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 III: NFC North
1. Chicago Bears
2021 record: 6-11 2022 over/under: 6.5 wins
Pretty much the only shit I know about the Bears offseason is that they fired both their head coach and general manager, and traded Khalil Mack to the Chargers. They didn’t have a first round pick in the NFL Draft because they traded it to the Giants last year to move up for Justin Fields, who after one season they either aren’t interested in winning with or actively want to see him fail so they can draft a better prospect next year.
That’s sort of the story of the Bears: they are a rudderless outfit. In a sport where organizations pay millions of dollars annually for advantages that are barely noticeable, at the bottom of the barrel you always find franchises like Chicago that only make sense when viewed through the prism that they aren’t actually trying to win football games.
2. Detroit Lions
2021 record: 3-13-1 2022 over/under: 6.5 wins
The only thing I care about when it comes to losing teams, or “bad” teams, is how much effort they give when they have nothing to play for. It’s easy to give a shit when you have aspirations of making the playoffs, or competing for a Super Bowl. It’s an entirely different matter when you finish a football season with the second-worst record in the NFL.
The Lions have a head coach that they seem to like playing for, that’s really the only explanation I can give for feeling pretty good about a team that finished 3-13-1 last year. Detroit are quickly (by virtue of being so bad and having such premium draft picks) accumulating talent that could surprise some people in 2022.
3. Green Bay Packers
2021 record: 13-4 2022 over/under: 11 wins
Forgive the obvious, but the Packers are all about Aaron Rodgers. I find it at least mildly ironic that for the past decade or so, when it seemed like a majority of football fans detested his seemingly self-centered personality and diva-like nature, I was one of his biggest fans; and since he outed himself as an anti-vaxxer and believer in all manner of woo-woo, his fan base has grown exponentially due to him being a “free thinker,” or whatever.
From a football perspective Green Bay have a solid defense and one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. Rodgers could probably wake up from a dead sleep and arrive at 10 wins given that more than a third of his games are against the Bears, Lions and Vikings. We’ll see what kind of ceiling this team can reach from there, but I have a hard time picturing anyone else from this division supplanting what most people consider the overwhelming favorite.
4. Minnesota Vikings
2021 record: 8-9 2022 over/under: 9 wins
The Vikings are one of those dumb teams that I always expect to be a lot better than they actually are, and this season I don’t have the heart to predict anything otherwise. Kirk Cousins remains on the fringe of being well above-average, they have a solid running back (Dalvin Cook) and one of the very best receivers in the NFL (Justin Jefferson). Offensively they should be able to produce 25 or 30 points most weeks.
I don’t know very much about their new head coach other than the fact he’s an offensive guy. I imagine that bodes well for them, but I acknowledge that it’s still the Vikings and there’s a good chance they do what they do every year and fall short when winnable games are on the line.
NFC North Projection:
- Packers: 12-5
- Vikings: 10-7
- Lions: 8-9
- Bears: 3-14
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