Buffalo Payments, Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear like favorites for No. 1 seeds

With the offseason largely within the books, it’s time to foretell the sphere for the 2022 NFL playoffs. Battles for the No. 1 seeds in every convention will likely be hard-fought, whereas a number of groups that didn’t make the postseason in 2021 are certain to contend for a slot subsequent 12 months. Right here’s how we see the sphere shaping up in each the AFC and NFC.

Predicting the 2022 NFL playoffs | AFC

No. 1 seed: Buffalo Payments

For the primary time within the Sean McDermott/Brandon Beane period, the Payments took a large swing in free company, inking future Corridor of Fame edge rusher Von Miller to a six-year, $120 million deal. A Buffalo protection that had already led the NFL in factors allowed and anticipated factors added per play solely bought extra strong by way of the additions of Miller, DaQuan Jones, Shaq Lawson, first-round cornerback Kaiir Elam, and others.

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The Payments will face improved competitors within the AFC East, however it’s exhausting to think about the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, or New York Jets strolling away with the division crown. Buffalo will likely be gunning for the No. 1 seed and home-field benefit, each of which ought to show vital in a loaded AFC. Given the issue of different divisions within the convention, particularly the AFC North and AFC West, the Payments appear like the clear favourite to come back away with the highest seed.

No. 2 seed: Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers haven’t made the postseason in 4 years, however a playoff look will likely be properly inside their attain in 2022. Whereas head coach Brandon Staley’s sport administration choices didn’t at all times work out throughout his first season in cost, anticipate him to proceed his aggressive nature. Over time, his analytically-backed selections ought to lean extra in LA’s favor.

Common supervisor Tom Telesco used the free agent interval and the draft to fill almost each gap on his membership’s roster. Commerce acquisition Khalil Mack offers the Chargers a bookend for Joey Bosa, whereas new cornerback J.C. Jackson will permit Staley to deploy extra man-to-man schemes. Plus, Los Angeles correctly augmented their porous run protection by signing Austin Johnson and Sebastian Joseph-Day to modest offers.

On offense, first-round choose Zion Johnson will take over at proper guard. That leaves the Chargers with among the finest offensive strains within the NFL — besides at proper sort out, the place journeyman Storm Norton and sixth-round choose Jamaree Salyer presently challenge to battle it out. A free agent might make sense right here, as choices like Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers, and Daryl Williams are nonetheless searching for jobs.

No. 3 seed: Baltimore Ravens

No crew was hit more durable by accidents in 2021 than the Ravens. In truth, no membership might have been extra affected by well being points in a lengthy time. Based on Soccer Outsiders, Baltimore’s 191.2 adjusted video games misplaced have been probably the most for any NFL crew since no less than 2001.

Accidents to key starters like Lamar Jackson, J.Ok. Dobbins, Ronnie Stanley, Marlon Humphrey, and others left the Ravens a shell of themselves. They misplaced seven consecutive video games to shut the season and missed out on the playoffs.

Some groups have higher medical employees than others, however harm luck is usually simply that — luck. Accidents are largely random in nature, and the regulation of averages says the Ravens ought to have the ability to bounce again in 2022.

They fortified their roster by way of one in all this 12 months’s finest draft courses. First-rounders Kyle Hamilton and Tyler Linderbaum ought to make a right away impression, whereas David Ojabo has an opportunity to contribute late within the season.

No. 4 seed: Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are enjoying the quarterback musical chairs sport once more, and this time round, Matt Ryan landed within the seat. Odds are, Ryan will present a efficiency that’s nearer to Philip Rivers’ 2020 marketing campaign than Carson Wentz’s 2021 catastrophe. Indy’s offensive line ought to have the ability to hold the longtime Falcons starter upright, though a Dennis Kelly/Matt Pryor/Bernhard Raimann left sort out competitors isn’t all that inspiring.

Plus, the Colts play in arguably the worst division within the NFL. The Tennessee Titans look poised to take a step backward after buying and selling A.J. Brown, and the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans aren’t able to compete simply but. Indianapolis will play the best schedule within the AFC, whereas Tennessee will face the Twelfth-hardest.

No. 5 seed: Kansas Metropolis Chiefs

The Chiefs won’t ever rebuild with Patrick Mahomes below middle, however they did hit the “reload” button this offseason. Buying and selling Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins allowed Kansas Metropolis to reinvest in a number of receivers, together with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and second-round choose Skyy Moore. On the opposite aspect of the ball, rookies Trent McDuffie and George Karlaftis ought to assist take Steve Spagnuolo’s protection to the subsequent stage.

No Andy Reid/Mahomes crew will take too far of a step backward, however there could be a number of hiccups within the first 12 months that includes a revamped roster. Mixed with the Chargers’ wonderful offseason, it’s sufficient to push the Chiefs right into a Wild Card slot.

No. 6 seed: Cincinnati Bengals

Whereas the Bengals took a serious step ahead in 2021, regression might be imminent subsequent season. Cincinnati confronted a simple schedule final 12 months, wasn’t pressured to cope with many accidents, and averted the Payments en path to a Tremendous Bowl look. All instructed, although, they solely ranked seventeenth in DVOA, properly under the vary of a very elite contender.

On the plus aspect, the Bengals made probably the most of their offseason, utilizing free company to repair their offensive line and the draft to strengthen their secondary. They did sufficient to stave off that regression for no less than yet another 12 months, however they may not have the ability to repeat as AFC North champions.

No. 7 seed: Cleveland Browns

The ultimate playoff slot within the AFC comes all the way down to the Browns and the Denver Broncos. Though Deshaun Watson will seemingly be suspended on account of 22 girls accusing him of sexual misconduct, Cleveland ought to have the ability to get by with Jacoby Brissett. Amari Cooper and David Bell will enhance the receiving corps, whereas the Browns’ protection might be among the many finest within the league.

Denver will clearly enhance with Russell Wilson, however there are sufficient questions on their protection and offensive line that we see them simply lacking the postseason.

Predicting the 2022 NFL playoffs | NFC

No. 1 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady is again, and that places the Buccaneers within the catbird seat within the NFC. Tampa continued to go all-in throughout the offseason, re-upping Carlton Davis and Ryan Jensen whereas including Russell Gage (free company), Shaq Mason (commerce), and Logan Corridor (draft). Even when Chris Godwin can’t instantly return from his torn ACL, the Bucs have sufficient offensive items to make up for his absence.

Bruce Arians is gone, however issues shouldn’t change a lot with Byron Leftwich calling the offense and new head coach Todd Bowles retaining management over the protection. The Buccaneers get the advantage of enjoying the Atlanta Falcons and Carolin Panthers twice, and the remainder of the NFC is weak sufficient that they need to have the ability to declare the No. 1 seed.

No. 2 seed: Los Angeles Rams

Will a Tremendous Bowl hangover have an effect on the Rams in 2022? Most likely not, as they did sufficient throughout the offseason to maintain them on prime within the NFC West. They weren’t in a position to retain Von Miller, however Los Angeles did add Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner to an already star-studded roster. GM Les Snead additionally made a wise draft-day commerce to re-acquire slot cornerback Troy Hill from the Browns.

The Rams misplaced each offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell (Vikings HC) and defensive passing sport coordinator Ejiro Evero (Broncos DC), however Sean McVay has handled mind drain earlier than. Their division is at all times powerful, however it will be a shock if the Rams don’t land a excessive seed within the 2022 playoffs.

No. 3 seed: Inexperienced Bay Packers

The Packers’ protection has a authentic probability to be a top-five unit in 2022. That’s the excellent news. The unhealthy information comes on the opposite aspect of the ball, the place Aaron Rodgers’ prime three post-Davante Adams receivers are Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, and Christian Watson.

We’ve all seen what occurs when Aaron Rodgers will get counted out, however this would be the worst group of cross catchers he’s ever labored with. A free agent addition is smart, and there are nonetheless loads of veteran receivers on the open market, together with Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, and Emmanuel Sanders.

Regardless of the roster points, the Packers will at all times be in rivalry with Rodgers below middle, particularly when he’s coming off back-to-back MVP awards. However they’re not the favorites for the No. 1 seed within the NFC.

No. 4 seed: Philadelphia Eagles

Now that Jalen Hurts has a brand new weapon in A.J. Brown, can he take a step ahead and solidify himself because the Eagles’ long-term quarterback? We’re betting on enchancment from the third-year quarterback as he enters his second season in Nick Sirianni’s offense. Philadelphia had the league’s highest run charge final 12 months, and whereas they’ll proceed to pound the rock, anticipate the Eagles to air it out a bit extra now that Brown is on the town.

Different positives for Philadelphia? They’ve the NFC’s best schedule, bolstered by away video games in opposition to Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and Texans. And their defensive position could be one of the best within the league — it’s so deep that Jordan Davis and Josh Sweat are presently projected as backups.

No. 5 seed: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys rarely play the free agent sport, however they have been particularly stagnant this offseason, as their solely notable additions have been receiver James Washington and defensive finish Dante Fowler Jr. Their checklist of losses — which incorporates Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory, Connor Williams, and Cedrick Wilson Jr. — is far more intensive.

Having mentioned that, Dallas remains to be gifted sufficient (and the NFC remains to be weak sufficient) that they need to sail into the postseason, even when it’s solely as a Wild Card crew.

No. 6 seed: Minnesota Vikings

We’ll spherical out the NFC with two groups that did not make the postseason in 2021 and now have new head coaches in place. Let’s begin with the Vikings, the place O’Connell is now in cost. Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Prepare dinner, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen type a decent offensive corps that ought to have the ability to put up factors, particularly if their abilities are harnessed by an improved offensive scheme.

Former head coach Mike Zimmer was an old-school man, and he usually made head-scratching sport administration choices. O’Connell may give Minnesota a lift in that space in 2022.

No. 7 seed: New Orleans Saints

This final playoff spot might go to any variety of NFC groups. The San Francisco 49ers superior to the NFC Championship Recreation final 12 months, however there are questions on Trey Lance’s readiness and Deebo Samuel’s standing with the crew. Their division rivals, the Arizona Cardinals, additionally made the playoffs a season in the past, however issues about Kyler Murray’s relationship with the crew and Kliff Kingsbury’s in-game ways are worrying.

The Saints, in the meantime, have given Jameis Winston two new weapons (Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry) and a brand new left sort out (Trevor Penning). On protection, Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye complement an already strong secondary led by Marshon Lattimore. Can new head coach Dennis Allen be as efficient as Sean Payton? Most likely not — however this roster has sufficient expertise to land the seventh seed within the NFC.

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