2022 AFC Predictions
A prediction for each team heading into the 2022 NFL season
It's far from an understatement to suggest that the AFC conference seems to be reaching a level of competition far exceeding its NFC counterpart. Following the slight fall of the Patriots after Tom Brady's departure, it seems that several teams have used this opportunity to stack their rosters and challenge the Chiefs as the next true perennial kings of the conference. The 2022 offseason has been a prime example of this, with the Chargers and the Raiders nabbing key NFC talent in Adams and Mack, it seems that the entire division has become an armsrace for dominance. In this piece, I will detail the positions of each team, and make an appropriate prediction for them in light of their competition. Following the season, I will return to this article and address my predictions in comparison to reality.
2022 will be the year that the Bengals prove they are here to stay. After becoming the surprise team of 2021, this upcoming season will prove crucial to making the statement that they are set to be long term contenders. And, well, are they? I’d be willing to be that they certainly are. Confident in their offensive weapons, the team went heavy on defence in the draft. Rightfully so, with Tee Higgins and Jamarr Chase as your key weapons, there is very little one can do to improve that situation. I can see Cincinnati making another deep playoff run this year and certainly winning the division. Will they make the superbowl again? With competition in the AFC tighter than ever, I don’t see it.
Pittsburgh are heading into a rebuild which centres near entirely on the quality of Kenny Pickett. With a declining Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers managed to maintain a consistent standard of quality in spite of offensive woes. Much of this has been in thanks to the quality of their defence, and dominance of TJ Watt. Heading into year two, Najee Harris should alleviate some growing pains for this ‘new look’ Steelers offense, yet I don’t see them returning to their perennial contender reputation just yet. Is a playoff run possible? Perhaps, but I don’t see them going the distance nor winning the division.
Cleveland’s Quarterback situation is dire. If the Deshaun Watson situation resolves in their best case scenario, then they will finally see some stability toward the end of the season. If not, Amari Cooper and Jarvis Landry will be catching passes from Jacoby Brissett and Josh Rosen. Despite the defensive efforts of Myles Garrett and one of the best rosters in the league, I don’t see Cleveland reaching the playoffs. Best case scenario: 9-8.
If anybody is legitimately challenging Cincinnati to the AFC North, it will be Baltimore. The question relies heavily on their success on the offensive side of the ball. I worry they may have taken a slight step back this off season and their passing options aren’t near comparable to Cincinnati’s, in spite of the presence of Mark Andrews at Tight End. Yet the stability of Lamar Jackson’s quality, and ability to extend the play and maintain both options, should keep them breathing down the neck of their rivals. With that said, I maintain the Bengals are my favourite to top the division.
For the Jaguars, there is very little else they could go but up. After depressingly maintaining the reputation as one of the worst franchises in the league, Jacksonville are hoping that they can finally turn the corner. Much of this depends on the second year jump of Trevor Lawrence. In the draft, they made the controversial decision to opt for Trevon Walker over the expected Aiden Hutchinson. Time will tell if this decision was genius or foolish, but I don’t see a substantial jump for the team in 2022. With that said, I feel they sneak more wins than they did in 2021 with a ceiling of 6-11.
As a self-admitted, tragically loyal, Falcons fan, the Colts are my team to watch in the AFC. The answer for this is clear, Matt Ryan. Finally, the Falcons legend will be standing behind a truly elite offensive line with a quality defence too. The results for this scenario have been divulged as hypothetically legendary for years amongst Atlanta fans yet we can finally see what Matt Ryan can do in a brilliant situation like this. My prediction? He wins the division and makes a truly deep playoff run. Can he take them to the AFC championship? My heart says yes, but the competition in the AFC is stiff. Depending on his opponents in the post season it could be likely. With that said, the Colts are my favourite for the AFC South.
The Titans are on the decline, but I’m certain Derrick Henry surely isn’t. Despite whatever woes they might find, I am certain the Titans finish second in this division. Excluding the Colts, the competition is not there. With the loss of AJ Brown, Tennessee are going to lean far too heavily on their running attack. Of course, Derrick Henry can carry the weight, but there is only so far he can pull his team. It’s likely he will reach another 2,000 yard season and further embellish his hall of fame resume, but the team’s record won’t allow for a playoff run. In 2023, I can see them finding a new Quarterback and reshaping their identity around the future.
Houston have been nosediving since the atrocious Deandre Hopkins trade. I feel their slowly steadying the ship now, but the loss of all key players in the recent three years is carries a wake of long term damage. Whilst I can see them gradually improving throughout the coming five years, 2022 will likely be the worst of them. There is a likelihood, for me, that they hold a top 3 pick in 2023’s draft. Without a doubt, I’m confident they are finishing last in the AFC South.
New England are turning the corner on their rebuild and looking to muscle back into the position they held for near two decades. This, the undisputed dominance of the AFC East. But what’s happened whilst they’ve been gone? The Bills have become arguably the best team in the NFL, and the Dolphins have stacked their roster. Even the Jets, with an arguably brilliant draft, are stacking for the future to ensure that Belichick struggles to maintain the grasp he once had on his rivals. With this, I can honestly see them struggling to hold second place and missing the playoffs.
Buffalo, barring disaster, are my favourites to reach the AFC championship with ease. There seems to be nothing stopping Josh Allen and 2022 might finally be the year which the team close in on that Lombardi trophy. Whilst it’s true that Josh Allen’s offense is highly explosive, the addition of Von Miller is sure to help things. The Bills are certainly winning this division and maybe winning it all.
Whilst I don’t see the Jets reaching any clear success in 2022, I feel they are heading in the right direction. If Zach Wilson can clean up his game, they have a bright future ahead of them. However, for now, I cannot see the Jets inching beyond last in the AFC East. They can only hope to continue building in the manner which they have to maintain the pace of their rivals. The AFC East is becoming a decision which a ‘good’ team might get left behind amongst the powerhouse rosters around them.
And speaking of powerhouse rosters, we reach Miami. The Dolphins are my surprise team prediction of 2022. It’s difficult to predict how far this surprise will take them, and much of this rests upon the shoulder of Tua. 2022 is a make or break year for the former first round pick, and the Dolphins have invested heavily on offense to ensure that Tua is placed into a situation in which he can thrive. Most notable of these additions are Tyreek Hill and Terron Armstead. Miami began the offseason with the shocking and controversial decision to fire Brian Flores. It’s surprising to see them finish the off season after this decision more powerful than they entered it. The Dolphins are certainly not winning the division, but second place is certainly likely.
Denver are a difficult team to predict. Whilst the addition of Russell Wilson finally gives them the signal caller they’ve needed, the competition amongst them, a new head coach and mediocre reputation suggest otherwise. That said, Denver’s acquiring of Randy Gregory should provide one of the most lethal pass rushing duos in the league. The West is going to be one of the most unpredictable divisions in sports, whilst I feel that Denver are going to be a solid team, they may get lost amongst the pack.
Earlier in the piece, I suggested that the Bills are the likeliest team to walk into the AFC Championship with ease. In response to this, I feel that their most likely opponent will the Chargers. With Herbert behind centre, 2022 will be first amongst several opportunities for Los Angeles to reach the superbowl in the AFC and I feel a playoff run is inevitable for them this year. Yes, the AFC West is certainly headed to be the most competition division in the NFL, yet I feel the addition of Khalil Mack alongside Joey Bosa will provide a pass rush to rival Denver’s. Once more, offensively LA will have no trouble putting points on the board. I’d be willing to even argue that Herbert could be amongst my favourites for MVP.
The Chiefs are the Chiefs. They will find a way to win in spite of the loss of Tyreek Hill. That said, I feel it will definitely stump them. Of course, the addition of Ju Ju is not to be overlooked, yet he is far from comparable to the future hall of fame Tyreek Hill. Once more, the loss of Tyrann Mathieu at Safety is overlooked as a damning loss for Kansas City. There’s going to be far more pressure on Kelce, with defences lacking the necessity to work around Ju Ju as heavily as they once would Tyreek yet I feel a wildcard position is certainly expected. If Kansas City were to miss the playoffs entirely, this would be the most significant surprise of 2022.
The raiders have been stacking talent in the arms race that is the AFC West. The biggest addition being Davante Adams, of course. With Adams and Renfrow lining up together, whilst Waller sits at TE and Jacobs rests in the backfield, I would argue that Vegas have one of the most underrated rosters in the league. And on defence? Maxx Crosby improves with every year. Although success is expected, I feel that the Raiders could truly surprise the league with a deep playoff run – if they can content with the juggernauts alongside them. Much of their success relies upon the quality of McDaniels’ leadership. If he maintains as much quality in his leadership as he holds in his roster, I feel that his era of leading the Raiders could promise several opportunities for success.
About the Creator
Martin S. Wathen
A writer practicing in both prose and script. With a deep passion for film and screenwriting, I use this platform to publish all unique ideas and topics which I feel compelled to write about! True crime, sport, cinema history or so on.
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