By Zach Jacovini
Editor’s Note: This story was originally written prior to the beginning of the NFL season, though some updates have been made.
2022 NFL Season Predictions
With the 2022 NFL season officially underway, teams in both the NFC and AFC have their eyes set on competing for the fifty-seventh Lombardi Trophy. However, not every team is capable of competing at a high level, with certain teams being significantly better than others on paper. Below, I’m going to run through win-loss predictions for all eight divisions between the AFC and NFC as well as predict the division winners which teams will find themselves securing a postseason berth.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
In one of football's most storied divisions, I have the Philadelphia Eagles finishing in first, followed by the Washington Commanders in second, Dallas Cowboys in third and lastly the New York Giants. These rankings were made following week one, which is why I have the Dallas Cowboys falling short of repeating as division winners. Coming into the season, there were legitimate concerns about Dallas’ offense after they traded Pro-Bowl wideout Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns as well as losing stand-out tackle La’el Collins to the Cincinnati Bengals. Dallas was hoping that Pro-Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott as well as young star wide receiver Ceedee Lamb would be able to pick up the slack. However, now that quarterback Dak Prescott will be out multiple weeks with a hand injury, it's highly likely the Dallas Cowboys will exit the first half of their season with only 3 or 4 wins, with tough matchups like the Los Angeles Rams coming up. This injury greatly changes things for the NFC East as it makes it likely that the improved Philadelphia Eagles, who added talent such as Pro-Bowl wideout A.J. Brown, linebacker Kyzir White. and cornerback James Bradberry will finish on top as winners of the NFC East. Meanwhile, the other teams, Washington and New York are struggling to rebuild. New York has started the season 2-0, but the quality of opponents they have played as well as the rest of their schedule has them likely falling behind in the standings sooner than later.
Unsurprisingly, I have the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams winning the West. The San-Francisco 49ers fall just short in second place, followed by the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. The Rams are most likely to win their division as they have the best coach in their division, a steady veteran presence in QB Matthew Stafford and one of the best wideouts in the entire league in Cooper Kupp. The 49ers are also an extremely talented team, but Jimmy Garappolo can only lead a team so far, so the 49ers likely wont ever reach their ceiling. Arizona is also a solid team on paper that should be able to compete for the division title, but inconsistent play from quarterback Kyler Murray and Pro-Bowl wideout Deandre Hopkins’ suspension are two factors that will likely lead to them underperforming this season.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady will lead the Buccaneers to yet another division title during his time in Tampa Bay with the rest of the division looking up at them from below in the standings. The New Orleans Saints are not pushovers themselves though, and should figure to compete in the wild-card race with a roster that has elite talent, such as wideout Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara. Meanwhile, landing at the bottom of the NFC South basement are two young, unproven teams in the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons. However, both of these teams have talent of their own, and could likely upset some of their more difficult opponents while playing at their best.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
Wrapping up the last of the NFC’s divisions, I have the Minnesota Vikings rising to become division champs, followed by the Green Bay Packers, then the young Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. On paper, this should be one of football's most interesting divisions as the consensus top two teams in the division the Packers and Vikings are both stacked with talent and figure to be among the league's best teams. However, I do not see it panning out exactly that way. Green Bay has become a drama hotspot over the years due to how vocal their back-to-back MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers can be, and after losing what many people would call the best wideout in the NFL in Davante Adams, Green Bay figures to fall short of many people's expectations. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings only got better during the off-season by adding offensive-minded coach Kevin O’Connell to manage one of the best offenses in the entire NFL. While the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears round out at the bottom of the division, I do not think either team is bad, and if not for the truly elite talent at the top of their division they would be able to compete more than they currently are able to.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
Simply put, the Buffalo Bills are good. The rest of their division is stuck behind them. That's not to say that the AFC East is devoid of talent; the Dolphins are a rising team that likely will compete for a wildcard spot, the Patriots still have one of the greatest coaches of all time in Bill Belichick and the Jets have a surplus of young talent including quarterback Zach Wilson. However, none of the other three teams have the Super-Bowl ceiling that Buffalo clearly has, which in turn leads to them falling below in the standings.
Winner: Los Angeles Chargers
While it’s not far-fetched to make the claim that the AFC West is the best division in all of the NFL, I do not believe people realize just how good this division is. In my opinion, three teams from the division in the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders will all clinch playoff berths. Meanwhile, I have the Denver Broncos struggling to find consistency in their first year with Pro-Bowl quarterback Russel Wilson despite the widespread belief the team has Super-Bowl aspirations. It doesn’t help Denver that they played poorly in the first week, while the rest of their division looked impressive in their matchups. That being said, all four of these teams have elite talent on their rosters that could lead them to capturing the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season when all is said and done.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
In one of the NFL’s weaker divisions, I have the Tennessee Titans repeating as division champs, followed up by the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. I do not believe that any of these teams are truly contenders on paper, and whichever team manages to win this division will most likely be bounced in the first round. The Titans have what many consider to be the best running back in the NFL, Derrick Henry, but they also have an inconsistent quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. The Colts have a solid young wide receiver core but have issues at quarterback and cornerback. The Texans and Jaguars are both young, rebuilding teams that did plenty of good during the off-season, but are simply not built to compete with higher-end teams in the NFL as of this moment.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
In one of football's most chaotic divisions, I have the Baltimore Ravens finishing in first, followed by the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. All four of these teams, when fully healthy, have the ability to compete at the highest level, but due to health issues and suspensions like with Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, the division standings at the end of the year will likely look much different then they would if all teams were fully-armed. However, the Ravens and Bengals are still two very good teams, and both will most likely claim playoff births this upcoming season. Baltimore has former MVP and dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson at their disposal, and Cincinnati made the Super-Bowl the previous season and only got better during the off-season on paper. Expect plenty of good games and memorable moments this season when teams from this division match up against one another.