Ten Bold Takes for the 2022 NFL Season

  1. The Jaguars Reach the AFC Championship Game

This may very well be the hottest take on this least, and I predict a quarterback under the age of 25 to win MVP. Doug Pederson has led a team to a Super Bowl before and Trevor Lawrence made the college football playoff every year he was at Clemson, making the championship game in two of those years. I explain in my article “Five Quarterbacks Poised to Make the Leap in 2022” how the Jaguars have done a sneaky good job to give Trevor Lawrence weapons who he can find success with and how the Jaguars will have an exciting offense in 2022. The Jaguars also have an exciting young defense to watch, and if Pederson and his staff can coach up their young players to play to their potential, the sky will be the limit for this team. Travon Walker and Josh Allen make up what may be the best young pass rush tandem in the league. CJ Henderson will have one more year of NFL experience under his belt, with Shaquill Griffin working across from him. Devin Lloyd, Foyesade Oluokon, and Chad Muma make up a solid young linebacking core. The Jaguars feel like they have at least one young player with incredibly high potential at every position group, and when Pederson and Lawrence find their rhythm they can steal a playoff spot in a talented AFC and win multiple playoff games.

  1. Trey Lance Wins MVP

Trey Lance is the player I am most excited to watch in 2022, and he doesn’t even play for my favorite team. Lance has an insanely strong arm and didn’t throw an interception in his one season as a starter in college. His new coach, Kyle Shanahan, has had Jimmy Garrapolo as his number one starting quarterback option during his tenure as a coach, and made it as far as a Super Bowl and an NFC championship the two years Jimmy G was healthy. The biggest key to the 49ers success this season is repairing the 49ers relationship with Deebo Samuel at all costs. Trey Lance having Kyle Shanahan designing his plays in an offense with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk, Trent Williams, and Elijah Mitchell is a recipe for Lance to put up one of the greatest sophomore seasons of all time, and anything short of a deep playoff run with Lance bringing home an MVP trophy should be a disappointment for 49ers fans who had to see their team give up three first round picks when they already had a quarterback on the roster who brought them to a Super Bowl. 

3. Rob Gronkowski Unretires

Gronk may even decide to follow in Tom Brady’s footsteps and decide to come back to Tampa before the season even starts, but assuming Gronk is on his couch for week one, it isn’t hard to see him making a return in November or December. Injuries happen quite often in the NFL and teams have called upon retired players to return to action, such as Eric Weddle in 2021. Brady and Gronk have already poked fun at Gronk potentially returning to the squad later in the year and absence will only make the heart grow fonder. It would be hard to imagine Gronk deciding to stay out of the league if Tom Brady keeps calling and the Buccaneers keep winning and Rob Gronkowski could potentially retire fresh off of winning one more Lombardi Trophy.

4. Jalen Hurts has a Pro Bowl Season

The Eagles have had a phenomenal offseason, and Jalen Hurts has already become a fan favorite due to his ability to run and make off schedule plays, as well as his competitiveness. It seems the Eagles have done enough to make their roster on par with their bitter rival, the Dallas Cowboys, and the competition for the NFC East this year will be one to watch. If Deebo leaves the 49ers, every other NFC team that made the playoffs will have lost a big weapon in their offense, as the Packers lost Davante Adams, the Buccaneers lost Gronk, the Rams lost Odell Beckham Jr, the Cowboys lost Amari Cooper, and the Cardinals lost Christian Kirk. The Eagles not only kept all of Hurts’ weapons, but they gave him one of his best friends and one of the best young receivers in the league in AJ Brown. Expect Hurts to put on a show in Philly this year and be voted to his first Pro Bowl as he leads the Eagles to their first division title since 2019.

5. Drake London Wins Offensive Rookie of the Year

There’s a reason London was the first receiver drafted in a draft class that was loaded at the receiver position. London has elite ball skills and will automatically be a physical threat to come down with jump balls at the next level. Atlanta was picking in the top ten for the second straight season and chose to draft a pass catcher also for the second straight year, despite not having a household name under center to throw to these players, but London absolutely warrants the selection. London was electric to watch at USC and he and Kyle Pitts will likely be the two lone bright spots on a Falcons offense that looks to be among one of the worst in the league on paper. This may seem like a knock on London and his situation but it is all the more reason the Falcons will not be afraid to give their rookie as much exposure to the league as possible, and London will waste no time capitalizing and be rewarded by winning the offensive rookie of the year award.

6. Nick Foles Starts Multiple Games for the Colts

As discussed in the last prediction, the Falcons have had a top ten draft pick in each of the last two seasons, and Matt Ryan was their starter for those two seasons.  Matt Ryan also has a record of 25-39 over the last four seasons, and has failed to produce a winning season since 2017. While Ryan was brought to Indianapolis to be the starter, if his struggles to win continue, Frank Reich could opt to go with the quarterback he won a Super Bowl with under center. Ryan is 37 years old and over each of the past three seasons Ryan has posted a quarterback rating of 59.6 in 2019, 59.8 in 2020, and 46.1 in 2021. The only three times in his career Matt Ryan has had a single season rating of under 64. Foles, however, is only 33 years old, has experience with Frank Reich, and is perhaps the most reliable backup in NFL history. Reich understands that after missing the playoffs last season after lobbying to bring Carson Wentz to town, he must at the very least make the postseason now that the Colts have moved on from Wentz. If Ryan begins to struggle and the Colts fail to win games, or if Ryan’s durability begins to come into question in his 15th season, Foles very well could be called upon to see if he has one more magical run left in his career.

7. Ryan Tannehill gets Benched

Ryan Tannehill did not look good as the number one seeded Titans got knocked out of the playoffs in their first game by the Cincinnati Bengals. The Titans responded to this by trading their number one receiver, AJ Brown, and drafting quarterback Malik Willis. While the Titans did use one of their first round picks to select wide receiver Treylon Burks, it is clear that Tennessee was unwilling to invest money into their passing game, and the Titans have shown before they do not like to pay players they feel aren’t contributing such as AJ Brown, Corey Davis, Jack Conklin, DeMarco Murray, and Jurrell Casey. The last of whom went as far as to say the Titans “treated him like garbage” when it was time to part ways. Tannehill has the biggest cap hit in the NFL next season of $38.6 million and is due $36.6 in 2023 and has a potential out next season that will only leave $18.8 million in dead cap, according to Spotrac.com. If Ryan Tannehill can’t prove to the Titans that they can win in the playoffs based on his play and not Derrick Henry, he could be looking for a new team next season, and if the Titans opt to play Willis over Tannehill for even a drive next season, and Willis performs well, iit will be clear that the Titans will be doing whatever they can to get Tannehill off the books.

8. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Evan Neal make the Pro Bowl

In my opinion, the Giants got the two most talented players in the draft when Kayvon Thibodeaux fell to them at fifth overall and Evan Neal fell to them at seventh. To start, Thibodeaux is an absolute monster coming off the edge, and Neal is a one of a kind athletic freak. It would not shock me to see Thibodeaux win defensive rookie of the year and to see Neal make a push to be on the second or even the first All-Pro team. Thibodeaux constantly attacks offensive lineman and throughout his time at Oregon, the number one recruit from 2019 was explosive for the full four quarters and his style of play could’ve translated to any NFL defense. The Giants defensive line already has a great rotation for the interior of the line, and the Giants have finally found their new franchise pass rusher and it will not be a surprise to see Thibodeaux make an immediate impact. The only knock on Thibodeaux in the draft process this year was that he had character concerns. This sprouted from an interview when Thibodeaux said that part of the reason that he chose to attend Oregon was because of their close relationship with Nike and the gear and connections in Nike available to Oregon athletes. Hardly something that should be seriously held against an 18 year old. Neal is another player who is a physical monster. Neal may be the most athletic 6’7″ 351 pound human to ever exist, as he showed off the athleticism when he jumped on to two boxes that were each four feet tall, landing in a split. The Giants front office did a spectacular job of adding two phenomenal talents at the two most important positions outside of quarterback. Daniel Jones is officially in a make or break season for the Giants, but regardless of how he plays this year expect Thibodeaux and Neal to be nothing short of game changers for the Giants this year.

9. Saquon Barkley Wins Comeback Player of the Year

Staying in the the big apple, the Giants running back has been dealt a tough hand to begin his NFL career. After winning offensive rookie of the year in 2018, and posting another season with over 1,000 rushing yards in 2019, Saquon Barkley has had major hurdles to overcome. Barkley tore his ACL in week two of the 2020 season, and began 2021 with the Giants carefully managing his workload. By the time Barkley was beginning to look like his normal self, Barkley suffered another setback. In week five against the Dallas Cowboys, Saquon Barkley got tangled up with a Dallas defender in an incident that may have been caused by an arrant throw by Daniel Jones. Barkley suffered an ankle injury and he never got fully back on track and had a run in with the covid list. Getting another offseason to rehab and a new tackle who some thought was the best player in the draft class in Evan Neal will be huge for Barkley’s production in 2022. The Giants will be doing everything they can to try and give Daniel Jones one more chance to figure it out and in order to do that they will need Barkley to carry the workload of a bell-cow rusher. Saquon Barkley will also be looking for a contract extension, and a strong season where he can pull off winning comeback player of the year would go a long way in regards to making Barkley one of the highest paid backs in league history.

10. The Broncos Miss the Playoffs

The Broncos made the biggest splash of the offseason, and potentially NFL history by trading for Russell Wilson, but having Wilson on your team does not guarantee success. Yes, Wilson has been one of the most consistently good quarterbacks over the last ten years, but he spent the beginning of his career with one of the best defenses and overall rosters the league has ever seen. Wilson and the Seahawks also missed the playoffs in 2021, after Wilson was injured badly enough to miss games for the first time in his career. The Seahawks may not have had a good roster around Wilson, but Wilson still had an above average receiving core, and the reason the Seahawks roster experienced such a jarring fall from grace was due to not having first round picks. The Broncos gave up three first round picks to bring in Wilson, and although the Broncos have a much better roster than the Seahawks outside of the quarterback position, they will also have a tougher road to the playoffs. Wilson will have to play in a completely new system for the first time in his NFL career while being in a division featuring Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs, Justin Herbert’s Chargers, and a Raiders team that made the playoffs in 2021 and added Davante Adams this offseason. There may be seven playoff spots up for grabs, four of which can be claimed by the Broncos, but it will be an uphill battle even outside of their division. The Bills, Patriots, Bengals, and Steelers made the playoffs in the AFC last year and all made moves to remain competitive this offseason, as well as the Ravens being fully healthy and reloaded. The Titans, Colts and Browns will also be looking to go on a revenge tour in 2022 and the Jaguars and Dolphins have put themselves in a boom or bust position for this upcoming season. While it is possible, Russell Wilson and the Broncos will have their work cut out for them in regards to making the playoffs, and I don’t see it happening simply because there aren’t enough spots for all the talented teams in the AFC to make the postseason and some teams have to be left out, unfortunately the Broncos are in a position to be one of them.

Leave a Reply