The NFL season is here, so I figured, why not make my playoffs predictions for the 2022 season? There are so many heavy hitters in this league, especially the AFC. These were hard to choose. I changed my picks mid-article multiple times.
We’re going to start with division winners, followed by my wildcard teams, and finish off with my Super Bowl prediction. I’m not perfect, so these won’t all be right, but I put a lot of thought into these.
NFC North: Vikings
Minnesota has had the same group of core talent for years and has more overall talent than Green Bay. The Packers receiver issues have me concerned with them. Justin Jefferson is one of the best players in the league, Dalvin Cook has been healthy, and if not, they have Alexander Mattison, and the defense is solid.
Kirk Cousins is due, as much as I hate to say it as a Commanders fan. They hope that rookie Andrew Booth Jr turns into a franchise cornerstone at the cornerback position. I think the Vikings start out hot, and it’s tough for the Packers to catch up.
The key for the Vikings is winning the close games. Eight of their nine losses last season were by one possession and five of them were by four points or less. If they win a few of those, they are an 11-win team. I believe they will win those games this season.
NFC East: Eagles
Jalen Hurts will take the leap this season, he’s put in the work, and now he just needs to put it together on the field. AJ Brown is going to have a true breakout season, and don’t forget about Devonta Smith. Dallas Goedert is also a very talented tight end who will now get a full season of being the number one. The running game will be what leads them but will lead to big, explosive plays passing.
The defense should be, at the very least, a top-five unit. The addition of cornerback Chauncey Gardner-Johnson after the last preseason is a very underrated move. Haason Reddick had 23.5 sacks the last two seasons for the Cardinals and Panthers. They drafted two players from the dominant Georgia defense in Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean.
As we all know, the NFC East doesn’t have repeat division winners. The Commanders and Cowboys will keep pressure on them throughout the season, but they will eventually win the division.
NFC South: Saints
I went back and forth between the Bucs and Saints; in fact, I had the Bucs written down until now. I am going with the Saints; I think both the defense and offense improved, and Dennis Allen is a different voice in the locker room. Alvin Kamara is dealing with off-the-field issues but isn’t expected to be suspended, so he should have another big season. Tyrann Mathieu, Jarvis Landry, Marcus Maye, and the return of Michael Thomas will improve the team.
The loss of Gardner-Johnson could hurt, but they still have a talented defensive back group. They wouldn’t move off of him if they didn’t have confidence in the other guys. Rookie receiver, and first-round pick, Chris Olave could really open up the offense down the field. Landry and Thomas are more underneath and intermediate guys, so Olave’s speed is much needed.
If Jameis Winston can stay healthy and continue his progression as a quarterback, the Saints will win the division. New Orleans has played Tom Brady well, and with the struggles, it seems like he and the team are having, both personally and on the field, it feels like too much to overcome.
NFC West: 49ers
Trey Lance is ready; he’s the guy. There is elite talent all over the field, like Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Trent Williams, Fred Warner, and complementary players surrounding them. The loss of starting safety Jimmie Ward hurts. Brandon Aiyuk seems to be in line for a breakout season. As does Elijah Mitchell, we know how well running backs do under Shanahan.
Kyle Shanahan gets the opportunity to coach the guy he was drawing up plays for before he was even able to draft him. It will be a perfect match, and I think the Niners will easily make the playoffs. I may have higher aspirations for them, so stay tuned.
The defending champions should not be counted out. Honestly, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Cooper Kupp, Matt Stafford. What else do I need to say? Well, the Rams went all in on winning a Super Bowl last year, signing Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. It worked, but both of those acquisitions moved on. They signed with the Bills, Robert Woods signed with the Titans, Andrew Whitworth retired, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Darious Willams departed as well.
They signed Bobby Wagner, who has arguably been the best linebacker in the league for the last ten years. Cam Akers hopes to get back to form after the Achilles injury and then return for the playoffs. While they do have three of the best players in the league, they are missing some pieces. They did sign Allen Robinson and still have Van Jefferson on offense, but is that enough to help out Kupp?
I originally had the Cardinals here, but I don’t trust them. I know there’s a lot going on with Brady and the offensive line, but it’s Tom Brady. He’s made the playoffs 18 times. Tampa Bay isn’t that far removed from winning the Super Bowl. The defense that already has Shaq Barrett, Devin White, Antoine Winfield Jr, and Vita Vea added Akiem Hicks to the defensive line.
They still have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Leonard Fournette while bringing in Russell Gage and Julio Jones. If Jones can stay healthy, he can make an impact as the third option at receiver. This team is still full of talent everywhere, and I’m not betting against Brady until he’s no longer playing. He’s smart enough to make up for the losses on the line, but it all depends on whether Brady feels capable.
We are here. Go ahead and laugh. Is there some bias? Sure. But look, we have a capable quarterback and the talent around him to go to the playoffs. I believe in Ron Rivera. I’m willing to bet we have dealt with the most injuries over the last five seasons.
Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Logan Thomas, and hopefully, Jahan Dotson will be key contributors to this team. The running back room is a bit of a question now after the projected starter and rookie Brian Robinson was injured in a robbery attempt and shooting.
We have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, on paper, but it needs to all come together. Chase Young is still coming back from his ACL injury and will miss the first four games. The hope is that the back seven can hold up better this season, giving the line time to get to the quarterback. Kendall Fuller, William Jackson III, Kam Curl, and Bobby McCain will be relied upon heavily. Benjamin St-Juste needs to show improvement in his second season as well. If the team can finally stay healthy, we’ll be able to show our potential.
AFC North: Bengals
Joe Brrr, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Joe Mixon, and Tyler Boyd. The Bengals have the best receiving trio in the league and a top-10 quarterback and running back. The offensive line has hopefully improved, and the defense should still be one of the best.
Trey Hendrickson was fifth in sacks last season with 14, DJ Reader was dominant, Chidobe Awuzie is very underrated at corner, Logan Wilson had 100 total tackles last season, and Jessie Bates III being re-signed was huge.
I think them getting to the Super Bowl will only make them hungrier over the next couple of years. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are going to keep ascending into the best receiver duo in the league. Joe Burrow has a special, transcendent presence to him, and his team thrives off of it.
AFC East: Bills
Josh Allen has to feel like it’s time after the heartbreaking loss in the Divisional Round last year to the Chiefs and seeing Joe Burrow and the Bengals go to the Super Bowl. Many feel like he’s next up to take his team to the big game, and who could argue?
Stefon Diggs is one of the best receivers in the league, Tre’Davious White is one of the best cornerbacks, and they are nearly a complete team. They have been missing consistent production from the running back position, which causes Allen to be running far more than he should. The Bills hope James Cook can add real production. Gabe Davis had an unreal performance against the Chiefs in the playoffs, with eight catches, 201 yards, and four touchdowns. He only had 35 catches last season but should be able to double that as the number two receiver.
Dawson Knox and Jamison Crowder will be key contributors as well. The defense is great, contrary to what their last few minutes and overtime against the Chiefs showed. The Bills are the Super Bowl favorites, so barring injury, I don’t see them losing the division.
AFC South: Colts
Jonathan Taylor solidified his spot as a top player and, arguably, running back in the league. He almost took them to the playoffs last season, but an implosion from Wentz against the Jags in the last week of the season shut down those hopes.
With a more experienced Matt Ryan and an absolutely elite offensive line, they should be easily battling for a top-four seed. The Colts may have a claim to the best running back, offensive lineman (Quenton Nelson), and best linebacker in the league (Shaquille Leonard).
If it weren’t for a guy named Aaron Donald, DeForest Buckner might’ve had a case for the best interior defensive lineman. Kwity Paye could have a breakout season with Ngakoue across from him. Indianapolis adding Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue to an already very talented defensive unit could allow the unit to earn more takeaways.
Michael Pittman Jr is an easy choice for a breakout season with Ryan at the helm. If they can get contributions from Parris Campbell, Alec Pierce, or one of their tight ends, it will open the offense up even more. Don’t sleep on the Colts.
AFC West: Chargers
J HERBO! The team I’m most excited to watch this season is the Chargers. Derwin James, Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, JC Jackson, Keenan Allen, Mike Will Made It, Asante Samuel Jr, and Austin Ekeler are such a star-studded roster. That group of studs is led by Justin Herbert, who I think could soon be recognized at the very top of the league. Games aren’t played on paper, though, and expectations are on the “other” LA team, and they must live up to them.
Tua Time! Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and the defense will make the playoffs. Byron Jones will return opposite Xavien Howard early this season. Jevon Holland could turn into an elite player in the secondary in his second season. Tyreek Hill changes everything for the offense. Waddle had 106 catches last season as a rookie, so he’s established as well. Both have elite speed and can create space quickly, which will make it easier for Tua to connect in the intermediate and deep throws.
Derek Carr and Davante Adams are best friends, and they hope that carries over onto the field and into the playoffs. Hunter Renfrow is one of the best route runners in the league. Darren Waller is arguably a top-3 tight end in the league, and both of those players have a connection with Carr. Josh Jacobs and Zamir White could be a great duo in the near future too.
The defense added Chandler Jones, which was much needed because they struggled with their pass rush outside of Maxx Crosby. They also need their young guys in the secondary to improve and stay healthy. Can this defense keep up with the others in the division?
Chiefs or Ravens?
It feels crazy to leave out Pat Mahomes or Lamar Jackson. Mahomes doesn’t have Tyreek Hill anymore, and Jackson doesn’t have Hollywood Brown. I think both will do relatively okay without them, especially Lamar. Jackson has Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman, and it seems Isiah Likely will be a key contributor. If JK Dobbins can stay healthy, the running game will be the key to how far the Ravens go.
The Chiefs still don’t seem sure about their running backs. Mahomes still has Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman but also has new weapons in rookie receiver Skyy Moore, Marques Valdez-Scantling, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s hard to be super confident in either offense, but you can’t doubt either QB.
The Ravens’ defensive unit of Marlon Humphrey, Patrick Queen, Calais Campbell, Odafe Oweh, and Kyle Hamilton could be one of the best in the league. The Chiefs didn’t change much defensively, and they had to replace Tyrann Mathieu with Justin Reid.
I’m going to roll with Mahomes, but I don’t feel great about it.
It’s a new day in the NFL, Los Angeles Chargers vs. San Francisco 49ers. I’m gonna roll with my guy J Herbo and the Los Angeles Chargers. Back-to-back LA teams are winning the big game!