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After further review: Revisiting 2019’s sports predictions

December 23, 2019
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The Washington Nationals - seen here celebrating their World Series victory - were NOT who I predicted to win. Just one of the year's many misses. The Washington Nationals - seen here celebrating their World Series victory - were NOT who I predicted to win. Just one of the year's many misses. (AP Photo/David J. Philip)

The coming of the new year tends to inspire feelings of reflection, of looking back on the year that has passed. And so, as someone who spent part of that year telling you what was going to happen in the world of sports, I feel it my duty to share with you how it ultimately went.

As per usual, the results are … let’s just call them mixed.

You’re more than welcome to judge my ability (or lack thereof) however you see fit. I’m perfectly aware of the dart-monkey levels of accuracy I usually manage; you won’t be telling me anything I don’t already know.

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Super Bowl LIII

Prediction: New England 34 – Los Angeles 31

Actual: Patriots 13 – Rams 3

What can I say? I was wrong about this one in the same way everyone was wrong about it; no one could have predicted that a matchup between two strong offenses would instead turn into a slugfest featuring as low a score as you’ll ever see.

Seriously – I was wrong about just about every aspect of this game except for who won it. That’s some good punditry right there.

It’s always nice when the homer pick can also double as the correct one. That’s often been the case in these parts for some time, though perhaps not for much longer.

MLB Season

American League

Prediction: AL East – New York Yankees; AL Central – Cleveland Indians; AL West – Houston Astros; Wild Card – Boston Red Sox; Wild Card – Los Angeles Angels

Actual: AL East – Yankees; AL Central – Minnesota Twins; AL West – Astros; Wild Card – Oakland A’s; Wild Card – Tampa Bay Rays

Two out of five – not my best work. It was easy to see that the Yankees were going to win a ton of games. Ditto the Astros, who were obvious candidates for 100 wins assuming nothing catastrophic happened.

I whiffed pretty hard on my Wild Card picks. I really did believe in this year’s Red Sox team and this pick felt good in the moment, but it was clear by late summer that it was over. Meanwhile, the Angels didn’t even sniff the Wild Card, losing 90 games (fun fact: this was the second year in a row I wrongly picked the Angels to be good). Instead, we got the A’s and the Rays, unconventional teams that outperformed expectations (though I was mildly bullish on both).

And in the middle, Cleveland. They had a fine season, with 93 wins, but even that left them outside the playoff picture behind the shocking 101-win Twins.

National League

Predictions: NL East – Washington Nationals; NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers; NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers; Wild Card – St. Louis Cardinals; Wild Card – Philadelphia Phillies

Actual: NL East – Atlanta Braves; NL Central – Cardinals; NL West – Dodgers; Wild Card – Nationals; Wild Card – Brewers

Considerably better on this side of the ledger. While I got just one of the three division winners and neither of the Wild Cards exactly right, I did manage to pick four of the five playoff teams.

The only division winner I got right was the Dodgers, who I chose because a) they’re really good, and b) they win the division ALL THE TIME. Kind of a no-brainer pick.

While I had the order reversed, I had both the Brewers and the Cardinals coming out of the Central to make the postseason. Again, not a tough call – it seemed pretty clear that both of those teams would be good. And you’ll never go broke picking St. Louis to go to the playoffs.

My only major misstep – and it was a major one – was picking the Phillies to land the second Wild Card spot. Philly finished at exactly .500, while the Braves won 97 and ran away with the division.

World Series 2019

Prediction: Houston Astros over Washington Nationals – 4-3

Actual: Nationals over Astros – 4-3

I was far from the only person who favored the Astros over the Nationals. On paper, Houston simply looked to be slightly more talented. This wasn’t to disparage the Nats – though if I’m honest, the memory of Washington’s abysmal start to the season probably still lingered a little. I liked Houston’s bullpen and their lineup – I have love in my heart for Jose Altuve – to match up well against Washington.

Key to my analysis was the idea that Houston’s Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole would outperform Washington’s Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Missed on that one, though no one can predict the kind of staggering run put on by Strasburg. Oh, and the road team winning every game weirdness.

At least I called it going the distance, though it managed to be one of the duller seven-game World Series we’ve seen.

CFL Season

Prediction: Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ottawa Redblacks (East Division); Calgary Stampeders, BC Lions, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Saskatchewan Roughriders (West Division)

Actual: Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes (East); Roughriders, Stampeders, Blue Bombers, Edmonton Eskimos (West)

All in all, not great, but not terrible. With only nine teams competing for six slots, it’s relatively easy to get close (though I’ve certainly blown it in the past).

Still, while I hit on Hamilton – I had them as the best in the East, which they were by far – and I had Winnipeg sitting third, the rest of the results were mixed. Yes, I had the Roughriders in, but just barely as the crossover team; instead, they dominated the West. And I had Calgary winning the West, because why wouldn’t I? But the Stamps run of complete dominance ended, though it was a pretty strong year.

Meanwhile, I picked Ottawa as the second playoff team from the East and they wound up as the literal worst team in the league, winning just three games all year. Not far behind the Redblacks came the Lions, who I had finishing second in the West, only to see them go 5-13 and finish dead last in the division. Oh, and I picked the Alouettes to go 4-14, just as an added bonus.

107 th Grey Cup

Prediction: Hamilton Tiger-Cats 27 – Winnipeg Blue Bombers 20

Actual: Blue Bombers 33 – Tiger-Cats 12

Maybe the coolest part about this game was that no matter who won, a lengthy stretch of futility would come to an end. Both teams had gone decades since winning the Grey Cup – Hamilton had last hoisted it in 1999, while Winnipeg hadn’t celebrated a championship since 1990.

I really liked the Tiger-Cats coming into this one. They had a high-scoring offense and had looked dominant throughout the course of the regular season. It just seemed like this was their year. But the Blue Bombers rode the dominant running of Andrew Harris, who was named both Most Outstanding Canadian AND Most Outstanding Player after the game, and a stout defense to their first title in nearly 30 years.

So yeah, I was wrong – but I’m kind of glad I was.

NFL Season

(Note: Postseason positions current as of Week 16)

Predictions: AFC East – New England Patriots; AFC North – Cleveland Browns; AFC South – Houston Texans; AFC West – Kansas City Chiefs; Wild Card – Los Angeles Chargers; Wild Card – Baltimore Ravens

Actual: AFC East – Patriots; AFC North – Ravens; AFC South – Texans; AFC West – Chiefs; Wild Card – Buffalo Bills; Wild Card – Tennessee Titans

So I was right on three of the four division titles and wound up picking four of the six AFC playoff teams overall. That’s not a terrible hit rate. A closer look reveals more, however.

Picking the Patriots to win the AFC East shouldn’t count anymore. It’s been chalk for a decade. Getting the Chiefs wasn’t much better – that team was clearly going to be good. The Texans? Fine. I should have been higher on the Ravens, but the same could be said of a lot of people.

But those misses. Good lord. While I’m certainly embarrassed by my full-throated predictions of greatness for the Cleveland Browns, it’s not like I was alone. I got a little carried away, but that talent looked awfully goody on paper. That Chargers pick, though – that’s a sneaky bad one.

Predictions: NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles; NFC North – Minnesota Vikings; NFC South – Atlanta Falcons; NFC West – Los Angeles Rams; Wild Card – New Orleans Saints; Wild Card – Green Bay Packers

Actual: NFC East – Eagles; NFC North – Packers; NFC South – Saints; NFC West – San Francisco 49ers; Wild Card – Seattle Seahawks; Wild Card - Vikings

I feel better about the NFC, even though the overall accuracy was lower. While the number of playoff teams is the same – four out of six - the Eagles were my only completely correct pick (though even that could easily change next week).

Both of my wild card picks are winning their respective divisions – I figured the Packers or Saints would be good, but I didn’t expect them to be quite this good. The Saints have been especially impressive in taking over the division. The Vikings and Packers are very close; they could easily flip-flop, making my picks considerably more impressive.

Even the misses aren’t terrible. There’s no shame in whiffing on this 49ers team; they got good more quickly (and differently) than expected. Picking the Rams over the Seahawks doesn’t look great, but L.A. was in the Super Bowl just this January – they were a safe choice. Even picking the not-great Falcons is better than going with either the Browns or the Chargers.

Last modified on Monday, 23 December 2019 17:40

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