By Kieran Blake, Contributor
Note: This article was written after week two of the 2022 NFL Season.
Every year, thirty-two teams compete for one of the biggest prizes in the sporting world: The Vince Lombardi Trophy. The only question is, “Which team will be the champion?” Will it be the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills, the Los Angeles Rams? Without further ado, this is the NFL season preview.
Key Additions – WR Equanimeous St. Brown (FA), CB Kyler Gordon (NFL Draft).
Key Subtractions – WR Allen Robinson II (FA, Rams), DT Akiem Hicks (FA, Buccaneers), LB Khalil Mack (Trade, Chargers).
Greatest Strength: Youthful offense. The Chicago Bears offense has a bright future, with quarterback Justin Fields, wide receiver Darnell Mooney, and running back Khalil Herbert, all three of whom are in just their second year in the league. This year is going to be more of a rebuilding one, but if Chicago can keep their young core together, they could have a bright future ahead of them.
Biggest Problem: Offseason departures. During the offseason, Chicago lost ten former pro-bowlers, three of whom made the pro-bowl while on Chicago’s roster. While Jimmy Graham and Jason Peters were both older, Jakeem Grant and Tarik Cohen were less important, and Nick Foles and Andy Dalton were backing up Fields, Tashaun Gipson was Chicago’s starting safety, Allen Robinson was their number one receiver, Akiem Hicks was their pro-bowl defensive tackle, and Khalil Mack was an important All-Pro linebacker. Chicago also lost starting linebackers Alec Ogletree and Danny Trevathan, as well as punter Pat O’Donnell. Chicago’s defense has been decimated over the past few years, as they not only lost two pro-bowlers this year, but All-Pro corner Kyle Fuller and former pro-bowler Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have also left in years prior. Chicago likely won’t make up for their losses this year, but they could rebuild and fix this problem in future years.
Fantasy Star: QB Justin Fields.
Prediction: The Bears will miss the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers:
Key Additions: WR Sammy Watkins (FA), WR Romeo Doubs (NFL Draft), WR Christian Watson (NFL Draft), LB Quay Walker (NFL Draft).
Key Subtractions: WR Davante Adams (Trade, Raiders), WR Marquez-Valdes Scantling (FA, Chiefs), LB Za’Darius Smith (FA, Vikings).
Greatest Strength: Aaron Rodgers. The reigning NFL MVP resigned with Green Bay during the offseason, providing a much-needed boost for the Green Bay offense. Whenever Rodgers is around, the Packers usually win games. Though he lost his two best receivers, Rodgers can, and will, make do with what he has.
Biggest Problem: Departure of Davante Adams (and Marquez Valdes-Scantling). Yes, Rodgers can throw to any receiver, but the trading of Davante Adams and the free agency departure of Marquez Valdes-Scantling are going to make a big impact. Whenever Rodgers was in trouble, he could look Adams’s way. Adams was quite possibly, behind Cooper Kupp, the best receiver in the league. Marquez Valdes-Scantling may not have been a superstar, but he was a reliable target for Rodgers. Green Bay needs to figure something new out fast, as Rodgers is thirty-eight years old, and the chances of winning another ring are slipping away fast. Unless Allen Lazard can step up to the plate, Sammy Watkins can show some of his Kansas City talent, or Romeo Doubs or Christian Watson can shine as rookies, Green Bay is going to fall back a little bit.
Fantasy Stars: RBs Aaron Jones & AJ Dillon.
Prediction: The Packers will lose in the first round of the playoffs.
Key Additions: LB Za’Darius Smith (FA), LB Jordan Hicks (FA).
Key Subtractions: DE Everson Griffen (FA), LB Anthony Barr (FA, Cowboys), S Xavier Woods (FA, Panthers).
Greatest Strength: Offensive weaponry. If he is not already, third-year receiver Justin Jefferson is going to be a superstar. Dalvin Cook is a proven star running back, and though slowing down, Adam Thielen is still an important player for this Vikings team. With the combination of Jefferson and Thielen as wideouts and Cook as a running back, things are looking good for Minnesota.
Biggest Problem: Quarterback situation. Kirk Cousins is a good NFL quarterback, there’s no doubting that, but he isn’t a Super Bowl caliber quarterback. He’s no Tom Brady, no Aaron Rodgers, no Patrick Mahomes, no Josh Allen, and granted, those are extremely hard to find, but the Vikings aren’t going to be winning the big one with Kirk Cousins as their starting quarterback. Not to mention, he is also thirty-four years old. Minnesota has the right wideouts, the right running back, they have a good defense too, but if they really want to take a step up, they need a new quarterback. You can win a few playoff games with Cousins, but definitely not a Super Bowl.
Fantasy Star: WR Justin Jefferson.
Prediction: The Vikings will lose in the second round of the playoffs.
Key Additions: DE Aidan Hutchinson (NFL Draft), WR DJ Chark Jr. (FA).
Key Subtraction: LB Trey Flowers (FA, Dolphins).
Greatest Strength: Young players. The Lions are coming off a season where they only won three NFL games, but this year could be a little step forward. Second-year receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has blossomed into a star, as has third year back D’Andre Swift, and with the selection of Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson in the NFL Draft, their defense could improve drastically. The Lions may not even be the worst team in their division this year, as the Bears lost two of their best players last year. The Detroit Lions’ future is a bright one.
Biggest Problem: Overall roster. Besides future stars Aidan Hutchinson, D’Andre Swift, and Amon-Ra St. Brown, the Lions’ roster is full of a bunch of average and mediocre players, and if they want to go anywhere, they’re going to have to fix that. Whether it be by drafting new players, by signing them in free agency, by trading for them, and so on, the Lions need to build a new, improved, championship-caliber team.
Fantasy Star: RB D’Andre Swift.
Prediction: The Lions will miss the playoffs.
Key Additions: QB Carson Wentz (Trade), LG Andrew Norwell (FA), RG Trai Turner (FA), WR Jahan Dotson (NFL Draft), RB Brian Robinson Jr. (NFL Draft).
Key Subtractions: RG Brandon Scherff (FA, Jaguars), SS Landon Collins (FA).
Greatest Strength: Improved passing game. The passing game likely won’t be great, but it is an improvement from last year. Instead of cycling between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke, they now have a proven quarterback in former pro-bowler Carson Wentz, and to go along with wide receiver Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel is coming back from injury, and rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson could make an impact. Tight end Logan Thomas is a reliable player, and running back Antonio Gibson can catch a few passes if you need him to. The Washington passing game has greatly improved.
Biggest Problem: Offensive decision-making. In the past few years, Washington fans have been frustrated with the choices their team is making, specifically on offense. Whenever they have a lead, they find a way to blow it, and if they are down, chances are that they won’t be making a comeback any time soon. Whether it be a terrible pass, an offensive breakdown, bad blocking, or coming out in the shotgun on the one yard line, they can never make the right decision. If Washington wants to get good, they need to start making better decisions right now.
Fantasy Star: QB Carson Wentz
Prediction: The Commanders will miss the playoffs.
Key Additions: WR A.J. Brown (Trade), LB Haason Reddick (FA), LB Kyzir White (FA), CB James Bradberry (FA).
Key Subtractions: RG Brandon Brooks (Retired), DE Ryan Kerrigan (Retired), LB Alex Singleton (FA, Broncos).
Greatest Strength: Offensive potential. What more could a team ask for? Philadelphia has Heisman-nominated quarterback Jalen Hurts, Heisman-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith, talented running back Miles Sanders, former pro-bowler A.J. Brown, and proven tight end Dallas Goedert. The best part about it all is that all five of those players have only played up to five years in the NFL, with many of them having only played three or four. This team definitely has a bright, bright future ahead of them.
Biggest Problem: No veteran offensive leadership. Besides center Jason Kelce, right tackle Lane Johnson, and right guard Isaac Seumalo, none of the Eagles’ starters on offense have played in the NFL for more than five years. While that means that Philadelphia has a lot of future potential, it also increases the chance that their young players will make bad decisions. Don’t count Philadelphia out of the playoffs, but they definitely need some more veteran leadership.
Fantasy Stars: WR A.J. Brown & QB Jalen Hurts.
Prediction: The Eagles will lose in the second round of the playoffs.
Key Additions: LB Anthony Barr (FA), LT Tyler Smith (NFL Draft).
Key Subtractions: WR Amari Cooper (Trade, Browns), S Keanu Neal (FA, Buccaneers).
Greatest Strength: Defense. With the addition of former Viking Anthony Barr, the Cowboys now have five former pro-bowlers, including last year’s league leader in interceptions, All-Pro corner Trevon Diggs, and last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons. Now add that to defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and you have a dream defense. Last year, Dallas led the league in interceptions and tallied a total of 41 sacks. This year, they’ll be looking to do even better.
Biggest Problem: Injuries. This is kind of cheating, as the 2022 NFL season actually started about two weeks ago, but if Dallas wants to go far this season, they’re going to have to conquer injuries, specifically to star quarterback Dak Prescott (he fractured his thumb in week one against the Buccaneers) and former All-Pro tackle Tyron Smith (he suffered an avulsion fracture to his knee and may be out for the year). The Cowboys still have a solid roster, but as shown before in the 2020 season when Prescott was ruled out for the year with a dislocated ankle, they need Dak Prescott if they want to go far this season.
Fantasy Stars: WR CeeDee Lamb & RB Ezekiel Elliott.
Prediction: The Cowboys will lose in the first round of the playoffs.
New York Giants:
Key Addition: RT Evan Neal (NFL Draft).
Key Subtractions: TE Evan Engram (FA, Jaguars), CB James Bradberry (FA, Eagles), SS Jabrill Peppers (FA, Patriots), S Logan Ryan (FA, Buccaneers).
Greatest Strength: New head coach Brain Daboll. It’s about time things changed in New York. The Giants hired Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as their new head coach over the offseason, replacing Jason Garrett, and hopefully providing a much needed offensive “spark” to New York’s offense.
Biggest Problem: Lack of roster depth. Do you really think Daniel Jones is such a great quarterback? Is Sterling Shepard really that good of a receiver? Can you go far with Leonard Williams being your best defensive player? The only players on the Giants roster who could be considered “great” are Saquon Barkley and maybe Leonard Williams. If the Giants want to go far, they need much better players than they have right now.
Fantasy Star: RB Saquon Barkley.
Prediction: The Giants will miss the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints:
Key Additions: WR Jarvis Landry (FA), WR Chris Olave (NFL Draft), S Tyrann Mathieu (FA).
Key Subtractions: LT Terron Armstead (FA, Dolphins), LB Kwon Alexander (FA, Jets), S Malcolm Jenkins (Retired), FS Marcus Williams (FA, Ravens).
Greatest Strength: Defense. Defensive end Cameron Jordan has been tearing through offensive lines for years now, and fellow defensive lineman Marcus Davenport emerged as a star last year, tallying nine sacks in just eleven games. Former All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis has had at least ninety tackles in his past nine seasons, and four-time pro-bowl corner Marshon Lattimore can cover any receiver you throw at him, not to mention the fact that New Orleans added three-time All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu to their roster in the offseason. This is going to be one scary defense.
Biggest Problem: Quarterback Jameis Winston. Jameis Winston is your typical good stats, bad team quarterback. He’s thrown for over 4,000 yards three times in his career, once leading the league in passing yardage with 5,109 yards in 2019. He’s found the end zone 138 times in his career. He was a pro-bowler in 2015. So how is he a problem? I’ll tell you how. He’s been sacked fifty-four more times than he’s thrown touchdowns. He threw a horrific thirty interceptions in 2019, making him the only player to do so since Vinny Testaverde did it in 1988. His career touchdown-to-interception ratio is 138:94. Is that really the quarterback who you want to lead your team?
Fantasy Star: RB Alvin Kamara
Prediction: The Saints will miss the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Key Additions: WR Julio Jones (FA), RG Shaq Mason (Trade), DT Akiem Hicks (FA), S Logan Ryan (FA).
Key Subtractions: TE Rob Gronkowski (Retired), LG Ali Marpet (Retired), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (FA, Ravens), DT Ndamukong Suh (FA), S Jordan Whitehead (FA, Jets).
Greatest Strength: Amazing roster. Their offense has seven former pro-bowlers; quarterback Tom Brady, receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Julio Jones, center Ryan Jensen, and tackle Tristan Wirfs. Their defense also has seven former pro-bowlers; defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Vita Vea, linebackers Devin White, Lavonte David, and Shaquil Barrett, and safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. and Keanu Neal. To go along with that, Tampa also has a great running back in Leonard Fournette, two veteran offensive linemen in Donovan Smith and Shaq Mason, two good corners in Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis, and a decent safety in Mike Edwards. This truly is one of the best rosters in the NFL, and with it, the Buccaneers will go far.
Biggest Problem: The quarterback search. Tampa Brady is going to play for a few more years. We know that by now. The only problem is, after that, who’s next? Blaine Gabbert isn’t going to be your starting quarterback, right? After Tom Brady finally retires, who will replace him as the Buccaneers new star, who will lead that team to victory? Will they slip back down into the Jameis Winston years? A team with so much talent, potential, and superstars, but no quarterback to lead the way? I guess that we will have to wait and see.
Fantasy Stars: WR Mike Evans & RB Leonard Fournette.
Prediction: The Buccaneers will lose in the NFC Championship game.
Key Additions: QB Baker Mayfield (Trade), LT Ikem Okwonu (NFL Draft), RG Austin Corbett (FA), S Xavier Woods (FA), P Johnny Hekker (FA).
Key Subtractions: QB Cam Newton (FA), LB Haason Reddick (FA, Eagles), CB Stephon Gilmore (FA, Colts).
Greatest Strength: Potential. Brian Burns was one of only two pro-bowlers on Carolina last year, and the other, Stephon Gilmore, is now a Colt, but with superstar running back Christian McCaffrey returning from injury, receiver D.J. Moore shaping up to be a star, and sixth overall pick Ikem Okwonu, there is a lot of potential on this team. To add to that, the team added veteran safety Xavier Woods and four-time All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker to their roster over the offseason. They won’t be great, but they could be a decent team in 2022.
Biggest Problem: Quarterback. Baker Mayfield is not going to cut it. We saw it in Cleveland, and we’ll see it again here in Carolina. He just doesn’t have that killer instinct that you find in quarterbacks like Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, he doesn’t have the ability to lead a team that you see in quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, and he isn’t a promising young player like Justin Herbert or Jalen Hurts. He’s just a decent quarterback who isn’t going to help you go far, but also isn’t going to hold you back. The same goes for backup quarterback Sam Darnold. He’s not great, he’s not horrible, he’s okay.
Fantasy Star: RB Christian McCaffrey.
Prediction: The Panthers will miss the playoffs.
Key Additions: QB Marcus Mariota (FA), QB Desmond Ridder (NFL Draft), (WR Drake London (NFL Draft), CB Casey Hayward (FA).
Key Subtractions: QB Matt Ryan (Trade, Colts), WR Russell Gage (FA, Buccaneers), LB Foye Oluokun (FA, Jaguars).
Greatest Strength: Young players. Tight end Kyle Pitts is in just his second year in the league. Wideout Drake London and quarterback Desmond Ridder are only rookies. Backup running back Tyler Allgeier is in his first year in the league as well. This team may not be good this year, but they may be in the future.
Biggest Problem: Lack of offensive depth. Marcus Mariota is way past his prime, if he even ever had one. Desmond Ridder is young and will be learning the game from the veteran Mariota, similar to what the Bears did with Justin Fields and Andy Dalton. With Calvin Ridley suspended, Atlanta will have to look the way of rookie receiver Drake London or Olamide Zaccheaus. Their offensive isn’t that good either. The only star-caliber players on Atlanta’s offense are tight end Kyle Pitts, running back Cordarrelle Patterson, and maybe Drake London.
Fantasy Star: RB Cordarrelle Patterson.
Prediction: The Falcons will miss the playoffs.
Los Angeles Rams:
Key Additions: WR Allen Robinson II (FA), LB Bobby Wagner (FA).
Key Subtractions: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (FA), WR Robert Woods (Trade, Titans), LT Andrew Whitworth (Retired), RG Austin Corbett (FA, Panthers), LB Von Miller (FA, Bills), P Johnny Hekker (FA, Panthers).
Greatest Strength: All-around depth. LA’s offense is phenomenal on paper; pro-bowl quarterback Matthew Stafford, All-Pro receiver Cooper Kupp, pro-bowl receiver Allen Robinson II, good running backs Darrell Henderson Jr. and Cam Akers, reliable tight end Tyler Higbee, and a solid offensive line. Their defense looks great as well, with future hall of famers Aaron Donald and Bobby Wagner, great pass-rusher Leonard Floyd, and potential hall of famer Jalen Ramsey. Even kicker Matt Gay made the pro-bowl last year. This is a great team, and they will be looking to defend their Super Bowl gold.
Biggest Problem: Offseason departures. Future hall of fame linebacker Von Miller signed with the Bills. Former pro-bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to be signed by another team. Robert Woods, their second option before Beckham came along, was traded away this offseason. Andrew Whitworth, who was still a top tackle in the league at age forty, retired after winning the Super Bowl. Austin Corbett, who was another important offensive lineman for the Rams last year, is now a Panther. Punter Johnny Hekker was consistently one of the best punters in the league, and he has joined Carolina as well. To win another big one, the Rams will need to overcome these huge losses.
Fantasy Star: WR Cooper Kupp.
Prediction: The Rams will lose in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers:
Key Addition: CB Charvarius Ward (FA).
Key Subtractions: RB Raheem Mostert (FA, Dolphins), LG Laken Tomlinson (FA, Jets), C Alex Mack (Retired).
Greatest Strength: All-around skill. Second-year quarterback Trey Lance shows a lot of potential. Deebo Samuel is one of the best wide receivers in the league. Running back Elijah Mitchell had a promising rookie season. George Kittle may be the best tight end in the league. Trent Williams has been a pro-bowl tackle for the past nine years, and was an All-Pro last year. Nick Bosa is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. Fred Warner is a former All-Pro linebacker. Kicker Robbie Gould was once an All-Pro. On paper, this is a great team.
Biggest Problem: Quarterback. Trey Lance may be skilled, but he’s also inexperienced, as Jimmy Garropolo was the starting quarterback for the 49ers last year. Lance will most likely make some bad decisions, as all young, inexperienced quarterbacks do. Even if he is a future superstar (which I’m not saying he is), Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning threw twenty-eight interceptions in his first year as a starter. If the Niners do end up eventually going with Jimmy G, he’s still not a great quarterback, he’s just decent. The biggest challenge for San Francisco this year will be, as with many teams, the quarterback.
Fantasy Star: WR Deebo Samuel.
Prediction: The 49ers will lose in the first round of the playoffs.
Key Additions: TE Noah Fant (Trade), LT Charles Cross (NFL Draft), RB Kenneth Walker III (NFL Draft).
Key Subtractions: QB Russell Wilson (Trade, Broncos), LT Duane Brown (FA, Jets), DE Carlos Dunlap (FA, Chiefs), LB Bobby Wagner (FA, Rams).
Greatest Strength: Good receivers. Seattle may not have a lot, but they do have some good receivers. D.K. Metcalf is a former pro-bowler, Tyler Lockett is a former All-Pro, Marquise Goodwin was reliable on the 49ers, and Noah Fant is a good tight end. Quarterback Geno Smith will have some good receivers to throw to.
Biggest Problem: The departure of Russell Wilson. When Seattle traded quarterback Russell Wilson away this offseason, it marked the end of an era. Wilson led Seattle to the Super Bowl in 2013 and 2014, winning the game in 2013. He was a nine-time pro-bowler, and along with Bobby Wagner, who also left the team during the offseason, he was the only player left on the Seahawks from the 2013 squad. Seattle needs to find a new quarterback, and it sure won’t be Geno Smith.
Fantasy Stars: WRs D.K. Metcalf & Tyler Lockett.
Prediction: The Seahawks will miss the playoffs.
Key Additions: WR Marquise Brown (Trade), G Will Hernandez (FA).
Key Subtractions: RB Chase Edmonds (FA, Dolphins), LB Jordan Hicks (FA, Vikings), LB Chandler Jones (FA, Raiders).
Greatest Strength: Talent. Quarterback Kyler Murray has lots of skill. Running back James Conner had eighteen touchdowns last year. Tight end Zach Ertz is a three-time pro-bowler. Marquise Brown is a good receiver, and A.J. Green is a seven-time pro-bowler. Three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for six weeks, but he’ll be back for week seven. Their offensive line is decent, and on defense, they have three-time Defensive Player of the Year and future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt and two-time All-Pro Budda Baker. Kicker Matt Prater is a two-time pro-bowler as well. This is a talented Arizona Cardinals team.
Biggest Problem: Wide receivers. Though A.J. Green is a seven-time pro-bowler, he is well past his prime, and star receiver DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six weeks of the season. Marquise Brown served as the number one receiver for Lamar Jackson during his MVP season, but hasn’t quite reached that level since. Zach Ertz was a great tight end on the Eagles, but he’s also getting older. Arizona’s going to have to find their top receiver for the first six weeks.
Fantasy Stars: RB James Conner & QB Kyler Murray.
Prediction: The Cardinals will miss the playoffs.