NFL 2022 predictions: is this the season the Buffalo Bills finally end their drought?

NFL 2022 predictions: is this the season the Buffalo Bills finally end their drought?

NFL 2022 predictions: is this the season the Buffalo Bills finally end their drought?

The Bills are hoping to reach their first Super Bowl since  the 1993 season

The season kicks off on Thursday night. Will Josh Allen lead his team to glory? Is Tom Brady set for one last shot at glory? And which new stars will shine?

This will be the year of …

The AFC West. Every team in this division improved except arguably the Kansas City Chiefs, who will always be fine with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. Every team is a legitimate division contender … and every team strongly dislikes the other three. Get ready for some entertaining, well-played battles and look out for three playoff teams to emerge from the division. MJ

Second-year QBs. There is a ton at stake for all the second-year signal-callers. Trey Lance will be a decisive force in the NFC playoff picture; it’s make-or-break time for Zach Wilson in New York; the Chicago Bears appear to have constructed an offense with the sole intention of making life difficult for Justin Fields; Trevor Lawrence now has a real NFL coach who will run a real NFL offense. Meanwhile, the New England Patriots have ditched a successful offense tailored to Mac Jones’ strengths for a disjointed mess piloted by Matt Patricia, for … reasons. OC

Tom Brady’s Last Dance (maybe). We could have avoided this whole thing if Brady had stayed retired but, for reasons that remain unclear, the greatest player in NFL history is back for at least one more season. Get ready for the endless tribute reels. HF

Revenge. This Sunday serves an ice-cold double scoop with sprinkles as Baker Mayfield looks to whip the Cleveland Browns, while Russell Wilson heads back to Seattle. Coaches get a taste too with Brian Flores returning to Miami in Week Seven after his firing and Doug Pederson taking the Jaguars back to his former home in Philadelphia in Week Four. The main event: Bills v Chiefs on 16 October. Who knows, we may get a trilogy fight in the playoffs. GS

Best team that won’t make the playoffs

Denver Broncos. There’s a reason Russell Wilson is usually mentioned in the MVP conversation. He’s a special leader who should get the buy in from his (mostly) young skill players. Denver’s defense should be disruptive. Unfortunately, they play in the AFC West. MJ

Broncos. Denver will need to jump out to a hot start to keep pace with the Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders. But it will likely take the Broncos some time to figure out the Russell Wilson-Nathaniel Hackett dynamic, and in the loaded AFC West there will be no time for waiting around. OC

New England Patriots. Jones hitting his head on his low ceiling after a solid rookie campaign, alongside a coaching staff dealing with multiple departures will combine to make this a transitional year for the Pats. What exactly they will be transitioning towards remains in question. HF

Kansas City Chiefs. The AFC West will be delighted Tyreek Hill has moved on but any team not based in Las Vegas now has the significant threat of Davante Adams to contend with. Adams will be running up the score against the Chiefs while their offense, still very good, struggles to shred defenses as easily without their little bit of lightning in a bottle. Throw in two more games against Justin Herbert, a pair of tussles with Wilson – as well as the Rams, Bills, Bucs, Titans, 49ers and Bengals … yikes. GS

The most underrated team this year is …

Tyreek Hill can add some spark to the Dolphins offense

Miami Dolphins. Miami’s 8-1 finish to 2021 looks even more impressive given the now public rift between ownership and ex-coach Brian Flores, who did a masterful job keeping the culture afloat. I’m no Tua Tagovailoa defender but I do believe that the additions of Terron Armstead and Hill will make a huge impact no matter the quarterback. MJ

Minnesota Vikings. If the Vikings’ offensive line is able to hold up even a little bit, they have a chance to field a top-five offense. Kevin O’Connell was brought in to squeeze an extra 2% out of a group devoid of ideas at the end of the Mike Zimmer era (the defensive overhaul will take more time). With O’Connell on board, Minnesota have the firepower to match up with anyone in the NFC. OC

Not sure if they count as underrated since their 8-9 finish last season had a lot to do with injuries, but as the Baltimore Ravens theoretically return to full-ish health they should also regain their status as one of the NFL’s most dangerous teams. HF

The heart says Detroit because how can you not wish Dan Campbell dizzying success? However the Carolina Panthers have a flawed but, crucially, serviceable quarterback in Mayfield and a completely new offensive line, who create running lanes for Christian McCaffrey. Remember him? Worst to first, no, but a wildcard contender, sure. GS

One bold prediction …

Mitchell Trubisky will remain a starter for all 17 games and guide Pittsburgh to a winning season. Meanwhile the Chicago Bears will finish under .500 and Justin Fields will disappoint because that’s what quarterbacks in Chicago do. MJ

Mike McCarthy is fired in-season. Can you point to anywhere on the roster where the Dallas Cowboys have improved this season compared to last year? They’ve lost depth on defense. The offensive line is paper-thin. They are a talented team with (rightful) expectations, but McCarthy isn’t the kind of coach who plugs gaps. With two candidates on staff waiting in the wings – Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore – it wouldn’t be a shock to see McCarthy out before Thanksgiving. OC

Justin Fields makes the leap and carries the Bears into the playoffs. Fields underwhelmed during his first year in the league but it’s easy to see the most intriguing QB in the 2021 draft flourishing in his second full season if the Bears’ inexperienced offensive line keeps him upright. HF

Trey Lance emulates Lamar Jackson’s 2019 season. Expect Lance to explode after rightfully being given the keys to the car in San Francisco. His running ability is as good as Jackson’s and the 22-year-old has similarly impeccable surrounding talent in left tackle Trent Williams and tight end George Kittle. Oh, and he has better receivers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. GS

Johnny Manziel disaster waiting to happen department …

There is no way to top Jon Gruden’s leaked emails and the disaster that was Urban Meyer’s one and done stint in Jacksonville … or is there? Nah, I’ll go with the usual: Some team with playoff potential signs Antonio Brown as an injury replacement, the coach believing he’s the one who can keep receiver in check. He can’t. MJ

Arizona Cardinals. They spent the offseason trying to please their mopey quarterback. That meant a lack of reinforcements for a defense in dire need of pass-rush and secondary help. Lopsided rosters always struggle. OC

The Steelers named Trubisky as the starting quarterback, but the entire league knows that he’s just keeping the seat warm for rookie Kenny Pickett. The question remaining is how quickly Pittsburgh will be able to keep with the ridiculously inconsistent Trubisky before fans demand a change. HF

Week 13: Houston v Cleveland. After serving his 11-game ban, Deshaun Watson will return to the field against his former team leaving an incredibly bitter taste in the mouth for many and rightly so. The quarterback’s apparent lack of contrition is the kicker in a cocktail as rough as cranberry drain cleaner. Will we watch? Yes, but it will be ugly. GS


A fully fit Lamar Jackson is a terrifying prospect for any opponen

Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers. Herbert has already proven to be a dynamic playmaker with any offensive line. But his protection got even better when the Chargers took polished guard Zion Johnson at 17th overall. Herbert is going to make magic with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler this season. MJ

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills. Buffalo have the best roster in football, and Allen’s story (from questionable prospect to destroyer of worlds) is the kind of narrative voters love. The Bills should win 15 games. If they do, it’s Allen’s award to lose. OC

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens. If he’s fully recovered from injury, the best dual-threat quarterback threat in the league should be primed to put up eye-popping numbers. HF

Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yes, I was only 11 when the timeless one won his first Lombardi but he keeps getting better, so why can’t his final flight be his greatest yet? He is fresh as a daisy after that 11-day holiday, and the reviews from training camp have been raving about the 45-year-old throwing it better than ever. Maybe this should have been my bold prediction: Brady breaks Peyton Manning’s single-season passing record of 5,477 yards. GS

Rookie of the year

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, New York Jets. The Jets are going to stink, per usual, but the shutdown corner will make a huge impact against some of the best wideouts in football. MJ

Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta may not be good, but based on their preseason performances (in terms of quality and style) they will be certifiably frisky on offense. They try things! One of those things is pushing the ball to London and Kyle Pitts, two gangly trees who will increase the margin of error for whoever starts at quarterback. OC

Gardner. It feels weird to pick a defensive player here, particularly one whose team is a very long shot to make the playoffs, but Gardner has a game-changing ability to shut down opposing receivers that could make him the standout of a draft class lacking obvious future stars. HF

Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers. Trubisky’s leash will be incredibly short and when it snaps Pickett will shine. The Steelers’ receivers are impressive across the board, and running back Najee Harris providing a particularly inviting safety blanket to calm any jitters. The college hero in Pittsburgh should make the transition to black and gold with ease. Mike Tomlin would be happy with a slice of Pickett’s record 42 touchdowns for Pitt last year. GS

AFC East champion

Buffalo Bills. The loss of Tre’Davious White will sting in the first portion of the season, but the Bills have too much talent across the board not to take the division. Allen is in a different stratosphere to the division’s other three starting quarterbacks. MJ

Bills. The question hovering over the AFC East is whether or not the Dolphins’ offense will be ‘for real’, and if it is, how far Miami can push the Bills. Mike McDaniel’s group will be fun and explosive, but the consistency needed to challenge will be found wanting in year one. OC

Bills. The best all-around team in the NFL is coming into this season angry after a frankly unfair overtime playoff loss to the Chiefs. Bad news for the rest of the division. HF

Bills. They have the division locked down. New England, Miami … the Jets? No chance. GS

AFC North champion

Cincinnati Bengals. Forget the regression to the mean argument. The Bengals took their biggest weakness and made it a strength in the offseason, retooling the offensive line. The Baltimore Ravens may be the sexier pick and do look great on paper, but I don’t have faith they can stay healthy. MJ

Baltimore Ravens. Cincinnati are liable to fall back to Earth after an extraordinary 2021. Defenses will gameplan to stop Ja’Marr Chase, depriving them of their biggest receiving threat. The Ravens’ offense, however, is perfectly built to challenge defenses that have shifted en masse to a more passive style. OC

Ravens. If Jackson has an MVP season, they most likely win the division. If I’m wrong, the Burrow-Chase connection will probably power the Bengals to the top of the division. Either way, they both look like playoff teams if healthy. HF

The Browns have sacrificed their season and credibility, Pittsburgh are in transition and Cincinnati have that difficult second album to record. Baltimore sail back to the top. GS

AFC South champion

Indianapolis Colts. Eck, do I have to? Fine. The Colts. This assumes that Shaq Leonard is back by Week Three and Jonathan Taylor stays healthy. MJ

Colts. It feels like the end of the line for the Ryan Tannehill-Derrick Henry axis in Tennessee. Matt Ryan will help to stabilize a Colts side that has enjoyed highs and lows at quarterback ever since Andrew Luck walked out the door. OC

Colts. They traded for Ryan so they could win an immensely winnable division and it seems like a solid plan. The Titans have a solid chance at a wildcard spot if running back Derrick Henry’s foot cooperates, but that’s a huge question mark. HF

Colts. Indianapolis almost made the playoffs despite Carson Wentz being their quarterback. Ryan’s arrival, albeit not at the peak of his powers aged 37, should work wonders. They also have the best running back in the league in Taylor. GS

AFC West champion

Justin Herbert is in an incredibly tough AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers will prevail because they have studs at the most meaningful positions. Herbert quarterbacking the offense, protected by Rashawn Slater. The versatile Derwin James quarterbacking the defense. This team is going to be delightful to watch. MJ

Chiefs. All four teams could conceivably make the postseason. Of the four, the Chargers are the most balanced. But if you line up each team’s top unit, the Chiefs’ offense still comes out on top. OC

This division is impossible. Let’s go with the Chargers, simply because it feels like it’s Herbert’s turn and Mahomes’s supporting cast isn’t as strong this time around. HF

Broncos country, let’s ride. Denver finally have their man in Wilson. His wealth of experience will be key in battling through a brutally tough division while his supreme talent raises the level of every part of their offense. Jerry Jeudy could be a breakout fantasy darling with Wilson’s killer accuracy allowing him to finally reach his potential. GS

NFC East champion

Philadelphia Eagles. Credit Eagles GM Howie Roseman for building one heck of an offensive line. Clearly the team has faith that Jalen Hurts is the guy. Roseman also did a masterful job upgrading the defense, especially at linebacker, and he traded a bunch of picks to the Titans for AJ Brown. This is a team built to win now. MJ

Eagles. Quarterback aside, the Eagles are neck-a-neck with the Bills for having the most complete roster in football. That quarterback will matter in the playoffs, but not in the regular season. OC

The Eagles have an excellent shot at the division assuming Hurts steps up. Even if he never becomes dominant enough to satisfy ever-skeptical Philly fans, expect Hurts to only help. The Cowboys, meanwhile, should secure yet another one-and-done playoff run via the wildcard. HF

Ah, the wild world of the NFC East. The crappiest crapshoot in town. Teams led by Daniel Jones and Carson Wentz are going nowhere and Dallas just can’t be trusted. The Eagles have a soft schedule and Hurts could have a significant bump in his second year while working with Nick Sirianni. GS

NFC North champion

Green Bay Packers. The Packers win this division by default as long as Aaron Rodgers is still playing at a high level. Add in the return of star LT David Bakhtiari and a relatively stacked defense, and this is a no brainer. MJ

Packers. The lack of a star wide receiver will make things look sludgy at times in Green Bay. But Matt LaFleur and Rodgers are too gifted to allow it to torpedo the regular season. OC

Packers. The Packers will be without receiver Davante Adams, but considering their starting quarterback is coming off two straight MVP seasons that shouldn’t matter. HF

Packers. The division may be improving across the board but with Rodgers at quarterback they still have no hope of clinching the crown. Back-to-back MVP awards say it all, he still owns all of you. GS

NFC South champion

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The offensive line has a ton of injuries and Tom Brady isn’t the most mobile QB, if you hadn’t noticed. Also the Panthers could be an up and comer if McCaffrey avoids the injury bug and Mayfield proves his doubters wrong. But never ever bet against the team Brady is helming. MJ

Buccaneers. The Bucs clinch by default. There are too many holes among the rest of the South for anyone to get close. OC

Buccaneers. Brady is 45 and maybe he would rather be playing in Miami, but he should have enough in the tank during the regular season. It’s hard to imagine that he will end his career by winning his eighth Super Bowl ring, but one more division title seems doable. HF

Brady’s final season (really?) cannot end without a place in the playoffs. Tampa Bay could receive stiff competition from New Orleans, especially their vaunted defense, but betting against Brady’s last stand is no bueno. GS

NFC West champion

The Rams are defending Super Bowl champions

San Francisco 49ers. Sorry Seattle and Arizona, you have too many holes. That leaves the NFL’s best coaching rivalry to duke it out: Kyle Shanahan v Sean McVay. Trey Lance is the great NFL unknown this season but Shanahan has a lot of offensive tools to play with and an elite defense that will guide the 49ers to the division title. MJ

Los Angeles Rams. The defending champs have as much high-end talent as they did a year ago, and they’ll likely add to their core as the season goes along. The only thing that could hold them back: lingering concerns about Matthew Stafford’s shoulder. OC

Rams. Well, they just won the Super Bowl. The 49ers should be competing for a postseason spot: if Lance falters, they have the world’s most expensive backup ready to go. HF

Lance leading the 49ers could seriously challenge the Rams but McVay twinned with that roster, that still includes Aaron Donald, is too much to contend with in the regular season. GS

AFC wildcard teams

Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Baltimore Ravens. MJ

Cincinnati Bengals, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers. OC

Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs. HF

Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans. GS

NFC wildcard teams

Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers. MJ

Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints. OC

Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers. HF

San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints. GS

AFC championship game

Buffalo Bills over Los Angeles Chargers. MJ

Baltimore Ravens over Buffalo Bills. OC

Buffalo Bills over Baltimore Ravens. HF

Buffalo Bills over Denver Broncos. GS

NFC championship game

Green Bay Packers over Tampa Bay Buccaneers. MJ

Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Green Bay Packers. OC

Green Bay Packers over Los Angeles Rams. HF

San Francisco 49ers over Los Angeles Rams. GS

And your Super Bowl LVII winner is …

Don’t we always underestimate Rodgers? Seriously, he’s like the 12th QB in fantasy. In any event, this is a stacked team that has won 13 games in each of the past three seasons. Rodgers will have solid protection. Adams is a legitimate talent and a big loss, but Rodgers has historically turned random wideouts into stars. Rodgers will finally win his second championship with the Packers, emerging out of a conference where all the contenders have flaws, and against a Super Bowl opponent who will be psyched just to be there. MJ

Baltimore Ravens. Hear me out: The Ravens’ 2021 season was driven into a ditch by injuries. A healthy Ravens roster in 2022 has everything: explosive plays on offense; malleability on defense; an MVP candidate at quarterback; a kicker who can decide close playoff games. Defenses across the league have adopted a new style that plays right into the Ravens’ brand of smashmouth-spread football on offense. On defense, they have just enough juice upfront and variability on the back end to force turnovers. They may not be an overwhelming regular season side, but the Ravens have all the hallmarks of a title contender. OC

Now that even the Cubs have won a World Series, it’s time for Buffalo to win one for Jim Kelly. For a stretch of the early 1990s, the Bills were the Washington Generals of the Super Bowl, losing there four straight times. This time around, they are the best team in a loaded AFC field and should be favored over any team that emerges from the NFC, even if they have a Rodgers. HF

The heartbreak for the Bills in the best-game-ever AFC Championship shootout will provide huge motivation for their talent-stuffed roster to inch over the line and finally deliver the Lombardi to Buffalo. The team knows they can survive anything the AFC throws at them and have most of their key players back to fight all the way to the bitter end. They are favourites for a reason, it is their time. GS


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