Heading into the 2022 NFL season, every team has some bit of hope about their prospects for the season. The reality of the situation is that not every team can be successful. Only one team will be holding the Lombardi Trophy when all is said and done. That said, things will go wrong as that is the nature of football. Here is one reason why each team should be pessimistic heading into this upcoming season:
Arizona Cardinals: The Impact of Losing Chandler Jones
In 2021, the Cardinals finished 13th in sacks with 41. 10.5 of those sacks came from now Las Vegas Raider Chandler Jones. The former Cardinal was extremely productive during his tenure in Arizona as he compiled 71.5 sacks in six seasons. Fortunately, Arizona does bring back 2021 sack leader Markus Golden, but this does not diminish the impact of losing Jones. Even when he was not as productive, teams still had to game plan heavily for him. Moreover, it is unclear if J.J. Watt can stay healthy enough to leave his mark on this team along with if third-round pick Cameron Thomas is truly able to partially fill the hole left by Jones.
Atlanta Falcons: Marcus Mariota is a Starter for the First Time since 2019
The Falcons made the decision this offseason to trade 2016 MVP quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts and signed veteran QB Marcus Mariota to replace him, barring rookie Desmond Ridder winning the starting job. While Mariota showed flashes of being a solid starter during his tenure in Tennessee, it has been two seasons since Mariota started a game in the NFL. Also, he has only received considerable playing time in one contest where Derek Carr exited early with an injury. Atlanta appears to be putting a lot of trust into a quarterback who does not appear to be the long-term answer for the team, which does not seem to be a winning formula.
Baltimore Ravens: Lack of a True No. 1 Wide Receiver
During the first round of this year’s draft, the Ravens decided to trade wideout Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick—this pick turned into Tyler Linderbaum from Iowa. Because of this trade, many people speculated that the Ravens would draft another receiver, but they instead drafted two tight ends to place around star TE Mark Andrews. Still, it begs the question of who will take some of the pressure off of Andrews in the wide receiver group? The Ravens drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round last year, but it has to be determined if he can be a number one receiver. With more of an emphasis on the tight ends, the Ravens could struggle to push teams on the outside.
Buffalo Bills: Balance Between the Passing and Running Games
Despite the fact that the Bills have one of the best offenses in the NFL, the Bills have yet to find a way to have a balanced offense. Last season, the Bills had 655 pass attempts compared to 461 rush attempts. While they did increase the amount of rush attempts from 2020 (From 411 to 461 rush attempts), there is still room for improvement; however, it looks like the Bills could be taking a similar approach on offense with the drafting of James Cook. While the younger brother of Dalvin is a very skilled pass catcher, it is unclear how much he will improve the run game.
Carolina Panthers: Questions at Quarterback
Since Cam Newton went down with a shoulder injury in 2019, the Panthers have been scrambling to find a starter under center. They’ve tried Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, Sam Darnold, and even Cam Newton again, and things have not panned out with any of those QBs. Darnold appears likely to be the starter heading into the 2022 season, but he had minimal success in his first year with Carolina throwing for 2,527 YDS and 9 TDS against 13 INTS with a 4-7 record as the starter. Carolina could look to throw third-round rookie QB Matt Corral into the fray, but he is still too much of an unknown commodity at this time to truly say he can turn this team around. With such a talented and young defense, it looks like they could be depended upon heavily once again, unless Darnold takes a drastic step forward this year.
Chicago Bears: Lack of Pass Catching Talent
With the departure of Allen Robinson in free agency, the Bears are left with a very thin receiver group. Darnell Mooney has shown flashes of being a capable receiver, but he is more of a complimentary receiver at this point. Moreover, the Bears decided to sign free agents Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, and Tajae Sharpe in free agency; however, none of these receivers have been able to put together consistent production with maybe the exception of Pringle. This group may struggle immensely in 2022, which may not bode well for the development of second year QB Justin Fields.
Cincinnati Bengals: Hard to Replicate End of the Year Performance on Defense
In the playoffs, the Bengals’ defense came to play as that unit only gave up an average of 20.5 points per game. This was impressive given that the Bengals were able to dominate in stretches against two of the top offenses in the NFL in the form of the Chiefs and the reigning Super Bowl Champion Rams; however, it is difficult to tell if the Bengals will be as dominant on this side of the ball throughout the majority of the 2022 season. Cincinnati was middle of the pack in the 2021 regular season in points given up per game at around 22.1. Furthermore, the most notable addition on the defensive side of the ball is first-round pick Dax Hill. In a much-improved AFC, it is unrealistic to expect the Bengals to have that dominant of a stretch as they did in the playoffs on the defensive side of the ball.
Cleveland Browns: Inconsistent D-Line around Myles Garrett
Myles Garrett has proven to be one of the most prolific defensive players in the AFC the past few seasons, but the reason to be pessimistic about this team doesn’t lie in Garrett at all. Instead, it is about the supporting cast on that defensive line. Cleveland traded for Chase Winovich this offseason and drafted former Oklahoma Sooners Perrion Winfrey and Isaiah Thomas. It is unclear if the two rookies will start the majority of the year, and Winovich has been more of a rotational pass-rusher in his young career. With not a lot of talent along that defensive line, it is possible that teams can just focus all of their attention on Garrett, leading to less pass rush production for the burgeoning star.
Dallas Cowboys: Question Marks with Both Projected Starting Tackles
The Cowboys once boasted one of the best offensive lines in football, but now it is a shell of its former self due to age, injuries, and inexperience. Dallas used its first round pick on Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith, which came as a surprise to many fans; however, the bulk of the concern should be on Dallas’ current tackles: Tyron Smith and Terence Steele. Smith is 31 years old and has not played a full campaign since the 2015 season. In 2021, he only played in 13 games. As for Steele, he has been inconsistent in his young career and allowed 36 pressures last season alone. These struggles are most likely why Dallas targeted a tackle in the draft in the first place. It could be a tough season from a pass protection standpoint if Smith is unable to stay healthy and if Steele is unable to improve from his 2021 season.
Denver Broncos: Consistency from the Wide Receiver Group
Denver has invested capital in the wide receiver group the past few seasons, but it has yet to see a truly consistent campaign from any of their top receivers. Part of this has been due to the anemic quarterback play the past few years, but the receivers have also faced their fair share of issues. Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton have both shown flashes of being top receivers; however, they have been unable to stay healthy while also having their fair share of drops. Tim Patrick has been a solid receiver, but it appears that his value comes in contested catch situations, which is not necessarily always helpful. The addition of Russell Wilson should certainly help, yet there could still be some issues with this receiver group along the way.
Detroit Lions: Linebacker Talent
The Lions have attempted to rebuild their defense under second-year head coach Dan Campbell, but it is still far from perfect, particularly in the linebacker group. Last season, the Lions gave up 135.1 rushing yards per game, which was the 5th-most in the league. Part of this huge issue stemmed from the linebacker group, and it appears that Detroit still hasn’t found clear solutions in this area. Detroit re-signed veteran Alex Anzalone and drafted Oklahoma State standout Malcolm Rodriguez, but these two players are certainly far from being some of the better linebackers in the NFC North. Moreover, Detroit is also depending on second-year LB Derrick Barnes to shoulder some of the load, yet it has not been determined if he will be a mainstay in this group of players.
Green Bay Packers: The Loss of Davante Adams
There is no doubting the fact that the Packers are going to be hurting from losing Davante Adams. Despite the optimism around rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, this group will take a hit without the consistency of Adams. There was a clear reason why Adams had at least 117 targets every year since 2016, and there will be a bit of a learning curve while the rookies get acclimated to the NFL. Aaron Rodgers is going to have to find a new favorite target this season, and that could prove to be the difference between winning and losing in some crucial games throughout the season.
Houston Texans: Lack of Offensive Weapons
The Texans are in an interesting situation this season as they try to navigate the waters in Lovie Smith’s first season as their head coach. A large amount of the focus for this team appears to be on figuring out if Davis Mills is the QB of the future for this team, and it may be tough to figure out given the lack of offensive weapons on this team. Brandin Cooks is the most consistent player on this offense, and rookies John Metchie and Dameon Pierce could have strong campaigns. Besides those players, this offense is filled with a number of veterans who have not proven to have consistent production throughout their careers. This could hinder the development of Mills.
Indianapolis Colts: Aging No. 1 Corner
The past two seasons, the Colts have had one of the better defensive units in the NFL despite employing an aging veteran corner as their top player at the position in the form of Xavier Rhodes. The former first-rounder had two solid years with the Colts, but Indy decided to sign a different CB this offseason: 2019 DPOY Stephon Gilmore. While Gilmore has been a consistent shutdown corner since 2019, he has started to get injured more often and does not appear to have the same shutdown abilities as he once had at a younger age. Gilmore is currently 31, but he will be 32 in September. In 2021, quarterbacks completed 68.0% of their passes when targeting Gilmore as well as passing for two touchdowns against Gilmore, the most on the former DPOY since the 2018 season where he gave up 5 scores. This was just in 8 games. With the Colts giving up the 14th-most passing yards per game last season, it appears that Gilmore will have a lot on his shoulders right away, which may not bode well for Indianapolis if Gilmore continues his downwards trend.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Pass Defense
The Jaguars struggled defending the pass in 2021. Part of this was due to an ineffective pass rush with part of it also being due to a lack of talent in the secondary. Jacksonville signed veterans Shaquill Griffin and Rayshawn Jenkins to larger contracts in 2021, which certainly helped; however, Jacksonville still gave up 7.6 yards per attempt, meaning that teams were still willing to test the Jaguars on deep patterns. In what has become a very tough AFC, the Jaguars will need to improve in this area if they are to be a more competitive team in 2022.
Kansas City Chiefs: A Changing Offense
While the Chiefs are still being picked by many to win the AFC West this season, this team could look drastically different due to the loss of one offensive player: Tyreek Hill. Sure, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are still there along with an ever-improving offensive line, but one has to wonder if the lack of a top tier receiver like Hill will hurt the Chiefs at certain points in the season. Kansas City brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and drafted Skyy Moore from Western Michigan, but these players are certainly not Hill. The Chiefs could be a lot more dependent on quicker plays and lack the consistent ability to take the tops off of defenses like they once could with Hill on the outside.
Las Vegas Raiders: Ability to Defend the Improving Offenses in the Division
Although the Raiders were able to finish in second place in the AFC West and narrowly lost to the Bengals in the Wild Card Round, many people are unsure of what to make of this team in Josh McDaniels’ first year, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Las Vegas made tremendous strides on defense last year, but there were still a number of times where that unit failed mightily against some of the better offenses in the league. Having Chandler Jones, Jayon Brown, and Rock Ya-Sin will certainly help, but their defense will be tested by the other offenses in the AFC West early and often.
Los Angeles Chargers: Consistency from Mike Williams
This offseason, the Chargers decided to re-sign former first-round pick Mike Williams to a big deal, keeping the receiving group intact for years to come; however, is Mike Williams a dependable enough number two? Could the Chargers have signed somebody else or even drafted somebody who could effectively replace Williams at a much cheaper price? Williams has had two 1,000+ yard years the past two seasons, but last season was the only season in his young career where Williams had more than 49 receptions. He has been very dependent on big plays, and it is possible that he doesn’t have as many chances for those in a much-improved AFC.
Los Angeles Rams: Loss of Talent due to Salary Cap Crunch
As is the case with many Super Bowl Champions, the Rams lost a number of key players to teams who were willing to dish out more money than the Rams were; however, the Rams have a unique situation given their issues with the salary cap the past few seasons. Because of their salary cap problems, the Rams lost key contributors from their championship team like Darious Williams, Von Miller, potentially Odell Beckham Jr, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Austin Corbett to name a few. These players had a tremendous impact for the Rams last season, particularly down the stretch. It will be a tall task for Los Angeles to replace these players, and their salary cap issues could certainly be the difference between the Rams repeating as Super Bowl Champions and being eliminated from the playoffs earlier than expected.
Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa’s Arm Strength
The Dolphins pulled off the unthinkable this offseason as they were able to pry away Tyreek Hill from one of the best offenses in football. Hill and Waddle should certainly be one of the top receiver duos in the league this upcoming year; however, a lot of that depends on the play of third year QB Tua Tagovailoa, particularly his ability to hit these receivers on deep patterns. Tagovailoa has averaged 6.55 yards per attempt in his young career. A lot of this has had to do with the offensive line not being strong in pass protection, but Tagovailoa has had his fair share of miscues when targeting receivers deep. This could hold Miami back when they have two of the more explosive receivers in the league.
Minnesota Vikings: Questions in the Secondary
Since 2019, the Vikings have struggled to find effective ways to replace star CB Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings drafted Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney in 2020, but those picks have not worked out in Minnesota’s favor so far—Gladney isn’t even on the team anymore. Last season, the Vikings brought in Patrick Peterson to help fill some of the void left by Rhodes, but the Vikings still struggled mightily in pass defense—the Vikings gave up the 5th-most passing yards per game last season with 252.9. Furthermore, the once effective Harrison Smith has also seen a dip in production. Minnesota used its first two picks on defensive backs in the form of Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr, but until proven otherwise, this secondary is still a huge question mark heading into the 2022 season.
New England Patriots: Lack of a True No. 1 Corner
Coming into this offseason, the Patriots had a huge decision to make surrounding whether or not to bring back star corner J.C. Jackson. The Patriots opted to not bring back their best corner and have attempted to fill this void left by Jackson with veteran Malcolm Butler and rookies Marcus Jones and Jack Jones. Even though Malcolm Butler was once the CB1 in New England, it is unclear what Butler will be able to do considering he did not play during the 2021 season, and it has been five years since he was the top corner for the Patriots. With how much the AFC has improved on paper, the Patriots could struggle in an area where they were once so strong.
New Orleans Saints: Quarterback Miscues
Through seven games last year, Jameis Winston looked to be finally getting out of his old habits and protecting the ball. Instead of taking unnecessary gambles, Winston was making smarter decisions. Part of the reason why Winston was so conservative with the ball, however, was due to the lack of talent in the Saints’ receiver group last year along with his 7.3 Y/A, his lowest yards per attempt since the 2016 season—this excludes the 2020 season where he did not start for the Saints. With new receivers like Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry along with the return of Michael Thomas, does Winston go back to his old ways and start taking more gambles that lead to interceptions? It’s certainly possible until proven otherwise.
New York Giants: Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones has been all over the place during his young career. He has shown flashes of being a franchise quarterback along with showing some very head-scratching plays. Furthermore, he has had a tremendously hard time taking care of the football. Will the new regime be able to mask Jones’ weaknesses? It is extremely tough to tell at this point, but considering how Jones has played this far, fans may not be getting their hopes up for a drastic improvement.
New York Jets: Ability to Get Pressure on Opposing QBs
Over the past two offseasons the Jets have spent a lot of financial and draft capital on improving their defensive line. Last year, they signed Carl Lawson who did not play a single regular season snap after suffering a season-ending injury in preseason. This past draft, the Jets traded back into the first round to select Senior Bowl standout Jermaine Johnson II from Florida State. During the 2021 season, the Jets finished 25th in sacks and 26th in pressures. Even with these two players in the fold, will the Jets be able to get consistent pressure on opposing QBs from the supporting cast? Until proven otherwise, this could be a big area of concern in 2022.
Philadelphia Eagles: Offensive Line Health
The Eagles have a decently talented group of offensive linemen. The issue for the past couple of years has been the health of this unit. Projected starters Jordan Mailata, Lane Johnson, and Landon Dickerson have all shown flashes of being solid to great starters, but they have been unable to stay healthy. Dickerson’s health issues have dated back to his collegiate career while Mailata and Johnson have struggled more with this at the professional level. With the Eagles adding A.J. Brown to their receiver group, it will be of the utmost importance for this unit to stay healthy in order to give third year QB Jalen Hurts some continuity in the passing game.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive Line Woes
The Steelers slightly improved on the offensive line, from a pass protection standpoint, but they still gave up 38 sacks on the year. Also, Ben Roethlisberger tied with Tua Tagovailoa for having the least amount of pocket time in 2021 with just 2.1 seconds. Pittsburgh has attempted to make this offensive line formidable with the additions of Mason Cole and James Daniel on the interior, but it is still very possible that whoever starts for the Steelers this season could be in for a tough time on passing downs, which could lead to shorter possessions.
San Francisco 49ers: Deebo Samuel’s Contract Dispute
Part of the reason why San Francisco was able to find success on offense last year in spite of the loss of Raheem Mostert and inconsistency from Brandon Aiyuk was due to star receiver Deebo Samuel’s versatility. The 49ers were able to use Samuel in the backfield where he was able to put his explosiveness on full display, especially against some of the top defenses in football; however, it has become speculated that Samuel no longer wants to be used this way amidst disputes about his expiring contract. This loss of big plays could impact the 49ers immensely, especially if potential starter Trey Lance struggles in the passing game.
Seattle Seahawks: New Starter Under Center
For the first time since 2011, Russell Wilson will not be the opening day starter for the Seahawks. Instead, it appears it will either be Drew Lock or Geno Smith. Both of these players have had very up and down careers, which most likely does not strike a lot of confidence for the organization. Seattle appears to be in limbo as they decide whether they are good enough to compete for a playoff spot or head for a full rebuild. Considering what Wilson was able to do during his tenure in Seattle, both of these quarterbacks are major downgrades from the former Super Bowl Champion.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Offensive Line Depth
Tom Brady coming out of retirement certainly helped the Buccaneers to retain many of their key free agents; however, one player the Bucs could have used this year was Alex Cappa who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bucs were able to bring in Shaq Mason from the Patriots, but Cappa was an extremely important depth player who was able to make his impact when the Buccaneers’ offensive line suffered injuries. If the same happens again this season, the Buccaneers could be in some trouble with their top backup being unproven second-round pick Luke Goedeke. There aren’t many holes on this team, but offensive line depth could certainly come into play given the rigors of the NFL season.
Tennessee Titans: Talent Around Derrick Henry
The biggest move for Tennessee this offseason was trading away A.J. Brown and drafting Arkansas star wideout Treylon Burks to replace him. While Burks will be expected to contribute early and often due to his first-round status, it still appears that Derrick Henry will be expected to carry a lot of the load once again on this offense. The Titans did bring in Robert Woods and drafted another rookie Kyle Philips, but Woods is coming off of a torn ACL. It is tough to predict if he will be as explosive as he once was. As long as Henry is in the backfield, he will always be the focal point of this team; however, with Henry suffering a Jones fracture that kept him out of 8 regular season games last year, it would be much more reassuring to see him get less carries to prevent any more of those types of injuries in the future.
Washington Commanders: Carson Wentz’s Remaining Gas Tank
The 2017 NFL season marked Carson Wentz’s peak as a starter at the NFL level where he had the chance to win the MVP Award had he not sustained a torn ACL late in the season. Since then, Wentz has not been able to get back to that same level, and he is now on his third team in three seasons. It begs the question how much does Wentz have left in the tank? Washington has struggled to find an above average QB since the days of Kirk Cousins, and it is unclear if Wentz can get back to his 2017 self after how he ended the 2021 season.