2022 NFL season predictions: Josh Allen wins MVP, and Aidan Hutchinson brings home Defensive ROY honors

2022 NFL season predictions: Josh Allen wins MVP, and Aidan Hutchinson brings home Defensive ROY honors

Ah, fall is almost upon us — the best time of the year, filled with football and changing leaves. And with the commencement of football comes 2022 NFL season predictions. Who will win the various award races? Who will take the Lombardi Trophy through the streets for a Super Bowl parade? Last year, the staff came together to choose each award. This season, that burden falls upon one man. Let’s see how this looks six months from now.

2022 NFL Season Predictions

AFC Divisional Dinners

The AFC welcomed a massive influx of talent over the offseason. The scales have tipped dramatically, and now the AFC is far more impressive than its counterpart.

AFC East

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. Miami Dolphins
  3. New England Patriots
  4. New York Jets

The Buffalo Bills have the best roster in the AFC East and the entire NFL. Their defense is talented at all three levels, and it will take multiple serious injuries to take a toll on their depth on that side of the ball. Their offensive line is the only unit on the team that underwhelms even slightly, but they thrived with an equally unimpressive unit last season.

The Miami Dolphins did what they could to improve their offensive line. They added both Connor Williams and Terron Armstead this offseason. They also added Tyreek Hill through trade and Mike McDaniel as head coach to transform this offense. If the preseason is any indication, the offense will be much better than a season ago.

The New England Patriots don’t seem to have a plan. But they still have Bill Belichick, so they have earned the benefit of the doubt. Losing J.C. Jackson without doing much to replace him was an interesting decision, but we felt somewhat similar when the Patriots moved on from Stephon Gilmore. Their offensive attack will be the most interesting thing about the team, as Matt Patricia took over offensive coordinator duties.

The New York Jets have the worst roster in the AFC East, but it’s finally starting to round into what looks like could be a real contender soon enough. The offensive line is good, and they’ve added weapons to the offense that will help give them a true evaluation of second-year quarterback Zach Wilson.

AFC West

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Los Angeles Chargers
  3. Las Vegas Raiders
  4. Denver Broncos

Until the Kansas City Chiefs are no longer the AFC West champs, they are the favorites. They’ve been to four straight conference championship games, and they still have Patrick Mahomes. While they lost Tyreek Hill, they’ve added Skyy Moore, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The offensive line is still outstanding, and Steve Spagnuolo still has some tricks up his sleeve.

The Chargers might be keeping pace with Buffalo’s roster on paper, but the Chargers always seem to be the darlings of the offseason. Los Angeles added a ton of talent to a defense that needed it, but we must take a wait-and-see approach to the team. Justin Herbert should cement himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the league in 2022.

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The Las Vegas Raiders sat on their hands for a few days during free agency but then turned up the heat with a trade for Davante Adams and the addition of Chandler Jones. It will be fascinating to see what Patrick Graham can do for the talent on the Raiders’ defense. Josh McDaniels should be able to work with a poor offensive line by getting the ball out of Derek Carr’s hand quickly.

The Denver Broncos have many expectations surrounding their team, but the defense must come together in a way it couldn’t under Vic Fangio. The offense took a big hit when Tim Patrick went down, and the Broncos have a first-time head coach in Nathaniel Hackett. They could still compete for a playoff spot, even finishing in last place in the West.

AFC North

  1. Cincinnati Bengals
  2. Baltimore Ravens
  3. Cleveland Browns
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Cincinnati Bengals made a magical run to the Super Bowl a year ago, but they should be in a position to legitimately contend for another visit. They improved the offensive line from center to right tackle with three free agent additions. Their defense was already strong, and they added defensive backs in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. They have the best receiving corps in the league. Cincinnati should win back-to-back AFC North titles.

The Ravens should have one of the best teams in the AFC if they can stay relatively healthy in 2022. Baltimore struggled more with injuries last season than most teams do in three, and Lamar Jackson still somehow had them at 7-5 before his injury. Baltimore’s defense will be interesting to track with new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.

The Cleveland Browns could have battled for the top of the division if Deshaun Watson was around for a full 17-game season, but he’s suspended for the first 11 contests. They have a roster built for a playoff run, but Jacoby Brissett isn’t the one to take Cleveland there unless he finds much more consistent playmaking ability.

Pittsburgh’s offensive line is a mess. They’ve looked inept throughout the entire preseason, leaving Mitch Turbisky running for his life. The defense will hold the brunt of the responsibility for the team’s success this season, which could be the first losing campaign in Mike Tomlin’s 15-year career.

AFC South

  1. Indianapolis Colts
  2. Tennessee Titans
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Houston Texans

The Indianapolis Colts should be the best team in the AFC South. They fell flat on their faces late in the season. But they’ve upgraded at QB, replacing Carson Wentz with Matt Ryan. However, much of their defensive success will come down to the health of Shaquille Leonard, who Franch Reich is being coy about regarding his injury.

The Titans go against most of what we believe to be the modern NFL game. Admittedly, that’s probably why they’re underestimated here. Their defense is superb, but the offensive weaponry leaves quite a bit to be desired if first-round pick Treylon Burks cannot contribute immediately in the play-action-heavy passing attack.

Jacksonville’s roster is far more talented than it was a season ago. They’ve added receiving help, which was necessary after Trevor Lawrence struggled with receiver drops a season ago. They also added depth to the offensive line and multiple spots on the defensive side of the ball.

The Texans are still one of the most talent-deprived rosters in the NFL. However, they seem to have found lightning in a bottle with both of their first two draft picks on the defensive side of the ball. What Pep Hamilton can get out of Davis Mills will make their season. There still isn’t a ton of talent at receiver, although Brandin Cooks is one of the most underrated receivers in the league.

NFC Divisional Winners

The NFC lost a lot of individual talent throughout the offseason, but a few teams were able to improve. The quarterback play will eventually decide the two divisions that appear to be contentious.

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Dallas Cowboys
  3. Washington Commanders
  4. New York Giants

The Philadelphia Eagles have loaded up on talent this offseason to challenge for the NFC East crown. Howie Roseman has always been one of the more active roster manipulators in the NFL. The Eagles executed a trade of Day 3 draft picks for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who is the league’s foremost trash talker and a very good safety/slot hybrid player. However, if both the Eagles and Cowboys remain relatively healthy, they’ll need Jalen Hurts to ascend to the next level as a passer.

By the rule of the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys cannot win the division in 2022. No team has repeated as East winners since 2004. Although they’re the betting favorite, year-to-year consistency has escaped the Cowboys, whether due to injury or underwhelming execution. Being without Michael Gallup and Tyron Smith to start the season will be difficult to overcome, but their defense is still very talented.

The Washington Commanders aren’t all that far behind the Cowboys and Eagles in overall talent, but they haven’t had a solution at quarterback for a long time. Carson Wentz is at his third stop in three seasons and will be playing opposite of a defensive unit that wildly underwhelmed a season ago and will be without Chase Young to begin the year.

The Giants are a rebuilding roster with some fun individual talent at wide receiver and pass rusher. However,  Wink Martindale’s second- and third-level defenders could struggle with his aggressive man-coverage style. Brian Daboll is in a tough position taking over and trying to get a clear picture of what Daniel Jones may be moving forward with just one season in Daboll’s offense.

NFC West

  1. Los Angeles Rams
  2. San Francisco 49ers
  3. Arizona Cardinals
  4. Seattle Seahawks

The Rams have lost some of their talent from last season’s Super Bowl team, particularly at left tackle, EDGE, and cornerback. The addition of Allen Robinson will be fascinating to track, as Sean McVay has never had himself a receiver of Robinson’s ilk. But as long as Matthew Stafford’s elbow remains intact this season, the team is the favorite in the NFC West.

The 49ers are the most talented team in the division, but the right side of their offensive line struggled in the preseason. It’s easy to be excited about this offense with Lance, as he is far more talented than Jimmy Garoppolo as a passer. The issue is physical talent does not always equal production and efficiency, especially in young QBs.

The Arizona Cardinals have had an interesting offseason. Kliff Kingsbury’s teams have consistently sputtered down the stretch. That makes losing DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games of the season all the more concerning, given Kyler Murray’s drop in production when he doesn’t have Nuk on the field. The defense is a disjointed mess in terms of fitting players to the scheme, yet they still ended up sixth in defensive EPA per play a season ago. They should compete for a Wild Card spot in the NFC.

The Seahawks aren’t a rebuilding roster but a retooling one. Seattle has some fun pieces on the defensive side of the football, and DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett make for one of the better receiving duos in the NFL. But in the end, Geno Smith won’t be enough to have the Seahawks contending for a playoff spot, even behind what looks to be an improved offensive line.

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Minnesota Vikings
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Chicago Bears

The Packers have one of the most talented rosters in the NFC North — and in the NFL. With David Bakhtiari back and Elgton Jenkins healthy, the offensive line should be dominant. On the defensive side of the ball, they have elite players at all three levels of the field. They also have the back-to-make league MVP, Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay’s receiving corps has taken a lot of flak during the offseason, but Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb, and Allen Lazard should be productive enough to move the offense forward.

The Vikings need their offensive line to improve in their zone-rushing attack. Dalvin Cook had his least efficient season in 2021, and much of it was due to their struggling run blocking. On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings have continued to improve their defensive interior and will look a bit different with more stand-up rushers off the edge. There are a lot of new moving parts in the coaching staff and front office. Could they get the most out of this roster in Year 1?

The Detroit Lions lost 13 games last season, but they lost five by less than one score and had a better scoring differential than the seven-win Atlanta Falcons. They’ve improved an underwhelming receiving corps from a season ago, and they get back a few key defenders that were injured a season ago. Their offensive and defensive lines are both strong, and the team should improve from a season ago.

The Chicago Bears are in the midst of a rebuild but at a very inopportune time. They drafted their franchise quarterback but have failed to improve an abhorrent offensive line and lackluster receiving corps during the offseason. They also lack defensive talent, although they seem to have a difference-maker in rookie safety Jaquan Brisker. This season will be about evaluating Fields’ play independent of the lack of talent surrounding him.

NFC South

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Carolina Panthers
  4. Atlanta Falcons

The Buccaneers are still the cream of the NFC South crop, even with injuries mounting on the offensive line. They have a receiving corps four deep that is as talented as any in the NFL. The depth at defensive back could be an issue if they suffer a rash of injuries like they did last season, but the roster as a whole rivals any in the NFC.

The New Orleans Saints are a bit underappreciated in the eyes of preseason stock watches. While the offensive line may struggle more than a season ago with the loss of Terron Armstead, the receiving corps is unrecognizable — in about the best way imaginable. It’ll take a healthy Jameis Winston, but the Saints should be a playoff candidate in the NFC.

It’s no secret the NFL’s drunk uncle cosplayer is on the hot seat. Matt Rhule’s desirable trait was his ability to turn around ugly situations in a very short timeframe. In fact, three years was the marker for him at the college level. But the two leagues are very different, and Rhule has struggled with his ascension to the NFL level. A healthy Baker Mayfield and Christian McCaffrey could make a difference, along with a very talented young defense.

The Falcons are in Year 2 of their rebuild and Year 1 without Matt Ryan under center. Desmond Ridder impressed in the preseason, but there is a long way to go before he’s seen as the franchise’s possible savior. Both their offense and defense have a long way to go before they can even think about contending in the South.

AFC Playoff Order

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. Cincinnati Bengals
  3. Kansas City Chiefs
  4. Indianapolis Colts
  5. Los Angeles Chargers
  6. Baltimore Ravens
  7. Tennessee Titans

The AFC is a minefield! There are so many talented rosters in the conference that anything could happen. The Raiders, Broncos, Browns, and Dolphins could all make a run for a Wild Card birth. Buffalo is the best roster in the NFL, so they should end up at the top of the conference.

NFC Playoff Order

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  2. Green Bay Packers
  3. Los Angeles Rams
  4. Philadelphia Eagles
  5. San Francisco 49ers
  6. Dallas Cowboys
  7. New Orleans Saints

The NFC has a few surprises up its sleeve. The conference isn’t as talented on paper, but it should be competitive. It wouldn’t be surprising to see whichever team doesn’t win the West making a run in the playoffs.

2022 NFL Season Conference and Super Bowl Champion Predictions

AFC Champion: Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills are a team of destiny in 2022. They narrowly missed out on the AFC Championship a season ago, as it took a Herculean effort from Patrick Mahomes to sneak past the Bills. Adding Von Miller and getting Tre’Davious White back healthy will pay massive dividends for them.

NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers

Green Bay’s defense has to provide more efficient defensive performances throughout the season. The talent is dripping from the defensive side of the ball — they just need to put it all together. The offense will be balanced with a strong offensive line, two good runners, and Rodgers slinging the pill.

Super Bowl Champions: Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen is already one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL, and he’s still not a fully developed passer. He had inconsistent spells last season, but he is one of the most unfair advantages in the league. The only possible weak point on the team is the offensive line, and Allen negates much of that issue.

NFL Award Predictions for 2022

MVP: Josh Allen

The 2022 season is where Allen puts it all together. He’s already one of the five best QBs in the league, and he’s only improving. Allen has a cheat code of a right arm and runs the ball like a sophomore in high school playing against a middle school team with his size and athleticism. If the Bills’ traditional rushing attack falters, they could lean on Allen to pick up the slack.

Offensive Player of the Year: Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert won’t quite have the team success of Allen, which is why he doesn’t get to hoist the MVP award. As much as team success shouldn’t be a factor there, wins are a QB stat in the eyes of far too many important decision-makers. Herbert is a lot like Allen, although a bit less gifted as a runner and possibly more gifted as a passer. He will put up ridiculous numbers in his third season as an NFL QB.

Defensive Player of the Year: Micah Parsons

There’s a chance we’re talking about Micah Parsons on the same level we do Aaron Donald after this season. He had 13 sacks, won Defensive Rookie of the Year, and earned first-team All-Pro honors last year. He’s one of the only real Swiss Army knife players in the league. Not many can play at such a high level at so many different positions.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kenny Pickett

Kenny Pickett winning this award will depend on how long Mike Tomlin takes to pull the trigger and insert him as the starting QB. But he looked primed and ready for the role during the preseason. Despite playing behind a struggling offensive line, Pickett was decisive and accurate in all three outings.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aidan Hutchinson

Aidan Hutchinson winning the award is chalk. He’s in a good position on a strong defensive line, and his game was about as pro-ready as they come. It would take a massive season from one of the defensive backs to win the award, no linebackers seem primed for it, and Kayvon Thibodeaux will miss a few games early on with a knee injury.

Comeback Player of the Year: Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas didn’t see a snap last season after playing just seven games in 2020 due to an ankle injury. He will still be the main target in the Saints’ passing attack, and a healthy Jameis Winston should be able to get him the ball efficiently enough. This will be the first time Thomas will have a bit of help on the outside, with Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry bringing talent to the receiving corps.

Coach of the Year: Andy Reid

The belief is losing Tyreek Hill will be a big loss for Kansas City, but the Chiefs added a few good targets to the receiving corps over the offseason, and Patrick Mahomes is still Patrick Mahomes. Andy Reid has always been one of the NFL’s brightest offensive minds, and that will continue until he decides to hang up the headset. But meeting or exceeding the team’s lower expectations will earn him his second AP Coach of the Year Award.