Welcome to FanSided’s 2022 NFL preview! It’s time to look into our crystal football and take a glimpse at some season predictions
It’s finally here; the NFL season is back.
The football gods have blessed us with another season of absolute lunacy, as fans across the world will pack their proverbial pews (and some literal) to beg for this to be the season their team goes all the way.
Only one lucky fan base will have their prayers answered.
Last year that fanbase was in Los Angeles, and the prayers of more than just Rams faithful were answered. We watched as numerous football narratives tied up loose ends; Sean McVay finally fulling his prophecy, Matthew Stafford winning a Super Bowl his first year away from Detroit, and a Lombardo Trophy surfing the streets of Los Angeles for the first time in history.
Lest we forget the team the Rams beat in the Super Bowl. If anyone outside of Cincinnati said they picked the Bengals to be one of the final two teams standings, they’re lying. It was just three years ago that Cincinnati held the No.1 pick, but with it they drafted Joe Burrow and set forth a voyage that fans are hoping is just beginning.
And that’s merely two teams; there’s a well of souls that are hoping to feel catharsis.
What craziness will we watch unfold this year? Will Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Davante Adams, or any of the other monolithic figures that changed teams this offseason be the next in line to win a Super Bowl with their new team? Will Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs play Thanos to the rest of the NFL and remind the doubters that they’re equal parts unstoppable force and immovable object? Who will be this year’s Bengals? Can Tom Brady ride off into the sunset with an eighth Super Bowl, or will Aaron Rodgers do the same and finally win his second ring?
What does this season hold?
We have 18 weeks of regular season action ahead of us, five full months of games, and no more Sundays without the NFL until February.
Football is back, baby.
NFL Power Rankings: Who is the best quarterback heading into 2022?
It’s the most important position in football, as having the right quarterback — and a good one, at that — could be the difference between making the Super Bowl and winning it.
Just look at the 2006 Chicago Bears, who made the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman but lost to Peyton Manning and the Colts. Two years ago we were blessed with Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes squaring off, and last year we saw the spectrum of quarterback greatness as the old veteran Matthew Stafford bested one of the next generation’s top stars in Joe Burrow.
The common thread here is that you need an elite quarterback to win the Super Bowl, or a quarterback capable of elite performance. Nick Foles is the shining example of being good enough to stay out of your team’s way long enough to get to a Super Bowl and then play the best game of your life.
Does this sound like Kirk Cousins? What about someone like Jacoby Brissett or Mitchell Trubisky who are in perhaps the mosts secure positions to succeed based on the talent and coaching staff around them?
Or does it not matter since the Josh Allen’s of the world are just too damn good?
We ranked the best of the best, from top to bottom, when it comes to quarterback prowess heading into the NFL season. This isn’t a ranking of the teams they have around them, simply who you’d want under center if the game was on the line.
Check out the rest of Verderame’s Quarterback Power Rankings here.
2022 NFL season prediction and picks
Our crew of NFL experts spread across the FanSided NFL network gathered to give their picks and predictions for their teams this season. Each expert’s in-depth analysis is combined with NFL insider Matt Verderame’s official week-by-week record prediction that he locks himself in a room each April to complete.
The end result is a totally 100 percent correct look into the future — or maybe it’s just a bunch of people who love football with all their hearts who want to welcome the NFL back with what we think will happen this year.
- Read more from Matt Verderame who predicted every game of the NFL season.
Projected records are based on Verderame’s week-by-week prediction bible. Expert predictions may and often do vary based on their own expertise. Think of it as a choose your own adventure when deciding which prediction to hold true.
Note: Team previews are being added throughout the week. Check back for your favorite team’s predictions and be sure to join the conversation on Twitter.
NFC North Predictions
“It’s Super Bowl-or-bust for the Packers. They’ve pushed money into future years to maintain a championship roster. As Aaron Rodgers reaches the final phase of his career, this could be the Packers’ last shot while this window is open.
The Packers won a Super Bowl in 2010 on the back of a magical Aaron Rodgers postseason run and dominant defense. The ingredients are there for a similar year.”
“There are two ways the 2022 season can go for the Minnesota Vikings. The first path is full of optimism and ends with Kevin O’Connell leading the Vikings to the playoffs in his first year as the team’s head coach. The second has Minnesota on the outside of the postseason as their plan to win with a rookie head coach and a roster that was built by Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman falls flat.
Most likely, the Vikings’ performance in 2022 will land somewhere in between the two scenarios. Minnesota has the potential to have a top-five offense this year if Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, and Kirk Cousins are able to remain healthy for the majority of the season. The defense is the biggest question mark for the Vikings this year. Will the unit improve with the additions of Harrison Phillips, Za’Darius Smith, and Jordan Hicks, or will it actually take a step back with Zimmer no longer calling the shots?
A successful season for Minnesota in 2022 has them qualifying for the playoffs and winning at least one postseason matchup. Anything short of that should be viewed as a failure given the lack of changes the Vikings made to their roster this year.”
Check out more Minnesota Vikings coverage from Adam Patrick and the crew at The Viking Age.
“The Lions have an easier schedule than they did last year, based on last year’s records and including never traveling further west than Dallas after trips to Los Angeles, Denver and Seattle last year … Record-wise, a close repeat of 2021’s three wins would be a worst-case scenario for the Lions this year. Anything less than six wins would be a disappointment.
Add an easier schedule to the talent on the roster being better, and the Lions make a push toward .500 in Campbell’s second season as head coach.”
Whether the season is a success or not will depend much more on the play of Justin Fields than it will the record of the Chicago Bears. The team is set to start a rookie fifth-round pick at left tackle and they are still sorting out the right side of their line. They have questionable depth behind Darnell Mooney, and in the first year of a new GM, Ryan Poles spent the off-season cleaning the mess he inherited rather than spending to win.
The team can struggle throughout the season, but if they see signs of life that they have a franchise quarterback then they have the cap space and draft equity to go all in the following offseason. A worst-case scenario would be realizing that beyond all other holes they also do not have the right man at quarterback.
Check out more Chicago Bears coverage at Bear Googles On.
NFC South Predictions
“[The NFC] is not exactly Bruce Lee and Game of Death; the Bucs just need to play up to their standards to be in a position to return to the Super Bowl. Anything above that and they can hang with just about anyone in the league
At the end of the day this Bucs team, beyond all the offseason drama that got overamplified, is outstanding. Brady was in MVP form last we saw him, Chris Godwin should be healthy for the playoff push, Julio Jones was added to the mix, Vita Vea and Devin White anchor a defense that is among the league’s best and the competition in the NFC isn’t exactly stout. This team was a bad zero blitz call away from potentially being in a position to beat the Rams and on the path to winning another Super Bowl. That bitter taste won’t sit well with a team that all of a sudden has a chip on its shoulder.”
“If all goes right this season, the Saints will win an NFC Championship. Of course, they’d hope to win the Super Bowl, but after years of getting so close to being back in the big game, just getting there again would be a huge accomplishment for the team, especially with a B-tier quarterback under center.
To get there, the Saints need to stay as injury-free as possible, especially with rookie Trevor Penning already possibly out for the season. Particularly, Jameis Winston needs to exemplify more durability than he did last season and finish every game.”
“Aspiring to win a Super Bowl appears unrealistic. However, if the Panthers start well and keep everyone healthy, then a winning record and a return to the postseason is an attainable goal … The NFC is not exactly loaded heading into the season. So the Panthers have a real chance of making some noise if everyone remains on the same page from start to finish.
This would save Matt Rhule’s job and might even see Baker Mayfield receive a contract extension. But there is just no telling for sure given how things have transpired of late.
Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be another bumpy ride.”
“So you drank the Coca-Cola Kool-Aid spiked with alcohol and lemon pepper wing greatness? You are one of one, as in an optimistic Atlanta Falcons fan in the great year of 2022 A.D. The spirit you have is unbreakable, or you are five years old and don’t know any better. Then again, the 2008 Falcons team was supposed to be total ass and that team made the NFC playoffs.
This team will be picking in the top 10, but if they can beat teams who are probably only slightly better than them in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Washington, it will be closer to 10 than one. However, if the Falcons lose to the likes of Chicago and Seattle, they will have the No. 1 overall pick. Ultimately, this team will not keel over and die, as they will win about five games.”
NFC East Predictions
“The reality is this schedule isn’t as easy as the 2021 docket. The NFC East is stronger, and the Cowboys have some formidable opponents on their schedule. Frankly, 9-8 is a success. Going 12-5 with this slate will be rough.
There’s a lot to be excited about, but there are also major roster questions entering this season. The Cowboys have the talent to do well, but they need to avoid injuries and up the discipline. If they can do those two things, they’ll go farther than some will think.”
“If everything goes right, this team should win the division. They’ll be favored in most of their games, and an 11-win season might be within reach. We’ll make a guess and state they’ll split with Dallas and lose to Indy, Green Bay, Tennessee, the Arizona Cardinals, and the New Orleans Saints. Of course, there’s another side to this coin. They could fall off of the wagon and miss the playoffs entirely.
A Week 8 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a season sweep at the hands of the Cowboys, and unexpected losses can’t be ruled out either. An unexpected injury at one or two key positions can change things in a hurry.”
“Let’s put it this way. Washington won seven games last year despite playing one of the toughest schedules, losing their starting quarterback in Week 1, and suffering more injuries than more than half of the league. This year, they boast one of the easiest schedules and made a big-time improvement at quarterback.
By that logic, they should improve by at least two wins. Will nine wins be enough to squeak into the playoffs? It’s tough to say as there could be as many as five other teams, including the Eagles, Saints, Vikings, Cardinals, and 49ers vying for a Wild Card berth. In this prediction, the Commanders get in by the skin of their teeth.”
“Again, those who are counting out the Giants are not looking at their schedule. Yes, their secondary and linebacker corps is suspect on paper. Not to mention that the wide receiver corps has shown to be injury prone. But those games against the bottom of the AFC South (Texans and Jaguars) and NFC North (Bears and Lions) divisions are truly winnable.
The Giants are still a ways away from being a serious Super Bowl contender. They will finish the season with a 7-10 record.”
NFC West Predictions
“The Rams passing offense is loaded for bear, as the Rams top three receivers of Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, and even Van Jefferson are all capable of putting up 1000+ yards. The Rams rushing offense believes that a committee of Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson Jr., and rookie Kyren Williams will do just enough to keep the chains moving.
The Rams have a strong defense this year, highlighted by the addition of ILB Bobby Wagner to the team, and the return of defensive back Troy Hill. If the Rams stay healthy, they could be a strong contender to compete in, and win, Super Bowl LVII.
“Provided the latter half of the year is better than the first, though, it wouldn’t be shocking whatsoever if the Niners manage to get into the postseason dance as a Wild Card team, finishing second within the division behind the Rams.
A Wild Card victory might be a bit more achievable, given there aren’t anywhere near as many top contenders in the NFC as there are in the AFC. And if San Francisco winds up knocking off the Packers once more, as it did after the 2019 and 2021 seasons, perhaps that’d be a favorable matchup.”
Get more Arizona Cardinals coverage from Raising Zona.
Get more Seattle Seahawks news from 12th Man Rising.
AFC North Predictions
“The absolute worst thing that can happen to the Bengals is that injuries start to pile up and take their toll. Losing Burrow to injury or another unforeseen circumstance would be a season-ender for the squad but so would losing two of their top receivers since the depth behind them is rough.
Speaking of poor depth, if the offensive line has injuries, the Bengals don’t have good enough talent there to fill in if their starters get hurt. That could then lead to more pressure on Burrow and well…we know what could happen from there.”
“The AFC North could very well come down to the Ravens and Bengals, and I give the slight edge to Baltimore. The defense should be much-improved while the offense has enough star power to make some serious noise.
The playoffs are where things get tricky. An 11-6 record likely wouldn’t be enough to earn that No. 1 seed and a first-round bye meaning that the Ravens would be forced to play on wild-card weekend.”
“Even with a soft record, there’s hardly any chance the Browns go 4-0 out of the gate. That just doesn’t happen. Teams will always drop a trap game, and there are a couple there. After this, the seven-game stretch from Week 5 – Week 12 is too daunting.
Cleveland has a strong run game and a good defense, which will keep them in some of the games, but Brissett isn’t outdueling players such as Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Tom Brady. It’s a stacked AFC North, and they’re not where they want to be yet.”
“In 2021, It took an overtime field goal from Chris Boswell against the Ravens as well as a Chargers loss in Week 18 for the Steelers to sneak into the playoffs. Under the direction of Mike Tomlin, I fully expect the Steelers to surprise as underdogs to be a competent football team.
However, the AFC North looks like one of the best divisions in the NFL on paper, and the Bengals and Ravens are strong contenders in 2022. Because of this, I have Pittsburgh landing in a very similar position the Chargers were in last year when they narrowly missed the playoffs with a 9-8 record and finished third in their division.”
AFC South Predictions
“While the rival Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars once again have new head coaches and the Tennessee Titans lost some key players to free agency, trades and injury, the Colts appear to be the most talented team in the division. Matt Ryan brings a lot more experience and consistency than Carson Wentz, Jonathan Taylor has emerged as a star and the defense bears watching this season. Last year’s club dug itself an early hole and then came up short the final two weeks.
The Colts should win a division title and will be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.”
“The Titans have been a steady ship the last four seasons under Mike Vrabel. But they have struggled to recapture that postseason magic from 2019. And in recent years, they have lost some key players along the way. A healthy Derrick Henry makes a world of difference and it will be interesting to see how long it takes quarterback Ryan Tannehill to adjust to his new pass-catching targets.
But can the defense and most notably the pass rush overcome the loss of top sack artist Harold Landry III to injury? There will be a little bit of a slide in Nashville this season.”
“Look for this to be one of the more improved teams in the league. It’s easy to see this club doubling its victory total from a year ago, although that’s hardly a major accomplishment considering the Jaguars totaled only three victories. But watch how this team plays under head coach Doug Peterson, who once turned a last-place team into a Super Bowl champion in just one year. That would be an even bigger feat if he could pull that off in Jacksonville.
The club’s Week 18 win over the Colts a year ago showed that there’s some grit within this team.”
“The Texans will be an improved football team this season, but it will not be reflected in their win-loss record. The club has its shortcomings in the defensive trenches, which has been an issue for this club in recent years. Defensively, Lovie Smith will try to do his magic as head coach and defensive coordinator.
Meanwhile, rookie running back Dameon Pierce bears watching and it will be interesting to see if quarterback Davis Mills takes a step forward in his second NFL season. Still, there’s a long way to go here despite some promising young players on the roster.”
AFC East Predictions
“Two words. Four syllables. And a gut punch to fans of the Buffalo Bills all over the world: thirteen seconds. It’s hard to imagine a more heartbreaking way to lose in the playoffs besides Music City Miracle and Wide Right. Any additional title added to this list of shortfalls may transform an entire fan base into pessimists. And a competitive conference won’t be a cakewalk for the defending AFC East champions. The worst-case scenario for the Bills is a hangover from its Divisional Round loss a season ago. An early exit from postseason play this season, is the last thing expected of Buffalo.
Perhaps a new season will finally close the door on the phrase or at least remove any doubt from Bills fans regarding what the team is capable of. The Bills are expected to win. As the favorite to win the Super Bowl, anything less than reaching the Big Game is underachieving. Buffalo’s facile division looks to give them a comfortable walk to an AFC East title. And with parity apparent in other divisions, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bills earned the lone bye-week when the tournament begins. The Bills have all the pieces needed to live up to expectations, and if they do, they’ll capture the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history.”
With the departure of Josh McDaniels opening the door for Matt Patricia and Joe Judge’s returns to New England, the Patriots have faced several challenges throughout the offseason. From struggling in practices and preseason games, to question marks regarding who will be calling offensive plays, it’s clear they’re in for an uphill battle this season.
Facing a difficult schedule, particularly to start and end the season, it’s uncertain how the team will fare. Despite the overall pessimism from those outside of Foxboro, there’s no one better to elevate this team to new heights and shock the critics than Bill Belichick himself.
Could it be a big second-year jump for Mac Jones to lead the way back to the playoffs? Or will the drastic overall changes prove too much to overcome? Those answers will come in the coming weeks, starting with a historically difficult challenge as the Patriots face the Dolphins in Miami for their week one matchup.
Check out more New England Patriots coverage from Sara Marshall and the crew at Musket Fire.
“Miami’s best-case scenario would be to win the AFC East which I don’t believe they will. A more realistic expectation would be to challenge for a Wild Card spot late in the season and push for a 10-win season, something I believe they can achieve.
The Dolphins have gone through a lot of positive offensive changes but falling flat is a real concern given the fact that so many changes have actually taken place. While McDaniel struggling in his first season is normal, many fans are concerned that Josh Boyer may struggle to get his defense up to speed without Brian Flores.”
“This Jets roster is good. It’s good enough to be competitive in nearly every game the team plays this season. However, the giant question mark at the quarterback position is what prevents me from slotting them in with a better record. We just don’t know what Zach Wilson is going to be. We don’t know how he will play in 2022.
The improved supporting cast should lead to improved performance, but how much of an improvement will we see? Wilson was legitimately a bottom-three starting quarterback in the NFL last season. He’ll need to take a sizable leap forward for the Jets to approach the 7-9 win range.”
AFC West Predictions
“There’s every reason to believe these Chiefs will be just as competitive as ever with a solid mix of productive veterans and exciting developmental players. The Chiefs look especially strong in the trenches on offense and that will carry them far on that side of the ball. However, there are too many questions to project the Chiefs ahead of other competitive teams with lesser concerns (Bills, Rams, Bucs, Chargers).
That doesn’t mean the Chiefs can’t make their championship dreams happen, but it means they will have answered positively more questions than most along the way.”
“The Bolts have a really easy first-half schedule that should result in a red-hot start. With the Kansas City Chiefs having the hardest schedule in the league by far (according to Warren Sharp’s strength of schedule), the Chargers can capitalize and squeak out a tough AFC West.
Playoff experience does matter and in the AFC Championship Game the Chargers will square off against a Buffalo Bills team that has been knocking on the Super Bowl door for multiple years now. The Bolts ultimately won’t make the Super Bowl but it will be a very promising start to what fans hope is a long run of success.”
“There’s a lot of “new” in Denver this year, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We saw the 2012 Denver Broncos with Peyton Manning coming off of five neck procedures have an unbelievable run throughout the 2012 season. That team lost in overtime in the playoffs but they are generally considered one of the best Broncos teams to not win it all.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are kings of the AFC West until proven otherwise, but this should be the year the Denver Broncos get back on the saddle and out of the cellar in the AFC West.”
“The middle of the schedule gets easier for Las Vegas, as they take on Jacksonville, Houston, and New Orleans all right out of the bye week. They also go on the road early against the Tennessee Titans, a very winnable game, and will get to take on the Geno Smith or Drew Lock-led Seattle Seahawks.
Getting to 12-wins will also lock them into the Wild Card, and while they lost in that round last year, they finally get a playoff win this winter. They may lose in the Divisional Round, or maybe even the AFC title game, but overall, it is a big step forward for the Raiders franchise, as they show the future is bright in Las Vegas.”