Analysis

2022 NFL Division Winner Predictions

We asked our talent at The 33rd Team—eight former players, eight former NFL head coaches and a former general manager—to fill out a ballot and make their predictions for each division winner in a season of much intrigue. This is how our analysts think it could play out.

>> Other Predictions: Individual Awards | Super Bowl Champions

AFC East

1. Buffalo Bills (17 votes: Unanimous)

Did Not Receive a Vote: Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Quotable: “I think the Bills did plenty in the offseason to get back to a Super Bowl—and this time win one.” —Charles Davis

Notable: The Bills have the NFL’s second-toughest first eight games this season (.585 opponent 2021 winning percentage) and are one of four teams to start with three road games in the first four weeks (at Rams, Dolphins, Ravens).

AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts (13 votes: Ronde Barber, Rich Gannon, Greg Jennings, Dirk Koetter, Marvin Lewis, Chris Long, Marty Mornhinweg, Chuck Pagano, Wade Phillips, Robert Smith, Joe Thomas, Dave Wannstedt, Mike Zimmer)

2. Tennessee Titans (4 votes: Matt Cassel, Charles Davis, Mike Martz, Mike Tannenbaum)

Did Not Receive a Vote: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars

Quotable: “He can still throw the ball. His head, his processing, his leadership–it’s off the charts. And he brings with him a gravitas that they have not had at that position since Peyton’s been there.” —Bill Polian on Colts QB Matt Ryan

Notable:  The Colts play five of their six divisional games within the first seven weeks of the season and have the second-easiest final four games (Vikings, Chargers, Giants, Texans), based on last year’s standings.

AFC North

1. Cincinnati Bengals (12 votes: Barber, Cassel, Davis, Jennings, Lewis, Martz, Phillips, Smith, Tannenbaum, Thomas, Wannstedt, Zimmer)

2. Baltimore Ravens (5 votes: Gannon, Koetter, Long, Mornhinweg, Pagano)

Did Not Receive a Vote: Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers

Quotable: “I think their defense is going to be really tough. And that run game, combined with that defense, is going to hold them and carry them through until Deshaun Watson comes back.” —Joe Thomas

Notable: Joe Burrow, in his second season and at 25 years old, guided the Bengals to the Super Bowl last season. None of the six other quarterbacks to start and lose a Super Bowl at age 25 or younger ever made it back to the big game (those players being Jared Goff, Colin Kaepernick, Drew Bledsoe, Dan Marino, David Woodley and Vince Ferragamo).

AFC West

1. Kansas City Chiefs ( 9 votes: Cassel, Davis, Gannon, Koetter, Mornhinweg, Pagano, Phillips, Wannstedt, Zimmer)

2. Los Angeles Chargers ( 6 votes: Barber, Jennings, Long, Martz, Tannenbaum, Thomas)

3. Las Vegas Raiders (2 votes: Lewis, Smith)

Did Not Receive a Vote: Denver Broncos

Quotable: “I think the AFC West is going to play out similarly to how it did last year. You’ve got to still love the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes.” —Rod Woodson

Notable: The Chiefs have won six consecutive AFC West titles, the longest active streak in the NFL.

NFC East

1. Dallas Cowboys ( 9 votes: Gannon, Koetter, Lewis, Martz, Phillips, Smith, Tannenbaum, Wannstedt, Zimmer)

2. Philadelphia Eagles (8 votes: Barber, Cassel, Davis, Jennings, Long, Mornhinweg, Pagano, Thomas)

Did Not Receive a Vote: New York Giants, Washington Commanders

Quotable: “It all comes down to Jalen Hurts. I mean, everything is there for him this year in Philly, and they’re at a crossroads.” —Chris Long

Notable: The Cowboys are tied for the easiest strength of schedule in 2022, and the Eagles have the third-easiest SOS.

NFC South

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16 votes: Barber, Cassel, Gannon, Jennings, Koetter, Lewis, Long, Martz, Mornhinweg, Pagano, Phillips, Smith, Tannenbaum, Thomas, Wannstedt, Zimmer)

2. New Orleans Saints (1 vote: Davis)

Did Not Receive a Vote: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers

Quotable: “They are the one team that can consistently give Brady problems this season—and potentially can keep the Buccaneers out of the playoffs.” —Joe Thomas

Notable: The Buccaneers, who have the NFL’s toughest first four games to start the season (Cowboys, Saints, Packers, Chiefs), own the fourth-toughest strength of schedule in 2022 based on their opponents’ .535 win percentage in 2021.

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers (15 votes: Barber, Cassel, Davis, Gannon, Koetter, Lewis, Long, Martz, Mornhinweg, Pagano, Smith, Tannenbaum, Thomas, Wannstedt, Zimmer)

2. Minnesota Vikings (2 votes: Jennings, Phillips)

Did Not Receive a Vote: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions

Quotable: “The Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North three years in a row. And when you talk about the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions, I think they still have a little ways to go. But the Minnesota Vikings are a team the Packers have shown they struggle with.” —Greg Jennings

Notable: Matt LaFleur has had 13 wins in every season as Packers head coach. On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers’ nine playoff losses since 2011 are the most of any quarterback during that span.

NFC West

1. Los Angeles Rams (11 votes: Cassel, Davis, Koetter, Martz, Mornhinweg, Pagano, Phillips, Smith, Tannenbaum, Thomas, Wannstedt,

2. San Francisco 49ers (6 votes: Barber, Gannon, Jennings, Lewis, Long, Zimmer)

Did Not Receive a Vote: Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks

Quotable: “There are a lot of things going against you when you’re a Super Bowl champion. Everybody is gunning for you, and you have the toughest schedule. The defense has to win for them this year.” —Ronde Barber

Notable: The Rams have the hardest strength of schedule in 2022 based on their opponents’ .567 win percentage in 2021; 12 of L.A.’s 17 games will be against teams that were over .500 last season.

>> Other Predictions: Individual Awards | Super Bowl Champions

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