NFL Teams Set Up for a Disastrous Start to the 2022 Season
The preseason is a time for optimism, but sometimes that can come crashing down quickly with the dawn of the regular season.
With the preseason behind us and everyone's rosters trimmed down to a tidy 53, the rubber is about to hit the road. The season kicks off with the Bills and Rams meeting on Thursday, Sept. 8.
The rest of the league will follow suit, and half the league will start off 0-1. From there, the pressure can begin to mount pretty quickly.
Major injuries, suspensions, early-season mistakes or an unfortunate schedule to start the season can be brutal. All of these teams are facing at least one of those issues if not a combination that could have them looking at multiple losses to start the season.
The Arizona Cardinals have enjoyed some scorching starts with Kliff Kingsbury at the helm. That includes a 7-0 start to the 2021 season in which Kyler Murray looked like an MVP candidate and the Cards looked like a Super Bowl contender.
Getting off to that kind of start in 2022 is going to be exponentially more difficult.
For one, the team lost a few key contributors that are going to be difficult to replace. Chandler Jones walked in free agency after notching 10.5 sacks last season. Christian Kirk led the team in receiving last season and took a lucrative deal in Jacksonville.
The team did trade for Marquise Brown, but they will also be without DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games of the season while he serves a suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
It's a lot of production to replace while relying on aging veterans like Zach Ertz (31 years old), A.J. Green (34) and J.J. Watt (33).
It's also a lot to figure out when they start the season with the Kansas City Chiefs, a Las Vegas Raiders team that just added Davante Adams and Jones and then the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
In some ways, the Cleveland Browns 2022 season is already off to a disastrous start to the season.
After paying a massive price for Deshaun Watson during the offseason, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a settlement in which the quarterback would be suspended 11 games and pay a $5 million fine for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
That leaves the Browns with Jacoby Brissett as their starting quarterback and a narrow margin for error to win games for nearly the first two-thirds of the season.
The Browns still have a strong roster. Especially as it pertains to their backfield, offensive line and defense. Cleveland can still win some games by leaning on their ground game and letting Myles Garrett carry the pass-rush on defense.
But it's hard to win like that on a weekly basis in the NFL. Jacoby Brissett is 14-23 as a starter for a reason. He's able to make the easy throws, but he isn't going to stress an NFL defense and the Browns are already relatively barren when it comes to passing game weapons.
After new addition Amari Cooper, the Browns have a largely unproven receiving corps led by Donovan Peoples-Jones.
The early schedule is friendly. They start at the Carolina Panthers before getting the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers at home before traveling to the Atlanta Falcons.
But if they don't go at least 3-1 it could be bad news. They have the Chargers, Patriots, Ravens and Bengals in Weeks 5-8.
Dak Prescott recently addressed all the negative media attention that has been cast on the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, per Todd Archer of ESPN:
"It's truly a privilege to be the quarterback of this team, to be a leader of these guys, offense, defense, this coaching staff that we have. And yeah, especially with everything being said about us -- you know what I mean? -- the lack of what we have, keep writing, keep talking. We're ready to go play."
For the record, there's still a lot to like about the Cowboys over the course of the entire season. Prescott is still a top 10 quarterback in the league. Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott are still a great tandem of backs. Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs are two elite young talents on defense.
This is still a team that is likely looking at an 0-2 start, creating two high-pressure games to get back to .500 at the beginning of the season.
The Cowboys open the season with the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers then get the Cincinnati Bengals.
They'll likely be without Michael Gallup for at least the first game. He's still not expected to be back from the ACL tear he suffered last season. James Washington will also be unavailable. He's starting the season on the IR and will miss at least four weeks.
Then there's the Tyron Smith injury that will force the team to either move rookie Tyler Smith out to left tackle or find veteran help on the free agent market.
Either way, it's not a good situation as a microscope will be on Dallas early in two big games.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are one of the most fascinating franchises to watch in 2022.
The franchise has been the epitome of consistency and success for the last two decades. Now it feels like we might be watching Rome crumble in front of our eyes.
On one hand, it's hard to doubt a Bill Belichick team. There's a strong case to be made he's the greatest coach of all time. On the other, it sure feels like the coaching staff is a mess.
Ted Johnson—who played for Belichick as a linebacker—recently took to Twitter to express that people who have covered the team "can't believe what they are seeing" after watching the Patriots' preseason game against the Raiders.
With Josh McDaniels leaving his post as offensive coordinator to coach in Las Vegas, the Pats don't have an official coach filling that role. Matt Patricia and Joe Judge have each had opportunities to call plays in the preseason.
It's all concerning as the Pats prepare to play an opening stretch that will challenge them.
They open with road games against the new-look Miami Dolphins and a Pittsburgh Steelers defense led by T.J. Watt. Then they play the Baltimore Ravens and a Green Bay Packers team that could have the league's best defense.
New York Jets
New York Jets fans have a lot to be excited about after the 2022 offseason. The start to the 2022 season is not one of them.
The Jets made three first-round selections and made several key free agent signings. They appear to be headed in the right direction under Robert Saleh.
However, they could very well be starting 37-year-old Joe Flacco at quarterback. Earlier this offseason Saleh said that he felt Flacco was still a starting-caliber quarterback in the league.
Now, he'll may get a chance to prove it. Zach Wilson suffered a knee injury in the preseason and Jets still haven't announced if he'll be back in time to start.
That leaves the Jets with the choice of a hobbled Wilson coming back from an injury or the aged Flacco, who is 2-11 over his last 13 starts.
The Jets first four games come against AFC North opponents. The Bengals are coming off a Super Bowl appearance. The Ravens looked like one of the best teams in the league last season before Lamar Jackson got hurt. The Steelers and Browns have elite pass-rushers and solid defenses even if they have questions on offense.
In other words, the Jets are preparing for a strong schedule to kick off the season and are still unsettled at quarterback. Prepare for more growing pains.
The Tennessee Titans were one of the first teams to suffer a major injury before the season even started this season. Versatile defender Harold Landry III went down with a season-ending torn ACL in practice, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.
It's a tough development for a team that has already had a questionable offseason.
Landry was a crucial player for a defense that helped them secure the top seed in the AFC last season. According to ESPN, seven of Landry's 12 sacks came on third down last season and he played 89.5 percent of the defensive snaps last season.
The Titans also traded away A.J. Brown, giving them a major loss to cope with on both sides of the ball. Robert Woods and rookie Treylon Burks will be expected to carry a lot of the weight in the passing game.
They'll both have to get on the same page with Ryan Tannehill quickly. The Titans open with the New York Giants but will face a tough trio of tests in the Bills (on the road), Raiders and Colts (on the road).
The Bills are a favorite to win the Super Bowl. The Raiders made major improvements this offseason and the Colts were nearly a playoff team last year.
A 1-3 start for the defending AFC South champions is a real possibility.