What a season! The 2019 season brought us immense surprises and incredible intrigue for 17 weeks and 256 games. To recap the season, here is a look at my predictions from July as well as major statistical leaders.
Predicted Passing Yards Leader: Matt Ryan (5,019)
Actual: Jameis Winston (5,109)
Ryan missed a game for the first time since 2009, but he still was among the league leaders in passing yards with 4,466. Ryan had 11 games with 300 yards, but he slipped off the 5,000-yard pace by Week 7.
After only 402 yards through two weeks, Winston launched into a rampage that included 10 300-yard games in 12 team games with a trio of 400-yard games. Between Week 3 and Week 15, Winston was averaging almost 350 yards per game, a mark that would have broken the passing yards record over a full season.
Predicted Passing Touchdown Leader: Jared Goff (37)
Actual: Lamar Jackson (36)
Despite leading the NFL in pass attempts (tied with Jameis Winston), Goff managed just 22 touchdowns. Through 11 games, Goff had more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (11), but Goff got hot down the stretch, throwing 11 touchdowns in five games as the Rams narrowly missed the playoffs.
Pardon, let me pick my jaw up off the floor. Jackson started with a bang, dropping five touchdowns on the Dolphins before cooling off with three zero-touchdown games between Week 3 and 7. After the bye week, Jackson fired 25 touchdowns, including three or more in three straight games on two separate occasions. After playing the Patriots, Jackson threw touchdowns at a record-equalling pace before resting on Week 17.
Predicted Rushing Yards Leader: Ezekiel Elliott (1,399)
Actual: Derrick Henry (1,540)
After leading the NFL in rushing yards per game in each of his first three seasons, Elliott slipped to just 85 yards per game in 2019. It was far from a bad season, but Elliott only got to 1,357 yards. Elliott had seven games with 100 yards, but he was wildly inconsistent for much of the season.
Derrick Henry was unstoppable in his last six games. Henry had five 100-yard games after just one in his first nine games. Henry had dominant performances of 188, 159, and 149 in three straight weeks to propel the Titans into a solid playoff spot. In Week 17, Henry went for 211 yards to steal the rushing title from Nick Chubb. In the wild card game, Henry went for 182 yards on 34 carries in one of the most incredible performances in playoff history.
Predicted Rushing Touchdown Leader: Aaron Jones (16)
Actual: Aaron Jones and Derrick Henry (16)
Simple math dictates that Aaron Jones will rush for 32 touchdowns next season as his numbers have doubled from four to eight to 16 in his three seasons. Joking aside, Jones had five multi-score games, including a three-score game against the Panthers and a four-score game against the Cowboys.
After just six touchdowns in his first nine games, Henry racked up 10 in his final six games, including three in Week 17. Extrapolated over a 16-game season, Henry would have gotten to 27 touchdowns on that pace. Is LaDainian Tomlinson’s record in jeopardy in 2020?
(No, it isn’t. Well, I do not think it is.)
Predicted Reception Leader: JuJu Smith-Schuster (129)
Actual: Michael Thomas (149)
After an incredible 111 catches in 2018, Smith-Schuster had a pitiful 2019 campaign. Smith-Schuster only played in 12 games, and he never got to eight catches in a game. In terms of my prediction, Smith-Schuster only got to 32.6 percent of what I thought he would. Looking back, this is a head-scratcher.
In his first of two appearances on the list, Thomas led the NFL in receptions by 33. Thomas had enough receptions to lead the NFL in just 13 games, but Thomas tacked on a pair of 12-catch games to break Marvin Harrison’s record of 143 catches in a season. Thomas saved his worst game of the season for Week 17 as he hauled in catches 146, 147, 148, and 149 against the Panthers.
Predicted Receiving Yard Leader: Julio Jones (2,066)
Actual: Michael Thomas (1,725)
Jones finished second in receiving yards and third in receiving yards per game. Jones did miss a game, but it was his lowest tally of yards since 2013. Jones was still one of the best in the business, and he will look to add a third receiving crown to his mantle in 2020.
Thomas registered 10 games with at least 100 yards, including a high-mark of 182 yards. Thomas was remarkably consistent, failing to get to 50 yards just twice on the season. Thomas’s 1,725-yard campaign is only beaten by Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Jerry Rice, Antonio Brown, Isaac Bruce, and Charley Hennigan. That is quite the company to be around.
Predicted Receiving Touchdown Leader: George Kittle (17)
Actual: Kenny Golladay (11)
Kittle had an incredible 2019 campaign, being recognized as an All-Pro. Kittle only played 14 games, scoring just five touchdowns, but is a classic case of touchdowns being a terrible way to judge players. Kittle is as good as they come, but he can be allergic to the end zone.
Golladay is a great player, but it seems odd to see him top the charts for receiving touchdowns. Not only is Golladay not one of the usual suspects (DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, etc.), but he also played half of the season with backup quarterbacks in Jeff Driskel and David Blough. 11 marks the lowest league-leading tally since the strike-shortened 1982 season.
Predicted Sack Leader: Yannick Ngakoue (19.5)
Actual: Shaquil Barrett (19.5)
Ngakoue only got to 8.0 sacks, a solid tally, but barely 40 percent of what I predicted him to get. Ngakoue was not unproductive, but he only recorded sacks in back-to-back games once on the season. When Ngakoue got to the quarterback, he tended to clump sacks together, recording a pair of sacks in three of the five games that he got a sack.
In Barrett’s first year in Tampa Bay, he more than doubled his sack total from 61 games in Denver. Barrett had an incredible start to the season, recording a sack in all four October games including three against the Panthers and four against the Giants. With 9.0 through four weeks, Barrett was on pace to shatter every sack record known to man. While Barrett only recorded 2.5 sacks over his next six games, Barrett finished December with sacks in five of six games, including three in the season finale to beat Chandler Jones to the sack title.
Predicted Interception Leader: Malik Hooker (8)
Actual: Tre’Davious White, Stephon Gilmore, and Anthony Harris (6)
Hooker got off to a great start, picking a pass off in Indianapolis’s opener, but only got one more interception, intercepting Jameis Winston in Week 14. Hooker missed three games and fell well short of my predicted tally of eight interceptions.
White and Gilmore are almost universally regarded as the two best cornerbacks in the NFL, and both were recognized as All-Pros. Harris came out of relative obscurity to record six interceptions including a pair in Week 1 and three in four weeks to tie White and Gilmore. In the wild card games, White and Gilmore bowed out while Harris had a pick in Minnesota’s win in New Orleans.