2022 NFL Predictions, Part 1: Planting the Flag on All 16 AFC Teams

We’ll go by division:

AFC East

  1. Bills: I don’t know why the Bills are now considered the prohibitive favorites to win the Super Bowl. People are treating them like the 2007 Patriots right now and I don’t really understand it. Who did they add in the offseason? Von Miller, James Cook? Sure, they’re going to be good, and they’re going to win this division, but overwhelming Super Bowl favorites? I just don’t get it. I mean they lost Brian Daboll, their offensive coordinator. That’s a big loss. He was one of the best OCs in the league the past few years, and people just assume they’ll not only be fine without him but get better? I don’t know about that. NFL Game Day’s team had their 6 analysts make Super Bowl picks and all 6 of them chose the Bills to win the Super Bowl. Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, Kurt Warner, Michael Irvin, Cynthia Frelund and Rachel Bonetta. That is pretty crazy if you ask me that all six of them are in agreement that the Bills are going to win it all. Not a single dissent. Those people all know football well, of course, so maybe they’re right and I’m wrong. Vegas thinks the Bills are the team to beat as well. And they were the #1 team in my power ratings last season. But I just don’t get why so many people see them as the overwhelming Super Bowl favorites. They have never really had a great running game–Josh Allen is their best runner, for sure–and I’m not really sold on their defense, especially against the run. They’re prone to serious head-scratcher games like when they lost 9-6 to the Jaguars last year. I think they’re a top-5 team in the league but that’s about as far as I’ll go.
    • I was working on this post all week and during the Thursday Night kickoff game, and I have to admit, Josh Allen looks absolutely incredible. He looks like the best QB in the league. The guy they said was “inaccurate” when he was coming out of college looks like the most accurate QB I’ve ever seen. Dude throws pure lasers. Maybe it’s just because it’s the first game, but man, I am just in awe of how good Josh Allen and these elite QBs are nowadays. It’s really incredible. By about the third quarter of that game, I was wondering to myself, “How is he not the consensus best player in the league?” He has a cannon of an arm, he’s crafty, and he’s like the team’s best running back. That stiff-arm he had on one of his runs? He’s like Derrick Henry playing quarterback. It’s just ludicrous.
    • Now, of course, he’s good for a boneheaded turnover here and there, but I think that’s a small price to pay for what he brings to the table. Their defensive line was absolutely terrorizing Matt Stafford, their run game looks as good as it has ever looked (Devin Singletary, where was this the past 4 years??) and Gabriel Davis looks like he’s emerging as a star receiver. I understand why the Bills are Super Bowl favorites. But I still have to see them prove it in the playoffs!
  2. Dolphins: The Tua experiment will either succeed or fail this season. If he can’t get it done with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, he just can’t get it done period.
  3. Patriots: I don’t like Matt Patricia and Joe Judge sharing play-calling duties. I think they have one of the most limited groups of pass-catchers in the league. And I don’t think Mac Jones’ ceiling is very high. I’m not sure how good their defense is going to be after losing JC Jackson and some other players. I don’t know, man. It’s not looking good for the Patriots right now. However, because of Bill Belichick I think they at least win 6-7 games and finish ahead of the Jets. Bill Belichick will never finish behind the New York Jets.
  4. Jets: Zach Wilson made news for allegedly having sex with his mom’s best friend over the summer. That was the biggest Jets story of the offseason. I don’t know, man–I mean good for him, congrats on bagging a milf. But that’s not the kind of news I want my players making. Maybe I’m old school, maybe I’m a stick in the mud, but it just doesn’t seem like a story you hear about a team before they go out and have a great season. That’s like a “this team is going to be a shit show” story. And now he’s out the first four weeks of the season. It just doesn’t seem like things are getting off to a good start for the Jets, and they are not a team built to overcome a slow start.

AFC North

  1. Bengals: I think they’ll have a bit of a Super Bowl hangover, but they’ll still be good. They have the best QB in this division, they upgraded their offensive line, they have weapons galore on offense, and their defense is sneaky good. I don’t see them winning the AFC again, but they’ll be in the mix.
  2. Ravens: I think the Ravens will be good, but I also don’t think you can win a Super Bowl with Lamar Jackson so their upside is capped. They’ll be like a 9-11 win team and make the playoffs, though.
  3. Steelers: You’re not getting very far with Mitch Trubisky, I think he’ll be eventually benched in favor of Kenny Pickett before too long. But I’m not sure just how good Pickett is–what’s his upside, his ceiling? I don’t think he’s got Justin Herbert-like upside, but I think he can be a good-not-great QB on the level of like a Kirk Cousins/Dak Prescott eventually. He’s got a lot of intangibles and he seems like a great kid, but I don’t know if he’s ready to win at a high level in this league yet. If the Steelers have an elite defense, then they can go far, but I think they’re one year and one great draft class away. Give George Pickens some time to develop chemistry with Pickett (Pickett to Pickens?).
  4. Browns: Obviously the 11-game suspension for Watson is killer. They have a loaded roster, though, and Jacoby Brissett might just be able to game-manage his way to a salvageable record through 11 games if he just hands it off to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and doesn’t turn the ball over. I still think the Browns are a long shot to make the playoffs, but if they’re 5-6 by the time Watson comes back, there’s a fair chance. Although I think Watson will need some time in the offense to really get comfortable there. This is probably a lost season for Cleveland, which sucks because that roster is built to win now. But they knew the risks when they signed Watson.

AFC West

  1. Chiefs: Look, they lost their best offensive weapon in Tyreek Hill, but they’ve been steadily upgrading the defense and I think that’s a big deal. As much as I think the Tyreek Hill loss hurts the Chiefs, I just can’t bring myself to pick against them in this division. I respect Mahomes and Andy Reid too much. I think it’ll be a close division race, but I think the Chiefs will narrowly win out in the end over the Chargers.
  2. Chargers: This is the year it all comes together for the Chargers. I love the additions of Khalil Mack and JC Jackson, although I think Mack might be a bit past his prime by this point. They’ve got arguably the best roster in the league with studs all over the place: Herbert, Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, an upgraded offensive line, Pro Bowlers all over the place on defense. The Chargers are just stacked. Man, the more I think about them, the more I want to pick them to win this division. But for some reason I just can’t pick against Mahomes and Andy Reid.
  3. Broncos: Call me a hater but I am just not as thrilled by Russell Wilson as many other people are. I think he’s actually one of the more overrated players in the NFL. He game-managed his way to a Super Bowl in year 2 riding the coattails of the Legion of Boom defense and Marshawn Lynch. The following year, 2014, the Seahawks got back to the Super Bowl and Russ had them a yard away form repeating, but he threw that INT to Malcolm Butler on the goal line. Honestly, since that 2014 Super Bowl, Russ and the Seahawks were pretty disappointing in the playoffs. They got a lucky win in 2015 over the Vikings because Minnesota’s kicker missed a chip shot at the end of the game. In 2016, Seattle beat the Lions and then lost convincingly to the Falcons. In 2017, they missed the playoffs. In 2018, they lost in the first round to the Cowboys. In 2019, they won their wild card game against the Eagles 17-9, but Carson Wentz was injured and Josh McCown was the starter for Philly. You don’t get a lot of credit for winning that game. Seattle then lost to Green Bay. In the 2020 playoffs, they were one and done, losing to the Rams in the first round. That’s Russell Wilson’s playoff history since the Malcolm Butler game. I just don’t think Russell Wilson is leading you to a Super Bowl. I think he’s vastly overrated. He’s a good-not-great QB. Everyone blames Pete Carroll and the Seahawks’ offensive line for his lack of success in Seattle post-2014, but the reality is Wilson takes way too many sacks that could be avoided, and he only has a Super Bowl ring because his team had an all-time great defense. Now, the Broncos have a great roster and they’re certainly playoff-caliber, so I have them making the playoffs, but that’s about it.
  4. Raiders: I think they’re going to be a very fun offense, but their secondary on defense is a major concern and I think it limits their upside in this division. I also worry about their offensive line. I don’t think the Raiders will be a bad team by any stretch, but somebody has to finish 4th in this division and I think the Raiders are the most likely team to do so.

AFC South

  1. Colts: In a weak division, the Colts are the clear-cut favorites. Matt Ryan may not be an elite QB, but he’s the best in the division and he’s an upgrade over Carson Wentz. They’ve got an elite running back, they have a good offensive line, they have a pretty solid defense–the only thing I have questions about is their pass-catchers beyond Michael Pittman. If Parris Campbell is able to put it together and stay healthy, he might be the secret weapon for them. But I just don’t think they have enough firepower on offense to have a Super Bowl ceiling.
  2. Jaguars: As a Bears fan, I wanted the Bears to hire Doug Pederson as head coach this offseason. I thought he was the best coaching candidate on the market. Guys who have won Super Bowls don’t become available very often. I think Doug Pederson is going to turn things around in Jacksonville. I think Trevor Lawrence is going to make some big strides this year. I don’t know if they’re a playoff team but they do have some decent pieces on offense, and they’re trying to build up that defense with #1 overall pick Travon Walker, plus The Other Josh Allen. I think if Trevor Lawrence progresses and really starts to live up to that potential, they could take a big leap this year.
  3. Titans: I feel like the Titans had an absolutely miserable offseason. They blew a winnable playoff game, they traded away AJ Brown, Julio is gone–it’s hard to find good things to say about the Titans. I think Derrick Henry might be nearing the point where he hits the wall, as he had over 370 carries in 2020 and then got hurt in 2021, right on schedule for the Curse of 370. I think they’ll be decent–they’re not a rock-bottom team at all–but I don’t know if they’re a playoff team anymore. I just think last year was their year and they blew it. I think they’re a 7-9 win team at most.
  4. Texans: Hey, maybe Davis Mills surprises some people this year. I doubt it, but he’s actually not that bad. This is just not a roster built to win right now. The Texans are in a rebuild and they will be competing for the top draft pick.

So my AFC Playoff teams will be as follows:

Buffalo, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Indianapolis, LA Chargers, Baltimore and… I guess Denver.

I guess I have to say the Bills are the favorites to come out of the AFC after how good they looked on opening night against the Rams. The Bills look absolutely incredible.

As much as I don’t want to commit to the Bills, I think I have to. They got better in the offseason, and Kansas City got worse.

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