The 2022 NFL season is upon us, and to lead off, here are 10 predictions for the upcoming campaign guaranteed to come true.
1. Joe Burrow will win the MVP award
Let’s start out hot. While Josh Allen and Justin Herbert seem to be garnering most MVP predictions, don’t forget about Burrow. The Cincinnati Bengals are loaded at receiver, hav an offensive-minded head coach and a secondary which could force Cincy to throw plenty.
Don’t be surprised if Burrow is the next signal-caller to break the 5,000-barrier en route to another playoff berth for the Bengals.
2. Trey Lance will flash promise, but ultimately have an uneven season
Staying with quarterbacks, the San Francisco 49ers deciding to keep Jimmy Garoppolo speaks volumes. If the Niners completely believed in Lance for 2022, Garoppolo would have been jettisoned. Instead, he stays with a no-trade clause.
Lance has immense talent, but he’s also thrown 103 passes between college and pro ball over the past two seasons. He’s raw, and that’ll show through often.
3. The Buccaneers, Packers and Rams will hold the NFC’s top three seeds
Very confidence in this one. The three best NFC teams — in some order — are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers. While the Philadelphia Eagles have a terrific roster, they also have a young quarterback who sees to grow into his skill set. The Dallas Cowboys have lost too much. The Niners have questions at the sport’s paramount position.
The Packers, Bucs and Rams are the trio to watch in the NFC. The question is who joins them on Divisional weekend?
4. Kansas City will play in a fifth straight AFC Championship Game
The Kansas City Chiefs have endured ample change this offseason, and they’ll look different as a result. But they still have Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, an elite offensive line and a young, athletic defense.
While the AFC West is difficult, the Chiefs remain the favorites. It’s hard to argue Kansas City is going to fall off drastically, and while they might not host the AFC title game once more, the Chiefs will be there.
5. Mike Tomlin will finally endure a losing season
The Pittsburgh Steelers are excellent defensively, and the weapons are legit. Unfortunately, the offensive line is a mess, the quarterback situation is scrambled, and the AFC North is a gauntlet. All that equals an average team, and in the AFC, a sub-.500 one.
Tomlin has done nothing but win in his 15 seasons with the Steelers, and that’ll resume soon. But in 2022, Pittsburgh will lose more games than it ever has under the current regime.
6. Tua will improve, Dolphins will be fun, but no playoffs
Calm down, Tuanon. The Miami Dolphins are better, adding receiver Tyreek Hill and left tackle Terron Armstead. Head coach Mike McDaniel is a young, innovative mind who should reinvigorate the unit with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa at the helm.
However, the AFC is brutal. And, even if Tagovailoa improves significantly, is Miami a top-seven team in the conference? It’ll be close, but the Dolphins have too many questions compared to the competition.
7. The Atlanta Falcons will have the No. 1 pick in 2023
Let’s not mince words: there are contenders for this mantle. The Seattle Seahawks aren’t good. The Chicago Bears are in a full-blown rebuild. The Houston Texans, also rebuilding. But the Falcons are without a quarterback, and without an identity.
It might be hard for the average fan to name a half-dozen Falcons. Atlanta is in for a long, long 2022.
8. Arizona is going to have a tough campaign after wild offseason
What a weird offseason for the Arizona Cardinals. They extended their quarterback in Kyler Murray and somehow insulted him. The Cardinals are without star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games of the season after his suspension. Arizona also lost edge rusher Chandler Jones in free agency.
After starting 7-0 last year, the Cards finished 11-6 and got pounded in the Wild Card round. Maybe Arizona surprises and rides an emboldened Murray to a postseason win. Or, months of bad vibes come crashing down come September.
9. The Jaguars will play meaningful games into December
Each of the past two seasons, the Jacksonville Jaguars have held the No. 1 overall pick. But brighter days are ahead for Duval. Second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence should be much-improved. The Jags now have a real head coach in Doug Pederson. The AFC South isn’t terrific.
While the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans both have better rosters, it’s not impossible to conjure a scenario where Jacksonville plays .500 ball and sticks around deep into the campaign.
10. Buffalo will finally celebrate a Super Bowl victory
It’s finally time for the fans in Western New York. The Buffalo Bills have come close each of the past two seasons, only to see their dreams die at Arrowhead Stadium. This year, the Bills taste elusive glory.
Buffalo has the best roster, and an elite quarterback in Josh Allen to guide it through tough moments. While the AFC is a gauntlet and there are many worthy challengers, Buffalo is the best bet to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Top 10 teams entering the 2022 season
1. Buffalo Bills
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5. Los Angeles Rams
6. Cincinnati Bengals
7. Baltimore Ravens
8. Los Angeles Chargers
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Denver Broncos
“I feel good. I’m ready to go. No limitations. … I feel great. I’m ready to go play. Can always be better. Can always try to feel like I’m 21 again. I’ll keep trying. But no, I feel really good. I feel like I can make every throw.”
– Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford on (no longer?) his problematic throwing elbow
If genuine, this is great news for Los Angeles. Stafford and the Rams face a brutal schedule while in a competitive division. Even losing him for a few weeks could make all the difference.
The New York Jets haven’t reached the postseason since 2011, the longest current draught.
Info learned this week
1. Broncos give Wilson a brand-new deal; what it means for others
Russell Wilson will be riding in Denver for years to come.
On Thursday morning, the Broncos and Wilson agreed to a five-year,$245 million extension with $165 million guaranteed. The contract keeps Wilson with Denver until he’s 40 years old, stretching through the 2028 season.
For the Broncos, it’s a necessary risk. Wilson hasn’t been the same quarterback over the last year and a half, but he’s still a high-quality talent at the league’s most-pivotal position. And, after trading four premium picks for Wilson, Denver couldn’t allow Wilson to play out the final two years remaining on his current deal. Bottom line: solid, predictable pact for both sides.
However, the Wilson contract has far-reaching implications.
The Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson have been at a stalemate, and Wilson’s deal should tip the balance towards Baltimore. The Wilson contract is the bellwether after seeing Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray both gets five. years and $230 million, but Watson getting a full guarantee while Murray was guaranteed $160 million.
With Murray and Wilson receiving contracts much more in line with the NFL’s normal structure, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has solid ground to stand on, and if Jackson wants a fully-guaranteed contract, his position became harder to justify last week.
2. Eagles continue to load up with Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
Last Tuesday was the toughest day in football. Cutdown day. And yet the biggest news came by way of a trade.
Saddled with an absurd salary cap position moving forward, the New Orleans Saints traded corner Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to the Philadelphia along with a 2025 seventh-round pick for a pair of late-round selections in 2023 and ’24.
For the Eagles, it’s another move to add upon the best offseason in the NFL. Philadelphia now has another talented, versatile defensive back to join corners Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox and James Bradberry. For the Saints, it’s a meager return for a quality player who was going to hit free agency next offseason.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has been fantastic over the last five months, adding Bradberry and Gardner-Johnson, along with receiver A.J. Brown, edge rusher Haason Reddick and rookies in defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean.
Not a bad haul, and one that could flip the NFC East.
3. Titans sustain massive loss in Harold Landry
It’s been an offseason of uncertainty for the Tennessee Titans. Now, a major injury.
After trading star receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles and adding few notable names in the winter, Tennessee seemed to be trending downward. Last week, that feeling was exacerbated by the loss of edge rusher Harold Landry to a torn ACL sustained in practice.
Landry signed a five-year, $87.5 million deal in March, finding his way off the franchise tag. So while Landry thankfully has long-term security, Tennessee is left trying to replace his 12 sacks from a season ago. And considering how the Titans are likely to play tight, low-scoring games, losing such a playmaker on the defensive side could be worth a win or two.
Then you consider the schedule of great quarterbacks facing Tennessee, including Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert, Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott. Suddenly, an even bigger loss.
The injury to Landry puts more pressure on defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry, along with edge rusher Bud Dupree to make up the difference. Tough to do, but a quality trio with a chance.
4. Bills will be without Tre’Davious White for at least one month
Buffalo made a predictable but painful move on Tuesday.
The Bills offficially placed star corner Tre’Davious White on the PUP list as he continues to rehab a torn ACL suffered last Thanksgiving. They’ll be without him for at least four games, which includes against a slew of top-notch receivers in Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Robert Woods and others. It’ll be an early test for rookie first-rounder Kaiir Elam and veteran Taron Johnson.
However, once the mandatory four games are played out, will White return then? Week 6 sees a tilt with the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, perhaps the most-anticipated game of the season.
Of course, White missed the Divisional matchup and Kansas City totaled 42 points in its epic victory. His presence might be the difference this time around.
5. All eyes will be on Browns-Panthers come Sunday
Neither the Cleveland Browns or Carolina Panthers are expected to make the playoffs, and yet their matchup might be the week’s most-intriguing affair.
On Sunday, Carolina hosts Cleveland with Baker Mayfield aiming for revenge against the Browns. This despite Cleveland paying double what Carolina is to Mayfield for his efforts this weekend. It’s an absurd situation for all involved, and makes the drama all the more compelling.
If Carolina wins, Mayfield will certainly have plenty to say both in words and body language after the game. It might be one of the few times the Panthers have much to offer from a national perspective this year, but the potential for a spectacle is evident come Sunday.
Week 1 will give us plenty of new faces in new places at quarterback.
Barring injuries this week, we’ll see seven signal-callers starting for a new team. In Carolina, we get a pair with the aforementioned matchup of Mayfield and Brissett. The Monday night game is especially juicy, with Broncos’ quarterback Russell Wilson returning to Seattle.
Elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Steelers are rolling with either veteran Mitchell Trubisky or rookie Kenny Pickett against the Bengals, while Matt Ryan helms the Colts in Houston. Then there’s Carson Wentz, seeing the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second-straight time, hoping for a far better result than his Week 18 meltdown with Indianapolis last season. And lastly, Marcus Mariota gets the nod for the Falcons.
Should be fun seeing which quarterbacks rise to the moment, and which create consternation from the start.
Inside the league
Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden had three years and a multitude of first-round picks to build a contender in Las Vegas. And yet, the Raiders have almost nothing to show for those selections.
From 2019-21, the Raiders selected edge rusher Clelin Ferrell, running back Josh Jacobs, safety Johnathan Abram, receiver Henry Ruggs III, corner Damon Arnette and right tackle Alex Leatherwood. The first three remain on the roster, but saw their fifth-year options declined this offseason. Ruggs and Arnette were released last year amid off-field ugliness. Then, on Tuesday, Leatherwood was released after one pitiful season.
While the Raiders have an intriguing roster, it’s devoid of top-end, young talent. The reality is Las Vegas will have a tough time sustaining any success without drafting much better in the early rounds. This is the task of new general manager Dave Ziegler, who didn’t have a ’22 first-round pick but has a full slate in 2023.
For the Raiders, there’s nothing more important than filling the roster with cheap stars who come up through the system. Hopefully for their sake, Ziegler has better luck than Mayock and Gruden.
Pick: Eagles -4 at Lions
The Detroit Lions are experiencing a Hard Knocks bump, and people are starting to think they’re going to be much better than they actually will be.
Sure, Dan Campbell is a lovable character and a leader of men, but is he a good football coach? I’m not so sure.The Eagles had one of the best defenses in the NFL last year, and Jordan Davis out of Georgia will give them a much-needed pass rush. They also loaded their receiving core, by trading for Titans receiver A.J. Brown.
I’m high on Philadelphia this season, and I think they win big in Week 1.
– Iain MacMillan
From 1965-81, the Dallas Cowboys won every season opener. Those 17 straight victories remain a record. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns haven’t won on Week 1 since 2004, easily a streak for futility to begin a campaign.
In many ways, this is the best week of my year.
Football is back. Not the preseason nonsense dressed up as the sport we love. Actual football. The kinds with loud crowds and great tailgates, the kind that puts nerves in your stomach before kickoff that don’t dissipate for hours.
Few things in America bring the country together more than football. All races and genders, all religions and creeds watch the NFL on Sundays in the autumn and winter, whether at bars or in their homes. It’s a transformative experience for some, and for others, a way to spend a day with friends. Regardless, it’s wonderful.
Now, a new season. A season with everyone at 0-0 and promise to some degree for every club. Each fan has a reason to hope, to dream of what’s to come. And they should, because come Sunday night, the standings start changing, and in many cases, the dreams crash against the rocks of cold reality.
In three days, the NFL is back. Best of luck to your team, and enjoy the journey.