The 2022 NFL Draft has concluded, and now it is time to find out when and where each team will be playing each other this upcoming season. Each team will go into this year with a new ray of hope, wanting to be the team holding the Lombardi Trophy when all is said and done. Here are reasons why each team should be optimistic about the 2022 NFL Season:
Arizona Cardinals: Potential Top Tier Tight End Duo
With DeAndre Hopkins out for the first six games due to a suspension from the use of PEDs, QB Kyler Murray will have to find new go-to weapons, especially during this stretch of games. Thankfully for Murray and fourth-year HC Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals brought in one of the top tight ends in this year’s draft class to pair with veteran Zach Ertz in the form of Trey McBride. Although it may take McBride a little while to get acclimated to his new team, he and Ertz have the potential to be one of the better tight end duos in at least the NFC while also helping to be security blankets for Murray in the first six games of the year. This would certainly be a new dynamic that the Cardinals didn’t have last year.
Atlanta Falcons: Contested Catch Monsters
Even with the departure of Matt Ryan and the year-long suspension of Calvin Ridley, there are still two players to get excited about on the Falcons’ offense: second-year tight end Kyle Pitts and rookie wideout Drake London. Although Kyle Pitts’ rookie year may have not gone completely as planned, he and London should be utilized immensely in the red zone this upcoming season, especially on contested catches. Both of these players used their athleticism extremely well during their collegiate days to make tough contested catches, and they should be able to do the same this upcoming season. This should make for some highlight plays throughout the course of the season.
Baltimore Ravens: Health (Hopefully)
Last season, the Ravens were devastated by injuries, especially to their key players such as Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, and Marcus Peters to name a few. Despite this, the Ravens were a game away from making the playoffs all together. The 2021 season helped to give a lot of the Ravens’ depth players much-needed experience, making Baltimore look like contenders in the AFC once again heading into 2022. With a fully healthy roster and a draft class that many people are lauding over, the Ravens could very well be right back in the thick of things in the AFC.
Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen and a High-Octane Offense
It is clear after the Bills narrowly lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round that Josh Allen and this high-flying offense are something to be reckoned with for years to come. The Bills will once again be in the running as Super Bowl contenders due to the play of Allen and this electric passing game. With Stefon Diggs signed to a long-term deal and the Bills drafting players like James Cook (brother of Dalvin Cook) and Khalil Shakir while also bringing in veteran Jamison Crowder, this offense should only get better from a year ago.
Carolina Panthers: Emerging Defense
While the Panthers have a lot to work out on the offensive side of the ball, especially at the quarterback position, there is a lot of optimism when it comes to their up-and-coming defense. Last season, the Panthers showed flashes of having a dominant defense (192.1 passing yards per game in 2021, which was fourth in the NFL) headlined by young players like Brian Burns and Jeremy Chinn. Moreover, the Panthers are also getting 2021 first-round corner Jaycee Horn back after he suffered a season-ending foot injury. Even if the offense does not improve as much in 2022, the defense should still be able to keep the Panthers in a number of games.
Chicago Bears: Justin Fields in his Second Year
While it wasn’t the best rookie season for Justin Fields, there are still plenty of reasons for Bears fans to get excited for this upcoming year from the second year QB. With a new OC in place (Luke Getsy), the Bears offense should look entirely different from a year ago. Fields was able to flash a lot of potential in the run game, but it will be intriguing to see if he takes a huge step as far as the passing game is concerned. Chicago brought in a number of new receivers along with drafting a new pass-catching running back who should help to put Fields in a better position than a year ago.
Cincinnati Bengals: A Much-Improved Offensive Line
Despite an underwhelming offensive line (12 sacks given up in the Playoffs prior to Super Bowl LVI), the Bengals still managed to find a way to nearly pull out the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history. The biggest need heading into the offseason was the offensive line, and the Bengals are attempting to solve that with free agent signings Alex Cappa, Ted Karras, and La’El Collins. This offensive line will look radically different from the one a year ago and should go a long way in preserving the health of star QB Joe Burrow.
Cleveland Browns: Improvement in the Passing Game
There is no doubt that the Browns can run the football. With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield, this is a given. It has been the passing game that has struggled for Cleveland, particularly in 2021 where the Browns finished 27th in passing yards per game with 195.3. However, Cleveland has attempted to fix this by bringing in QB Deshaun Watson and receivers like Amari Cooper and David Bell. This passing offense should look entirely different from a year ago despite the emphasis on the run game, which should have Browns fans excited considering the step down the Browns took in the 2021 season.
Dallas Cowboys: Micah Parsons Building on his DROY Campaign
The Cowboys’ defense took huge strides from the 2020 campaign under DC and 33rd Team alum Dan Quinn. Moreover, the Cowboys hit a home run with the drafting of former Penn State star Micah Parsons. In his rookie year, Parsons finished with 84 total tackles, 13.0 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles en route to being named a first-team All-Pro, a 2021 Pro Bowler, and the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year. If Parsons is able to build off of his impressive rookie season, Cowboys fans will have a lot to look forward to for years to come.
Denver Broncos: A Clear Upgrade at QB
Ever since Peyton Manning retired following the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 victory, the Denver Broncos have struggled immensely to find a quarterback who can lead them back to the playoffs for the first time since that season. Things may finally be looking up for the Broncos as they decided to pull the trigger on Seahawks star QB Russell Wilson. He represents a clear upgrade over the QBs Denver has utilized since Manning and should immediately put the Broncos in position to compete in a highly competitive AFC West.
Detroit Lions: A Franchise Cornerstone on Defense
Despite finishing the year as one of the worst teams in the NFL, record wise, the Lions were certainly competitive and finished the season on a high note with a win over the Green Bay Packers. Heading into this season, it looks like the Lions can certainly improve on their end of the year high note, especially now that they have a potential franchise cornerstone on the defensive side of the ball: Michigan star defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. The former Wolverine will be an immediate starter for the Lions and will give Detroit a presence off the edge that they haven’t had in quite some time.
Green Bay Packers: Elite Speed in the New Look Receiver Group
It will take some time for Green Bay to adjust to not having Davante Adams anymore; however, Green Bay brought in two receivers who can immediately help to stretch the field for Aaron Rodgers. Christian Watson from North Dakota State looked every part of his 4.36 40-yard dash on film during his tenure at NDSU while Romeo Doubs was able to be a deep threat in the offense for Nevada during his time there. Either way, these two players will help to give Rodgers two effective deep threats in the passing game, helping to somewhat mask the loss of Adams.
Houston Texans: The Maturation of Davis Mills
The Houston Texans are in full rebuild mode, but they were still a competitive team during the 2021 season. With controversy surrounding star Deshaun Watson, 2021 second-round pick Davis Mills stepped in and had a solid campaign after filling in for injured veteran Tyrod Taylor. Mills finished his rookie season with a 66.8% completion percentage, 2,664 passing yards, and 16 passing touchdowns. He has a chance to prove that he is a potential franchise QB for the Texans and allow them to fix other holes on the roster if he is able to build on this solid rookie year.
Indianapolis Colts: Jonathan Taylor
The Colts are starting a new QB on opening day for the fourth year in a row as they traded for 2016 MVP Matt Ryan. Still, star RB Jonathan Taylor should be the brightest ray of light on this team if the 2021 campaign was any indication. Taylor was, at one point, considered a potential MVP candidate en route to running for 1,811 YDS and 18 TDS. As long as Taylor is able to remain healthy, he will have a chance to exceed that margin, especially behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Jacksonville Jaguars: New Look Under Doug Pederson
It can only go up from last season, at least the Jaguars can hope after they finished with the worst record in the NFL in 2021 at 3-14. Still, the Jaguars played spoiler to divisional rival Indianapolis and were able to knock them out of the playoff race. Now, Super Bowl LII Champion and 33rd Team alum Doug Pederson will take the reins for Jacksonville, and this team should look very different from a year ago. With one of the highest amounts of cap space available this offseason, the Jaguars were able to add players like Brandon Scherff and Christian Kirk while also drafting explosive players like Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd. This team has certainly attempted to put enough talent around franchise QB Trevor Lawrence to let him succeed.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes & Travis Kelce
The Chiefs’ offense may look a little different to start the year, and a lot of that has to do with Tyreek Hill no longer being on the roster. However, the Chiefs do not have a lot to fear as long as Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are still in the picture. As long as Kansas City is able to get enough help from the supporting cast and the run game, the Chiefs should be fine on the offensive side of the ball. Teams have known for years that Mahomes will go to Hill or Kelce, and the Chiefs have still figured out ways to have one of the best offenses in the NFL. There is still hope for the Super Bowl LIV Champions.
Las Vegas Raiders: A Dangerous Trio
One thing that really helped the Raiders to make the playoffs last year despite star tight end Darren Waller missing a few games was the emergence of Hunter Renfroe in the passing game. He helped to open things up for Waller, once he returned from injury, and the other receivers while also being a dependable option for Carr. However, now that Davante Adams is in the fold, the Raiders have a trio of offensive players that can help them to keep up with the other offenses in the AFC West as Davante Adams joins the fray. Under new head coach Josh McDaniels, the Raiders should be extremely excited to take their passing game to the next level with Adams in the fold.
Los Angeles Chargers: Revamped Defense
While the AFC West got better as a whole on the offensive side of the ball, the Chargers completely changed their defense with a number of moves. Not only did the Chargers sign one of the top options at cornerback in the form of J.C. Jackson, but they also signed Austin Johnson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Bryce Callahan while also bringing in Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears. This team is fully prepared to go up against the premier offenses of the AFC West with a completely changed defense from a year ago.
Los Angeles Rams: The Addition of Another Difference Maker on Defense
One of the hardest things to do in football is to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. No one has been able to do it since the Patriots from 2004-2005, and a lot of that has to do with the amount of talent that Super Bowl Champions lose after winning the Lombardi Trophy. Despite losing Von Miller to the Buffalo Bills, the Rams went out and got one of the best linebackers on the market in the form of Bobby Wagner. Even though Wagner will be 32 years old at the start of the year, he will provide a presence in the linebacker group that Los Angeles has not had the past few years, which should have the Rams excited about what they can accomplish as the defending Super Bowl Champions.
Miami Dolphins: Potent Running Game
One thing that has been lacking for the Dolphins for a long time is a consistent running game. Last season, the Dolphins were 30th in rushing yards per game (92.2) and 31st in yards per carry (3.5). With new head coach Mike McDaniel in the fold, Miami will have an entirely new offensive scheme and have already brought in a number of new running backs. This includes Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, and Sony Michel. Moreover, Miami improved their offensive line immensely with the additions of Terron Armstead and Conor Williams. The running game should look the best that it has in years if these players are able to play up to their expectations.
Minnesota Vikings: Justin Jefferson & Dalvin Cook
Although the Vikings have gotten better on the defensive side of the ball, Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook should still be the reasons for optimism on this team next season. Both of these players have been electric in their young careers and should still shoulder a lot of the load offensively in the first year of the Kevin O’Connell era. Both players have already proven to be two of the top players at their positions and should only get better if O’Connell is able to successfully implement his style of offense from the Rams system.
New England Patriots: New Explosiveness on Defense
One thing the Patriots had to do this past season to compete with teams like the Buffalo Bills was to get younger and faster on defense. While the Patriots re-signed many of their older veterans from last year’s roster, they still brought in a number of players who should provide a spark to this defense. Jabrill Peppers is a high intensity player when healthy, and third-round rookie CB Marcus Jones should give the Patriots an extra bit of speed not only on special teams, but in the slot where the Patriots struggled throughout the latter part of last season. Furthermore, fourth-round CB Jack Jones also has a little bit of juice to him if his 40-yard dash is any indication (4.51). Speed will be a necessity if the Patriots are going to compete with the high-octane offenses in the AFC.
New Orleans Saints: A Potential Top WR Duo
Last season, the Saints struggled mightily to pass the ball effectively each game (last in the NFL at 187.4 yards per game). A lot of this had to do with not having a consistent starter at QB and the lack of a no. 1 wideout. Michael Thomas did not play a single game in 2021, and the Saints’ best statistical receiver was Marquez Callaway who reeled in 46 REC for 698 YDS and 6 TDS. In the 2022 Draft, the Saints decided to trade up for Ohio State standout Chris Olave to help complement Thomas. The two of them bring unique skill sets that should help to shoulder the load of the offense with Thomas being most effective on short-to-intermediate routes and Olave being able to take the tops off of defenses with his deep speed.
New York Giants: A New Regime
Things did not go according to plan in Joe Judge’s second year with the Giants, and the organization decided to head in a different direction as they hired former Bills OC Brian Daboll as their new head coach. The Giants also hired former Bills Assistant GM Joe Schoen as their new GM, and the franchise has already started to turn the corner on paper. They added players like Evan Neal, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Wan’Dale Robinson in the draft while also adding a veteran in Jon Feliciano on the offensive line. New York will hope that this new regime is able to bring more success than the previous one and bring the franchise back to the recent glory days under Tom Coughlin.
New York Jets: A Revamped Offense
Second-year QB Zach Wilson will certainly have some weapons to play with this upcoming season. With two of their first four draft picks, the Jets decided to take Ohio State star WR Garrett Wilson and Iowa State star RB Breece Hall. Both of these players can be immediate impact players on the Jets. Also, the Jets added guard Laken Tomlinson in free agency on top of re-signing Braxton Berrios. This is certainly a team that could be on the rise in 2022 because of this new look offense.
Philadelphia Eagles: The A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith Duo
Entering the 2022 Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles had spent five picks on wide receivers since 2019. However, the only one that appeared to be a big part of the Eagles’ future was DeVonta Smith. Besides Smith, the Eagles’ receiving group needed a serious upgrade. This all changed when Howie Roseman decided to trade for disgruntled star Titans WR A.J. Brown during the draft. This immediately gives the Eagles two top options at the receiver position in a potential make or break year for Jalen Hurts.
Pittsburgh Steelers: A New Direction Under Center
With the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, it was unclear who would be the leading signal caller heading into the 2022 season. The Steelers brought in former Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky, but this was not seen as a long-term solution as Trubisky only signed a two-year deal with the franchise. Then, Pittsburgh decided to use its first-round pick on Pitt QB Kenny Pickett, giving them a clear potential franchise QB for the foreseeable future. It will certainly be an intriguing QB battle this preseason, but it appears that Pickett is the potential long-term solution for the hole left by Big Ben.
San Francisco 49ers: The Trey Lance Era
Although it has yet to be determined who exactly will be the quarterback for the 49ers this upcoming season, it does appear that it is getting closer to being former first-round pick Trey Lance. With this comes a whole new set of play calls that HC Kyle Shanahan can run with Lance at the helm. Furthermore, Lance’s running prowess mixed with his improving arm gives him the chance to potentially be better than veteran Jimmy Garoppolo in the long run, something that would certainly make the 49ers ecstatic.
Seattle Seahawks: A Franchise Offensive Tackle
The Seahawks have long been unable to fill the holes on their offensive line, but it appears they are finally fixing that narrative. With the 9th pick in the recent draft, Seattle decided to select Charles Cross to replace the ageless Duane Brown at left tackle. It appears that he will be the potential franchise tackle for Seattle and give them continuity at that position for at least the next four years as they try to figure out which direction the team is heading in.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: At Least One More Year of Tom Brady
When Tom Brady announced his shocking retirement in February, it appeared the Buccaneers could be heading for a rebuild. They had a number of key free agents and no real long-term solution at quarterback; however, the ageless Brady came out of retirement a month later and appeared to be a key reason for many players returning to the team. The Buccaneers now get at least one more year of Brady, and that will certainly take some of the load off of interim HC Todd Bowles as he navigates his first year as a head coach since 2018.
Tennessee Titans: Continuity on Defense
Besides Jackrabbit Jenkins, the Titans were able to retain the majority of a defense last year that was extremely difficult to run the ball on (84.6 rushing yards per game) and even had nine sacks in the Divisional Round against the Cincinnati Bengals. Tennessee was able to re-sign OLB Harold Landry to a long-term deal while also bringing in talented Auburn CB Roger McCreary. The Titans will look to defend their top AFC seed from a year ago against the ultra-competitive AFC and keeping the majority of the defense intact will go a long way in helping that cause.
Washington Commanders: Help for Terry McLaurin
The past few seasons, the Commanders have struggled in the passing game partly due to a lack of talented receivers outside of Terry McLaurin — the former Buckeye led the team in receiving in 2021 with 77 REC for 1,053 YDS and 5 TDS with the next best receiver being running back J.D. McKissic with 43 REC for 397 YDS and 2 TDS. Well, the Commanders have attempted to change that by adding former Penn State star Jahan Dotson with their first-round pick. In addition, the Commanders also retained McKissic and got Curtis Samuel back into the fold. McLaurin will not be under the same amount of pressure as he has been for most of his career.