Ross Jacobs reviews the 2022 Faux Season projections (Weeks 16-18)
--Things were a little different early on but by the end of the year we all converged to very similar seasons for each team in the AFC East.
Everyone has the Bills with 12+ wins and the division title. Don't think that's a surprise to anyone.
We all picked differently on the Patriots but I was the most out there with 7-10. I think I would bump it up to 8 or even 9 wins after further review. I think RC has the right idea with them.
Chris has the highest projection on the Dolphins at 10-7. I still think they'll be closer to .500 than that. Apparently the group is unimpressed with the additions of Tyreek Hill and Terron Armstead.
The biggest surprise to me is that RC and Chris both have the Jets with a winning record! I will give you that they are improved but that seems like quite a stretch to me. Their draft was ok but not great and they had no real impact free agents. So where are they getting a 5 win improvement? Unless Zach Wilson takes a dramatic leap forward I have a hard time seeing this one.
--The AFC North very well might be our most contentious division when it's all over with. Xavier and RC are big fans of the Bengals for good reason. Chris and I are a little more hesitant to crown them just yet. We both think the Ravens will give them a good battle if not outright win the division.
Xavier is a huge fan of Cleveland and has them winning 11 games with Deshaun Watson active the entire year, but RC thinks they only win 6 games total even with Watson starting the final 9 games! That seems a bit far-fetched to me personally but I'd love to hear the rationale.
Everyone has the Steelers in last. That's not a shock but a high of 6 wins from me and Xavier is a mild surprise.
--We're all basically aligned on the AFC South. Everyone has the Titans and Colts with a large lead over the very bad Jaguars and Texans. Mostly the two weaker teams cluster around 4-5 wins.
The real difference lies in the top two teams. Chris doesn't like either and has them tied with a mere 7 wins. RC also has them tied but at 9 wins. Xavier has the Titans taking the division with 10 wins to Indy's 8. And I am massively higher than anyone on Indy at 13 wins to Tennessee's 8.
I would probably close that gap a little with a redo, bump the Titans to 9 wins and Indy down to 11 or 12, but I still think they should be considered the favorites in that division. I'll put my (faux) money where my mouth is in our Over/Under competition coming up soon.
--Big differences in the AFC West!
The Chargers are the favorites of the group. Three of us have them winning the division. Chris is the lone dissenter with the Broncos taking the crown with 14 wins! I like the Chargers but not nearly as much as everyone else. It's still a brutal division even with all their improvements. 10-11 wins seems most reasonable to me.
The rest of the group is not nearly so high on the Broncos as Chris. RC gives them a nice 11 wins which is still only good for 3rd place. I gave them 10 (although I might argue for 9) also in 3rd place. And Xavier has them in dead last with only 7 wins...wow!
RC and Chris don't see the schedule impacting KC very much, but Xavier and I think there it might hold down the Chiefs a little. He gives them 9 wins and I gave them 10.
The Raiders get anywhere from 7 to 10 wins and mostly last place for us. Apparently we don't think Davante Adams and Chandler Jones are enough to make a real impact.
--In the NFC East RC and I are mostly aligned. We both see a threeway race between the Cowboys, Eagles, and Commanders all coming down to 8-9 wins and the Giants in last with about 6.
Chris and Xavier both like the Eagles to outright take the division over the Cowboys. Chris gives them a massive 13 and 12 wins respectively while Xavier is a bit more subdued with 11 and 10 wins.
Philly and Dallas are two of the teams I'm struggling most to project. I wouldn't be surprised if I am currently a little too low on one or both.
Everyone has the Giants in last except Chris who gives that honor to the Commanders. He must consider them quite overrated to give them only 4 wins. That's one I'm eager to hear his opinion on.
--Nothing really surprising with the NFC North. Chris is hoping for a tie at 11 wins between the Vikings and Packers but the rest of the group thinks there's still a gap. I was highest with a 4 game difference but I would probably take that back to 2-3 games now.
We all think Detroit comes in third and the Bears last. Little bit surprised at that. We're all fans of what the Lions are doing I guess.
--We are all very much together with the NFC South. The consensus is the Bucs win around 12 games followed by the Saints at 8-9. RC is a bit more negative on them at 6-11. Not sure they are that bad but I do see some of the risk with them.
We all have Carolina and Atlanta at the bottom in some order but RC thinks the Falcons could reach 7 wins. The rest of us average 4 wins so it'll be interesting to see if they are indeed better as RC expects. Personally I think they are closer to being the worst team in the league than average.
--Three of us agree on the general shape of the NFC West. Mostly we have the Rams leading by about two games or so over the 49'ers. Xavier and RC are a bit lower on the Cardinals than I am. They gave them 7 wins to my 9. I might need to revisit that one soon as it seems they know something I don't.
Of course, Chris is even more radical giving the Cardinals only 4 wins! He also is the only one to have the 49'ers over the Rams and he thinks that it will be a 7 game difference with the 49'ers at 14 wins and the defending champs with only 7! I really want to hear about this one.
I reviewed last season's early projections to see if I could find any patterns that might help us when reviewing the 2022 projections. Here's what I found.
--Xavier was by far the most accurate with the AFC East although he was too high on the Jets (as were we all to varying degrees). Chris and I shot high on the Patriots. RC was low on the Dolphins. However, if you averaged our picks we would have gotten the order correct and been only 1-2 games off per team.
--RC was easily the most accurate with the AFC North. He almost perfectly hit the games won but he did have the teams basically flipped in order of finish. Still an impressive performance. The rest of us massively overrated the Browns and Ravens although injuries certainly affected those outcomes as well.
--Xavier was probably closest with the AFC South because he was the only one with the Titans winning the division. He did think much too high of the Jaguars though.
Collectively we all underrated the Titans (something I'm concerned we're doing again this year). Indy we most nailed. Chris was too low on the division as a whole, a bias that seems to be showing up in his 2022 projections.
--Xavier did best at the AFC West as well, although he did miss on the Raiders as did everyone else. He and I weren't nearly as high on the Chargers as Chris and RC. That turned out to be correct.
--RC probably takes the crown for the NFC East. He was a little low on Dallas like everyone else and had Washington a bit too high (another common group mistake) but he was much more positive on the Eagles than the rest of us. Chris nearly nailed Dallas but had the rest a bit off. Not a good group for us on the whole. I think that could be the case again in 2022 in divisions where there's a lot of differing opinions.
--Other than Chris we all had the right idea with the NFC North. RC was closest to the correct projection though. Chris had the Vikings taking the division with a 3 game lead over Detroit and the Packers in 3rd at 6-11...Skol!
--The NFC South was mostly in line for the group. We all had the Bucs around 12 wins or so and then everyone else after that in some order, but Xavier hit a homerun on this one by only projecting 1 game off of the final total!
--Easily our worst division as a group was the NFC West. None of us correctly predicted the Rams to win it. I was the only one that had the Cardinals over 10 wins (they finished with 11), but I missed everything else badly. RC and Xavier did a better job on the 49'ers than Chris and I (we got a little exuberant), but they didn't do great elsewhere. It was just a miserable job across the board for all of us. Again this makes me believe that in divisions where there's not a clear consensus, we are ripe for surprises to happen.