Every year, ESPN convenes a blue ribbon panel of their NFL experts to make their predictions for the NFL season. Every division champ. Every MVP. Every Super Bowl winner. I’m always amazed that ESPN can gather dozens of people together for this task and fail, every year, to produce one decent prediction among them. Last year, not one of ESPN’s experts had either Pittsburgh or Arizona going to the Super Bowl.
In fact, the team most ESPN experts agreed would win the Super Bowl was none other than your Dallas Cowboys, with five experts picking them (the Chargers tied for that honor). The prior year, 2007, none of ESPN’s experts picked New York to go to the Super Bowl (many picked New England, but picking the Pats to win it all is about as bold as picking Itchy to outwit Scratchy).
In short, if you’re hoping your team will win the Super Bowl, you better hope to God no ESPN expert is picking them to do so. And, judging by this year’s ESPN panel, the good people of Dallas are in luck. Not one of ESPN’s brainchildren picked the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl. In fact, not one of ESPN’s sixteen panelists picked an NFC team to win the Super Bowl. An odd quirk, given that the NFC is clearly the better conference this year. The sixteen panelists, collectively, chose only three teams to win the Super Bowl: New England, San Diego, or Pittsburgh.
That’s a pretty shocking lack of imagination. You’d think there would be one dude at ESPN who would buck convention and pick, I dunno, Chicago. Or Philly! It’s not even a risky bet to pick Philly, and these bores couldn’t even bring themselves to do that! Just even a slight glance at the picks reveals these guys trapped in a rut of easy groupthink. New England to win the AFC East. Pittsburgh to win the AFC North. San Diego to come out of the AFC West. Unexciting predictions like these have a tendency to get set in stone as accepted conventional wisdom before the season begins, and they always, without fail, turn out to be wrong. Not only are these predictions dull, they’re STUPID. Predictions shouldn’t be this predictable.
That’s encouraging news for the Cowboys, seeing as how only three ESPN experts picked them to win their division (Adam Schefter, Seth Wickersham, Pat Yasinskas), and only two of them picked Dallas to make the Super Bowl (Wickersham and Yasinskas). The rest of the crew splits the NFC East title, predictably, between the Giants (won the crown last year) and Philly (made the most offseason noise in the division). None of them picked the Redskins, despite that team’s glaring defensive improvements.
Every year, the complexion of the NFL changes entirely. There are injuries. There are sudden ascents of young players. There are sudden downfalls of older stars. Nothing ever stays the same, and nothing ever goes according to script. The Cowboys know this all too well, given that they were chosen by supposed experts to win the Super Bowl last year, only to fail to make the playoffs. So in a business where predictions foretell virtually nothing positive, the doubt surrounding the Cowboys may be the best sign of all.