Win-Loss Predictions for Every NFL Team After 2022 Schedule ReleaseMay 13, 2022
Win-Loss Predictions for Every NFL Team After 2022 Schedule Release
We already knew the opponents for each team in the upcoming season, and on Thursday, the NFL released the full 2022 schedule. As fans circle dates and make plans to attend games, some people are counting the wins and losses.
With so much roster movement throughout the offseason, expect parity with several teams clumped together around .500.
That being said, the playoff picture will change (it always does) from the previous year, and we have early win-loss predictions for the 2022 campaign.
Our projections are mostly based on roster changes—additions and subtractions—with strong consideration for the strength of schedules. For example, teams that finished first place in 2021 will play against top clubs in other divisions. This year, AFC South and NFC West squads have to go against a stacked AFC West.
Which teams will make the biggest leap in the standings? Who's going to fall out of the playoff picture? Let's jump into the records.
Assuming Kyler Murray clears up his contract situation with the Arizona Cardinals and opens the campaign under center, he'll have a solid pass-catching group despite the loss of Christian Kirk in free agency and wideout DeAndre Hopkins' six-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
The Cardinals traded for wide receiver Marquise Brown, Murray's former Oklahoma teammate, and drafted second-round tight end Trey McBride, who caught 90 passes for 1,121 yards and a touchdown at Colorado State in 2021. The club re-signed pass-catching tight end Zach Ertz and A.J. Green, who finished second on the team in receiving yards (848) last year.
The Cardinals need James Conner to stay healthy in the backfield after the loss of Chase Edmonds in free agency, but Arizona has a bigger issue with its defense following the departure of two-time All-Pro edge-rusher Chandler Jones.
If J.J. Watt's durability remains a problem (he missed 10 games last year), the Cardinals may struggle to rush the passer unless rookie third-rounder Cameron Thomas has a quick career start on the edge.
The Cardinals should field a solid offense without Hopkins, but they'll miss him in big matchups. Their defense, specifically the front line, isn't a reliable group. They're a mediocre squad that'll take a step back in 2022.
The Atlanta Falcons traded quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts and signed Marcus Mariota. Though the latter can adequately fill the stopgap role, he has battled injuries over the past two seasons as a backup for the Las Vegas Raiders and hasn't started in a game since 2019.
Fans should prepare themselves to see rookie third-rounder Desmond Ridder at some point in the upcoming campaign. If that happens, the team will go through some rough patches.
Nonetheless, whoever takes snaps under center will have two big targets in tight end Kyle Pitts (6'6", 246 lbs) and rookie first-round wideout Drake London (6'4", 219 lbs), which is a solid duo while wide receiver Calvin Ridley serves an indefinite suspension for gambling on NFL games. Rookie running back Tyler Allgeier could provide a boost out of the backfield to balance the offense.
Atlanta may give up too many points to win tight games, though. While the Falcons have a solid cornerback unit with A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward and Isaiah Oliver, rookie edge-rusher Arnold Ebiketie must fill a void for a defense that finished with the fewest sacks (18) and lowest pressure rate (16.7 percent) in 2021. If he's not an impact playmaker, the defensive backs will have to cover for long periods, which is a recipe for disaster.
Without a consistent pass rush, the Falcons would have to outscore opponents with Mariota or Ridder under center.
After three consecutive playoff appearances, the Baltimore Ravens took a step backward partially because of injuries. Cornerback Marcus Peters and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards missed the entire 2021 season. Quarterback Lamar Jackson missed five games, and left tackle Ronnie Stanley only suited up for one.
If the Ravens avoid major injuries, they should bounce back in the standings. Though they traded wideout Marquise Brown to the Cardinals, Rashod Bateman, a 2021 first-rounder, will have a chance to blossom into a lead wide receiver and a complement to All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews.
Baltimore put together a strong draft class too.
The Ravens strengthened their offensive line with arguably the best center of the rookie class in Tyler Linderbaum. Safety Kyle Hamilton could make an impact in the box and in shallow coverage against tight ends. Defensive tackle Travis Jones can rush the passer and stuff the run.
Baltimore needs Odafe Oweh to further develop while rookie second-round edge-rusher David Ojabo recovers from a torn Achilles. If Tyus Bowser makes a speedy recovery from the same injury, he'll provide pass-rushing help on the edge.
Other than a good bill of health for key players, the Ravens will benefit from playing fourth-place teams outside of their AFC East and NFC South matchups (the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants) after finishing last place in the AFC North for the 2021 season.
Former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's departure for the New York Giants' head-coaching job stands out as the team's biggest offseason loss. He helped quarterback Josh Allen develop into a star and orchestrated a top-three scoring offense in each of the last two years. Former quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Ken Dorsey will take over play-calling duties.
Even though the Bills lost a key assistant, Allen still has the same skill set, with a big arm, mobility and the strength (6'5", 237 lbs) to shake off tacklers on the run. He's going to lead Buffalo to a third consecutive AFC East title.
Allen has a plethora of pass-catching options in wideouts Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Jamison Crowder, who will replace Cole Beasley in the slot. The Bills added a red-zone threat in O.J. Howard to pair with Dawson Knox in two-tight end sets. Rookie pass-catching running back James Cook and first-year wide receiver Khalil Shakir can cover the potential loss of wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who's still a free agent.
If Buffalo's offense struggles out of the gate under Dorsey, its defense, which gave up the fewest points and yards in 2021, can stifle opponents. The Bills signed edge-rusher Von Miller to bolster the pass rush and drafted first-round cornerback Kaiir Elam to replace Levi Wallace. Though we don't hear a lot about the additions of defensive tackles Tim Settle and DaQuan Jones, they'll strengthen a run defense that gave up 19 touchdowns (tied for fifth-most) last year.
The Bills have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL.
The Carolina Panthers have one of the least appealing quarterback situations across the NFL, which will send this team to its imminent doom in 2022.
Over his last five starts, quarterback Sam Darnold has thrown for two touchdowns and six interceptions. Even with a healthy Christian McCaffrey in the backfield, the fifth-year signal-caller cannot hide his tendency to turn the ball over or his below-average accuracy (59.8 percent career completion rate).
Head coach Matt Rhule had no issues changing quarterbacks throughout the 2021 campaign, with Cam Newton and P.J. Walker involved in the rotation. We could see rookie third-rounder Matt Corral take over the huddle if Darnold doesn't show improvement.
Carolina cannot afford to turn the ball over with its key losses on defense. Edge-rusher Haason Reddick, who led the team in sacks last year, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore inked a deal with the Indianapolis Colts. First-round cover man Jaycee Horn may blossom into a quality starter, but he has a lot to prove following a shortened rookie campaign (three appearances) because of a broken foot.
The Panthers lost two high-end defensive playmakers, and Darnold has thrown for 54 touchdowns and 52 interceptions in his career. Rhule may lose his job at the end of the season.
The Chicago Bears haven't added an influx of high-end offensive talent around second-year quarterback Justin Fields.
Newcomers Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown haven't moved the needle with Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, respectively, on their previous teams. Even with the opportunity to take on bigger roles, they're unlikely to make a major splash in their first year with a young quarterback who has a shaky offensive line. As a rookie third-rounder with only one highly productive collegiate year, Velus Jones Jr. has a lot to prove.
In the draft, the Bears didn't select an offensive tackle until the fifth round and picked up Southern Utah's Braxton Jones. He'll likely go through an adjustment period in a leap from FCS competition to the pro level. Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins have leads for the starting jobs at tackle. The former allowed five sacks through 663 snaps last year, per Pro Football Focus. The latter still has to find his way after he missed 11 games following back surgery.
The new regime traded edge-rusher Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers, and the defensive unit will miss the three-time All-Pro commanding double-teams at the line of scrimmage.
If Robert Quinn and Trevis Gipson produce at a high level without Mack, the Bears defense, which features linebacker Roquan Smith, safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Jaylon Johnson could keep the scores close.
However, this defense isn't good enough to compensate for an offense with just two reliable playmakers in wideout Darnell Mooney and running back David Montgomery. Third-year tight end Cole Kmet must take a big step as a red-zone threat to help Fields in the aerial attack.
In 2021, the Cincinnati Bengals surprised a lot of people with a run to Super Bowl LVI. Even though the team came up short against the Los Angeles Rams, quarterback Joe Burrow and a high-powered offense changed the perception of a squad that finished with sub-.500 records between 2016 and 2020.
The Bengals won't have a Super Bowl hangover because of their improvements across the offensive line. After Burrow took 70 sacks between the regular season and the playoffs, the front office signed center Ted Karras, guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La'el Collins to strengthen his pass protection.
Burrow lost tight end C.J. Uzomah, but the team added Hayden Hurst, who caught 56 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns in primarily a starting role for the Atlanta Falcons two years ago. More importantly, Cincinnati still has its key perimeter playmakers in 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
If defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo's unit continues to make strides with the addition of versatile first-round safety Daxton Hill, the Bengals should remain in the Super Bowl hunt even though they'll play first-place teams and formidable division rivals.
The Cleveland Browns took a major risk with their decision to acquire quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is facing 22 civil lawsuits filed by women who have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct during massage sessions.
The league could suspend Watson, though according to USA Today's Brent Schrotenboer, the Browns quarterback won't attend court proceedings during the 2022 season.
"The two sides have an agreement not to schedule trials on these cases from Aug. 1 through March 1, 2023, helping Watson avoid them during football season," Schrotenboer wrote. "That means they might not be resolved until 2023 unless they are settled before then out of court."
Obviously, we have to take Watson's uncertain situation into consideration. Regardless, keep in mind that he hasn't played in a game since January 2021. The Browns' new signal-caller may have to knock off some early rust if he is even available to play.
If Watson isn't suspended, he'll have four-time Pro Bowl wideout Amari Cooper and rookie third-rounder David Bell, who racked up 1,035-plus receiving yards in two out of three terms at Purdue and 22 touchdowns from scrimmage as a collegian. He could replace free-agent wideout Jarvis Landry. The Browns also used the franchise tag to retain tight end David Njoku.
With a stout offensive line and a ground attack that features Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns should field a balanced offense. They have a potential Achilles' heel on the other side of the ball, though.
If Cleveland doesn't re-sign Jadeveon Clowney (11 tackles for loss, nine sacks and 32 pressures last year), edge-rusher Myles Garrett may have to fight through constant double- and triple-teams at the line of scrimmage.
The Dallas Cowboys could have a slow start to the season as quarterback Dak Prescott adjusts to an offense without wideout Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson Jr. Executive vice president Stephen Jones thinks receiver Michael Gallup may miss multiple games as he recovers from a torn ACL.
Through September, the Cowboys may lean heavily on the ground attack, which worked to their advantage in the past, but this year, the unit will feature a new full-time starter at left guard following the departure of Connor Williams. Rookie first-rounder Tyler Smith will compete for that spot, per The Athletic's Jon Machota.
Right tackle Terence Steele has first-string experience, but he's a low-end starter set to replace La'el Collins. Running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard may not see wide-open rushing lanes in 2022.
Nonetheless, the Cowboys have enough offensive firepower with wideout CeeDee Lamb and tight end Dalton Schultz in the fold. James Washington can sporadically haul in big catches, and rookie third-rounder Jalen Tolbert has a chance to contribute with Gallup on the mend.
Dallas' defense may have to pick up early slack for its offense, and the unit has the talent to do so. Play-caller Dan Quinn turned that struggling group into the seventh-ranked scoring unit last year. He'll miss Randy Gregory rushing the pocket, but 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons can fill pass-rushing voids.
The Cowboys will stumble early and struggle with a tough schedule, facing first-place teams from last season in the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans, but they'll finish above .500 with a shot at a wild-card berth.
The Denver Broncos finally solved their instability at the most important position, acquiring quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks. With that move alone, they're going to win more games than they did last season (7-10).
Though Wilson had a down 2021 campaign partially because of surgery on his finger, he'll bounce back with a strong group of receivers. Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler should feast on weaker pass defenses with the nine-time Pro Bowler under center.
Last year, Denver's defense allowed the third-fewest points and ranked eighth in yards allowed. The unit should remain stout with the addition of edge-rusher Randy Gregory, run-stopping defensive tackle D.J. Jones and slot cornerback K'Waun Williams. If rookie second-rounder Nik Bonitto contributes, the Broncos may have the league's best pass-rushing group with a healthy Bradley Chubb, Malik Reed and Baron Browning.
First-time head coach Nathaniel Hackett is unproven, but he has a top-tier quarterback and a favorable schedule with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans on the 2022 slate.
Jared Goff isn't a star quarterback, but he's good enough for the Detroit Lions to steal a few games this year. Remember, the two-time Pro Bowler helped lead the Los Angeles Rams to the playoffs in three out of four seasons as the primary starter.
Head coach Dan Campbell isn't Sean McVay in terms of play-calling, but Goff can move the offense up and down the field if he avoids turnovers. He has Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson, 2021 rookie standout Amon-Ra St. Brown, his former Rams teammate in Josh Reynolds, newcomer D.J. Chark and big-play rookie wideout Jameson Williams, who's recovering from a torn ACL but expects to practice at training camp.
Behind a steady offensive line, Goff also has some help with D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams in the backfield.
Detroit's defense can beat opponents up front with waves of edge-rushers—some of them capable of lining up in the different spots. Aidan Hutchinson, this year's No. 2 overall pick, joins fellow rookie Josh Paschal, Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara and Charles Harris, an underrated pass-rusher who had his best season last year (7.5 sacks and 34 pressures). In the middle, Michael Brockers, Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill can stop the run.
If 2020 first-round cornerback Jeff Okudah can shore up the boundary opposite Amani Oruwariye, the Lions could push for a playoff spot.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers' demise isn't quite here yet. Sure, they lost star wideout Davante Adams, but four-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers remains a fixture under center.
Rodgers won't win a third consecutive MVP, but he can still lead a squad to the playoffs with a depleted wide receiver corps. Green Bay drafted wideouts Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs in the second and fourth rounds, respectively. They'll need to earn Rodgers' trust. Veterans Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins will likely see most of the targets early in the season. Allen Lazard could develop into a decent third option.
The Packers will win several games with a strong ground attack that features running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon and a stout defense.
Green Bay invested its two 2022 first-round picks in linebacker Quay Walker and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt. They'll strengthen a run defense that allowed the third-most yards per rush attempt (4.7) in 2021.
Rodgers won't need to throw for 4,100-plus yards and 37 or more touchdowns because Green Bay's defense will stifle most of its opponents.
The Houston Texans dumped former head coach David Culley after one season, so everyone on the roster must adjust to a new coaching staff with Lovie Smith in the lead skipper role. The Texans' lack of continuity will cost them some games, though they have the talent to pull off some upsets.
Davis Mills earned a shot to become the franchise quarterback after he threw for 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season.
Mills has a reliable wideout in Brandin Cooks, who's racked up at least 1,037 receiving yards in six out of eight seasons. Assuming rookie second-rounder John Metchie III fully recovers from a torn ACL, the Texans should have a solid pair of wideouts.
Unfortunately, Mills may not have much help from the running game. Marlon Mack, rookie fourth-rounder Dameon Pierce and 31-year-old Rex Burkhead will battle for touches in the backfield. Mack has played sparingly over the past two years—in part because of a torn Achilles. If Pierce emerges, he can breathe some life into the rushing attack.
The Texans invested premium draft capital in their secondary, selecting Derek Stingley Jr. and safety Jalen Pitre in the first and second rounds, respectively. ESPN's Jordan Reid thinks Stingley is a "questionable" fit in Smith's Cover 2 scheme. Furthermore, the LSU product must stay healthy after missing 13 games since 2020.
The Indianapolis Colts quietly had a strong offseason.
They traded for quarterback Matt Ryan, who will stabilize the position for them. Though he turns 37 years old on May 17, he's still an accurate passer (67 percent completion rate in 2021) with the ability to maximize the talent around him.
Ryan will have wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who broke out with 88 catches for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns last year, and an intriguing rookie target in Alec Pierce. The first-year wideout tips the scale at 6'3", 211 pounds and ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Nevertheless, the Colts will go as far as Jonathan Taylor, the 2021 rushing champion, takes them. He may have some lackluster games because of changes along the offensive line. Indianapolis doesn't have a clear-cut starter at left tackle with Eric Fisher on the open market, and the team lost right guard Mark Glowinski in free agency.
Fortunately, Indianapolis acquired two high-end defenders in edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and cornerback Stephon Gilmore to further strengthen a unit that ranked ninth in scoring and 16th in yards for the 2021 term. The former has years of experience with new Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and logged 10 sacks under the play-caller's tutelage with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021.
Ryan, Taylor and a stout defense will lead the Colts to 10 wins.
The Jacksonville Jaguars had a disastrous 2021 season under former lead skipper Urban Meyer. This offseason, they hired Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson, so don't sell your stock in quarterback Trevor Lawrence yet.
In free agency, the Jaguars added multiple pass-catchers, including wideouts Christian Kirk and Zay Jones along with tight end Evan Engram. They'll join Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr., the team's most productive receivers from last season. On top of that, Lawrence will have Travis Etienne (his former Clemson teammate) back in action after the running back missed the 2021 campaign with a Lisfranc injury.
Among the quarterbacks picked in the first round of the 2021 draft, Lawrence should take the biggest leap with an accomplished head coach and additional playmakers around him.
Jacksonville doesn't need Travon Walker to play up to his No. 1 overall draft status to field an improved defense. The club added linebackers Foye Oluokun, Devin Lloyd (rookie first-rounder) and Chad Muma (rookie third-rounder) to shore up the second level. New defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi will bolster the run defense, and cornerback Darious Williams should be an immediate contributor in the secondary.
The Jaguars will more than double their win total from 2021.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs traded their most explosive playmaker in wideout Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, which will change the complexion of the aerial attack.
Though quarterback Patrick Mahomes will continue to play at a high level, he won't have as many big plays over the top with Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who's a big-play threat but has a 49.8 percent catch rate. Rookie second-rounder Skyy Moore will likely have to battle the veterans for targets before he becomes a consistent contributor.
Last season, the Chiefs offense struggled through the first half of the season, and the defense came to the rescue. In four games between Weeks 8 and 13, they scored 22 points or fewer but allowed 17 points or fewer and won all of those contests.
Kansas City drafted George Karlaftis in the first round. While he may help the team's perimeter pass rush, the Chiefs didn't add a notable veteran run-stopper to plug holes on the interior. They gave up the second-most yards per rush attempt (4.8) in 2021.
Furthermore, the Chiefs lost cornerback Charvarius Ward in free agency. Opposing quarterbacks will target rookie first-rounder Trent McDuffie on the boundary. They also replaced versatile safety Tyrann Mathieu with Justin Reid, who's missed at least 14.3 percent of his tackles in each of the last two years.
The Chiefs defense could be a major liability and unable to smooth over rough patches if the offense sorely misses Hill.
Head coach Andy Reid, Mahomes and Kelce will find a way to win 10 games in a much tougher AFC West division and five 2021 first-place teams on the schedule.
Las Vegas Raiders
New general manager Dave Ziegler added two All-Pro talents in wideout Davante Adams (via trade with the Packers) and edge-rusher Chandler Jones to a 10-7 squad that made the playoffs last year.
Adams will upgrade a passing attack that already features two Pro Bowlers in tight end Darren Waller and wideout Hunter Renfrow.
With 2020 Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs and a healthy Kenyan Drake, the Raiders will be able to score in bunches against most teams. They must sort out their offensive line, which only features one clear-cut starter in left tackle Kolton Miller. Nevertheless, in 2021, the team fielded the 11th-ranked offense in yards despite a shaky front line.
Vegas has a big question mark on the other side of the ball as defensive coordinator Patrick Graham takes over for Gus Bradley, who's the play-caller for the Colts. He'll transition the unit from an even-man front to a varied scheme.
Graham must maximize Maxx Crosby's talent in his system. If he does, the Silver and Black would have a dynamic pass-rushing duo with the Pro Bowl edge-rusher lining up opposite Jones. The new coordinator also has to patch up the secondary with the departure of lead cover man Casey Hayward.
The Raiders have an offense built to win scoring shootouts, though they'll need eight other starters to rally around Crosby, Jones and Pro Bowl linebacker Denzel Perryman to field a formidable defense.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers made moves that will significantly improve their defense, trading for edge-rusher Khalil Mack and signing cornerback J.C. Jackson.
With the addition of an All-Pro talent up front and a Pro Bowl-level ball hawk on the back end, the Chargers pass defense should rank within the top 10 (maybe top five) after finishing 12th and 16th in yards and touchdowns allowed, respectively, in 2021.
Head coach Brandon Staley must figure out how to plug holes in a run defense that gave up the third-most yards last season. Perhaps Sebastian Joseph-Day, who's familiar with Staley's scheme from his time with the Los Angeles Rams, and Austin Johnson will solve the issue. Mack is also a factor on run downs.
If Los Angeles fields a defense that's much better than the unit that allowed the fourth-most points last year, quarterback Justin Herbert won't have to lead an offense that averages 27.9 points per game.
Nevertheless, Herbert can light up the scoreboard with wideouts Keenan Allen and Mike Williams along with Austin Ekeler as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. The Chargers may have more offensive balance with the addition of rookie first-round guard Zion Johnson and first-year running back Isaiah Spiller, which is a scary thought.
Los Angeles Rams
Despite key offseason losses, don't expect the Los Angeles Rams to take a step back with Matthew Stafford under center.
The reigning champions took some hits in free agency, losing edge-rusher Von Miller, cornerback Darious Williams and guard Austin Corbett in the starting lineup. Tackle Andrew Whitworth retired, and the team traded wideout Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL in Super Bowl LVI and remains available on the open market.
However, the Rams have an in-house replacement for Whitworth in Joe Noteboom, who played well during the team's Super Bowl run. The team acquired cornerback Troy Hill from Cleveland, which probably means Jalen Ramsey will log fewer snaps in the slot.
Most importantly, Los Angeles signed wideout Allen Robinson II. He's an upgrade over Woods, who's recovering from a torn ACL at 30 years old.
The Rams will miss Miller on the edge, but they signed linebacker Bobby Wagner, who can shore up the middle of the field on all three downs.
With a healthy Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson and rookie fifth-rounder Kyren Williams in the backfield, head coach Sean McVay can run a more balanced attack to keep opposing offenses off the field in high-scoring games in case the defense needs help.
Without a doubt, the Miami Dolphins significantly improved their offense with the addition of wideout Tyreek Hill, left tackle Terron Armstead, interior offensive lineman Connor Williams and multiple running backs, which bodes well for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in his third year.
Hill and fellow wideout Jaylen Waddle will put fear into defenders who don't have the speed to cover them downfield. Wideout Cedrick Wilson Jr. and tight end Mike Gesicki round out a potential top-10 passing attack.
Armstead and Williams are clear upgrades over Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson, respectively, on the left side of the offensive line. Williams has a shot to play center as well. With the addition of Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel, the Dolphins can attack defensive lines with a variety of tailbacks.
Defensively, Miami fields a solid unit with established or budding playmakers at various positions.
Edge-rushers Emmanuel Ogbah and Jaelan Phillips combined for 17.5 sacks and 65 pressures last season. Linebacker Jerome Baker is an underrated contributor to the pass rush. Cornerback Xavien Howard can match up against top receivers. He hasn't allowed completion rates of over 53 percent in coverage for each of the last two seasons. Safety Jevon Holland had an impressive 2021 rookie campaign with 10 pass breakups and two interceptions.
First-time head coach Mike McDaniel should push for a postseason spot, though his inexperience may cost the club a critical game in a conference loaded with playoff-caliber teams.
If first-time head coach Kevin O'Connell isn't a complete whiff hire, the Minnesota Vikings can challenge the Packers for the NFC North title.
With that said, Minnesota needs second-year left tackle Christian Darrisaw to pick up where he left off last season and rookie second-round guard Ed Ingram to become a reliable starter opposite Ezra Cleveland. At center, Garrett Bradbury is a major concern, but he's a fairly decent run-blocker.
Behind a solid offensive line, quarterback Kirk Cousins should extend his streak of 4,200-plus passing yards and 33-plus touchdowns to three seasons with wideouts Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn on the perimeter. Tight end Irv Smith Jr.'s return from a torn meniscus will boost the passing attack. Running back Dalvin Cook provides balance on the ground.
The Vikings improved their defense over the offseason, which will take some pressure off the offense.
If rookie second-round cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. doesn't miss time because of core-muscle surgery and a quad injury, he'll battle with Cameron Dantzler and Patrick Peterson for one of the boundary spots. That's a solid trio with newcomer Chandon Sullivan projected to line up in the slot. Rookie safety Lewis Cine will set the tone for the defense alongside established veteran Harrison Smith.
Most importantly, a healthy pass-rushing duo featuring Za'Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter can change a defense that ranked 24th and 30th in points and yards allowed, respectively, last year. Both defenders have logged double-digit sacks multiple times in their careers.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots waved goodbye to key players, which raises some concerns.
The Patriots let cornerback J.C. Jackson walk in free agency, traded guard Shaq Mason and cut linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Also of note, they haven't re-signed longtime Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower, whose best years may be behind him. All of those players logged a significant number of snaps last year.
On top of that, the Patriots might have botched their draft this year. They selected interior offensive lineman Cole Strange and wideout Tyquan Thornton in the first and second rounds, respectively. Bleacher Report's scouting department had a third-round grade for the former and a fourth-round grade for the latter.
Even if you disagree with B/R's grades for the Patriots' top picks, we can all acknowledge that former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel's departure for the Raiders' head-coaching job could be the biggest blow to second-year quarterback Mac Jones' development.
In true Patriots fashion, the team hasn't officially named a new offensive play-caller. Even in a committee approach, New England will find it difficult to replace someone who served 13 years at that position in Foxborough and helped Jones put together a solid rookie campaign.
As one of the most accomplished head coaches in NFL history, Bill Belichick usually gets the benefit of the doubt. But he has a background rooted in defense and special teams, so his team may struggle to score points.
New Orleans Saints
Assuming quarterback Jameis Winston fully recovers from a torn ACL, the New Orleans Saints will field a competitive squad, but they could have a rocky start with some offensive uncertainties.
First, they're going to turn over the full-time play-calling duties to Pete Carmichael Jr., who's served as the team's offensive coordinator since 2009. But for the most part, now-retired head coach Sean Payton ran the show on offense. The Saints should maintain some continuity in the schematic design with Winston heading into his second year as a starter for the club.
Secondly, running back Alvin Kamara faces a felony charge because of an arrest for battery resulting in substantial bodily harm. He has a hearing for the case on August 1, but the NFL could hand down a swift suspension.
Two-time All-Pro wideout Michael Thomas' status remains unclear following ankle surgery. Moreover, he doesn't have a strong rapport with Winston after missing the entire 2021 campaign.
On a positive note, rookie wideout Chris Olave and first-year tackle Trevor Penning should be bright spots on offense. The team traded up for the former, who could see plenty of targets, and the latter will replace left tackle Terron Armstead, who signed with the Dolphins.
The Saints defense will help the team win games if the offense stumbles through the first half of the season. New Orleans kept the core of its top-five scoring unit together and signed safeties Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu to compensate for the loss of Marcus Williams (free agency) and Malcolm Jenkins (retired). The club also added rookie second-round cornerback Alontae Taylor.
With that said, in the modern-day league, playoff contenders have to score a lot of points, and that may be a problem through the first several weeks in New Orleans.
New York Giants
Though New York Giants fans should feel optimistic about new head coach Brian Daboll because of his previous work as an offensive coordinator with Bills, he doesn't have a magic wand to turn Daniel Jones into Josh Allen.
Even if Jones shows improvements, the change won't happen overnight. The fourth-year signal-caller has cut down on turnovers every year since entering the league but also saw a drop-off in passing production. He's thrown just 21 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
Offensively, the Giants have a bigger problem that's outside of Daboll's control. Their top playmakers have battled injuries over the last three years. Since 2019, Saquon Barkley has missed 21 games, Sterling Shepard has been sidelined for 20 and Kenny Golladay sat out 14 dating back to his time with the Detroit Lions. Kadarius Toney didn't play in seven games last year.
If the Giants' premier playmakers avoid injuries, Jones will benefit now that he is behind an improved offensive line with rookie first-rounder Evan Neal slated to play right tackle. The front office also added experienced starters in Max Garcia, Jon Feliciano and Mark Glowinski on the interior of the five-man front.
In the event that the Giants cannot shake injuries, their defense will keep them competitive. They'll field a talented front seven that features Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence up front along with rookie first-rounder Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari on the edge. Yet the team has a major question at cornerback after it released James Bradberry.
The Giants have too many uncertainties to buy them as a sleeper team in the NFC, but they'll battle down to the final minutes of games all year.
New York Jets
The New York Jets hit a grand slam with their 2022 draft class.
Their haul includes arguably the top cornerback (Ahmad Gardner), wide receiver (Garrett Wilson) and running back (Breece Hall). They also traded up into the first round for edge-rusher Jermaine Johnson II, who broke out with 17.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks at Florida State last year.
In free agency, New York acquired Pro Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson to bolster the offensive line and replaced safety Marcus Maye with Jordan Whitehead.
Between free agency and the draft, the Jets completely revamped their tight end room, adding C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin and rookie third-rounder Jeremy Ruckert. That versatile group can improve the offense in both running and passing situations.
However, Gang Green won't see much upward movement in the standings unless quarterback Zach Wilson makes a second-year jump. He struggled as a rookie, throwing for multiple touchdowns in only three out of 13 games. The BYU product finished with nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions with a 55.6 percent completion rate.
Wilson has a lot to prove, so temper your expectations for a quarterback who took some time to break out (partially because of injury) on the collegiate level.
The Philadelphia Eagles won six of their last eight regular-season games to earn a playoff berth last year, and they've since improved their roster over the offseason. With quarterback Jalen Hurts comfortable in a heavy run-pass-option system that features a strong ground attack, this team will continue to make strides.
Hurts has a new high-end playmaker in A.J. Brown, who can make tough catches all over the field. The Pro Bowl wideout will line up opposite DeVonta Smith to form one of the better young receiver duos across the league. Tight end Dallas Goedert still has a solid place within the offense as a pass-catcher in the seams and in the middle of the field.
The Eagles won't have to depend on their offense to win games, though. They'll also beat teams with their stout front seven. They added edge-rusher Haason Reddick, who's logged double-digit sacks in each of the last two seasons.
Few opponents will have much success on the ground against a trio of Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox and rookie first-rounder Jordan Davis, who's a massive 6'6" and 341 pounds. If rookie linebacker Nakobe Dean isn't hampered by a pectoral injury that contributed to his draft-day slide, he'll be a third-round steal who's capable of playing on all three downs.
Aside from a question mark at cornerback opposite Darius Slay, Philadelphia's starting lineup doesn't have a weak link at any particular spot.
Mitch Trubisky might serve as the stopgap quarterback between now-retired Ben Roethlisberger and Kenny Pickett, whom the Pittsburgh Steelers selected in the first round of the 2022 draft. Head coach Mike Tomlin didn't rule out the rookie's chance to start in Week 1, though.
Regardless, the Steelers have the fourth-best quarterback in the AFC North. Neither Trubisky nor Pickett measure up to Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson or Deshaun Watson.
On his third team in three years, Trubisky is Pittsburgh's biggest wild card. He's a low-end starter who only threw 20 touchdowns in a single season once, but the sixth-year pro has playmakers around him.
Pittsburgh added rookie wideouts George Pickens and Calvin Austin III to a pass-catching group that features Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool along with tight end Pat Freiermuth. Running back Najee Harris accumulated 1,667 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage as a dual threat out of the backfield last year.
Trubisky or even Pickett can move the ball with those weapons, but Pittsburgh's defense has some question marks. Play-caller Keith Butler retired, so Teryl Austin, who served as the Steelers' senior defensive assistant and secondary coach last season, must turn around a unit that ranked 20th and 24th in points and yards allowed, respectively.
Cameron Heyward is heading into his age-33 season, while fellow defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt's status remains unclear. Pittsburgh declined linebacker Devin Bush's fifth-year option. Cornerbacks Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon must shore up the secondary along with Cameron Sutton.
The Steelers don't have a trustworthy quarterback to battle against high-end passers, and their defense could struggle against top passing attacks.
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers have two uncertainties that should lower your expectations for them next season.
First, San Francisco must resolve an impasse with dynamic playmaker Deebo Samuel, who's at odds with the team. The self-proclaimed wide back racked up 1,770 yards and 14 touchdowns from scrimmage last season. He may want to play a traditional wide receiver role, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
Without Samuel, the 49ers would have to rely on Brandon Aiyuk—a solid No. 2 wideout—and tight end George Kittle, who's missed 11 games over the past two years.
Meanwhile, the 49ers still have yet to trade veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Perhaps they'll keep him as insurance in case Trey Lance struggles in his first year as a full-time starter. The young signal-caller has suited up for only six games (including two starts), so he might go through some growing pains.
In head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense, quarterbacks benefit from a strong ground attack. The 49ers should have a top-10 rushing attack with Elijah Mitchell leading the backfield and Trey Sermon, Jeff Wilson Jr., JaMycal Hasty and rookie third-rounder Tyrion Davis-Price filling in the gaps.
Meanwhile, cornerback Charvarius Ward should strengthen the 49ers secondary. Rookie second-rounder Drake Jackson could lessen the sting of losing edge-rusher Arden Key, who logged 6.5 sacks in 2021.
If the 49ers trade Samuel, take a few wins off this prediction. Otherwise, they're likely to hover around .500.
The Seattle Seahawks hit the reset button when they traded quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos and cut linebacker Bobby Wagner in March. Their season could run off the rails before Thanksgiving.
Though the Seahawks' aerial attack features one of the better wide receiver duos in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, they have a major question mark at quarterback. Seattle acquired Drew Lock in the Wilson trade, and he'll battle Geno Smith, whom the club re-signed this offseason.
The club addressed a major need at tackle, selecting Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas in the first and third rounds, respectively, but those additions won't help two signal-callers with accuracy issues. Smith and Lock have career completion rates below 60 percent. Running backs Rashaad Penny, Ken Walker III and Chris Carson—if he fully recovers from neck surgery—may have to carry a heavy load for the offense.
The Seahawks cannot depend on their defense to win gritty, low-scoring games all year. They didn't make any splashy signings on that side of the ball other than retaining safety Quandre Diggs. Rookie second-rounder Boye Mafe, linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and defensive lineman Shelby Harris, whom Seattle acquired in the Wilson deal, can make plays, but that isn't enough to counter high-scoring offenses.
Seattle will likely have a top-five draft pick in 2023.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady's decision to postpone retirement keeps the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Super Bowl window open for another year.
The Buccaneers promoted defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to the head-coaching position after Bruce Arians decided to move into a front-office role, which gives them some continuity with an in-house hire. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will continue to work with Brady.
Brady will have to adjust, though. For now, he doesn't have one of his most trustworthy targets in tight end Rob Gronkowski, who's mulling retirement. Wideout Chris Godwin, who tore his ACL in December, doesn't have a timetable for his return. Veteran tight end Cameron Brate, rookie tight end Cade Otton and wideout Russell Gage can fill those pass-catching voids, but they're all downgrades from an all-time playmaker and a Pro Bowl talent.
Leftwich might lean on the ground attack early in the season with Leonard Fournette, rookie third-rounder Rachaad White and Giovani Bernard in the backfield.
The Buccaneers spent a second-round pick on defensive end Logan Hall, who could perhaps replace free agent Ndamukong Suh. Edge-rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will likely play a bigger role with Jason Pierre-Paul still on the open market.
The Buccaneers have Brady and a top-five scoring defense from last year nearly intact. Even with a tough schedule, including games against all four AFC North teams, they're a surefire playoff team.
If running back Derrick Henry doesn't stay healthy next season, the Tennessee Titans will be going nowhere.
The Titans drafted fellow tailback Hassan Haskins in the fourth round, but Henry is the engine of their offense. The two-time rushing champion missed nine games last season before returning for the Wild Card Game, where he finished with only 62 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Even though Tennessee went 6-3 without Henry last year, quarterback Ryan Tannehill is now without his top two receivers from last season. The Titans waived Julio Jones and traded A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles for two draft picks, one of which they spent on Arkansas wideout Treylon Burks. They also traded for Los Angeles Rams receiver Robert Woods, who is recovering from a torn ACL.
The Titans also cut Pro Bowl guard Rodger Saffold this offseason, and they didn't re-sign tackle David Quessenberry, either. The latter struggled on passing downs but sealed the edge as a quality run-blocker.
Offensive coordinator Todd Downing's track record as a play-caller is another concern. His units have ranked 23rd (2017 with the Las Vegas Raiders) and 15th (last year) in scoring. Under his direction, Tannehill didn't look close to the same player who won 2019 Comeback Player of the Year or threw for 33 touchdowns under Arthur Smith (currently the Atlanta Falcons head coach).
With question marks about the offensive line, Downing and cornerback Caleb Farley's ability to stay healthy and man the boundary, the Titans may lose some scoring shootouts next season. That doesn't bode well for them with the AFC West, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals on their schedule.
After three years with Case Keenum, Alex Smith (after several leg surgeries) and Taylor Heinicke, the Washington Commanders finally have a quarterback who can extend plays and make big throws downfield, which will help them compete for a playoff spot.
Carson Wentz's tenure with the Indianapolis Colts may have started off on the wrong foot, per The Athletic's Zak Keefer, and ended on a sour note with a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he threw for 3,563 yards, 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last year. That's not bad for a passer in a run-heavy offense.
With the Commanders, Wentz will throw to Terry McLaurin, who's logged back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, along with rookie first-rounder Jahan Dotson (a standout at Penn State), versatile wideout Curtis Samuel and pass-catching tight end Logan Thomas. He also has a dynamic running back in Antonio Gibson and a reliable receiver out of the backfield in J.D. McKissic.
Washington might finish this season with a league-average offense for the first time since 2017, back when it had Kirk Cousins under center. That should help a defense with several standout playmakers.
Up front, Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne can apply constant pocket pressure, which allows the back seven to pounce on hurried throws. If linebacker Jamin Davis makes a second-year leap and cornerback William Jackson III gives up fewer touchdowns (he allowed six last year), the Commanders should have a stingy defense similar to their 2020 group.
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Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.