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Pigskin prognostication! Previewing the 2022 NFL season

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Are you ready for some football?

By the time you read this, the 2022 NFL season may have already kicked off – the first game of this year’s slate is scheduled for September 8, with the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams hosting the Buffalo Bills, and I am a bit later than usual in putting this preview together – but with so much football ahead of us, there’s still plenty of time for making picks.

(And yes, before you ask, my very smart and very good dog Stella will be back for another season of Kibbles and Picks, the weekly feature wherein she proves to be much better than me at predicting the outcomes of regular season games. This year marks our tenth, and her victory last year means that she has come out on top in seven of the previous nine seasons. Will I be able to achieve some level of dignity here in year 10? Or will she continue her dominance? Those who have been following along likely already know the answer.)

I will be making my usual predictions regarding how I believe the season will play out. And as usual, I anticipate being wildly off-base with a significant percentage of these predictions. I have a long and storied history of middling picks, after all – why expect anything different this time around? Hell, I’m still getting used to the fact that there’s an extra regular season game, with the 17-game slate adding yet another variable of potential inaccuracy to my personal equation.

And so, here you have it, friends – my monkey-dart-throwing attempt at prognostication. Ladies and gentlemen, your sure-to-be-inaccurate 2022 Maine Edge NFL Season Preview.

(y = division winner; x = wild card)



AFC East

Buffalo Bills – 13-4 (y)

New England Patriots – 9-8

Miami Dolphins – 9-8

New York Jets – 6-11

I’m hardly alone in thinking that the Bills are going to be good this year. Hell, I’m higher than some – I’ve got them finishing with the best record in the NFL. It’s all about Josh Allen, of course, whose dual-threat quarterbacking will likely lead the way. Not only can he run, but he’s throwing to guys like Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis. On defense, they look like they can rush the hell out of the passer and still handle the pass. Barring injury, they’re the class of the AFC. It pains me to dismiss New England’s playoff chances – and I think there’s a world where they win in double digits and make the postseason – but I just don’t think they have the juice. Mac Jones will take a step forward at QB, but downgrades elsewhere on the roster make this a squad likely to hover around the .500 mark. If the receivers step up and either Damien Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson seizes the lead back spot, they could make a run. I’m just not sure they can stop anyone. Miami could be sneaky good this year, maybe even leapfrogging the Pats in the standings. Basically, it comes down to whether Tua Tagovailoa can make the leap. He’s got no more excuses, with a strong set of skill players led by newcomer Tyreek Hill and Chase Edmonds. I like new coach Mike McDaniel a lot, too. Honestly, they could win 10 or five – neither would shock me. And then, sadly, we have the New York Jets. It’s tough to see a path for them having a good year; frankly, six wins feels a little high. But perhaps Zach Wilson makes some progress as a passer and maybe rookie RB Breece Hall shows something. Even so, a finish anywhere other than the basement feels unlikely.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals – 12-5 (y)

Baltimore Ravens – 10-7 (x)                                                                                  

Cleveland Browns – 7-10

Pittsburgh Steelers – 7-10

Considering not much has changed, it only makes sense to pick last year’s AFC champs to win their division. The Bengals have a lot of firepower on the offensive side, with QB Joe Burrow slinging it to guys like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins and handing off to Joe Mixon. Add in a much-improved O-line and you’ve got a team that should not have any trouble scoring points. If the defense is even middling, this is a playoff team. But to my mind, so are the Ravens. It’s tough to count out any team that has a force of nature like Lamar Jackson under center, though contract issues may prove distracting. The receiving corps is on the young side, but if Jackson can gel with them and continue his own quick-strike running, the offense should be solid. Baltimore almost has to have better injury luck, so look for them to scare some teams. The less we talk about the Browns, the better, with their oh-so-gross quarterback situation (11 games was not enough for Deshaun Watson, but here we are). If Cleveland can stay afloat on the strength of Nick Chubb and an improving defense, Watson might be able to push them into the playoffs. Let’s hope that isn’t the case. Lastly, we have the once-mighty Steelers, who look all but certain to give coach Mike Tomlin his first losing season. Your QB is Mitchell Trubisky, which, yikes. There are a few bright spots here and there – Najee Harris had a monster rookie season and looks poised for a strong sophomore effort, for instance, while rookie George Pickens has looked awesome. Oh, and there’s always the monstrous sackmeister T.J. Watt to contend with. Alas, this team just doesn’t have the talent. Pittsburgh is just too darned thin.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts – 11-6 (y)

Tennessee Titans – 9-8

Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-11

Houston Texans – 4-13

I mean, SOMEBODY has to win the division, right? And since I have to pick somebody, why not the Colts? They have made yet another change at quarterback, bringing in veteran passer Matt Ryan to – they hope – help move the franchise forward. It doesn’t hurt that he gets to hand the ball to Jonathan Taylor a couple of hundred times. Honestly, if Ryan can hang, this talented Indy team could wind up being really good. It might seem like I’m dinging the Titans a bit here, but last year’s efforts felt a little smoke-and-mirrors even in the moment, let alone with hindsight. Basically, it all boils down to what Derrick Henry has left in the tank; the running back has carried an incredible workload over the past few seasons, culminating in the foot injury that cost him half of the 2021 campaign. Feet are important to running backs, in case you didn’t know. If he’s OK, so are the Titans. If he isn’t, it’s going to be a long year for Tennessee. There’s a real chance I have Jacksonville too low in terms of wins – one can pretty easily envision a world where Trevor Lawrence is able to make some progress as a passer and guys like RB Travis Etienne and rookie D-lineman Travon Walker blow up. If that happens, this might be a dark horse playoff team. Just the benefit of no longer having Urban Meyer at the helm has to help. Houston, as always, has a problem. Multiple problems, really. There’s just not a lot of juice on this Texans roster and it doesn’t appear that there’s much help on the way. When you’re operating in today’s NFL where QBs rule and your guy is Davis Mills, well … a successful season is one where you need more than one hand to count your wins.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs – 11-6 (y)

Los Angeles Chargers – 11-6 (x)

Denver Broncos – 10-7 (x)

Las Vegas Raiders – 9-8

Much like every other pundit out there, I have succumbed to the notion that the AFC West is the best division in football. I’ve got the Chiefs on top here, even though they look poised to take a bit of a step back. Sure, they’ll miss the departed Tyreek Hill, but they still have Patrick Mahomes. Tight end Travis Kelce is still here, while newcomers like JuJu Smith-Schuster should be able to pick up some of the offensive slack. And Andy Reid is still dialing up plays. I’m picking K.C. to win the division until they don’t. And that might be this year, because man, does this Chargers team have some talent. Justin Herbert is one of the best young QBs in the league and their offensive talent is excellent (even if there’s a little age on the group). Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler – there’s a lot to like on this offense. This group is ready to take the next step. Meanwhile, the Broncos are absolutely going for it, having acquired QB Russell Wilson from the Seahawks to lead a young, talented squad. We’ll see what wideout Courtland Sutton can do with an actual NFL QB throwing him the ball (sorry, Drew Lock) and there’s legitimate potential for an elite defense here. Denver has improved mightily … and is still your likely third-place finisher, though I do see them snagging a wild card spot. Lastly, the poor Raiders. You would think that a team that not only landed one of the NFL’s best receivers in Davante Adams, but paired him with his college QB and best friend Derek Carr, would have made a bigger jump. They improved the D-line as well, while also bringing in a new head coach in Josh McDaniels. All that, and they’re still looking up at the rest of the West.


NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles – 11-6 (y)

Dallas Cowboys – 10-7 (x)

Washington Commanders – 7-10

New York Giants – 6-11

Fly Eagles fly! I have a lot of love for this year’s Philly squad, thanks to what I anticipate to be a legitimate breakout year from QB Jalen Hurts. With a vastly improved offensive line and an actual number one receiver in A.J. Brown, I think Hurts goes off – 4,000 in the air and 750 on the ground could happen. The Eagles added a LOT of speed on the defensive side of the ball as well. This is a team that has a shot at making a deep run if it all clicks – and I believe it will. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are still here, ready to win in double digits and head to the postseason. Dak Prescott remains weirdly underrated for an elite QB; I expect he’ll have another great year barring injury. The Zeke Elliott contract is looking more and more suspect as time passes, but he’ll combine with Tony Pollard to give Dallas a strong run presence. CeeDee Lamb might be a superstar in the making and they’ve got some absolute studs – Micah Parsons and Travon Diggs – on defense. Don’t be shocked if they take the division. The ‘Ders are relying on Carson Wentz to lead them, which is not a position anyone really wants to be in. It’s a pretty thin roster in terms of talent, with a few scattered standouts – Chase Young, Terry McLaurin – but not much else. Honestly, the only thing keeping Washington out of the basement is the presence of the New York Football Giants. Is Daniel Jones a good quarterback? No one seems to know, but we’re going to keep trying to find out. Half-a-dozen wins looks like the ceiling for this squad; they’ll only get there if they can manage to keep RB Saquon Barkley healthy and upright for a full season.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers – 10-7 (y)

Detroit Lions – 9-8

Minnesota Vikings – 8-9

Chicago Bears – 3-14

The Packers are another one of those teams that I’m just going to keep picking to win until they don’t. They still have Aaron Rodgers, after all; dude might be galaxy-brained in real life, but he’s a savant on the field. Sure, he lost Davante Adams, but he’s lost elite players before and kept winning. He’s got RB Aaron Jones as an outlet and a defensive unit with top-tier potential. Pick against Rodgers at your peril. It feels weird to put the Lions up this high (and I may yet regret it) after just three wins, but they got a lot better. The defense has a lot of firepower and added a hell of a pass rusher in Aidan Hutchinson. Jared Goff might not be the sexiest QB, but with weapons like Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift and a number of others, he doesn’t have to be. Equally weird is picking a team with as many elite skill players as the Vikings have to finish below .500. Justin Jefferson is one of the NFL’s best wideouts and Dalvin Cook is one of its best backs. Also, he might be a doofus, but Kirk Cousins is a pretty effective quarterback. Unfortunately, this Minnesota defense doesn’t look ready to stop, well, anybody really. These Vikes will score a lot and give up just a bit more. Last, we’ve got the Bears, who have a real shot at “winning” the first pick in the 2023 draft. I like Justin Fields in the abstract – he’s shown flashes of excellence – but the O-line is bad and other than Darnell Mooney, he’s got no one to throw it to. The defense has some talent but is very inexperienced. Add it all up and you get very few victories.

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 12-5 (y)

New Orleans Saints – 9-8 (x)

Carolina Panthers – 5-12

Atlanta Falcons – 4-13

Is this the year that time catches up with Tom Brady? Probably not. I’m pretty sure there’s a portrait in his attic that keeps getting worse at football. The Buccaneers are running it back on the defensive side, which makes sense considering how strong they were last season. Health will be the offensive watchword, and not just with the aging Brady. Leading wideouts Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both have checkered injury pasts and longtime safety blanket Rob Gronkowski is gone. Still, pick against Tom Brady at your peril. I’ve got the Saints grabbing the last wild card spot, though it could just as easily wind up in a couple of other places. It’s contingent on a return to form for wideout Michael Thomas after a lengthy absence and newcomers like Jarvis Landry and rookie Chris Olave clicking with QB Jameis Winston (assuming he’s healthy). Alvin Kamara is always a threat out of the backfield. The defense looks awfully good; if the offense clicks, the Saints are dangerous. Carolina remains one of the most lackluster franchises in the NFL. Christian McCaffery will be great for as long as he stays on the field, but he’s almost guaranteed to miss at least a few games. The QB situation is … not great, with Baker Mayfield wresting the starting spot from Sam Darnold. There are some decent receivers and a not-great defense. The Panthers do not appear to be very good. But hey, at least they aren’t the Falcons, who are the kind of bad that lasts awhile. The cupboard is pretty bare; a couple of potential stars in TE Kyle Pitts and D-back A.J. Terrell, but not much else. Oh! And Marcus Mariota is your quarterback! Get ready for another season of not-so-Hotlanta.

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams – 11-6 (y)

San Francisco 49ers – 11-6 (x)

Arizona Cardinals – 9-8

Seattle Seahawks – 4-13

Yes, I picked the reigning Super Bowl champs to win their division. It’s not rocket science. And yes, I recognize that Matthew Stafford’s elbow hurts and that elbows are important parts of throwing. But man, look at the roster. Cooper Kupp is back and Allen Robinson has arrived. Cam Akers looks healthy and ready to run. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald remains arguably the best football player on the planet. And they’ve got an innovative coach calling the shots. There are potential pitfalls, sure, but I’m betting on talent. All that said, the 49ers might just overtake them. The quarterback controversy is weird – keeping Jimmy Garoppolo when they clearly want to start Trey Lance is strange – but there’s a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. I like Deebo Samuel and coach Kyle Shanahan will have this team running a ton. The defense has the potential to be excellent, both in terms of scheme and personnel. Next, we’ve got an Arizona team that seems trapped in limbo. They have an elite talent in QB Kyler Murray, but there’s not a ton around him, particularly when you consider that DeAndre Hopkins is gone for six games (suspension) and Christian Kirk is gone forever (Jacksonville). The defense has also lost some talent and failed to replenish it. I just don’t know if Kliff Kingsbury has the coaching acumen to overcome all that. The Cardinals are going to struggle … but not as much as the Seahawks. When you’re looking to Geno Smith to quarterback your team, things have gone horribly awry. The once-vaunted defense is in even worse shape. This is another team with a real shot at the number one pick in 2023; I wouldn’t be shocked if Seattle gave up the most points and scored the fewest in the 2022 season.

Last modified on Thursday, 08 September 2022 17:33


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