In the past few days leading up to the start of the 2022 NFL regular season, I've given out my official preseason rankings as well as my predictions for how each division will shake out by the end of the year. If you want to check out either of those articles, you can do that here:
Final Standings & Playoff Teams Predictions
Today, I'll be discussing my projections for a few other notable season-ending accolades that should be even tougher to nail down than the predictions I've made so far. Here are the topics on which I'll be providing my best estimations in this article:
Let's go ahead and dive right in.
I'll start with the AFC, which, in my opinion, will be the tougher of the conferences to get right due to its overall strength. I'm going to list my predictions for the top 7 AFC teams in order, so that the #1 team is the conference champion, #2-#4 are division champs, and #5-#7 are the wild card teams.
I think Buffalo is the clear best team in the AFC, but after that, it's hard for me to pick any team who stands out above the rest. I stuck Cincinnati and Indianapolis at #2 and #3 simply because I think the AFC West is going to beat each other up so much that none of the teams will end with incredible records. I still like the Chiefs to win the West and that three of its four teams will get in, but it was so tough for me to decide which team will be the odd man out. I went with the Chargers finishing on the outside looking in simply because of their relative inexperience at quarterback and their recent inability to win close games consistently. I'm also taking the Dolphins to sneak in to the postseason as those West teams wage all out wars against each other.
I know, I know. How boring and completely expected of me to put the Rams at #1. But they're so talented on both sides of the ball that I couldn't justify any other team in that slot. I'd say the Packers, Buccaneers, and 49ers are the only real Super Bowl contenders in this side of the bracket, but, of course, San Francisco falls into a mere wild card spot since there can only be one division winner from the West. I think the boldest prediction I gave here is picking the Eagles to win the NFC East. It feels like they and Dallas will be neck and neck all season, but I just have a feeling that Philly will pull it out in the end. Maybe just because of Dallas' recent history of choking when it matters. Anyway, I was between Arizona, New Orleans, and Minnesota for the final spot out of the NFC, but I went with the Vikings because of the off-field issues surrounding the Cardinals and the fact that the Saints will have a first-year head coach... And Jameis Winston.
Conference Championship Teams
Next, let's advance a couple weeks into the postseason and take a look at who I think will prevail to square off against each other with a Super Bowl appearance on the line.
The Bills are one of the easy choices here, but I wanted to give a bit more of a dark horse candidate for the other spot in the AFC Championship. The Colts are a team that's built for a deep playoff run. A strong offensive line, great run game, stout defense, and now a veteran quarterback who can manage a game with the best of them. I thought their team was good enough last season to contend for a championship, but Carson Wentz simply wasn't the guy. It'll be tough for anyone to beat the Bills in Buffalo come January, but Indy is one of the teams who I can see doing that.
I think I have a little bit of explaining here to do after what I said about the Rams earlier in this article. The truth of the matter is it's so unbelievably hard for a team to get to one Super Bowl, much less to do it in back to back seasons. Which is why I think there's a better chance that we see the Rams make an early exit from the postseason as to watching them again on Super Bowl Sunday. I think the team that can do this will be their division rivals, San Francisco, but this assumes that Trey Lance plays well enough to prevent the Niners from losing any games. By that, I mean the 49ers are going to have such a good defense and run game that as long as Lance completes a few clutch passes when needed and protects the football, they should be a legitimate threat down the stretch of the season and beyond.
I really like both Green Bay and Tampa Bay this season (Battle of the Bays if they meet in the playoffs, perhaps). But do we really think that Tom Brady is going to come out of retirement, put in all the work he has in the offseason, miss part of preseason for an unspecified reason, and put his 45-year old body through the wringer just to fall short of the ultimate goal? I don't think so, which is why I have the Bucs marching to the NFC Championship game after knocking off the Packers in the Divisional round, which is what would happen if my playoff picture predictions given above come true.
Super Bowl LVII Teams/Winner
Contenders: Buffalo Bills vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winner: Buffalo Bills
Super Bowl MVP: Josh Allen
I'm not a Bills fan, but I honestly want Bills Mafia to experience a Super Bowl season this year after they were just 12 seconds away from an AFC Championship appearance in 2021. I'm a huge Josh Allen supporter and I really believe that they have the best chance of any team in the league to take home the Lombardi trophy in Glendale, AZ.
For all the reasons I gave in the previous section about the Tom Brady and the Bucs, I just think they'll be slightly outmatched by Buffalo's offense. I think it'll be a close and thrilling game, but I'm officially taking the Bills to win the NFL's 57th Super Bowl by a score of 31-27.
Regular Season Accolades
Finally, let's discuss the primary individual awards that will be given out at the end of each season. These will be extremely hard to predict over the course of a 17-game schedule, but I'll give it my best shot just for fun. We'll start with the league leaders in passing, rushing, and receiving for each conference. It's possible that these will be decided in part by who's able to stay healthy and avoid missing significant chunks of time during the year.
Winner: Josh Allen
Honorable Mention: Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes
Winner: Dak Prescott
Honorable Mention: Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady
Winner: Derrick Henry
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Taylor, Najee Harris, Nick Chubb
Winner: Dalvin Cook
Honorable Mention: Elijah Mitchell, Antonio Gibson
Winner: Ja'Marr Chase
Honorable Mention: Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs
Winner: Justin Jefferson
Honorable Mention: Cooper Kupp, CeeDee Lamb
Now for the various awards that will be given out to players based on their play in the regular season.
Winner: Josh Allen
Honorable Mention: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes
Offensive Player of the Year
Winner: Jonathan Taylor
Honorable Mention: Derrick Henry, Justin Jefferson, Justin Herbert
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Myles Garrett
Honorable Mention: Aaron Donald, Micah Parsons, Nick Bosa
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Winner: Breece Hall
Honorable Mention: Drake London, Kenny Pickett, Treylon Burks
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Winner: Aidan Hutchinson
Honorable Mention: Travon Walker, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Derek Stingley Jr.
There we have it, my expert opinions on just about anything you'd want to know for the upcoming NFL season. As I type this, just two days stand between us and the first matchup between the Bills and Rams, which is sure to be a thriller.
Good luck to your favorite team as we kick off the year, and may the 2022 season be kind to your bets and your fantasy teams. Make sure you check for my favorite NFL bets I'll be giving away for free each week in the "Betting" section of the website, and stay tuned for the end of the season when I'll go back over the actual results to see how accurate these predictions end up being.
Written by Nick Swatson
Expert Nick Swatson discusses all the news, predictions, and outcomes surrounding the NFL.