2022 B/R NFL Season Staff Predictions

NFL StaffSeptember 5, 2022

2022 B/R NFL Season Staff Predictions

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    Justin Herbert (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    We’re back to regularly scheduled NFL programming through February 12, the date that one team will hoist the Lombardi Trophy at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

    But what’s going to happen between now and that final moment of the 2022 season?

    Bleacher Report’s NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brent Sobleski, Kris Knox and Maurice Moton along with editors Ian Kenyon and Wes O'Donnell will provide their insights into how the campaign unfolds this year. They'll vote and explain who’s going to lead important statistical categories, win prestigious awards and take home the ultimate prize after Super Bowl 57.

    In addition to commentary on the consensus projections, we showcased some outlier opinions to highlight different perspectives.

    All references to betting odds are courtesy of DraftKings.

Coach of the Year

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    Sean McDermott (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

    Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills (3 votes)

    Based on the consensus projection, half of our voters expect the Bills to finish with one of the league's best records. In their minds, they can see quarterback Josh Allen leading an electric offense, and last year’s No. 1 defense in points and yards allowed putting together another strong campaign.

    McDermott has won at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons, and he’s 49-32 overall in five years with the Bills.

    Though McDermott is a reasonable selection, Moton has a different perspective.

    “Todd Bowles will erase the bad memories of his head-coaching stint with the New York Jets between 2015 and 2018 when he had quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty, Geno Smith, Josh McCown and Sam Darnold," Moton said. "Now, he has Tom Brady.

    “Even at 45 years old, Brady is significantly better than what Bowles had in New York. The Buccaneers’ head coach isn’t going to win this award simply because of Brady though. He can also help his quarterback with a top-notch defense, leading this team to one of the league’s best records. As a defensive coordinator for the Buccaneers between 2019 and 2021, Bowles has fielded a top-eight scoring defense in two of those seasons.”

    Others receiving votes: Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs; Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers

Offensive Player of the Year

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    Ja'Marr Chase (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals and Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings (tied with 2 votes)

    Chase and Jefferson, two former LSU standouts, both received two votes for a split.

    Jefferson is in a three-way tie with Cooper Kupp and Deebo Samuel for the second-best odds to win Offensive Player of the Year on the DraftKings books.

    Last season, with his former LSU teammate quarterback Joe Burrow, Chase lit up defenses, hauling in 81 passes for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns to win 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

    Keep in mind that the Bengals revamped their offensive line with the addition of center Ted Karras, guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La’el Collins, which may result in better pass protection for Burrow.

    Davenport didn’t drink from the LSU Kool-Aid pitcher when he filled out his ballot.

    “Given that Christian McCaffrey has played in just 10 games over the past two seasons, this might seem like an overly optimistic assessment of his 2022 prospects. But it can be argued that McCaffrey's injury woes have been as much bad luck as a lack of durability—over his first three seasons he didn't miss a game. What can't be argued is that a healthy McCaffrey is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the game.

    “Say what you will about Baker Mayfield, but he's the best quarterback the Panthers have had during McCaffrey's tenure with the team. With Ikem Ekwonu joining the offensive line, the same can be said about that unit, too. McCaffrey already has one season with 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards. When he becomes the first player to do it twice, he'll get the OPOY award he should have won in 2019.”

    Others receiving votes: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers; Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders

Defensive Player of the Year

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    Micah Parsons (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

    Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys (4 votes)

    In his first season, Parsons earned leaguewide respect, garnering Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors as the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year. He lined up as an off-ball linebacker in the middle of the Cowboys' defense and on the edge, registering 84 tackles, 20 for loss, 13 sacks and 47 pressures, which tied for fourth-most leaguewide.

    If Parsons continues to play at a high level at both positions, he’ll add more hardware to his trophy case.

    As one of the two people who strayed away from the consensus, O’Donnell believes the Los Angeles Chargers’ offseason additions will elevate Joey Bosa’s production.

    “The Chargers are a trendy pick to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2022 despite missing the postseason last year. Beyond Justin Herbert's continued ascension, the bulk of their roster improvements this offseason came on the defensive side of the ball and that will pay huge dividends for Bosa.

    “With the likelihood of positive game scripts in the Chargers' favor and opposing offensive coordinators incapable of focusing just on the seventh-year pass rusher thanks to the offseason's biggest heist in Khalil Mack, Bosa is poised for his biggest season yet.”

    Others receiving votes: Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers; Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

Offensive Rookie of the Year

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    Chris Olave (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

    Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints (2 votes)

    Olave gets the nod. He could have a big year if Jamies Winston throws for 5,000-plus yards and 30 touchdowns for the second time in his career.

    Though Kenyon acknowledges that Olave is in the mix to claim this accolade, he cast his ballot for a different first-round wideout.

    “Without a slam dunk rookie of the year at quarterback or running back this season, there's a legitimate chance that the award goes to a wide receiver for the second year in a row (yet would only be the third time in the past 13 years). It should be a tight race with Drake London, Chris Olave and Jahan Dotson, but I'm going to give the edge to Dotson.

    “The Commanders offense should be markedly better than the Falcons' unit, and the Saints should be funneling their offense through Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. The Commanders have Terry McLaurin and Dotson. Dotson flew under the radar a bit because of his size (5'11", 182 lbs), but he plays like he's 6'4". Dotson should establish himself as the No. 2 passing option in the Commanders' offense which could see him land in the 900-1,000-yard range. Typically, that wouldn't win Offensive Rookie of the Year, but the lack of top-end quarterback and running back talent could make this a unique year.”

    Meanwhile, O’Donnell envisions a shakeup on the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback depth chart, which would elevate a viable candidate.

    “What Kenny Pickett may lack in terms of prototypical traits and pedigree is made up for when the whistle blows: the kid is a gamer. Once the 24-year-old rookie takes the starting job (sooner rather than later) that will be evident to all that have doubted him thus far. The city and fan base are already endeared to him, and he has a solid group of teammates to work with even when the pocket inevitably collapses. The Steelers improbably found their way into the postseason a year ago, and once Pickett is under center they'll be in the mix yet again which will be more than enough to elevate him to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in a class that lacks elite options.”

    Others receiving votes: Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers; Drake London, Atlanta Falcons; Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders; Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans

Defensive Rookie of the Year

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    Aidan Hutchinson (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

    Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions (3 votes)

    Half of our panel took the safe bet with this projection. Hutchinson has the best odds to win Defensive Rookie of the Year at +450, per DraftKings.

    Lions assistant general manager Ray Agnew described Hutchinson as a “very creative” pass-rusher who can rush on the interior and on the edge with great hand technique. If those traits equate to sacks, Detroit’s top draft pick should be off to a strong career start.

    Instead of choosing the No. 2 overall pick to win, Sobleski looked at the other end of this year’s first round to find his Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

    “George Karlaftis may have slid to the bottom of this year's first round, but Bleacher Report's Scouting Department never gave up on the Purdue prospect. The site graded him slightly better than this year's second overall draft pick, Aidan Hutchinson, and significantly higher than the eventual No. 1 selection, Travon Walker.

    “Early returns from preseason validated that stance. The man now dubbed 'Furious George' (great nickname) finished third among rookies in pass-rush win rate during the exhibition contests, according to Pro Football Focus. Karlaftis' traits are what really places him among the elite first-year defenders. The 6'4", 263-pound rookie displays excellent speed-to-power conversion. He can work all over the defensive line. Most importantly, Karlafits shows a relentless motor coupled with advanced hand play to make the transition a relatively smooth one.”

    Karlaftis may not have an issue taking snaps away from 13th-year veteran Carlos Dunlap at defensive end and if that's the case, he could finish with double-digit sacks in 2022.

    Others receiving votes: George Karlaftis, Kansas City Chiefs; Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Giants; Jaquan Brisker, Chicago Bears

Comeback Player of the Year

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    Saquon Barkley (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (3 votes)

    Barkley told reporters that he’s “fed up” with the chatter about him “dancing” in the backfield because it's an inaccurate criticism. Though in the presser, the Giants ball-carrier mentioned that new head coach Brian Daboll wants a physical ground attack that goes downhill, which may help the fifth-year running back post gaudy rushing numbers.

    Moreover, ESPN’s Jordan Raanan expects Barkley to take on a “huge” workload with more opportunities in the passing game if he avoids injuries.

    O’Donnell has his eyes on another running back, who also missed several contests over the previous two terms.

    “CMC has played only 10 games over the past two years so his comeback season has really been a long time coming. Baker Mayfield is far from perfect, but his presence should help keep defenses more honest than what Carolina has offered the past three seasons.

    “McCaffrey will be the focal point of the offense seeing heavy volume in both the run and pass game as well as Mayfield's safety blanket. There are several solid contenders for this award in 2022, but CMC's game-breaking ability could carry him over the line.”

    After missing five games last year, former league MVP Lamar Jackson deserves an honorable mention because of his involvement in the Baltimore Ravens’ ground attack, rushing for 3,673 yards and 21 touchdowns in four seasons. If healthy, he’s still an electric talent at the quarterback position.

    Others receiving votes: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (2 votes); Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Fantasy Player of the Year

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    Leonard Fournette (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs; Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings; Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers; Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals, Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (all received 1 vote)

    Our panel couldn’t come to a consensus, so we turned to Davenport, a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Writer of the Year.

    “This comes with a caveat—to a fantasy football dork like me who plays in 20-plus leagues a year. "Fantasy Player of the Year" isn't the guy who scores the most points. It's the player who gives you the most production relative to cost. The best value.

    Value is king in fantasy football. And there's no better one in 2022 than Leonard Fournette.

    Last year, Fournette topped 1,200 total yards, flirted with 70 receptions and finished fourth among running backs in point-per-reception fantasy points per game. He won leagues for people. The Buccaneers gave him $12 million in guarantees in the offseason, he's the lead back for one of the NFL's best offenses, but he's being drafted outside the top-12 because he showed up to camp a bit on the chubby side.

    Fournette has a realistically attainable top-five upside for an LB2 price tag. At that cost, he's going to win people fantasy leagues—again.”

    Fantasy football managers should listen to Davenport on this one. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times believes quarterback Tom Brady will embrace a stronger commitment to the ground attack under new head coach Todd Bowles.

Breakout Player of the Year

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    Trey Lance (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

    Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos; Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions; Allen Robinson II, Los Angeles Rams; Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers; Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers; D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions (all received 1 vote)

    O’Donnell picked Allen Robinson II, who stands out because he’s a former Pro Bowl player, but the grizzled veteran earned that honor seven years ago. Sure, he registered 1,147-plus receiving yards in two of the last three seasons, but we could see him reach new career highs as he teams up with Matthew Stafford.

    Robinson has played with a list of average or underdeveloped quarterbacks in Blake Bortles, Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton and Justin Fields in his eight-year career with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears. Now with Stafford, he can become an elite playmaker.

    Kenyon stood on an island as the only one who chose a quarterback, and he’s not overly concerned about Lance’s mixed-bag offseason.

    “One of the NFL's most talked about players of the 2022 offseason could become the most talked about player of the 2022 NFL season itself if he lives up to his immense potential. Second-year quarterback Trey Lance hasn't lit the world on fire yet, but his incredible skill set paired with Kyle Shanahan's coaching and a talented 49ers offensive roster should put him in a position to be this year's breakout player of the year.

    His 2021 rookie campaign was reminiscent of Lamar Jackson's 2018 rookie season in which John Harbaugh ran an offense that was designed for Joe Flacco which meant when Lamar subbed in, they were largely utilizing his legs. It was the same story for Lance, who ran on over 21 percent of his snaps last season (Jackson ran on 25 percent as a point of comparison). There will be ups-and-downs early as Lance has only thrown 389 regular-season passes since graduating high school. But if the 49ers can labor through the growing pains, he should take off in the second half of the NFL season.”

Most Touchdown Passes

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    Justin Herbert (Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

    Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers (4 votes)

    Herbert has jumped off to a great career start, showing improvement from his first season in which he won 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year. In 2021, he threw for 5,014 yards, 38 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with a 65.9 percent completion rate.

    Herbert’s top pass-catching targets, wideouts Mike Williams, Keenan Allen and running back Austin Ekeler, combined for 23 touchdown receptions last year. According to NFL Insider Jordan Schultz, wide receiver Josh Palmer will get more looks in the passing game, which may allow him to top his touchdown reception total (four) from the previous term.

    Despite a convincing case for Herbert to lead the league in touchdown passes, Knox isn’t going to bail on Patrick Mahomes even though the Kansas City Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill.

    “With Andy Reid calling the plays and Patrick Mahomes making the reads, the Kansas City offense should be just fine in the post-Tyreek Hill era. A receiving corps led by Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman, JuJu Smith-Schuster and, of course, Travis Kelce is plenty potent, and Mahomes is already in midseason form. In two preseason appearances, he went 18-of-26 for 222 yards and three touchdowns.

    Mahomes will be on a mission to prove that he's still among the NFL's elite and to put his disastrous second half of the 2021 AFC title game behind him. At the same time, Kansas City's backfield is among the more underwhelming units in the NFL, which means the bulk of the Chiefs' scoring will come through the air—similar to last season when K.C. had a 37-16 passing-to-rushing TD ratio. Mahomes led the NFL in touchdown passes (50) for the 2018 term, finished tied for fourth last year and will return to the top in 2022.”

    Others receiving votes: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (2 votes)

Most Rushing Yards

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    Jonathan Taylor (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

    Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns; Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts (tied with 2 votes apiece)

    We have another consensus split with the top two ball-carriers in yards from the 2021 campaign. Taylor won the rushing title with 1,811 yards and Chubb finished with 1,259 yards. Both their respective teams will continue to field run-heavy offenses in 2022.

    Taylor has become the engine of the Colts offense, so he should be in line for another big year.

    Though Chubb splits his rushing workload with Kareem Hunt, the league suspended Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson on an appeal for violating the personal conduct policy stemming from his alleged sexual misconduct and assault on women who worked as masseuses. Expect Cleveland to pound the ball on the ground with Jacoby Brissett under center for most of the year.

    With all that said, Sobleski thinks a second-year running back will win his first rushing title.

    “My Javonte Williams selection as the league's leading rusher in 2022 is a combination of growth potential, improved situation and lack of quality alternatives. The likes of Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb and Jonathan Taylor shouldn't be overlooked, of course. They're the league's three best runners. But Henry is coming off a foot injury coupled with downgrades to the Tennessee Titans offensive line (two departures), Chubb will be the primary focus of opposing defenses with Jacoby Brissett behind center for at least 11 games. Taylor should expect a decreased workload with Matt Ryan now at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.

    “In Williams' case, the second-year ball-carrier should benefit from the fact Russell Wilson is now behind center and defenses can't key on the Denver Broncos' run game. Furthermore, Melvin Gordon III evenly split carries with the rookie last season. In fact, the duo tied for 15th with 203 carries apiece. Williams is expected to take on a featured role this fall. The 220-pound back shows excellent burst and power when he runs the football. Williams should easily eclipse 1,000 yards with the potential to gain so much more.”

    Others receiving votes: Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos; Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Most Receptions

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    Davante Adams (Michael Owens/Getty Images)

    Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders (3 votes)

    Coming over from the Green Bay Packers, Adams doesn’t need time to develop a rapport with quarterback Derek Carr. They had two highly productive years together at Fresno State between 2012 and 2013.

    Because of his built-in chemistry with Carr, Adams isn’t likely to see a drop-off in production from his All-Pro seasons with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. With Carr’s accurate arm (65 percent career completion rate) and willingness to throw downfield, the two-time All-Pro wide receiver could lead the league in receptions for the first time in his career.

    While the Carr-Adams connection should produce big numbers, Moton thinks the Minnesota Vikings' shift in offensive philosophy under new head coach Kevin O’Connell will bring out the best in Justin Jefferson.

    “With O’Connell, Jefferson will play in an offense that pushes the pace more than it did under former defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer,” Moton said.

    “In an uptempo attack, Jefferson, who finished fourth in catches (108) last year, can easily top that number for the 2022 campaign. Also, fellow starting wideout Adam Thielen turned 32 years old in August, and he hasn’t registered more than 74 receptions in a season since 2018. Jefferson will feast on defenses in 2022.”

    Others receiving votes: Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings (2 votes); Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

Most Sacks

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    Nick Bosa (Michael Owens/Getty Images)

    Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers; Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers (tied with 2 votes)

    The Bosa brothers took two-thirds of the votes.

    In his justification for Defensive Player of the Year, O’Donnell talked about the impact of Khalil Mack and the fact that offensive linemen pay him a lot of attention, which will likely create opportunities for Joey to make plays.

    The 49ers haven’t signed Nick to an extension yet, so he has extra motivation going into the season. The two-time Pro Bowl edge-rusher is going to line up alongside a couple of first-rounders in Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw. As the top defender on a talented defensive line, the younger Bosa can top his 15.5-sack total from the 2021 term.

    Davenport believes the sack leader for the past two years will take a backseat to someone within his division.

    “The chalk pick here is T.J. Watt. It feels like barring injury that 15 sacks is his floor, which is one of the wilder realizations one can have about a pass-rusher. But historic seasons are called that for a reason, and they are generally followed by a backslide. Fifteen sacks would be a great year for Watt—but it would also open the door for another elite edge-rusher to swim-move past him.

    “If Bill Belichick had a laboratory where he tried to create the perfect pass-rusher (which hasn't been disproven—just saying), the finished product would look a lot like Myles Garrett. Size. Length. Strength. Bend (Oh my goodness the bend). Garrett is one of the most physically gifted pass-rushers of his generation—and as he's gained experience, his pass-rush moves have become every bit as good.

    Garrett holds the Browns record for sacks with a career-high 16 in 2021. This year, he'll lead the league on the way to winning Defensive Player of the Year.”

    Others receiving votes: Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

Most Tackles

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    Roquan Smith (Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Roquan Smith, Chicago Bears (3 votes)

    This offseason, Roquan Smith said he’s going to bet on himself after his failed trade request (h/t NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). The fourth-year linebacker who’s registered 524 tackles, 43 for loss, 14 sacks, 17 pass breakups and five interceptions called out his team for "distasteful" contract negotiations over the summer.

    In each of his four pro seasons, Smith has recorded at least 101 tackles. Last year, he finished fifth in the category.

    Moton thinks Chicago's suspect offense will boost Smith’s tackle numbers.

    “The Bears offense features a shaky five-man front line, one quality wide receiver in Darnell Mooney and running back David Montgomery, who according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, may lose favor to Khalil Herbert in the backfield," Moton said.

    “Chicago’s defense will spend a lot of time on the field because of a subpar offense in transition under a new coaching staff, which means Smith will have a chance to rack up a ton of tackles. In a sense, he can capitalize off of an inept unit on the other side of the ball.”

    If Smith racks up big numbers, he’ll either earn a big-money contract, or the Bears will franchise tag him in 2023.

    Others receiving votes: Jordyn Brooks, Seattle Seahawks (2 votes); Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers

Most Interceptions

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    Rasul Douglas (Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys; J.C. Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers; Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins; Stephon Gilmore, Indianapolis Colts; Rasul Douglas, Green Bay Packers; Pat Surtain II, Denver Broncos (all received 1 vote)

    The panelists couldn’t come to an agreement with six cornerbacks all receiving one vote. Diggs and Jackson, last year’s top two ball hawks in interceptions, seem like favorites for this defensive category, though, Kenyon chose a lesser-known player who came on strong for the Green Bay Packers in 2021.

    “Rasul Douglas had five interceptions in nine starts last year and was a complete revelation in the Packers secondary after being picked up off of waivers in October. The Pro Bowl alternate returns to a team that has bolstered its pass rush from last year and returns All-Pro corner Jaire Alexander.

    “Douglas should start at slot corner with Alexander and promising second-year corner Eric Stokes lined up outside. In base nickel sets, Douglas should see plenty of balls thrown his way. His elite ball skills allowed him to intercept eight passes in his senior year at West Virginia and were on full display in his breakout campaign last year. Don't be surprised if Douglas closes in on double digits in 2022.”

    With a rocky NFL start but flashes of high ball production in his past, Douglas looks like a dark-horse candidate to lead the league in interceptions.

Worst Team (include W-L Record)

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    Seattle Seahawks WR DK Metcalf Abbie Parr/Getty Images

    Seattle Seahawks (3-14) (4 votes)

    Cover your eyes Seattle Seahawks fans. Most of the B/R panel has little faith in quarterback Geno Smith or Drew Lock if he eventually replaces the former because of poor performances.

    Smith beat Lock in a lackluster offseason quarterback battle. They didn’t take a lot of snaps with the starters, and the backups left some plays on the field with drops. Nonetheless, Smith only completed 59 percent of his passes through three preseason games and finished the exhibition period without throwing a touchdown pass.

    Clearly, our NFL experts don’t think wideouts Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf will elevate the Seahawks’ quarterback situation. Also, keep in mind that running back Rashaad Penny has an extensive injury history (missed 28 games in four seasons) and rookie tailback Kenneth Walker III is on the mend after hernia surgery.

    You cannot blame the panel for its concerning outlook for the Seahawks’ 2022 season, though Moton is the only one who expects to see an even worse team in Chicago.

    “The Bears’ shaky offensive line could stunt quarterback Justin Fields' growth. While tight end Cole Kmet can make decent strides in his third season, wideout Darnell Mooney will command the most attention in the passing game, so teams should be able to keep him under wraps if he’s clearly the top threat in the offense.

    “ESPN’s Dan Graziano revealed that the Bears have ‘skepticism’ about running back David Montgomery’s fit within offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s scheme, which spells more trouble for the club even though it has running back Khalil Herbert. No matter how good the Bears defense looks, it won’t be able to score enough points to compensate for one of the league’s worst offenses.”

    Others receiving votes: Chicago Bears (2-15); Seattle Seahawks (2-15)

Super Bowl Matchup

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

    Buffalo Bills vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2 votes)

    Davenport and Moton picked the same contenders for Super Bowl 57, which would showcase arguably the NFL's best all-time quarterback in Tom Brady and Josh Allen, who’s one of the bright young stars at the position. Interestingly, this matchup would feature two defensive-minded head coaches in Todd Bowles and Sean McDermott. Another interesting tidbit, both teams lost in the divisional round of the 2021 playoffs.

    Sobleski went outside the box with his Super Bowl prediction. He’s the only panelist who has the Los Angeles Chargers advancing to the title game in Glendale, Arizona.

    “Unnecessary '80s reference incoming: The Los Angeles Chargers will be the new kids on the block, while the Green Bay Packers are still hangin' tough,” Sobleski said.

    “In five of the last six Super Bowls, 50% of the game's participants didn't play in the previous season's playoffs. The Chargers missed their shot last season thanks to a heartbreaking overtime loss to the division rival Las Vegas Raiders in Week 18. But all of the pieces are in place, including new ones, to push Los Angeles over the top as the AFC's best squad. Justin Herbert's continued growth into superstar status sits at the forefront. While quarterback play is crucial, the Chargers also added to their offensive line with first-round guard Zion Johnson and beefed up the defense with the additions of Khalil Mack, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Kyle Van Noy and J.C. Jackson.

    “The Packers are simply trying to get over the hump after winning 13 regular-season games in each of the last three seasons and going to the NFC Championship Game twice. The Davante Adams trade could provide somewhat of a silver lining since Aaron Rodgers needs to rely on more than one target in a well-rounded offense."

    Others receiving votes: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Buffalo Bills vs. Los Angeles Rams; Los Angeles Chargers vs. Green Bay Packers; Buffalo Bills vs. Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl Champion

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    Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

    Buffalo Bills (4 votes)

    Apparently, most of the B/R pick squad likes Buffalo’s +550 odds to win Super Bowl 57 on DraftKings. If this plays out, the Bills would win their first championship since 1965 in the AFL, which means the franchise would take home its first Lombardi Trophy, and quarterback Josh Allen’s ascension would look similar to a rocket ship soaring through space.

    Knox isn’t buying the Bills to overcome the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC though.

    “The Chiefs have been in four straight AFC title games and two of the last four Super Bowls. I see no reason to believe they'll fall off in 2022. On the contrary, I think with an improved defense—George Karlaftis and Trent McDuffie are huge additions—and a more balanced passing attack, they'll be better.

    “Andy Reid will guide the new-look Chiefs masterfully, and I don't expect to see the early-season defensive deficiencies we saw in 2021. Teams like the Bills and Los Angeles Chargers are getting a ton of preseason attention and will be relevant in the AFC race, but K.C. is the conference's most consistently dangerous team and is now playing the sleeper role. That's a combination I'm not willing to bet against. And in the Super Bowl, we'll finally see the proverbial passing of the torch many expected when Mahomes and Brady faced off in Super Bowl LV.

    Others receiving votes: Kansas City Chiefs; Green Bay Packers

MVP (Regular Season)

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    Josh Allen AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

    Buffalo Bills, Josh Allen (4 votes)

    Davenport, O’Donnell, Kenyon and Moton picked the Bills to win the Super Bowl, so of course, they all voted for Allen to win regular-season MVP. Though those two selections don’t always match up for the same team, the panelists expect the 26-year-old signal-caller to come of age with a spectacular campaign that ends in glory.

    Knox says, “not so fast my friends” on Allen’s MVP bid. He picked one of the quarterback's peers who’s also on a rapid ascend to the top of the quarterback hierarchy.

    “The NFL touchdown leader usually makes a strong case for MVP, but other factors are involved. Aaron Rodgers' incredible touchdown-to-interception ratio (37-4) beat out Tom Brady's league-leading numbers (5,316 yards, 43 TDs) in 2021, and I think something similar plays out this season. I expect Justin Herbert to see a big jump in efficiency this season and to significantly cut down on his interceptions (15 in 2021). However, he'll remain a prolific accumulator of yardage. Last season, he topped 5,000 yards and added 302 yards along with three touchdowns to his resume on the ground. Herbert has eight rushing touchdowns through two seasons.

    “Awards voters love a fresh story, so I fully expect a young signal-caller like Herbert, Mahomes, Allen or Joe Burrow to claim MVP—unless, of course, we see another historic season from Brady or Rodgers that's too statistically impressive to deny. Ultimately, I think Herbert will be a bit more efficient than Mahomes while carrying his team a bit more than Allen (Buffalo had the No. 1 defense in 2021) and posting a better record than Burrow. This will, however, be one of the tightest races in years.”

    Others receiving votes: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers (2 votes)


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