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2022 season kicks off with LA Rams starting their title defense against AFC contender Buffalo

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Courtesy of Adrian Curiel

The NFL kicks off the 2022 season with the defending champion Los Angeles Rams taking on the Buffalo Bills.

Carson Pfotenhauer and Vishwas Balla

The NFL kicks off another season tonight with the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams hosting the AFC power Buffalo Bills. To get everyone ready for the season, we’ve put together an overview of the season and what to expect.

Will the Rams repeat? Will the division rival and local favorite San Francisco 49ers return to the Super Bowl with an untested, second-year quarterback? Read more to find out.

NFC

NFC West

The best division in football last year is about to be another doozy this year. 

Let’s start off with the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. Even though they lost former All Pro edge rusher Von Miller and may be losing a valuable veteran piece in Odell Beckham Jr, (has not decided to sign with a team) they added most recently former Bears receiver Allen Robinson II who should succeed greatly with his best QB yet, Matthew Stafford. Their defense will of course be near the top of the league once again with all generational talents Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. 

The San Francisco 49ers are a very interesting team. Expect them to have an elite defense this year despite losing a few pieces. This defense is led by defensive end Nick Bosa, Fred  linebacker Warner, and a now healthy defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. On offense, Trey Lance finally gets to step into the spotlight and show why the Niners traded all that capital for him. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk should break out for the Niners this year, so be on the lookout for him. 

The Arizona Cardinals did not make many changes but some notables are that they lost edge rusher Chandler Jones and star receiver Deandre Hopkins got suspended for six games for violating the NFL’s PED policy. This is a pivotal year for quarterback Kyler Murray after receiving his large $230.5 million dollar contract and to prove to the ownership and fanbase that he can make the Cardinals a contender. 

The Seattle Seahawks are going into a complete rebuild after trading away longtime franchise cornerstone Russell Wilson, who is now the Denver Broncos quarterback. Chris Carson, the starting running back in years past for the Seahawks, retired due to complications from his neck injury. This is a good opportunity for backup Rashaad Penny to step up, who has shown potential.

NFC East

America’s team of the ’80s and ’90s are going to be a fun team this year. The Dallas Cowboys are led by quarterback Dak Prescott coming off a career year and emerging receiver Ceedee Lamb. This offense should be high powered even with the decline of Ezekiel Elliot in the backfield. The Cowboys have arguably the best rookie in the 2021 draft class was Micah Parsons, who won Defensive Rookie of the Year and came in second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. Expect him to take another leap this season to be in the top echelon on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback Trevon Diggs should also improve on his coverage skills after allowing a crazy 907 yards last season.

The Philadelphia Eagles have high expectations this year bringing in wideout AJ Brown from the Titans, strong safety CJ Gardner Johnson from the Saints and cornerback James Bradberry from the Giants. They have one of the best centers of the decade in Jason Kelce to help the growing dynamic quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has a good combination of prowess on the ground and airing the ball out. In his second year, wide receiver Devonta Smith out of  could take a jump. 

The New York Giants have very few bright spots, including wide receiver Kadarius Toney who has a very bright future and is similar skillset to Deebo Samuel. A lot of fans, myself included, are rooting for running back Saquon Barkley to stay healthy because when he does he is amazing to watch with his mix of a power and elusiveness in the open field. He’s also a fantasic receiving back.

The Washington Commanders are going to be in for a long season. They have to deal with the below average play of former Eagles and Colts quarterback Carson Wentz. The defense isn’t too bad with a big force Jonathan Allen on the line. Their secondary is pretty well off with Kendall Fuller and William Jackson being at the corners and Kam Curl and Bobby McCain at the two safety positions. Fans have to feel some sympathy for stud receiver Terry Mclaurin. Another year, another bad quarterback.

NFC North

I think that the Minnesota Vikings will be a surprisingly good team. With two stud offensive players in running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Justin Jefferson they are pretty much guaranteed to have good offensive output even with the average quarterback play of Kirk Cousins. The question is if the defense holds up.  They drafted two college standouts on the defensive side of the ball in free safety Lewis Cine out of Georgia and cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. out of Clemson. They made a good signing with former Packer edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. Linebacker Eric Kendricks and free safety Harrison Smith, two longtime Vikings, will be the two leaders for a defense that really needs to show improvement. 

The Green Bay Packers lost one of the best offensive weapons around when wide receiver Davantae Adams was traded to the Raiders. But hey, Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers. He will make do with his old friend Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, who could have a breakout year, and new addition Sammy Watkins. They have one of the best left tackles in the league with David Bakhtiari back healthy, which will give Rodgers time in the pocket. Don’t forget Aaron Jones, who is a threat on the ground and as a receiving back in the air raid offense. Defense will be excellent with a top corner in Jaire Alexander continuing to grow and other bright spots like Kenny Clark, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, and young Eric Stokes. 

This is another learning year for the Chicago Bears and quarterback Justin Fields. With a bad offensive line and limited receiving options. Darnell Mooney will be Fields’ top weapon. The defense will be subpar with their best piece Roquan Smith unhappy with the organization. 

The Detroit Lions have potential to be sneaky. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and running back Deandre Swift will both have good years. Rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who is coming out of Michigan and was the second overall pick in this year’s draft, has been making lots of noise. It all comes down to how Jared Goff performs and for the Lions to prove everyone wrong.

NFC South

Tom Brady is back everybody. After his “retirement”, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the greatest quarterback of all time back and on their side. Tom Terrific  has some good options on the outside with the big Mike Evans and the smaller shifty Chris Godwin. Running back Leonard Fournette also is a power back with a very good receiving game. The defense will be dominant once again with one of the top linebacking trios in the league with Devin White and Lavonte David on the inside and Shaq Barrett rushing on the outside. The secondary is strong with no real weaknesses in the secondary.

The New Orleans Saints are a hard team to read. They have the polarizing star running back Alvin Kamara and now healthy single season reception record holder Michael Thomas. But their roster does not look as strong as in years past. Their defense is highlighted by Marshon Lattimore, Tryann Mathieu, and Cam Jordan, but besides those three guys there’s nothing special about the defense. Quarterback Jameis Winston really has the ability this year to tap into the flashes he showed while at Florida State and bring the Saints to a whole new level. 

There are a few players on the Atlanta Falcons to be excited about. Tight end Kyle Pitts in his second year is about to be dominant. He has a skillset at that position that we have never seen before. Rookie wide receiver Drake London, who is both big and fast, will get lots of opportunities with being the top wideout for new quarterback Marcus Mariota. On defense, the young corner A.J. Terrell should have another good year. 

The Carolina Panthers have a change of energy this year and that is former Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. He has a change of scenery and now fans can see if he can put the pieces together. He has two good weapons to throw to in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. IF Christian McCaffrey can stay healthy, this team might have something. When McCaffrey is healthy, he is arguably the best running back in the league. They have some young pieces like rookie project left tackle Ikem Ekwonu out of UNC, star edge rusher Brian Burns, the dynamic free safety Jeremy Chinn, and young corner Jaycee Horn out of South Carolina.

AFC

AFC West

The AFC West has potential to be one of the closest divisions this season. All four teams are strong although there are quite a few major changes in the division. 

As a quick recap, the Denver Broncos gave up quarterback Drew Lock for an upgrade to Russel Wilson. Hopefully this solves their recent quarterback problem, Although this doesn’t mean sunshine and rainbows for the team considering their wide receiver corps leaves room for improvement. With Tim Patrick out with an ACL injury the team chose to rely on Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler who both need to to step up. While the Broncos have potential to do well, fans shouldn’t expect too much this year. With a new quarterback and somewhat unreliable wide receivers we’ll just have to wait and see how they shape up. 

The Kansas City Chiefs, on the other hand, were already a top team last season by reaching the AFC Championship game for the fourth straight season before losing to the Bengals. But during the offseason they lost their star receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami for three 2022 draft picks and a pair 2023 picks. He was vital to their team in previous seasons but has now been replaced with former Steeler Juju Smith-Schuster. This is still the best team in this division, even without Hill.

The Las Vegas Raiders got Davante Adams from Green Bay and should see an immediate impact in their passing game now that he’s partnered with Derek Carr and Hunter Renfrow. This passing attack should help the Raiders give the Chiefs a good run, but expect them to finish second in the division. They did great last season and with Adams on board, Carr has another great passing option. Kicker Daniel Carlson will also provide a cushion for vital kicking plays as he did last year. 

The Los Angeles Chargers have for the most part stayed the same except for signing of former Raider and Bear linebacker Khalil Mack, who should bring some power to the Chargers defense with Joey Bosa as pass rushers. On the offense, led by the game changing presence of quarterback Justin Herbert, there is a lot to be excited about. He has the do it all veteran Keenen Allen and the big jump ball and endzone target in Mike Williams. And on top of that he has Austin Ekeler behind him who is a viable option in the receiving game also. 

AFC East

The AFC East finally has its chance to go from a rather dull division with three lackluster teams and one Super Bowl contender. The Buffalo Bills have only gotten better with the addition of linebacker Von Miller to their defensive roster. Honestly if it weren’t for the terrible overtime rules the Bills had a solid shot last year as well. Expect an MVP worthy year from quarterback Josh Allen who has now spent some times with superstar wide receiver and former Viking Stefon Diggs. Alongside Diggs, Gabe Davis is now in his third year and is expected to have an increased role in this Buffalo offense after his 4 receiving touchdowns in the AFC divisional last season versus the Chiefs. 

The New England Patriots lost offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Raiders but they should be OK with Bill Belichick holding the reins even if that isn’t their best. Quarterback Mac Jones is not nearly as good as Allen. Considering the team’s reputation of slower receivers I don’t see them having the most impactful offense. 

Talking about speed, the Miami Dolphins have it. With ex-Chief  Tyreek Hill joining wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. The Dolphins will be fast, real fast. The biggest concern though is still quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has a tendency to underthrow his receivers. On top of this, the Dolphins have a new head coach in Mike McDanie,l who seems to be planning the team around the offense and their speed.

The final team in the AFC East is the New York Jets. Although the Jets have made multiple moves to put them in a better position than last year, fans are likely to face a similar disappointing experience. While fourth overall pick Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, a cornerback from Cincinnati, was likely their best pick, the Jets also drafted starting receiver Garret Wilson from Ohio State and starting running back Breece Hall from Iowa State. Fans hope these new players will help revitalize their offense. Even so, the early season is already not looking great for the Jets with quarterback  Zach Wilson, last year’s top pick, out for what Coach Robert Saleh expects to be the first four games. This leaves Joe Flacco to handle things until then.

AFC North

After not making the playoffs last year the Baltimore Ravens and their fans are likely hoping for a better outcome this season. But it seems that the Ravens have an interesting strategy as to how they will improve. Few changes were made to the team other than trading wide receiver Marquise Brown to the Cardinals. On top of this, quarterback  Lamar Jackson contract talks seem to be stalling and he claims he’ll cut off all talk if he does not receive a new contract by Friday. Could make for an interesting season.

The Cincinnati Bengals ended last season coming up just short of a Super Bowl title. Yes, it was the Bengals best season since 1988, when they lost their second Super Bowl that decade to the 49ers. With last year’s amazing season that few saw coming, Bengal fans are back this season hoping for more. Last year’s main weakness for the team was their offensive linemen, who allowed other teams’ defense to get to quarterback Joe Burrow too easily. Burrow and stud second year receiver Ja.Marr Chase will probably need to carry the offense load once again for the Bengals to have another deep playoff run. They franchise als tagged safety Jessie Bates, which hints at him being traded in the future.

The Cleveland Browns seem to be in shambles with the Deshuan Watson controversy, which  ultimately led the team to trade quarterback Baker Mayfield to the Panthers. With Watson having to sit out 11 games because of accusations of sexual miscoduct made against him by two dozen women, who sued him while he was the Houston Texans quarterback. The Brown signed him to a five-year, $230 million contract anyway, but are now stuck with backup Jacoby Brissett for about two-thirds of the season until Watson returns. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers, on the other hand, have made quite a few positive changes such as the drafting of Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett to replace Ben Rothelsburger, who retired after last season. But Pickett was beat out by former Bears and Bills quarterback Mitch Trubisky and will now start the season as his backup. The Steelers offensive line could show Pickett what Rothelsburger was dealing with as the longtime quarterback spent much of his final season getting drilled by defenses. The Steelers also got a steal of a draft pick in the second round with wide receiver George Pickens from Georgia. 

AFC South

This offseason the Houston Texans have been rather quiet in adding new players to their roster outside of their draft picks. Led by quarterback Davis Mills, the Texans don’t show any real sign of improvement. While fans got more than they may have expected out of him he is not likely to bring them to success this season. On top of this they have an average defense that could show more promise. 

The Indianapolis Colts have finally made the right decision getting rid of quarterback Carson Wentz, who has now moved on to the Washington Commanders. But they continued the tradition of swapping quarterbacks for the past five years since Andrew Luck’s retirement by bringing in longtime Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan. It seems that this year they will be going for more running plays over a previously more pass oriented offense and as a result will hope to make a change to their record. The Colts have always had a solid defense which will continue this year as defensive tackle Deforest Buckner and Kenny Moore although he is not starting this year as of yet.

Coming off last year with their new quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the Jacksonville Jaguars are yet to have a successful season. In the off season they acquired wide receiver Christian Kirk from the Arizona Cardinals and are prepared  to start second-year running back Travis Etienne. Last season their main weakness fell upon their coaching staff after head coach Urban Meyer got fired, leaving a void in the team’s staff. 

The Tennessee Titans are a team to be reckoned with because of  their beast of a running back Derrick Henry. Even so, they have lost their top two wide receivers, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. But they did draft rookie wide receiver Treylon Burkes from Arkansas and hope he will fill their gap in their receiver corps. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will hopefully perform this season although it is almost certain that the team will have more running plays.