By the time you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that the Buffalo Bills and the L.A. Rams have commenced the 2022 NFL season. Football is back! A new season brings with it plenty of optimism for all 32 teams with some making more outlandish predictions for how the year will unfold compared to others. I went out on a limb last season trying to forecast how the NFL campaign would eventuate, with a lot of my outlandish predictions failing to hit. This time around, I’m confident that I’ve nailed all seven of my takes.
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Justin Jefferson wins Offensive Player of the Year
A season after Cooper Kupp completed the rare receiving ‘Triple Crown’, I won’t be shocked if Justin Jefferson comes close to achieving that feat in 2022. With Kevin O’Connell stepping in as head coach, there is a popular belief around the league that the Vikings and their offence, in particular, are going to drastically improve in the upcoming campaign. Jefferson already holds the NFL record for the most receiving yards by a player in his first 2 seasons and I won’t be shocked if he puts up some eye-popping stat lines and snags OPOY honours as a result.
Chicago will flirt with a winless season
It’s hard to get motivated for the Bears’ season. After parting ways with both their head coach and their GM, Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles have stepped up to fill the void in Chicago, although it’s hard to envision the team experiencing a ton of success in year one. Starting QB Justin Fields still needs more playmakers and protection around him to excel and while he may take a step forward, midseason matchups with the likes of New England and Washington loom as their only chance of recording a W. Outside of watching Darnell Mooney emerge as a pass-catching stud, you could be excused from ignoring Chicago entirely this season.
Image from nflspinzone.com
Jalen Hurts will be the top-3 fantasy QB
A year ago, I made the bold prediction that Jalen Hurts would finish as a top-5 fantasy QB. Close. While Philly’s young quarterback was 7th in scoring per game, missing a few matches caused him to end the year as the QB9 in fantasy circles. With another year of development under his belt and stronger offensive weapons at his disposal, I’m forecasting another step up in production from Hurts. He’ll struggle to put up elite passing numbers to challenge the likes of Mahomes and Herbert, but his rushing upside paints a path to fantasy success.
New England will miss the playoffs
All good things must come to an end. In 22 seasons with New England, Bill Belicheck has missed the playoffs just four times with Tom Brady suffering an ACL tear in one of those years. Translation; Belicheck has consistently made the postseason for over two decades, but that string of success is starting to peter out. With a 17-16 record in the past two seasons, there’s not a lot to love about this current Patriots roster and Josh McDaniels departing means they’ll be undergoing a philosophical change on the offensive side of the ball. In a loaded AFC, I can’t see this New England team finishing in playoff contention.
George Pickens will lead the Steelers in receiving
One of the most hyped players this preseason has been Pittsburgh’s newest receiver, George Pickens. The WR drafted 52nd overall had an immediate impact during Steelers camp and as he continues to turn heads, a high number of fantasy coaches are snapping him up hoping that he stars from day one. Not only do I expect Pickens to carve out an important role for the fantasy faithful, but there is every possibility that he becomes Pittsburgh’s main target and leads the team in receiving yards in the upcoming campaign. Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson will also demand a portion of the work, but Pickens is squarely in the mix to vie for the Steelers’ receiving crown.
Russell Wilson will be the MVP
Russell Wilson has flirted with winning an MVP trophy in the past and arriving in Denver has him primed for a serious run at the award. Having set numerous records as Seattle’s quarterback, Russ will relish a fresh start at the Mile High City and his talents will help elevate this offence in his first season as a Bronco. There are other QB’s ahead of him in the betting pecking order, but the MVP award usually revolves around narrative and if their biggest offseason addition can put up impressive numbers while the defence boosts them en route to 11-14 wins, then there’s a realistic path to some silverware for Wilson.
The Ravens will go from worst-to-first in AFC North
Baltimore had the year from hell last season and they still managed to limp their way to an 8-9 record. COVID complications and injuries took their toll with their star quarterback Lamar Jackson limited to just 12 games and despite his complicated contract situation, I expect him to steer the Ravens back to the top of the AFC North. The absence of Watson for the Browns and the crappy quarterback situation in Pittsburgh rule them out of contention, with last year’s AFC Super Bowl representative Cincinnati their biggest threat. I’m backing Lamar and Baltimore to make the leap from worst-to-first and reaffirm themselves as a contender.
Banner from skornorth.com