Last year I probably paid too much attention to the NFL offseason, and I think it clouded some of my judgements heading into the season. As a consequence I decided for the 2022 NFL year I would pay as little attention as possible. Obviously — and I do mean obviously — I didn’t miss out on the wide receiver carousel, what with Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill and A.J. Brown all getting traded; I didn’t miss out on the NFL Draft or other significant free agency signings. I consider those to be givens.
At the same time, when last year I was paying attention to depth signings — inconsequential minutia that doesn’t shift the needle all that much — this season I have let some information fall through the cracks. I don’t love the NFL any less now than I did a year ago, and come time for meaningful football games I will be in the lab just as I always am. Previewing the NFL is an experiment for me. It’s a way to test myself against the market of football fans. I simply went through a different process this time around.
All over/under win totals are courtesy of Draft Kings.
Part I: NFC West
1. Arizona Cardinals
2021 record: 11-6 2022 over/under: 8.5 wins
Arizona’s big offseason acquisition was trading their first round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for Marquise Brown, who used to play at the University of Oklahoma with quarterback Kyler Murray. Once WR DeAndre Hopkins returns from a four-game suspension, the Cardinals will have a formidable receiving unit alongside Brown and second-year burner Rondale Moore. This is an organization that is built to win right now, but if their recent history is any indication then we should all expect a strong start to the year before they peter out in the cold weather months.
I’ve generally been one to fade Murray (and head coach Kliff Kingsbury) in the past, and I don’t see any reason to change now. The NFC is starving for a team besides Tampa Bay, Los Angeles and Green Bay to be a legitimate challenger is the conference, but I don’t see it being Arizona this year. High upside, very low floor, and at the end of the day I think they will make the playoffs if for no other reason that I believe the rest of the conference isn’t any good.
2. Los Angeles Rams
2021 record: 12-5 2022 over/under: 10.5 wins
If ever there was a time for a Super Bowl winner to have a letdown, the framework would look like the 2022 Los Angeles Rams:
- QB Matthew Stafford wasted a decade playing in Detroit, and finally reached the mountaintop in his first year with a new organization.
- Head coach Sean McVay was rumored to be considering retirement, likely to latch onto a gig with a major network paying him eight figures to call football games, before the Super Bowl last year.
- Future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Aaron Donald was rumored to be considering retirement.
- Perhaps most importantly, Los Angeles have spent the last handful of years trading away their top draft picks, leaving them with a roster filled with stars and scrubs and very little depth. Winning it all was always the objective to such a strategy, and mission accomplished and all that, but it certainly can’t help them moving forward.
I’m not saying all of these bullet points are one hundred percent true, or even that they matter, but what I am saying is that all it takes is one or two of them to be legitimate to more or less derail the Rams’ season. 10.5 wins does not seem like a crazy number when faced with NFC South opponents, as well as a couple free wins against the Seahawks, but I’m betting on this team to fail.
3. San Francisco 49ers
2021 record: 10-7 2022 over/under: 10 wins
Every year the 49ers get shitted on for having Kyle Shanahan as their head coach, for having Jimmy G playing quarterback, for overall having a very un-sexy 2005-style of team. They like to run the ball, they normally have a good defense, but they aren’t going to be leading any highlight shows. Then seemingly at the end of every year they are somehow playing in the NFC Championship Game.
This season second-year quarterback Trey Lance, drafted third overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, is playing QB. And he isn’t anything like we’ve seen. Finally Shanahan has his chess piece to groom and to use. I don’t know very much, but I do know that bad organizations like the Jaguars and Jets played the first overall pick in 2021 (Trevor Lawrence) and second overall pick in 2021 (Zach Wilson), respectively, and they stunk last year. Good organizations like the 49ers had a plan, and I’m betting that sitting Trey Lance for his rookie year will pay huge dividends immediately. I expect San Francisco win the NFC West in 2022.
4. Seattle Seahawks
2021 record: 7-10 2022 over/under: 5.5 wins
It just feels like a storm is coming in Seattle. After years of speculation, they finally traded face of the franchise Russell Wilson. Head coach Pete Carrol turns 71 in September and almost certainly doesn’t have a rebuild left in the tank. And the owner, or “de facto owner,” Jody Allen, recently said that the team is “not currently for sale but will be.”
It’s probably my fault that I don’t know very much about this team beyond, but with circumstances such as they are it means I don’t have to. This franchise has assets, such as wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett; they have Jamaal Adams; but they are ready to blow it up. To that end, there is not a low enough win total I would feel comfortable betting on the over.
NFC West Projection:
- 49ers: 12-5
- Rams: 10-7
- Cardinals: 9-8
- Seahawks: 4-13