2022 NFL Playoff Hopefuls Who Should Be Concerned Heading Into Week 3

Alex KayContributor ISeptember 21, 2022

2022 NFL Playoff Hopefuls Who Should Be Concerned Heading Into Week 3

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    It's still early in the 2022 NFL season, but already it may be time for some teams to hit the panic button.

    While it’s important not to overreact to every development during the first fortnight of a campaign, there are some troubling ones among the league's projected contenders. Many have suffered at least one disheartening defeat and displayed glaring issues that must be corrected to contend for a championship.

    With that in mind, let’s look at the squads who have limped out of the gate and have reason to worry about their playoff aspirations.

    Projected win totals are from the preseason and courtesy of DraftKings (via Action Network)

    Strength of schedule data courtesy of EDSFootball.com

Las Vegas Raiders (0-2)

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    Derek Carr (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    2022 Projected Win Total: 8.5

    The Las Vegas Raiders were one of the league’s surprise playoff teams last year, but they are now facing an uphill battle to make it back into the field. They are 0-2 start after losing close games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals.

    There is an easy argument to be made that Las Vegas should have won both matchups.

    Derek Carr threw a trio of interceptions in the opener, and in Week 2 the Raiders blew a 20-point halftime lead before Hunter Renfrow's overtime fumble was returned for a game-ending touchdown.

    It's been a sloppy start for head coach Josh McDaniels, who is getting his second shot to head up an AFC West club following a disappointing tenure with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and '10.

    Given McDaniels started his first run as a head coach with six straight wins before getting canned with an 11-17 record, this 0-2 start is rather troubling.

    Given this team has all the tools required to be one of the NFL’s top attacks, ranking a mere No. 23 in total offense after two weeks is a major letdown. If the Raiders don’t turn things around in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans, their season could be over before it even gets off the ground.

Tennessee Titans (0-2)

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    Derrick Henry (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

    2022 Projected Win Total: 9

    The Tennessee Titans defied the odds by becoming the top seed and earning the AFC’s lone playoff bye last year. While they were a long shot to repeat that feat in 2022, they now need to worry about making the playoffs at all.

    The Titans started the year off by losing a nail-biter to the rebuilding New York Giants, who scored a late touchdown to pull within one point and went for two to secure the win. The G-Men directly challenged a Tennessee front that allowed the second-fewest yards in the league last year on the final play, dialing up a shovel pass to Saquon Barkley who took it right up the middle for the game-winning score.

    That L appeared to be a backbreaking one for the Titans. They were obliterated by the Buffalo Bills in an embarrassing 41-7 laughingstock of a contest on Monday. The Tennessee offense looked anemic in the contest, generating a meager 107 yards through the air and 80 on the ground.

    The Titans managed to thrive last year despite Derrick Henry missing half the season with an injury. Neither the superstar back nor his team has found any success since his return during the 2022 playoffs. Henry has rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown through two games this season, but it’s taken him 34 carries to reach those pedestrian totals.

    The loss of top wideout A.J. Brown—who was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles during the draft—seems to have hindered the passing attack as well. The squad only averaged 201.1 yards per game through the air last year, but that has fallen to a lowly 186.5 YPG in 2022.

    Tennessee needs to shake things up immediately to contend this year. The Titans benefit from having one of the easiest remaining strengths of schedule but must prove they can beat these foes beginning in Week 3 against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-2)

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    Joe Burrow (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

    2022 Projected Win Total: 10

    After losing Super Bowl LVI to the Los Angeles Rams in heartbreaking fashion, the Cincinnati Bengals were hoping to come back stronger than ever and avoid the dreaded Super Bowl hangover. After two weeks, it seems the reigning AFC champions couldn’t shake it.

    After a shocking loss to the Cooper Rush-led Dallas Cowboys—which came on the heels of an overtime defeat to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1—the Bengals became the first team in the Super Bowl era to outright lose their first two games as a favorite of seven points or more in each.

    With those losses, Cincinnati’s road back to the Big Game has become much more challenging. The team is not only tied for the eighth-most difficult remaining strength of schedule, but also has history working against it.

    The Bengals were 7-6 last year before ripping off six wins over the next seven games, but five of those victories were by a single-score margin. We are already seeing Cincinnati regress toward the mean in close games, a trend that could continue during the 2022 campaign.

    It’s worth noting that only one team since the 1993 Buffalo Bills has lost the Super Bowl and gone back to it the next season. The 2018 New England Patriots accomplished the feat after losing Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles, beating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII the following year.

    Seventeen of the 55 total Super Bowl losers wound up missing the postseason entirely the next year. The Bengals could join that club. They badly need a win in Week 3 against the New York Jets to stem the tide.

Indianapolis Colts (0-1-1)

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    Matt Ryan (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)

    2022 Projected Win Total: 10

    The Indianapolis Colts came up just short of a playoff appearance after collapsing down the stretch last year. They made several adjustments this offseason to try to get over the hump, including switching out incumbent starting quarterback Carson Wentz for Matt Ryan.

    After two games, it seems the move wasn’t much of an improvement. The Colts are off to an 0-1-1 start, settling for a tie against the Houston Texans—the team with the league’s lowest projected win total heading into 2022—before being blanked by the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2.

    Ryan hasn’t found much success during his first season away from the Atlanta Falcons. The 15-year veteran has completed only 48 of 80 passing attempts for 547 yards and one touchdown. He’s thrown a highly concerning four interceptions and has already been sacked seven times heading into Week 3.

    Although the Colts employ the NFL’s reigning rushing champion in Jonathan Taylor, their rushing offense hasn’t provided Ryan much support. Indianapolis is averaging 115.5 yards per game on the ground but has scored only one rushing touchdown.

    Unheralded wideout Ashton Dulin’s emergence has been one of the few bright spots for the Colts, but it’s concerning that the fourth-year veteran is now tied for the most targets on the team after Michael Pittman Jr. missed Week 2.

    If Ryan and his receivers cannot get in sync soon, this team could backslide rather than progress with the experienced signal-caller under center.

Denver Broncos (1-1)

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    Nathaniel Hackett (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

    2022 Projected Win Total: 10

    The Denver Broncos are the only team on this list that have a victory, but the expectations were quite high heading into 2022, and this team hasn’t even come close to matching them two weeks into the season.

    Denver was applauded for finally securing a franchise quarterback this offseason, going all-in to pry Russell Wilson away from the Seattle Seahawks. That move hasn’t panned out as expected, as the nine-time Pro Bowler hasn’t sparked this offense the way he was projected to.

    Through two games, Wilson has completed less than 60 percent of his passing attempts, amassing 559 yards and two scores against an interception and five sacks taken.

    The campaign began on the sourest of notes after Wilson failed to lead his new team past his old one in prime time. The Seahawks—led by Wilson’s former backup Geno Smith—slipped past the Broncos by a 17-16 margin on Monday Night Football, a game that Denver’s first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett seemed to be out of his depth in.

    With the Broncos trailing by a point late in the fourth quarter, Hackett opted to run down the clock and attempt a 64-yard field goal rather than go for a 4th-and-5. Brandon McManus missed the low-percentage try. The Broncos also fumbled twice on Seattle's 1-yard line.

    Denver managed to secure a win in Week 2, but it didn’t come easy against the underdog Houston Texans. The Broncos only mustered one offensive touchdown in the matchup, and they were called for multiple delay-of-game penalties.

    Changes could be coming after Hackett acknowledged his role in some of Denver’s most glaring issues. According to Parker Gabriel of USA Today, the coach admitted he needs to improve his communication skills:

    “I need to do better at making decisions faster and quicker and getting that information to the quarterback and being on the same page as him. That’s something we were talking about this morning all the way to this evening and making sure. It’s got to improve.”

    Fans in the Mile High City will be hoping to see some of these fixes surface during the Broncos’ Week 3 clash with the San Francisco 49ers. If not, there is a real chance Denver drops to 1-2 and gravely wounds its playoff hopes.

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