Teams in the NFL are set for yet another long, wild journey, as the road to Super Bowl 57 is officially underway.
The Los Angeles Rams have made themselves the team to beat, not only as the defending Super Bowl champs but also as a team with a blueprint to win now.
Other teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Buffalo Bills and the Green Bay Packers are looking to elevate themselves from elite to the best team in the league and hosts of the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season.
Several other teams also look to make themselves viable playoff contenders and threats for the Super Bowl title. The AFC got significantly better during the off-season, as several top players from the NFC, including some quarterbacks, changed conferences.
For example, nine-time Pro-Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson was traded from the Seattle Seahawks to the Denver Broncos, giving him a better chance at winning a Super Bowl title with a team with better odds of making the playoffs. Another move that made an impact in the AFC was former Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan being traded to the Indianapolis Colts.
More than half the teams in the AFC could be considered playoff contenders.
The NFC is controlled by the Buccaneers, Packers and Rams, but there is room for other teams; the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are the prime contenders for the fourth spot in the NFC South, but there is currently a big separation between them and the rest of the top teams.
Here are the Camden News' 2022 NFL play off predictions:
4. Kansas City
5. LA Chargers
1. LA Rams
2. Tampa Bay
3. Green Bay
6. New Orleans
7. San Francisco
Super Bowl 57: Bills over Rams
MVP: Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams)
Comeback Player of the Year: Baker Mayfield (Carolina Panthers)
Coach of the Year: Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills)
Offensive Rookie of the Year: George Pickens (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aidan Hutchinson (Detriot Lions)
The talk of the 2022 NFL season is going to be the heated competition in the AFC West between the Chiefs, the Chargers, the Broncos and the Las Vegas Raiders. While there is a chance that several of these teams could go to the playoffs, there is also the inevitable question of how all those teams are going to play each other twice in the season and maintain great records.
The division is great, but all the teams' high-quality playing spells problem for teams like the Broncos and the Raiders who are not as complete as the Chargers and the Chiefs.
This opens up room for Wild Card teams like the Miami Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans to potentially get a spot for the playoffs. Both Miami and Tennessee play in the weaker divisions, as the Dolphins will have to face the New England Patriots, who could decline, and the New York Jets. The Titans will have to face the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars twice in the regular season. Jacksonville and Houston had two of the three worst records last season.
The Miami Dolphins have upgraded their roster the most over the off-season, as they have surrounded their third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with Pro-Bowl caliber talent to throw to and protect him. They have also built a solid system around him with the hire of Mike McDaniel as head coach. This is the time for Tagovailoa to shine and develop into the playmaker that the Dolphins drafted him to be with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Tennessee Titans could have a serious setback this season in their offense after trading A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2022 Draft. They also have veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill on a short leash as they could replace him with Malik Willis. What could keep them in the running for a Wild Card spot is their defense, which finished sixth in the league in points allowed per game (20.8) last season.
The NFC, meanwhile, has lost a significant number of star players to the other conference. Those losses only widen the gap between the top three teams and others in the conference. The Rams, the Buccnaneers and the Packers clearly have elite playmakers and quarterbacks who can lead them to a Super Bowl run.
While the Eagles do not have an elite quarterback, the team is loaded full of high-caliber athletes, including their number one receiver in A.J. Brown. They also took care of several position needs during the off-season while their NFC East divisional rival in the Dallas Cowboys did not.
Dallas did very little over the off-season to add immediate support at the wide receivers or at the edge rushers. They are still having to rely on players recovering from injuries. Wide receiver Michael Gallup, for example, does not have a timetable to return from the torn ACL he suffered late last season. This factor could help the Eagles win the NFC East while the Cowboys could still potentially get a Wild Card playoff spot.
The San Francisco 49ers, the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings have significant talent throughout their rosters, but each has questions regarding their quarterbacks. While the 49ers are starting a second-year player in Trey Lance, they have too much talent around him for him to fail. The 49ers have four Pro Bowl players returning on the offensive side of the ball.
The New Orleans Saints acquired even more talent during the off-season like three-time first-team All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathiue. New Orleans also had success with quarterback Jameis Winston last season. Winston got the Saints to a 5-2 overall record before suffering an ACL tear. While the Saints are without head coach Sean Payton this year they have a reliable head coach in Dennis Allen, who has been on their staff for a long time.