got back on track after his Week 6 injury in Baltimore (especially without Rodgers).  So that's kind of a tough break there.

Gordon finished as the #1 fantasy WR.  But we all saw that coming, right?
DeSean Jackson and Josh Gordon: These guys were on my list because of their 2 cent brains, and I didn’t want either on my fantasy team.  Looks like I missed the boat on both of them due to my heart.

Greg Little, Malcom Floyd, Santonio Holmes: The experts were ranking all of these guys (and people were drafting them!).  Needless to say, I'm glad I didn't.

Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick:  Here's what I said about these two before the season started: "I’m not saying you shouldn’t draft these guys.  I’m sure they’ll have solid seasons.  They may even finish in the top-10 fantasy QBs.  Let me say that again: They may even finish in the top-10 fantasy QBs.  In case you couldn’t tell, I’m not 100% confident they’ll do that.  After my top 5 or 6 ranked QBs, I have a lot of guys ranked about the same: Kaepernick, RGIII, Wilson, Luck, Romo, and Stafford."  Wilson and Kaepernick were going way too early in what I thought would be a deep year for QBs.  It was.  If you overpaid for either of them, you were probably a little disappointed.  Of the two, Wilson actually did finish as a top-10 fantasy QB.  But then again, so did Luck, Stafford, and Romo (RGIII, sadly, did not...).  And if you started Wilson in your fantasy playoffs, he probably didn't help you to a victory.  He averaged about 12 fantasy points per game in Weeks 14-17 (ouch!).  He might have helped you get there though.

Tight Ends
Kyle Rudolph: Most of the experts had him ranked in their top-10 TEs, but he was outside of mine.  I said that "after Jimmy Graham, there are a lot of question marks at the tight end position."  While that statement wasn't 100% accurate (i.e. Vernon Davis had a nice year, as expected), Graham did end up as the #1 fantasy tight end in 2013.  As for Kyle Rudolph?  36th.   Of course, he did miss the second half of the season due to a fractured foot, but he was barely a top-20 fantasy TE based on average before that injury.

Jermaine Gresham: He wasn't on my radar due to the Bengals drafting Tyler Eifert in the first round of the 2013 draft.  It turns out both guys ended up with the same number of double-digit fantasy days on the season: 1.

So there were some good calls and some bad calls.  What about that list of guys ready for the next level I wrote about in the preseason?  These were players who I thought were primed to make that jump into the next tier of their respective fantasy football positions.  Some of it was based on talent and growth, simply opportunity, or a combination of those things and others.  Let's take a look at that fake team of young players.

QB: Andrew Luck
What I had a problem with before the season started was the fact that the experts had the likes of Romo and Stafford ahead of Luck.  We kind of knew what they could do, and both ended up as top-10 fantasy QBs.  But I thought Luck was worth taking ahead of those two because I thought he could have a much bigger year.  And while he didn't finish leaps and bounds above Stafford and Romo, he did finish ahead of both and was nearly a top-5 fantasy QB.

RB: Chris Ivory and Shane Vereen
Ivory being on this list was all about opportunity, but he didn't really carpe the diem in New York.  Vereen looked all set to jump to that next level after putting up over 150 total yards in Week 1, but then he got hurt and missed the next 8 games.  When he returned, he instantly became a big part of the Patriot offense once again, and he ended up averaging nearly 11 fantasy points per game on the season.  If he can stay healthy in 2014, look for him to officially move into the next tier of fantasy RBs.

WR: Cecil Shorts and Michael Floyd
While everyone else seemed to be writing about Torrey Smith as the 3rd year WR who would take the next step to elite status, I wanted to make sure I showed Cecil some love.  Shorts dealt with some injuries (and horrible quarterbacks) this season, but he still managed nearly 800 yards and 3 TDs on the year.  We'll see if the Jags draft a QB who can get him the ball on a more consistent basis next year, but he has all of the tools to be a top WR in this league.  As for Floyd, he was a 2nd year guy who I liked a lot in 2013.  I thought he'd end up with 750+ yards and 7 or 8 TDs.  And while he only found the endzone 5 times, he actually eclipsed the 1000 yard receiving mark and ended up as a top-25 fantasy WR.  With Larry Fitzgerald reportedly not willing to re-negotiate his 2014 salary, it'll be interesting to see what Arizona does with their WR situation.  Michael Floyd could actually find himself as the main target next year in the desert if Fitz is gone.

TE: Dennis Pitta
Oh, what could have been.  Many thought he would miss the entire season after having hip surgery following a preseason injury, but he actually got back in the lineup in Week 14.  He played the last 4 games of the season for Baltimore and finished with 20 catches for 169 yards and a TD.  It looks like I'll just have to put him on the list again next season...

I did a piece before the season started called "Entire Positions I'm Not Drafting (On ALL 32 Teams)", but that's way too long to recap here.  But I will talk about one of my favorite articles to put together, which was my Fantasy Redeem Team.  These were guys who I thought would atone for their 2012 fantasy sins.  They underperformed last year (based on their draft day value), and I included their stats and average draft positions to give you an idea of where I thought they'd fall in 2013.  So let's see who was on this year's team and what their actual stats were, shall we?

Yes, you stunk this year, Eli.
QB: Eli Manning
2011 Stats: 16 GP,  4933 Pass Yds,  29 Pass TDs, 16 INTs
2012 Stats: 16 GP,  3948 Pass Yds,  26 Pass TDs, 15 INTs
My 2013 Projection:  16 GP,  4500 Pass Yds,  28 Pass TDs,  18 INTs
Actual 2013 Stats: 16 GP, 3818 Pass Yds, 18 Pass TDs, 27 INTs

Hey, I almost got that one right.  I just had the TDs and INTs reversed, that's all.  Wow, was this a bad call or what?!?  I picked the absolute worst year to believe in Eli.  It's kind of like how I drafted Philip Rivers last year, he was horrible, and then he was a top-5 fantasy QB this year.  Maybe I'm just a year off for the younger Manning.

RB: LeSean McCoy
2011 Stats: 15 GP,  1309 Rush Yds,  315 Rec Yds, 20 TDs
2012 Stats: 12 GP,  840 Rush Yds, 373 Rec Yds, 5 TDs
My 2013 Projection:  14 GP,  1200 Rush Yds,  550 Rec Yds, 15 TDs
Actual 2013 Stats: 16 GP, 1607 Rush Yds, 539 Rec Yds, 11 TDs

I had a feeling Chip Kelly's offense may kickstart McCoy again, and he was able to put up big numbers in 2013...AND he actually played in all 16 games for the first time since his rookie year.  It worked out well for me because I had the 6th overall pick in my draft, and I was able to land him after Peterson, Foster, Ray Rice, Charles, and Doug Martin (thanks, Andy!).  Shady finished only behind Jamaal Charles in total fantasy points among all running backs.

RB: Steven Jackson
2011 Stats: 15 GP,  1145 Rush Yds,  333 Rec Yds, 6 TDs
2012 Stats: 16 GP,  1042 Rush Yds, 321 Rec Yds, 4 TDs
My 2013 Projection:  16 GP,  1300 Rush Yds,  300 Rec Yds, 14 TDs
Actual 2013 Stats: 12 GP, 543 Rush Yds, 191 Rec Yds, 7 TDs

Jackson had a decent start to the season, but it was short-lived.  He hurt his hamstring in just the 2nd game of the year, and he proceeded to miss the next 4 games for the Falcons.  When he got back in the lineup in Week 8, it took him some time before he got back to his true form.  It was probably too late for fantasy owners when he started producing around Week 12.  In fact, in his last 6 games of the season, he averaged over 13 fantasy points/game.  I guess over 1200 total yards and double-digit TDs was wishful thinking for a RB in his 30s...but tell that to Fred Jackson!

Hey, you guys want to call a play for me this time?
WR: Dwayne Bowe
2011 Stats: 16 GP,  1159 Rec Yds, 5 TDs
2012 Stats: 13 GP,  801 Rec Yds, 3 TDs
My 2013 Projection:  16 GP,  1100 Rec Yds, 9 TDs
Actual 2013 Stats: 15 GP, 673 Rec Yds, 5 TDs

Bowe continues to be an enigma for me.  Or rather, the Chiefs do.  I don't know why they pay a guy all of that money and barely throw him the ball.  I feel like Bowe is a really good playmaker, but he doesn't touch the ball enough.  That was clear in 2013, as he continued to put up mediocre numbers.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald
2011 Stats: 16 GP,  1411 Rec Yds, 8 TDs
2012 Stats: 16 GP,  798 Rec Yds, 4 TDs
My 2013 Projection:  16 GP,  1200 Rec Yds, 11 TDs
Actual 2013 Stats: 16 GP, 954 Rec Yds, 10 TDs

Another guy with a new QB and head coach this year, Fitzgerald was primed to return to his 2011 form.  Of course I also had Michael Floyd as a guy I liked this year (as mentioned above), and he actually cut into some of Larry's receiving yards a bit more than I expected.  Still, Carson Palmer helped Fitzgerald's numbers and he was a fairly consistent top-20 fantasy WR this season.

TE: Jermichael Finley
2011 Stats: 16 GP,  767 Rec Yds, 8 TDs
2012 Stats: 16 GP,  667 Rec Yds, 2 TDs
My 2013 Projection:  16 GP,  900 Rec Yds, 9 TDs
Actual 2013 Stats: 6 GP, 300 Rec Yds, 3 TDs

Another tight end and "what could have been".  I actually drafted Finley as well, who was among the many injured for my team throughout the season.  He put up double-digit fantasy points in each of the first 2 games this season, but he got knocked out of his 3rd game with a concussion.  He then put up decent numbers in his next 3 games before suffering a neck injury in Week 7 against Cleveland, which could threaten his return to the NFL altogether.  He was easily a top-10 fantasy TE before he suffered that injury, and I hope he's able to come back from it if that's what he wants to do.

FLEX: Ryan Mathews
2011 Stats: 14 GP,  1091 Rush Yds,  455 Rec Yds, 6 TDs
2012 Stats: 12 GP,  707 Rush Yds, 252 Rec Yds, 1 TD
My 2013 Projection:  14 GP,  999 Rush Yds,  375 Rec Yds, 8 TDs
Actual 2013 Stats: 16 GP, 1255 Rush Yds, 189 Rec Yds, 7 TDs

Mathews was one of my keepers this year, and he was my Flex for a handful of weeks in the first half of the season.  I became frustrated with his inconsistency, and I traded him for Ray Rice after his Week 9 dud against Washington.  I guess that was the wake-up call he needed because he was a pro-bowler from Week 10 on, averaging about 15 fantasy points/game in his last 8 contests.  In his first 8 games (all on my team), he averaged just 8 fantasy points/game.  Luckily I didn't really need him (or Ray Rice for that matter) to finish where I did, and he wouldn't have made the difference to land me in first place either.  But he was definitely worthy of rounding out my 2013 Fantasy Redeem Team, and I was pretty close with my prediction for his yards/TDs.

Well, what about REAL football?  Before the season started, I looked at every single matchup in the 2013 NFL season and did my own personal simulation.  I was left with what I thought might be the storylines of each division, but let's see what I got right and what I got wrong...

Yeah that about sums it up.
AFC East
What I said: Miami closes the gap on New England, and I could even see them winning that division if they can somehow get to 9-7 themselves.  I'm not sure the Patriots even win 10 games this year.

What happened: At the midway point of the season in a Thursday night game, Miami snapped a 4-game losing streak and got themselves to an even 4-4.  And if they had found a way to get to 9-7 (against the Jets...at HOME...in Week 17), they would have made the playoffs.  But it wasn't meant to be.  And I'm still a little surprised the Patriots ended up with 12 wins this year.  Very impressive, especially with all of the injuries that team dealt with.

AFC North
What I said: Cincinnati will dethrone the Ravens in this division, and the Steelers will remain in mediocrity.  Lots of people are saying three teams will come out of this division, but I don't see it.

What happened: Cincy's defense got depleted by injuries, but those next guys up got it done for Mike Zimmer (who I'm hoping will be the next coach of the Washington Redskins).  They defeated the Ravens in the last game of the regular season to end their playoff hopes, but the Steelers actually had a chance to wriggle their way in if the Chargers had just lost to the Chase Daniel-led Chiefs.  Pittsburgh surprised me even getting to 8-8, as they won 6 of their last 8 games.  In the end, they were still a pretty mediocre team though.

You said it, weird old dude.
AFC South
What I said: Houston should continue to roll, but can they get to a Superbowl?  I don't see Indy winning this division for at least another season in the new Andrew Luck Era.

What happened: Apparently the Andrew Luck Era has begun.  I picked him as my QB ready for the next level of elite guys, so I don't know why I'm that surprised.  But I'm definitely surprised at how bad the Texans were this year.  There should be a lot of changes coming to Houston, so we'll see how that all shakes out in 2014 (starting with the #1 pick in the draft).

AFC West
What I said:  There's a lot of hype around Kansas City with Andy Reid in town, but I still think Denver is the only playoff team in this division.

What happened: I guess I should have believed the hype.  The Chiefs made the playoffs and they did it with defense, but I think it's Denver that still looks like the team to beat in the entire AFC, much less the AFC West.  The Broncos won both of the head-to-head matchups with KC in the regular season, and I think they have the best chance at making it to the Super Bowl out of the AFC.

NFC East
What I said: Another year with a division up for grabs.  I'm obviously rooting for the Skins to get it in back-to-back seasons, but I think anyone could end up with the division title (yes, even Philly).

What happened: At the halfway point of the season, anyone still could have won the NFC East (even the Redskins!).  But Dallas had the 3-0 record within the division and what appeared to be a stranglehold on it.  But they also still had Tony Romo, who remembered that in December he's an interception-machine.  The Cowboys lost 3 of their last 4 games (and almost lost all 4 if it weren't for the Redskins...well, being the Redskins).  Philly won the deciding Week 17 game against the 'Boys and took the division.  (Go Saints!)  

NFC North 
What I said: Will it be Green Bay or Chicago?  I think Minnesota overachieved last season, and I don't see them as a playoff team again.

What happened: I was definitely right about Minnesota, who finished the season at 5-10-1.  As for Green Bay and Chicago, the division came down to the Week 17 matchup between those very two teams...and the Packers prevailed.

NFC South
What I said: I think if the Saints can get to 9 wins then they have a chance at a wild card, but this division now belongs to the Falcons.

What happened: I don't think many people saw this coming for Atlanta.  Surely I didn't.  Some of it can be chalked up to injuries, but some is a lack of defense too.  I can't say that I'm surprised the Saints were near the top of the division most of the season, but clearly I thought the Falcons would be much better.  As for the Panthers (who won the division), there always seems to be that team who is pretty bad the year before and breaks through.  Sometimes there are a couple of them.  We'll see what they can do in the playoffs.

NFC West
What I said: San Fran stays on top yet again, and Seattle most likely gets another wild card spot.  Keep an eye on the Rams though.  I could see them and Seattle both at 9-7 and maybe St. Louis sneaks in there with a tiebreaker (I'm not going to pick that to happen though.  I think the Rams may still be a year away from the playoffs.)

I'd be happy if I get to play at home the entire playoffs too!
What happened: Seattle's defense looked pretty good all year, and their offense did enough to get them to a 13-3 record and the division title.  San Fran had a slow start to the season, but they got on a roll after Week 3.  Their only two losses after that point were to Carolina and New Orleans (by a combined 4 points).  It wasn't enough to win this tough division though.  In fact, Arizona just missed the playoffs (even though they got 10 wins).  And the Rams were looking pretty good through their first 6 games or so.  But once Bradford was lost for the year, it was clear they were definitely at least a year away from being a playoff team.

My Super Bowl Prediction was Atlanta over Denver, but I can't exactly stick to that now.  I'll roll with the Broncos though and say they'll win over Seattle (I know.....booooooring!).  Hey, if you're still reading at this point, it can't be that boring right?  

Speaking of which, I want to thank my readers out there.  I know there aren't a lot of you, but it's good to hear that people are actually reading it (and some even enjoying and using the information).  Hopefully I'll still be able to make the time in 2014 to do all of the preseason articles, rankings, re-rankings, weekly rankings, and everything else that makes this blog what it is.  Thanks again, enjoy the playoffs, and Happy New Year to everyone!