Josh Allen Buffalo Bills

So, you’ve decided to watch the National Football League. Congratulations! After a crazy offseason, it could even be a crazier season.

Tom Brady retired, unretired, and then took a mysterious leave of absence that has prompted speculation that there may be trouble at home. Bruce Arians retired, but he’s still hanging around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers facility like a barfly who can’t find the exit. The Cleveland Browns, once lovable losers, made a Faustian bargain. Brian Flores, who’s suing the NFL for racial discrimination, is now an assistant for the most powerful Black coach in the league. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was accused of offering bribes for tanking and was punished for tampering. NFL MVP and Antivaxxer MVP Aaron Rodgers is still stepping on rakes. Antonio Brown’s continued descent into madness probably has ended his career. And Calvin Ridley’s gambling habits may have ended his.

Also, Dan Campbell keeps being Dan Campbell.

What’s new in 2022?

  • Want Thursday Night Football? There’s an app for that. The biggest new weapon in the streaming wars belongs to Amazon, the exclusive home for TNF. It’ll be interesting to see how many viewers will tune in. It won’t be interesting to hear your grandparents complain about it. 
  • The QB merry-go-round. At least nine teams will have a new starter. Russell Wilson surprisingly landed with the Denver Broncos. The Indianapolis Colts brought in yet another veteran who might be running on fumes in Matt Ryan. And the fossilized remains of Carson Wentz limp into D.C.
  • The WR merry-go-round. Davante Adams is a Raider. Tyreek Hill is a Dolphin. Amari Cooper is a Brown. A. J. Brown is an Eagle. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a Chief. Allen Robinson is a Ram. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is a Cardinal. 
  • 10 coaches will make their debuts. Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles might have the best roster in the NFC. Denver is the league’s only team with a new coach and new quarterback. And five coaches are trying to salvage their reputations after being fired from their previous head coaching gigs: Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars), Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders), Lovie Smith (Houston Texans), Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints), and Bowles.
  • The Washington Football Team (finally) has a nickname. Introducing the Commanders – a name that most of D.C. already dislikes. What made the reveal even worse is that they screwed up the crest logo. As bad as all that is, Dan Snyder has more pressing problems.
  • These guys have retired. Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andrew Whitworth, Frank Gore, Mitchell Schwartz, Jason McCourty, Alejandro Villanueva, Malcolm Jenkins, Jack Doyle, Ali Marpet,  K. J. Wright, and Rob Gronkowski (for now). 

Super Bowl or bust for the Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills haven’t entered a season with these kinds of expectations since the glory days of the 1990s. The team that annihilated the New England Patriots in the playoffs and should have beaten the Kansas City Chiefs is the betting favorite. Pro Football Focus rates the Bills’ roster as the best in the league. The biggest off-season addition was adding Von Miller, who had a career resurgence with the Los Angeles Rams. He could be the missing piece for a defense that gave up the fewest total yards (289.2) and points (18.3) per game last season.

Ultimately, the Bills need Josh Allen to be the guy he was in the postseason (9 TDs, 0 INTs in two games). And not the guy he was against Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Atlanta. What could help him is the emergence of Gabriel Davis and the drafting of James Cook. The biggest concerns for the Bills: a new offensive coordinator in Ken Dorsey and a suspect offensive line. 

Going through the AFC in the postseason will be a grind. Three teams in the AFC West alone could be contenders: the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City, and Denver. 

Who could be this year’s version of the Cincinnati Bengals?

The Bengals (10-7) shocked everyone by making it to the Super Bowl. NFL analytics expert Warren Sharp thinks it could be the Minnesota Vikings this time around.

We tend to agree. There’s a reason why Jim Harbaugh wanted this job. The Vikings‘ skill position players, led by Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Jalen Reagor, are the best in the NFC North. New head coach Kevin O’Connell should be able to get the most out of this group. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has limitations, but he doesn’t have to be great for Minnesota to win the division.

As for getting to the Super Bowl, the defending champion Rams, Tampa Bay, and the Green Bay Packers are safer bets. But the teams in the NFC aren’t as strong as the AFC. The Vikings have a puncher’s chance.

Guys with something to prove

Khalil Mack, DE, Los Angeles Chargers – Once the most feared pass-rusher in the league, injuries and age have caught up with the 31-year-old. He hasn’t had double-digit sacks since 2018. Playing the opposite side of Joey Bosa should help. 

Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints – Three years ago, he led the NFL in catches (140) and yards (1,725). After missing the entire 2021 season with an ankle injury, can he resume his dominance? It will be harder with a different quarterback (Jameis Winston) and a different coach (Allen).

Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants – The Giants didn’t pick up Jones’s fifth-year option. That’s all you need to know. Chances are the Giants’ quarterback of 2023 isn’t on the current roster. However, Jones still needs to perform decently so that he can land a job for next year. 

Baker Mayfield, QB, Carolina Panthers – Mayfield’s multitude of injuries contributed to his struggles last season. There were games when he probably shouldn’t have been on the field. When healthy, he can be an average starting quarterback. 

Frank Clark, DE, Kansas City Chiefs – Kansas City is one of the league’s better-run organizations. But Clark has been mostly a disappointment (4.5 sacks last year) since being acquired in a trade with Seattle in 2019. He showed up to camp in better shape after reportedly giving up alcohol

10 things that may happen…

  • The Cincinnati Bengals’ revamped offensive line will give up 10 sacks to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener.
  • Assuming he returns from injury, Saints rookie tackle Trevor Penning will be ejected from a game for fighting with his own teammates.
  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling will catch more touchdown passes than Tyreek Hill and will flash the peace sign after each one.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars will upset the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 as Doug Pederson laughs manically from the kickoff through the postgame press conference.
  • Micah Parsons will have a sack, an interception, and catch a touchdown pass in a game that the Dallas Cowboys will still inexplicably lose.
  • Bill Belichick will fire both Matt Patricia and Joe Judge by mid-season and bring back Charlie Weis.
  • In the same game, Sauce Gardner will have a pick 6, and Zach Wilson will throw a pick 6. 
  • Jimmy Garoppolo, formerly the most handsome starting QB in the NFL, will regain that title when he gets traded to the New York Jets to replace a lousy Wilson and ineffective Joe Flacco.
  • Matt Ryan and the Indianapolis Colts will blow a 28-3 lead to the Houston Texans in the season finale and miss the playoffs. Ryan will retire, and the Colts will replace him with Ryan Tannehill or Jared Goff.
  • Baltimore Ravens mascot Poe will make a miraculous recovery from injury, but then will be suspended for PED use. 

Awards

MVP: Justin Herbert (Los Angeles Chargers)

Offensive Player of the Year: Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings)

Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Garrett (Cleveland Browns)

Comeback Player of the Year: JuJu Smith-Schuster (Kansas City Chiefs)

Offensive Rookie of the Year: George Pickens (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Defensive Rookie of the Year: George Karlaftis (Kansas City Chiefs)

Coach of the Year: Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings)

A Super Bowl the Bosa family can root for: San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Chargers

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.