Two articles in a row about football? It must be a dream. Indeed, I’ve come to decide that, while currently in the mood to speak on football, I may as well take advantage of the high and go over some things regarding it. This will be something of a unique post, with the only article I’ve done in the past to compare it to was when I looked at data pertaining to my anime-viewing activity. This will cover something entirely different: highlighting my picks for the entire 2021 NFL season.
Just to clarify beforehand, this isn’t going to cover literally every game I’ve picked. What I wish to do here is (somewhat meticulously) detail some highlights of individual games or weeks of games I picked for fun tidbits. Maybe I was very daring and tried to pick an incredibly upset, only to be very, very wrong? Maybe I picked a perfect week? (Spoiler: I didn’t.) This shouldn’t be a terribly overlong post. I simply wanted to take the time to look back on something I’ve always liked doing, but rarely took the initiative to continue all the way through.
This is the first time I’ve ever picked NFL games for the entirety of a season, including playoffs. This is how I did:
NFL 2021 Pick ‘Em Recap
Regular Season: 164-107-1 (60.3% success rate)
Postseason: 7-6 (53.8% success rate)
Overall: 171-113-1 (60% success rate)
Some definite ups and downs throughout the season. As I look back on it now, I’m proud of it. A 60% win rate as a head coach in the NFL is respectable. Sure, it’s far more complex than simply analyzing two teams and making an educated as to who will win, but at least with this, I can point to something and say, “Hey, I know about football.”
Or I am a very good at blind guessing. Every pick is, on the surface, a 50-50 shot. Only two (technically three) outcomes can occur. And frankly, it’d be somewhat easy to get more right than wrong if you simply chose the team with the better record with every pick.
One thing I will point out, though, is that I kept track of my postseason picks from last year: I ended 10-3. Outside of incorrectly picking the Super Bowl, it was a very ego-coddling time to be an NFL games picker. Such may have inspired me to note my picks for this season.
Best Week: Week 7 (10-3)
While I did have a couple weeks where I went 12-4 (the highest correct total I achieved in any week), the 10-3 mark is technically the highest success percentage, outside of the 5-1 record I posted for the Wild Card round of the playoffs. At about the halfway point, I felt I was hitting the groove at just the right time.
Weeks 8 and 9 had me posting records of 5-10 and 6-8, respectively. Yuck.
Going back to the positive, Week 7 saw me going 5-2 during the noon slate of games, then boosted 9-2 upon the conclusion of the afternoon match-ups. This was still fairly early into the season, so some teams still had the benefit of a healthy roster or early-season surges. I also went into this week with relatively safe picks: most of my picks were whoever had the better record.
One game where I didn’t go with that strategy was with the Panthers against the Giants. Despite a better record, the Panthers were on a noticeable downward spiral despite a 3-0 start to the season. The then 1-5 Giants were also a lost cause, but they had some glimmer of potential to them; after all, they beat the Saints for their only win of the season. I figured it was ripe for an upset, and I was right.
Then I also picked the 5-1 Ravens to defeat the 4-2 Bengals. Baltimore ended up losing 17-41. Ended up as a remarkably bad pick, especially when you consider how these teams ended the season.
Worst Week: Postseason Divisional Round (0-4)
Though I could’ve easily put the aforementioned Week 8 as the worst week, given it was the worst week I had during the Regular Season, this particular week during the postseason is almost shockingly impressive. That is not a typo: I got every pick wrong.
What’s more depressing about this particularly terrible week is twofold:
- The prior week, in the Wildcard Round, I was 5-1.
- I was relatively “Safe” with my picks.
To elaborate on the prior point, I picked the higher-seeded team to win in all but one of the match-ups. I believed the Titans, Packers, and Buccaneers would advance, and then the visiting Bills would take down the Chiefs. While all games ended up very close, all ended up as exactly the opposite of what I expected. It brought my stellar 5-1 postseason picking record for the year down to an even 5-5. T’was not a great feeling for my pride.
As fate would have it, the next week I went 2-0, correctly predicting the Super Bowl match-up, thus guaranteeing I would at least escape with a winning picking record in this year’s postseason. Softened the blow a bit.
Best Pick: Chargers @ Raiders (Week 17)
These next two bits are going to be more subjective. Not based on any specific thing, the pick I feel most proud of was actually the final game of the regular season. After much pondering, I believed that the recent passing of John Madden and the sensational will the Raiders played with would carry them into the playoffs.
Before the game, it was certainly the “sexy” pick to side with the Chargers. They had the mighty Justin Herbert, who was among the best passers in the league in only his second year. While the team’s record was a little underwhelming considering his greatness, the Chargers had beaten the Raiders earlier in the season. Yet the Raiders were on a hot streak of their own. Both carried a considerable amount of momentum with the playoffs on the line.
Being right was also aided by just how bombastic the game was. A back and forth game with an interesting caveat: If the match ended in a tie, both teams would make the playoffs. Wouldn’t you know it, the game went into overtime. Wouldn’t you know it, the time ran down to the waning minutes of the sole overtime period… with the score tied. Would it really happen? Are the Raiders going to take the tie and grant the Chargers mercy, despite being just within range of a last-second field goal?
Nope. They kicked the field goal and won. “Fuck you, Chargers,” they said. I ended up picking correctly, with much gusto, and I promptly picked against them in the first round of the playoffs (I was correct there, too).
Worst Pick: Eagles @ Lions (Week 8)
Okay, this one is kind of based on something: score differential.
In Week 8, the Eagles were 2-5 and the Lions were 0-7. Neither team was particularly good. I figured the Lions wouldn’t go 0-17, so their first win had to come somewhere. Despite their record, the Lions showed they had some fight to them. All they needed to do was take advantage of some cocky visiting team thinking they were better than them, and Philadelphia was coming off a two-game losing streak. I took a shot: Detroit’s first win would come here!
The final score was 44-6 in a massive blowout win for the Eagles. Pbbbthhhthhh.
By far the largest point differential of a final score in a pick I lost on. Sometimes that desire to take a big gamble gets to your head. You see the signs of deterioration from specific teams and want to take advantage and make them up as the next victim of a trap game. As I (and I’m sure many others) have come to learn, sometimes you just see things you want to be there. Case and point: The Eagles finished the season 7-3 after their 2-5 start. They weren’t deteriorating; they were solidifying.
Detroit would end up getting their first win, and second, and even third, by season’s end. Two of their victories came against playoff teams… so that’s something.
From this point, I will address various points and fun anecdotes regarding my experience with picking and all that came of it. Things that are neat to point out, but doesn’t necessarily need their own H2 header.
The Week 8 Slide
Briefly mentioned before was the possibility of a team’s early-season surge, only to fall back to Earth with a humbling string of losses. The Ravens were 8-3 at one point, only to lose every game for the rest of the season to finish 8-9. Humorously enough, it also happened with my picking ability.
Through Week 7, I had a picking record of 71-36. That’s a 66.4% success rate, which is pretty damn good. My worst week through that point was 8-8 in Week 1, when I had no idea how teams would perform (it’s the beginning of a new season). Otherwise, I had a consistent streak of winning a double-digit number of picks.
Those who are good at math are already aware of the skid I took starting from Week 8. I began 71-36 (66.4%) and finished 100-77-1 (56.2%). Still decent, but dropping a whopping ten percent in success rate is kind of extreme. After Week 7, I did not correctly predict 10 games in a single week until Week 16. A lot of 9-win weeks (and a couple losing weeks).
Did You Correctly Predict the Super Bowl Winner? (No)
Ah, 4-7. What a terrible record…
I’ve now got a losing streak going, incorrect on the last two Super Bowl picks. Some “team of destiny” the Bengals turned out to be… even though all the signs were there. Dating back to Super Bowl XXXIV, you know what the record was for second-year starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl? 4-1. (Now 4-2.) Second-year quarterbacks are just magical in the biggest game! (Sorry, Kaepernick.)
They had so many improbable wins! They were going against a powerhouse that basically (debatably) bought / traded for their entire team! Burrow mania was all abuzz! Gah… sometimes the better team on paper wins. My romanticism gets the better of me on many occasions.
Safest Bet: Los Angeles Rams
I distinctly recall prior to the Regular Season seeing an article on PFT about how the Rams were the bettors’ Super Bowl favorite pick due to the acquisition of Matt Stafford during the offseason. (Bettors know their stuff, dang.) Given the Rams were already a fairly solid team, it would be fair to assume that they would continue to be a good team. And they were, outside of a little losing skid they suffered in the middle of the season.
Finishing 12-5 (outside Playoffs), I bet on the Rams to win in 13 total games. My record picking them was 11-2 (84.6% success rate). Few teams came pretty close to that (13-5 betting on the Buccaneers; 5-1 betting on the Eagles), but the Rams ended up not being the champions of the entire league, but the champions of my betting efficiency. For that, I thank them.
Worst Bet: Jacksonville Jaguars / Detroit Lions
Let me make something perfectly clear: I wanted the Jaguars to lose every game in 2021. I hoped they went 0-17. (They went 3-14.) Why such vitriol? Urban Meyer. I do not like him, I do not think he deserves any opportunity at any level of sports. While his success at the collegiate level cannot be denied, he seems like a very bad person. I do not think bad people should be rewarded with millions of dollars, no matter their skill.
With that out of the way, I did have some confidence in the roster of the Jaguars throughout the season, particularly when they went against almost equally bad teams. After all, they beat the Dolphins, who would eventually finish with a 9-8 record. So, I picked them to win in only three match-ups. They lost all three. 0-3 when picking the Jaguars. Yeesh.
Such was the opposite for the Detroit Lions. Dan Campbell seems like a cool dude. I liked his vivacity when he was the interim coach for the Dolphins some five or six years ago. But alas, the Lions were absolute stinkers this year, except when they decided to beat the Packers and Cardinals, randomly. Like the Jaguars, I was 0-3 when betting on them to win.
Most Ignored Bet: New York Giants
I promise that I have nothing against the Giants. Just because I proclaimed the Eagles my favorite team a decade ago when I first started to really get into football doesn’t mean I have any internal animosity for their division rivals… I swear! Okay, I didn’t think they’d be a great team going into the year, but I really didn’t mean to be so… pessimistic about it! It just happened that way!
Throughout the entire NFL season, I picked the Giants to win once. Ironically, I stated that one time earlier in this article. I am 1-0 picking the Giants (100% success rate!), otherwise I picked against them every. Single. Time. If it were my call, they’d finish 1-16. (They finished 4-13.) Of all teams—not the Jaguars, whom I despised, or the Texans, who were picked to be “the worst team”—the Giants were the ones I had the least confidence in.
It was fun, but also somewhat stressful. Having to remind myself to make picks before every week (Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays) and then try not to have my pride get in the way of enjoying a game was what made me cautious doing this at all. Yet I got through it, and now I have all of this neat data to look back on. That’s really what keeps me going: numbers and data. If you ever wanted to date me, just bring a detailed list of random facts about your entire history being on Earth. I will never stop studying you.
Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.