2022 NFL Season Preview: Mahomes, Herbert star in electric football fall

You asked for it, you get it. A 2022 NFL season preview, complete with tiered team rankings and analysis, an awards ballot and playoff predictions. Below, I’ve predicted each of the 272 regular season games and 13 playoff games and crowned a prospective Super Bowl winner. Whether you agree or disagree with my projections, this season is going to be a blast.

Tier Rankings

Tier One: The Super Bowl Frontrunners

  1. Los Angeles Rams

My take: The Rams should be the favorites until someone knocks them off. Cooper Kupp (1,947 receiving yards, 16 TD) had the most prolific season of any slot receiver in NFL history and only got better in the postseason, while Aaron Donald was the best defensive player in the game and was at his most disruptive when it came time to crown a champion. Add in corner Jalen Ramsey and the Rams have perhaps three of the 10 best players in football. I love that the Rams continued to build aggressively through the offseason, adding receiver Allen Robinson to team with quarterback Matthew Stafford (4,886 yards, 41 passing touchdowns). It’s hard to repeat as champs, but Stafford has a lot of room for improvement, especially in the turnover department, and that bodes well for this team. Los Angeles doesn’t have Tom Brady, but barring a massive disappointment they should be back in the Super Bowl chase come January.

What Happens: 11-6 record, 3rd seed in NFC.

  1. Buffalo Bills

My take: Josh Allen (36 TD) might be the most fun non-Lamar quarterback to watch in the NFL, and his improvisation has given Buffalo Super Bowl-level results in consecutive seasons. It’s Super Bowl or bust by Niagara Falls, and if new Bills OC Ken Dorsey can carry the baton from Brian Daboll’s offensive wizardry, Buffalo fans should expect zero drop-off. The AFC is difficult, but the Bills are head and shoulders above the competition in the AFC East, both in terms of stage of development and actual talent. Adding Von Miller (9.5 sacks) may have been costly, but his acquisition brings a veteran leader and Super Bowl champion to the pass rush.

What Happens: 11-6 record, 3rd seed in AFC.

Tier Two: The Super Bowl Contenders

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

My take: I really like the Tyreek Hill trade for the Chiefs – years of draft picks from a dysfunctional franchise and cap savings while not sacrificing the Chiefs’ Super Bowl window. Yes, the offense will take a step back, but the Chiefs are in Super Bowl contention any year they have Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City has fallen back to earth a bit and will actually have to fend off division rivals (all three) for the AFC West title for the first time in Mahomes’ young career. The improvisational Mahomes should be especially exciting without the weight of expectations, and if the Chiefs can take home field advantage in the playoffs, no team will want to make that trip, even with some departures.

What Happens: 12-5 record, 1st seed in AFC.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals

My take: The Bengals were the hottest team in the NFL in December, then eked out wins against the best in the AFC and almost won the Super Bowl. On one hand, the Raiders were a couple plays away from stealing the Wild Card game away from the Bengals and would have drastically changed the tenor of the offseason. On the other hand, Joe Burrow’s protection improved by leaps and bounds with guys like tackle La’el Collins and center Ted Karras and Cincy looks much improved on paper. Last season was a dream and 2022 could be an impressive encore, but I have less confidence in them than the established AFC powers in Buffalo and Kansas City.

What Happens: 12-5 record, 3rd seed in AFC.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

My take: I enjoy watching the Buccaneers and was thankful that we’ll get to see another season of Tom Brady (43 passing touchdowns) in the red and pewter, though I’m not as confident about this year’s team. The Bucs are weaker on the trenches than they’ve been in Brady’s first two seasons in Florida, and new head coach Todd Bowles is an unproven commodity in big games. Still, the roster is filled with playmakers on both sides of the ball, and doubting Brady in the postseason is usually a foolish task. The Bucs have the lowest floor of the Super Bowl contenders, but make no mistake – they have a Super Bowl ceiling.

What Happens: 13-4 record, 1st seed in NFC.

  1. Green Bay Packers

My take: Having the quarterback who has won the last two MVP awards is an automatic qualifier for the top ten, even if his top target, Davante Adams, moved out west this spring. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (37 TD, 4 INT) remains elite in his late 30s and the defense has made major strides last season. Under coach Matt LaFleur, Green Bay has piled up the regular season wins and owns the NFC North. There are questions on the offensive line and a decimated receiving corps, but Rodgers’ dominance earns the Packers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to playoff credentials.

What Happens: 12-5 record, 2nd seed in NFC.

  1. Baltimore Ravens

My take: In my biased opinion, the Ravens have as a high a ceiling of any AFC team. Remember, this team was in line for the top seed in the AFC for a while, and this core has proven it can contend with the best in the league. How do the Ravens achieve their potential? That’s more difficult, and it starts with health. Baltimore suffered from poor injury luck that decimated its running back, offensive line and defensive back groups and kept quarterback Lamar Jackson out of the picture in a season-ending six-game losing streak. All will need to return to form for the Ravens to not only compete for the top, but tread water with the improved Bengals and wild card Browns. I believe in coach John Harbaugh and Jackson’s playmaking ability – this is a team that can control the controllables of a football game. But the uncontrollables that derailed 2021 could lead to a tailspin of a year. A true coin flip of a team.

What Happens: 12-5 record, 6th seed in AFC.

  1. Los Angeles Chargers

My take: A Super Bowl contender on paper, one that I’ve already fallen in love with. Justin Herbert (38 passing touchdowns) is a bona fide franchise quarterback who really, really impressed me in the Chargers’ Week 17 loss, and the trio of Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen give the offense plenty of firepower. Los Angeles also has reason to expect improvement in the trenches with a rebuilt offensive line and a pass rush bolstered by a trade for Khalil Mack. There’s also plenty of room for feasible improvement – coach Brandon Staley gets another season to overhaul a defense that ranked 23rd in yardage and 30th in rush defense. Still, the AFC West is brutal. The Chargers could be the equivalent of the third-best NFC team and still miss the playoffs in the AFC. I’ve seen enough, though, to bet on this team to make it out of the division. 

What Happens: 12-5, 5th seed in AFC.

  1. San Francisco 49ers

My take: The 49ers are always a fun team to pick to go to the Super Bowl, and the combination of a great defense and coach Kyle Shanahan’s commitment to second-year quarterback Trey Lance keeps San Francisco in the Super Bowl conversation after nearly making it as a wild card underdog last year. I could see this squad failing to lift off, especially in a division that already hosts the defending champions, but the Niners excite me more than, say, the Packers. A full season from running back Elijah Mitchell (963 rushing yards in 11 games) should be reason for the rest of the NFL to be on notice. 

What Happens: 10-7, 6th seed in NFC.

  1. Indianapolis Colts

My take: The last two Super Bowl champions have had a quarterback in his first year with the team (Tom Brady’s Bucs, Matt Stafford’s Rams), and while the Broncos seem like the favorite to continue the trend, the Colts have an easier path to the playoffs and proven infrastructure in the coaching staff and roster. Running back Jonathan Taylor (1,811 rushing yards) was the best RB in the league by a country mile last year with Tennessee’s Derrick Henry out with injury, and he should continue his ascent behind a strong offensive line. New quarterback Matt Ryan will have plenty of opportunities to penalize opponents for packing the box to account for Taylor, though his receiving corps is less accomplished than he’s used to in Atlanta. The defense should be formidable even with the loss of defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. After a horrendous collapse to end 2021, the Colts should challenge for the AFC South crown and be back in the playoffs this season.

What Happens: 11-6, 4th seed in AFC.

  1. Denver Broncos

My take: If the Broncos were in any other division, they’d have a chance at being top five on a list like this. This offseason was one of sweeping changes for the Broncos, from a new ownership group to new coach Nathaniel Hackett to a new franchise quarterback under center in Russell Wilson. Can Wilson be the franchise savior? There’s a solid chance of that, but even a good season could wind up in a last-place finish in the mega-competitive AFC West. The Broncos are loaded with young talent on both sides of the ball and should be a dark horse Super Bowl contender, but there’s significant risk compared to the other top ten teams.

What Happens: 10-7, 7th seed in AFC.

Tier Three: The Wild Cards

  1. Dallas Cowboys

My take: The 2021 Cowboys are probably as good as a team can be without being a Super Bowl contender. Led by a franchise record in passing touchdowns from quarterback Dak Prescott (a franchise-record 37 passing touchdowns) and a phenomenal season from Defensive Rookie of the Year (and DPOY finalist) Micah Parsons (13 sacks) on defense, Dallas finished a perfect 6-0 in a putrid NFC East division before bowing out at home in the Wild Card round and not looking competitive for long stretches of that game. The offseason raised further questions, as the Cowboys opted to trade Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper while extending Michael Gallup, who may not even return until midseason. The offensive line has also been riddled with injury – All Pro tackle Tyron Smith is out until December – and needs an influx of young stars. And will the defense, with performances like corner Trevon Diggs’ interception frenzy, regress to the mean after a surprisingly strong season? All these questions may not matter much if the Cowboys go 6-0 again in the NFC East in terms of division standings, but they’ll have to be answered if Dallas is to make the leap to the Super Bowl stratosphere.

What Happens: 11-6, 4th seed in NFC.

  1. Minnesota Vikings

My take: I’m loving the Vikings as a playoff sleeper. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has outlasted previous coach Mike Zimmer up north, and the new guy, Kevin O’Connell, is all about offense. The Vikes boast the best offensive weapons in their division with running back Dalvin Cook, receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen and tight end Irv Smith. Consistency from Cousins and better play in the trenches could help Minnesota close the gap between them and the Packers.

What Happens: 10-7, 7th seed in NFC.

  1. Tennessee Titans

My take: I always forget that the Titans were the number one seed in the AFC last season, and that was with running back Derrick Henry out for a good portion of the stretch run. Tennessee always plays well against the top teams in the NFL and added a couple of guys who could be playmakers in quarterback Malik Willis and receiver Treylon Burks. And the Titans should continue to beat up on Jacksonville and Houston. So why is Tennessee suddenly a second-tier team in the AFC? It comes down to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. 2021 was an off-year for number 17, and his time in Nashville could be nearing its end with Willis’ selection. In a really tight AFC, he might not crack the top ten of quarterbacks in the conference. Expect the Titans to be in the playoff race until the end, but I’m not banking on a return to the postseason. 

What Happens: 9-8, out of the playoffs.

  1. Las Vegas Raiders

My take: Against all odds and controversies, the Raiders snuck into the playoffs and almost stole a win from the Cincinnati Bengals for what would have been their first playoff win in decades. Then, the Raiders upgraded at coach with offensive mastermind Josh McDaniels and traded for the best receiver in the NFL and the college teammate of their quarterback in Davante Adams (1,553 receiving yards). The offense is legit, but Las Vegas defense is full of question marks and might not be able to contend with Mahomes, Herbert and Wilson in the AFC West. Watching Derek Carr and Co. is going to be really fun this season, but this could definitely be a team with double-digit wins left on the outside in mid-January. 

What Happens: 8-9, out of playoffs.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles

My take: Head coach Nick Sirianni did quite an impressive job in his first year at the helm in Philadelphia, turning a team that most left for dead at midseason into an NFC Wild Card team. The Eagles got better in the offseason and should challenge the Cowboys for the divisional crown — no team has won the NFC East in consecutive seasons since Philly in 2004, after all. Quarterback Jalen Hurts (3,144 pass yards, 784 rush yards) is an electric playmaker and now has a bona fide number one receiver in former Titan A.J. Brown to go with ascendant wideout DeVonta Smith. The Eagles are as good as any team in the division in the trenches, too. Hurts’ development will determine Philadelphia’s ceiling, but in an NFC playoff field that lacks depth, the Eagles make sense as a returner to the playoff scene in 2022.

What Happens: 11-6, 5th seed in NFC.

  1. New England Patriots

My take: Mac Jones brought the Patriots to the playoffs in his rookie season before a blowout loss to Buffalo, and his emergence means New England is once again a write-in team to contend for a playoff berth. Corner J.C. Jackson and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are the team’s biggest losses. Buffalo is far ahead in the AFC East race and New York is a clear fourth, but in between it’s entertaining to see how different New England and Miami look entering the season. While Miami is all flash and firepower, the Patriots are trusting their process and are the definition of a proven commodity, even with a second-year quarterback. I’m circling those two matchups on my calendar.

What Happens: 8-9, out of playoffs.

  1. Arizona Cardinals

My take: I’m tired of the Cardinals-Kyler Murray drama, and even if the contract situation finally resolved this summer, the Cardinals can’t seem to finish seasons strong and bring their A game in the winter months. Murray is hard to stop when healthy, but he’ll be without star receiver DeAndre Hopkins (suspension) and Christian Kirk (free agency) in Week 1. Star pass rusher Chandler Jones signed with Las Vegas, shifting more of the burden to J.J. Watt in the twilight years of his career. The past two Super Bowl host franchises have also won the title, but Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury haven’t done enough to earn trust and prove that they can contend for an NFC West title, let alone a Super Bowl appearance. 

What Happens: 9-8, out of playoffs.

  1. Miami Dolphins

My take: I love the Dolphins’ hiring of 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel and commend them for taking an aggressive approach, but I see the Fins as the odd team out in the AFC. Dynamism shouldn’t be an issue with receivers Tyreek Hill (1,239 yards), Jaylen Waddle (104 receptions) and tight end Mike Gesicki and the trench play should be better. Will it be enough to spark a stellar season from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa? Even his most ardent supporters know this will be a make or break year for the former Alabama quarterback. The offseason additions don’t move Miami into the top tier in the AFC, and I’d take my odds with proven teams like Tennessee and Baltimore before gambling on the Dolphins’ spending spree.

What Happens: 8-9, out of playoffs.

Tier Four: The Playoff Mix

  1. New Orleans Saints

My take: It’s year one in the Dennis Allen head coaching era in New Orleans. The Saints’ defensive coordinator replaces the franchise’s greatest head coach in Sean Payton and has plenty of talent on the roster to work with, but also a great deal of question marks. What can Allen, a defensive mind, get out of former All Pros RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas? Will quarterback Jameis Winston stay on the field and improve his decision-making? The defense is legitimate, but the NFC South has really stiffened up on the defensive end in past seasons. I’m not bullish on the Saints to make the playoffs as a Wild Card, but New Orleans’ return to mid-January football wouldn’t be a shock.

What Happens: 9-8, out of playoffs.

  1. Washington Commanders

My take: The Commanders failed to defend their NFC East crown in 2021, falling to 7-10 due to a revolving door at the quarterback position and defensive regression. The pieces are there for at least a return to the playoff conversation with two new quarterbacks, former Eagle Carson Wentz and mid-round pick Sam Howell, in town. This is Wentz’s job to lose and he’ll have some playmakers to work with like rookie receiver Jahan Dotson, though after rough endings to his time in Philadelphia and Indianapolis, he’ll have to prove he’s the long-term answer in Washington to stick around for long. I expect defensive end Chase Young to have a bounce-back year and return this defense to the top half of the division. This season is crucial for head coach Ron Rivera, who did a fine job establishing some semblance of stability within the Washington organization but now has to make the team a contender. 

What Happens: 9-8, out of playoffs.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers

My take: The Steelers took full advantage of disarray in the AFC North last year, sliding into a Wild Card berth while the Ravens battled injuries and the Browns endured Baker Mayfield’s brutal final season. Pittsburgh wasn’t competitive come playoff time and sent longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into retirement, but this roster still has the pieces to tread water in the AFC even post-Roethlisberger. Defensive end T.J. Watt (22.5 sacks), the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is obviously the centerpiece of the Steelers, but running back Najee Harris emerged as a bell cow back in his rookie year and could team up well with a couple of aerial threats on the outside. The Steelers have drawn plenty of attention this offseason with their three-person quarterback competition between, former Bear Mitch Trubisky, career backup Mason Rudolph and first-round pick Kenny Pickett, but remember this – the Steelers have stayed in the playoff hunt the past couple of seasons with subpar performances from Big Ben thanks to a rock-solid supporting cast. That, and coach Mike Tomlin’s never having a losing record as a head coach, should give the Steelers at least some benefit of the doubt. 

What Happens: 8-9, out of playoffs.

  1. Carolina Panthers

My take: There’s a lot to love about this team (running back Christian McCaffrey and receiver D.J. Moore, the league’s second-best defense in 2021), but a whole lot more reason to doubt their chances of a playoff run (a quarterbacks group that features Baker Mayfield, for example). This is a make-or-break year for coach Matt Rhule so the Panthers should be past the rebuilding stage of a team like Atlanta. Could I see a Mayfield-led team with a healthy McCaffrey pushing past the Saints? Yes, but I’m hesitant on Mayfield, who had an offensive genius at head coach, no shortage of weapons and a formidable running game and O-line in Cleveland and still flamed out. A lot of the dysfunction with the Panthers comes from up top with new owner David Tepper, and until that is sorted out, even exciting, marketable players on the roster aren’t going to amount to much in terms of wins and losses.

What Happens: 6-11, out of playoffs.

  1. Cleveland Browns

My take: The Cleveland roster is brutal to match up against, but with starting quarterback Deshaun Watson out serving an 11-game suspension, I don’t see the Browns in the playoff hunt this year with backup Jacoby Brissett at the helm in a tough conference. The rest of the roster is a lesson in ground-and-pound – running back Nick Chubb and a nasty O-line on offense, while edge rusher Myles Garrett (16 sacks) leads the charge on defense. Receiver Amari Cooper could be a game-changing addition to a passing game that looked anemic last year. A whole lot depends on Watson’s situation, and if he’s out the task will fall to backup Jacoby Brissett to commandeer the Browns to a Wild Card berth.

What Happens: 4-13, out of playoffs.

  1. Detroit Lions

My take: Very few people are sold on Jared Goff as the face of the future of the Detroit Lions, but there’s a palpable buzz around the team that extends beyond Hard Knocks. Michigan standout defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson fits the city and the Lions’ identity perfectly, and coach Dan Campbell molded this team into a competitor in the late stages of the season. While the quarterback situation isn’t as inspiring as Campbell’s bold monologues, Detroit has strengthened its offensive line and has several young guys like running back D’Andre Swift (617 rushing yards) and first-round pick Jameson Williams gearing to break out (Williams will be out until midseason, though). The Lions’ roster doesn’t scream playoff team, but this squad should be a good bit better than division rival Chicago, and .500 or better might be all it takes to earn a bid to the NFC side of the playoff bracket.

What Happens: 6-11, out of playoffs.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

My take: It literally can’t be any worse than last season, when the Jaguars finished with the worst record in the NFL and had their coach kick their starting kicker in the leg, among other grievances. The other good news is that consecutive awful seasons have given Jacksonville potential franchise cornerstones on both sides of the ball in quarterback Trevor Lawrence and defensive end Travon Walker, both No. 1 overall picks. RB Travis Etienne should return to the backfield after missing his rookie season, and the Jags went to work to ensure Lawrence has plenty of pass-catching options. But the best improvement for Lawrence is at head coach, where former Eagles coach Doug Pederson takes over and brings a knowledge of the quarterback position to the helm. 2022 is not in any way a make-or-break year for the Jaguars, and at least seven wins and a .500 or better record in the division would constitute success for the Jaguars.

What Happens: 8-9, out of playoffs.

Tier Five: Wait ‘Till Next Year

  1. Seattle Seahawks

My take: With Russell Wilson now in Denver, Seattle is embarking on a new era. It won’t be a very successful one, at least initially. Receiver D.K. Metcalf is still around thanks to an extension this offseason, but the quarterback situation might be the least inspiring in the league, a “battle” between former Bronco Drew Lock and former Jet Geno Smith. The defense took a similar hit with the loss of linebacker Bobby Wagner, who eventually signed with division rival Los Angeles. Is there a real reason for optimism here? Maybe coach Pete Carroll, who has brought the ‘Hawks to two Super Bowls, is an automatic force-multiplier here, but I just don’t see Seattle winning a divisional game this year. 

What Happens: 4-13, out of playoffs.

  1. Atlanta Falcons

My take: For the first time in my 12 years of writing NFL previews, I have inside knowledge to contribute to my team outlooks thanks to my time at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here’s what I learned – this team probably won’t be good, but it should at least be fun. The quarterback position comes down to veteran Marcus Mariota or rookie Desmond Ridder, two guys who have both looked good at camp and bring intangibles to the huddle. I’ll also highlight the receiving corps as a strength. Tight end Kyle Pitts (1,026 receiving yards) should be a premier player in the next couple seasons, and first-round pick Drake London adds another tall playmaker for whoever lines up under center. The Atlanta defense mixes veterans like linebacker Rashaan Evans and corner Casey Hayward with potential All Pros like linebacker Troy Andersen and corner A.J. Terrell, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is a force on the line. I’m going to keep an eye on the Falcons this season and see potential for some fun moments, though likely not playoff contention. 

What Happens: 3-14, out of playoffs.

  1. Chicago Bears

When your best player demands a trade just months after trading your most high-profile player out of the conference, it’s probably a reflection of the state of your organization. That’s a pretty accurate summation of the Chicago Bears, who have devolved from a storied franchise into one that is the pinnacle of dysfunction in the NFC North. While linebacker Roquan Smith’s future with the franchise is now in question, the Bears have an intriguing trio on offense of second-year quarterback Justin Fields, running back David Montgomery and receiver Darnell Mooney (1,055 receiving yards). First-time head coach Matt Eberflus should infuse the defense with some energy and insight after spending last year running the Colts’ defense. The Bears are in rebuilding mode, but some development from their younger pieces is critical to show that Chicago is headed in a positive direction.

What Happens: 3-14, out of playoffs.

  1. New York Jets

My take: The Jets are better than last year. Coach Robert Saleh and quarterback Zach Wilson are both entering their second seasons and learned plenty from their first in the Big Apple, though Wilson will miss the start of the season after sustaining an injury in the preseason. When Wilson comes back, he’ll have a first-round target in Garrett Wilson, a promising rookie running back in Breece Hall and an offensive line that should be an improvement on the organizational malpractice of the past few seasons. Corner Sauce Gardner should make an immediate impact on the secondary as well. Does that all mean the Jets will be good? Nope, but if the Wilson connection proves to be formidable, New York will enter next season knowing it’s going in the right direction. 

What Happens: 4-13, out of playoffs.

  1. New York Giants

My take: Oh, New York. The Giants and Jets rank in the bottom eighth of the NFL once again, and even in the NFC’s worst division, a playoff berth seems like a faint glimmer at this point. This year doesn’t feel like a committed rebuild either – it’s a make-or-break year for pieces of the previous regime like quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley. First year Brian Daboll doesn’t inherit a lot by way of talent after bringing Buffalo to new heights as their offensive coordinator, though the draft brought a couple of promising talents in pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal. Best case scenario – the Giants are really bad, commit to a rebuild and get their franchise guy in next year’s draft, so that for once this decade they can build toward restoring their glory. 

What Happens: 4-13, out of playoffs.

  1. Houston Texans

My take: I’m frustrated with the Texans organization. Head coach David Culley gave his all to a team muddled in the Deshaun Watson whirlwind and coaxed something out of nothing, only to be fired after a single season in Houston. The new top guy? Lovie Smith, who flamed out of University of Illinois and lost all five of his contests against Northwestern. Second-year quarterback Davis Mills is the uncontested starter but projects more as a bridge quarterback than the long-term answer, and aside from receiver Brandin Cooks (1,037 receiving yards), he’s not set up for success in the Texans offense. After years of exciting teams with guys like Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt, it seems like Houston is finally stripping the cupboard bare. That all adds up to the Texans being a hard team to watch in 2022. 

What Happens: 3-14, out of playoffs.

Playoff Predictions

Wild Card Round – AFC

7 Denver Broncos over 2 Cincinnati Bengals

4 Indianapolis Colts over 5 Los Angeles Chargers

6 Baltimore Ravens over 3 Buffalo Bills

Wild Card Round – NFC

5 Philadelphia Eagles over 4 Dallas Cowboys

2 Green Bay Packers over 7 Minnesota Vikings

3 Los Angeles Rams over 6 San Francisco 49ers

Divisional Rounds

1 Kansas City Chiefs over Denver Broncos

Baltimore Ravens over Indianapolis Colts

1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Los Angeles Rams

Green Bay Packers over Philadelphia Eagles

Conference Championships

Baltimore Ravens over Kansas City Chiefs

Green Bay Packers over Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Super Bowl LVII

Green Bay Packers over Baltimore Ravens

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB

Awards Ballot

MVP: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Player of the Year: Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Player of the Year: Chase Young, Washington Commanders

Rookie of the Year: Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Travon Walker, Jacksonville Jaguars

Comeback Player of the Year: Juju Smith-Schuster, Kansas City Chiefs

Coach of the Year: Doug Pederson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Super Bowl MVP: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

My Predictions, Explained:

This outcome for the season would be a lot of fun, with divisional matchups throughout the playoffs, a really talented playoff field and a Super Bowl featuring two teams who want nothing to do with the wide receiver position. Seriously, will there ever be a better quarterback Final Four than Mahomes, Jackson, Brady and Rodgers?… It’s about time that we see Green Bay in the Super Bowl once again — it’s almost unfathomable that they haven’t reached the Big Game since 2009, and Matt LaFleur is too good of a coach. The Rams and Bucs are forces to be reckoned with, but the Packers get the right bounces this time around to punch their ticket to Arizona. I have the Bills and Bengals getting upset in the Wild Card round by the Ravens and Broncos, respectively, and see the Ravens pulling a couple of road playoff upsets in Lamar Jackson’s contract year. The most impressive will be against Kansas City, which won’t miss a beat after passing up a Tyreek Hill extension… Right outside of the playoffs, the Commanders and Jaguars will surprise a lot of people and finish right on the periphery, while the Titans and Cardinals will fail to live up to the hype and the Browns will just be terrible…And, of course, Dallas. The Cowboys will make their way back into the playoff field, but a Wild Card loss to the division rival Eagles will be enough to jettison polarizing figures Mike McCarthy and Ezekiel Elliott and really build around Dak Prescott. Ultimately, I have Green Bay finishing the season on top with an all-time classic between Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson in the desert, with a final score of 30-24 and MVP honors to Rodgers.

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