At the end of every college football and basketball season, some sportswriters do a “Way too early top 25 rankings” for the next season, but we never see this for the NFL. While the NFL offseason can be kind of unpredictable, especially the next couple of months with free agency and the draft, I figured I would give it a shot. I used salary cap figures as well as looking at pending free agents. I’m not going to give my prediction for each team’s record, but I did go through each game and picked it based on a mock offseason.
The first thing I’m going to look at is which teams I think will have a big increase in wins. I believe, thanks in part to a 22-year-old quarterback, about $46 million in cap space, a new coach that spent 10 years in the NFL as a quarterback playing in 100 games, I think the Jaguars will have a large increase in wins. The Jaguars finished the 2021 season 3-14 and will select first overall in the draft. The Jaguars will have several winnable games next season and could pull off a couple of upsets. I think they’ll finish 9-8, a 6 win improvement. Another team that could have a decent increase in wins, 4 to be exact, is the Broncos. They are only missing a good quarterback. If they land Aaron Rodgers, that could be a big difference for them.
Now for teams I think may take a step back next season. The team that I think will have the biggest decrease in wins is the Saints. The Saints are in a difficult position. They are predicted to be a little over $79 million over the cap limit next season. They also will have a new coach, something they haven’t experienced since the 2006 season. Their schedule is kind of in the middle, not too hard, not too easy. I honestly don’t expect much from them. I have them at 3-14, a decrease of 6 wins. The Packers I think will also have a decrease in 6 wins, from 14-3 to 7-10. This is anticipating Aaron Rodgers leaving the team. The Packers are predicted to be just under $43 million over the cap. They also have a pretty difficult schedule playing 7 playoff teams from this last season, but because of the lack of other good teams in the NFC North, I’ve got them winning the division.
The team I think will have the overall worst record is the New York Jets. This team hasn’t been good in a while and I do not think that is going to change. Zach Wilson isn’t a long-term solution at quarterback. They’ve got a decent amount of cap space, but they don’t have very much to offer free agents. I think they will manage a single win and will get the 1st overall draft pick. The Texans I see only winning a game as well. There’s too much uncertainty with the team. The only thing it seems is set in stone is DeShaun Watson will be traded due to his off-the-field issues.
On the flip side, the team I think will have the best record is our beloved Chiefs. With the Chiefs bringing back Matt Nagy, likely returning every offensive starter, and improving their defense, this could be a good season for the Chiefs. They do have a pretty difficult schedule, but I think they can manage it. I’ve got them finishing 15-2. I think Patrick Mahomes is motivated by what the media is saying about the Chiefs since the AFC Championship loss to the Bengals and his career-high for interceptions. He’s not a man you want to give motivation to.
The AFC is, I think, is going to have 3 teams miss the playoffs that made it in the 2021 seasons. I think each wildcard team will miss, which is the Raiders, Patriots, and Steelers. The Patriots are the only one of those teams I believe will have a winning record in 2022 and I’ve got them at 11-6. I think the NFC playoffs are going to be the same teams but in different seeds.
Now for the playoffs. Here are my predictions for the AFC playoff teams in seeding order: Chiefs (AFC West champs, 1st round bye), Bills (AFC East champs), Titans (AFC South champs), Bengals (AFC North Champs), Chargers (Wildcard), Broncos (Wildcard), and Ravens (Wildcard). The NFC playoff teams, I’ve got as the following, again in seed order: Cowboys (NFC East champs, 1st round bye), Rams (NFC West champs), Buccaneers (NFC South champs), Packers (NFC North champs), Cardinals (Wildcard), Eagles (Wildcard), 49ers (Wildcard).
With those playoff teams, here’s how I see the wildcard playing out. I think the Bills beat the Ravens, Titans beat the Broncos, Bengals beat the Chargers, Rams beat the 49ers, Bucs beat the Eagles, and Cardinals beat the Packers.
In the divisional round, I’ve got the Chiefs getting revenge on the Bengals for their AFC Championship loss and the Bills beating the Titans. Over the NFC, I’ve got the Rams over the Buccaneers, and Cardinals over the Cowboys.
Which brings us to the Conference Championships. Over in the AFC, I have a repeat of the 2020 AFC Championship with the Chiefs beating the Bills in another epic game between two of the league’s best young quarterbacks. In the NFC, it’s an NFC West matchup where I have the Rams preventing the Cardinals from being the 3rd straight team to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium
Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona will be Chiefs vs Rams. This was actually my prediction for Super Bowl LVI early in the season (until probably week 6 or 7) and heading into the playoffs, but it didn’t quite work out. The game goes back and forth. The Chiefs get the ball with a minute left down 33-31. They march down the field with an epic drive and get to the 25-yard line with 2 seconds left. They send out the 2nd most accurate kicker in NFL history who is 9 of 10 on game-winning or game-tying field goals in the last 2 minutes or overtime in his career including the playoffs. Butker nails the field goal, Chiefs win 34-33. I’m predicting a surprise MVP though. Travis Kelce becomes the first tight end to win the award.
Now let’s keep in mind, so much can change in the offseason. Who knows what can happen, my predictions could be so bad only 3 or 4 of the playoff teams I predicted could make it, teams like the Jets or Texans could make the playoffs (I’ll give you a second to laugh at that comment). The Bengals surprised everyone by making the Super Bowl this season. The year before, the Bears managed to sneak into the playoffs, the point being, you never know when a team not expected to do much makes it. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s going to be exciting to watch.