As the NFL offseason progresses, front offices continue to seek out potential upgrades amongst their respective rosters. Trades have seen players such as Deshaun Watson and Davante Adams on the move, while Tom Brady has seemingly un-retired from football. Here, we highlight 10 bold predictions for the 2022 season:
Deshaun Watson will lead the Cleveland Browns to 10+ wins
Matt Partridge: With only two winning seasons since the turn of the century, the 2020 version of the ‘Dawg Pound’ looked set to break the mold under new General Manager Andrew Berry and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski. That season, they succeeded in recording their third winning season and their first postseason victory across the last 18 seasons with a Wild Card win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Following a Divisional loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the slide back to notoriety began. They will want to move on from the disastrous 2021 season that included the mid-season departure of WR Odell Beckham Jr. The play-calling of QB Baker Mayfield has also been brought into question, which has led to the trade of QB Deshaun Watson.
Once receiving Watson, the Browns inked the three-time Pro Bowl talent to a record-setting five-year, $230 million deal. Despite the fact he is still facing civil lawsuits over multiple counts of alleged sexual assault and inappropriate conduct, Cleveland has called on the services of the undoubtedly talented star and added to the supporting cast by trading for four-time Pro Bowl WR Amari Cooper. If the Browns can navigate these stormy waters, then they will have a shot at keeping up with the best in the AFC North.
3+ Quarterbacks will pass for more than 5,000 yards during the 2022 season
Devon Withers: The NFL has evolved into a pass-first league, but this particular feat hasn’t occurred since the 2011 season. That year, Drew Brees (5,476), Tom Brady (5,235), and Matthew Stafford (5,038) led the NFL in passing yards. In 2021, both Tom Brady (5,316) and Justin Herbert (5,014) eclipsed this mark. The additional regular season game tacked on will make this a realistic figure for few quarterbacks, but having three or more signal-callers reach the milestone would be special.
The Los Angeles Rams will be the first team since the New England Patriots to win back-to-back Super Bowls
Matt Partridge: With QB Matthew Stafford signing a four-year, $160 million extension, the Los Angeles Rams will make a run deep into the postseason and emerge victorious. An elite defense got stronger with the addition of eight-time Pro Bowl LB Bobby Wagner. Offensively, despite losing WR Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans in free agency, the Rams picked up Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson in a three-year deal. It remains to be seen whether WR Odell Beckham Jr. will remain with the team ahead of next season. The competitive nature of the NFC West will keep the Rams honest, but with Russell Wilson switching to the AFC West, the Rams will seize the opportunity.
Justin Fields secures franchise record in single season passing yards
Devon Withers: During the 1995 season, Erik Kramer totaled 3,838 passing yards to set the record for single season passing yards in Chicago Bears history. Since then, only Jay Cutler and Mitchell Trubisky have thrown for 3,200+ passing yards. For sophomore QB Justin Fields, he compiled a mere 1,870 passing yards across 12 games last season. His 155.8 passing yards per game ranked last in the NFL. In addition, WR Allen Robinson joining the Los Angeles Rams in free agency may not help the offense. That being said, the Bears will likely add to their receiving core through the NFL Draft. WR Darnell Mooney will be established as the WR1 this season after totaling 1,055 receiving yards across 81 receptions last season. The offense is structured around Fields, who will likely be playing from behind in plenty of games, resulting in a pass-first game script.
Despite their losses, the Seattle Seahawks will return to the playoffs this season
Matt Partridge: Losing their optimum player from behind center in QB Russell Wilson is going to hurt the Seattle Seahawks, but they have added weapons such as Denver Broncos TE Noah Fant among others. A returning Chris Carson in the backfield alongside Rashaad Penny will be joined by a receiving group that includes DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Dee Eskridge. QB Drew Lock is in a position to rediscover his former self, while the NFL Draft holds a handful of promising prospects.
Signing of Deshaun Watson won’t be enough for Cleveland Browns to reach the playoffs
Devon Withers: The largest splash of the offseason came when the Cleveland Browns traded first-round picks in 2022, 2023, and 2024 along with a 2023 third-rounder and 2022 and 2024 fourth-round selection in exchange for QB Deshaun Watson and a 2024 sixth-round selection. Shortly after, the front office inked Watson to a four-year, $160 million extension.
Watson missed the entire 2021 season due to legal battles regarding sexual assault allegations. While his statistics from previous seasons establish him as a valuable addition to the Browns, being on the field matters. Outside of the new addition of WR Amari Cooper, the next man up on Cleveland’s depth chart at the wide receiver position appears to be Donovan Peoples-Jones, who only saw 58 targets last season.
In an AFC North division that has witnessed the emergence of the Cincinnati Bengals, both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are competitive teams as well. I’m not sold on the Cleveland Browns hype quite yet.
Tua Tagovailoa leads Miami Dolphins to first AFC East title since 2008
Matt Partridge: While the smart money will be on the Buffalo Bills to repeat as divisional champions, the Miami Dolphins have signaled their intent to compete by wrestling star WR Tyreek Hill away from the Kansas City Chiefs. Hill will form a dynamic pairing alongside second-year WR Jaylen Waddle and veteran TE Mike Gesicki. With RB Myles Gaskin joined by RB Raheem Mostert in the backfield, the Dolphins have enough weapons on offense to make some noise. Head Coach Mike McDaniel has surrounded himself with an experienced staff and the club is giving QB Tua Tagovailoa every chance to prove himself as the Dolphins seek their first playoff berth in five years.
The 2022 Quarterback class will leave a lot to be desired
Devon Withers: Prior to the start of the NFL offseason, there appeared to be minimal hope in regards to the 2022 Quarterback prospects. The class, headlined by Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett among others, may not even have a quarterback selected through the first five picks. After teams such as the Denver Broncos and Washington Commanders filled their void through trades this offseason, the top landing spots now include the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. Even in Seattle, I expect a quarterback battle with Drew Lock, who is only two years removed from throwing nearly 3,000 passing yards across 13 games. Given the current circumstances, I don’t expect a quarterback to win Rookie of the Year for the sixth time in the last ten seasons.
Despite the loss of Tyreek Hill, the Kansas City Chiefs will finish as the top seed in the AFC
Matt Partridge: Coming out on top in a loaded AFC conference will take a special performance and the Kansas City Chiefs, without WR Tyreek Hill, are still in position to do so. They have replaced speed with speed, signing former Green Bay Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling. According to Next Gen Stats, MVS reached 22.09 mph during a 75-yard touchdown reception during the 2021 season. The front office also signed former Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will be hoping to recapture his form from the 2018 campaign when he recorded career-best totals of 111 receptions and 1,426 yards. RB Ronald Jones II will join Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the backfield, while the formidable presence of TE Travis Kelce will be felt. The Chiefs will have to improve defensively, where they finished near the bottom of the pile in yards allowed, but as seen in last year’s 42-36 win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round, it’s about who can lay that final punch.
Derrick Henry becomes first player in NFL history to rush for 2,000+ yards in two different seasons
Devon Withers: Despite playing only eight games during the 2021 season, Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry finished 9th in the league in rushing with 937 rushing yards. During that eight-game span, Henry was on track to shatter the single-season rushing attempts record with 466 carries (previous record being 416 attempts by Larry Johnson in 2006). The Titans are without WR Julio Jones this upcoming season, furthering the case for Henry to be heavily favored as the 2023 Comeback Player of the Year. His 2,027 rushing yards from the 2020 season is fifth all-time, and by rushing for another 2,000 yards this season, the Tennessee Titans will return to their winning formula of drowning opponents through their run game.