Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Season in Review - How I did in Predicting the Ravens

That's a Super Bowl Level Mustache - photo from Baltimore Sun

Alright, it looks like we might be a little football heavy on this here weblog for the next couple of weeks.  I don’t write about it much because, quite frankly, it’s the one sport I enjoy more as a casual observer then as a writer/analyzer.  I’m not quite at the point of drinking the purple kool-aid (just the jungle juice) and donning purple zubazs yet, but of all the teams I follow I am most unabashedly a fan first.

That being said, I did try to take an analytical look at theRavens schedule before the season to try and predict how they would finish.  My prediction was close, 10-6, vs. their actual record of 12-4. I thought it would be spot on, after all MGM had them pegged as a 10 win team as well.  However, the game-by-game guessing was wildly inaccurate; to the point of my dad taking the time to email me and make fun of me.  He’s also threatened to sign up as a commenter just so he can make fun of me in public.  Thanks for reading, Pops!  Enjoy Hawaii!

As is my policy, anytime I make predictions I follow up on them to see how I did.  Unlike the talking heads on TV I accept accountability for my prognostications and will suffer the consequences when I do poorly (as is often the case).  So here we go:

 Week  1 vs. Pittsburgh

My prediction – Ravens Could Lose

Reason – “I think Pittsburgh is a better team than Baltimore this year”

Outcome – Yeah, missed the boat on this one. The Ravens forced 7 turnovers and cruised to a 35-7 victory that I didn’t get to see thanks to a Direct TV problem at the bar.

Prediction record – 0-1

Week 2 at Tennessee

My prediction – Ravens Should Win

Reason – “Ravens should be able to shut down Chris Johnson and put the game in Matt Hasslebeck’s hands.”

Outcome – They shut Johnson down holding him to only 53 yards rushing, but Hasselbeck torched them for 358 yards and Rod Bironas kicked 4 field goals to lead the Titans to a 26-13 victory that I also didn’t see because the folks at Goose Island in Wrigleyville kept switching the game off.

Prediction record – 0-2

Week 3 at St. Louis

My prediction – Games We Don’t Know What Will Happen

Reason – “Stephen Jackson is a legitimate offensive threat and their defense should be better than people think”

Outcome – The coming out party for rookie Torrey Smith. The wide receiver has 3 touchdown receptions in the first quarter and the Ravens rolled to a franchise record 553 yards of offense.  I’m giving myself a win here since I thought they would win 2 of the 3 mystery games.

Prediction record 1-2

Week 4 vs. New York Jets

My Prediction – Ravens Could Lose

Reason – “There is no way Mark Sanchez has a big game against Baltimore, but I think bad penalties and a lack of discipline will be the difference as the Jets win 10-9”

Outcome – The defense scores 3 times and leads the team to a 34-17 victory. Hey at least I knew that Sanchez would struggle.

Prediction record - 1-3 

Bye Week – Push! 

Week 6 vs. Houston

My Prediction – Games We Don’t Know What Will Happen

Reason – “If Arian Foster and Andre Johnson stay healthy the middle of October could be a shoot-out.”

Outcome – Johnson was hurt and the Ravens outplayed the Texans down the stretch for a 29-14 victory. Joe Flacco threw for over 300 yards and Billy Cundiff kicked five field goals.

Prediction record – 2-3

Week 7 at Jacksonville

My Prediction – Ravens Should Win

Reason – “The one game on the schedule that the Ravens should be double digits and actually cover”

Outcome – I created a new gambling rule – never bet on the Ravens when they’re favored by more than 10 points.  Jacksonville took away Ray Rice as a check down option for Flacco and stymied the Ravens offense.  The Jaguars had their highlight for the season as they won in primetime 12-7.

Prediction record – 2-4

Week 8 vs. Arizona

My Prediction – Ravens Should Win

Reason – “If the Ravens get pressure on him (Kevin Kolb) they should be able to force mistakes.”

Outcome – The Ravens had to come back from 21 points down in the second half to win, but they did it. This is the game where they decided to add the “throw it deep in the endzone and hope for a flag” play to the playbook. It actually worked twice and led to two easy Ray Rice touchdowns. Flacco threw the ball a career-high 51 times in the 30-27 win.

Prediction record – 3-4

Week 9 at Pittsburgh

My Prediction – Ravens Could Lose

Reason – “The pressure will be on Flacco and so far in his career pressure games haven’t been his forte.”

Outcome – For once it was the Ravens winning in the last minute as Joe hit Torrey Smith for a 26-yard touchdown to win the game 23-20 with eight seconds left on the clock. I had labeled it a must win game if the Ravens wanted to win the AFC North and in the end it proved to be the difference as the two teams finished the season with identical records but the Ravens with the tie-breaker edge.

Prediction record – 3-5

Week 10 at Seattle

My Prediction – Ravens Should Win

Reason – “Tavaris Jackson”

Outcome – Marshawn Lynch (who I had cut from my fantasy team due to lack of production) had a combined 167 yards of offense and the Ravens turned the ball over 3 times in the 22-17 loss.

Prediction record – 3-6

Week 11 vs. Cincinnati

My Prediction – Ravens Should Win

Reason – “The Ravens should be able to shut down the running game and feast on the rookie quarterback (Andy Dalton).”

Outcome – Baltimore held off a fourth quarter comeback by the feisty Bengals to cling to a 31-24 win.  Torrey Smith was a factor again with 165 yards receiving while the defense forced 3 second-half turnovers by Dalton (2 picks and a fumble).

Prediction Record – 4-6

Week 12 vs. San Francisco

My Prediction – Ravens Should Win

Reason – No real reason given, just implied the 49’s would be bad.

Outcome- I was at this game!  Yea!  Oh, and the Ravens won 16-6 by dominating on defense and doing just enough on offense to win.  Who cares? I was there!

Prediction Record – 5-6

Week 13 at Cleveland

My Prediction – Ravens Should Win

Reason – “The Ravens won’t light up the scoreboard, but should score enough to win.”

Outcome – Ray Rice runs for over 200 yards and the Ravens coast to a 24-10 victory. Lardarius Webb runs a punt back for Baltimore as well, a bright spot in the season for the much maligned special teams unit.

Prediction record – 6-6
Ed Dixon uses the Force to make a catch - AP/Nick Wass

Week 14 vs. Indianapolis

My Prediction – Games We Don’t Know What Will Happen

Reason – “Much like Roethisberger he (Peyton Manning) has the Ravens number in head-to-head matchups.”

Outcome – To my credit, when I made this prediction there was still talk of Manning playing at the end of the season.   Curtis Painter was no match for the Ravens defense and Ray Rice ran for over 100 yards in the 24-10 victory. I’ll take the loss on this one since I didn’t have the stones to make a real prediction.

Prediction record – 6-7

Week 15 at San Diego

My Prediction – Ravens Could Lose

Reason – “From Phil Rivers ability to rack up passing yardage to the Ravens having to go to the west coast, it all adds up to a loss.”

Outcome:  I pretty much nailed this one.  The Chargers picked on rookie Jimmy Smith and racked up 270 passing yards to take the 34-14 win.  The Ravens weren’t able to get any pressure on Rivers as the Chargers looked way too comfortable in winning the game.

Prediction record – 7-7

Week 16 vs. Cleveland

My Prediction – Ravens Should Win

Reason – “The air is cold, the stockings are hung and the Browns still suck.”

Outcome – Baltimore built a 17-0 halftime lead and held on to a 20-14 win. They sealed the win by drawing the Browns off-sides on a 4th-and-2 play with two minutes to go in the game.  It wasn’t a pretty game, but it locked up Baltimore’s first undefeated season at home.

Prediction Record – 8-7

Ray Rice don't need no help! photo from AP

Week 17 at Cincinnati

My Prediction – Ravens Should Win

Reason – “The Bengals will be playing for Andrew Luck and not much else.”

Outcome – Ray Rice had an early 70-yard touchdown run and the Ravens turned a late fumble by Cincinnati into another Rice touchdown to produce a 24-16 win.  The Bengals did have a chance of making the playoffs had they won, so I was a little off on the Luck prediction. 

Prediction Record – 9-7

There ya go.  An extremely uneven season for the Ravens that led to an AFC North title, a first round bye and the first home playoff games since the 2006 season (in which they were also the2nd seed). Are they built for a long playoff run?  That is the million dollar question right now.  If they win their game next week then chances are they would have to go on the road to face the Patriots, and I’m not sure Flacco has the arm to win that shoot-out. 

But more on the playoffs as the days roll on.

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