Every year we see an NFL team or two exponentially exceed expectations. Maybe it is a new QB that pushes them into the playoffs or a new head coach and philosophy that allows the group to click. The NFC is wide open for a team to break out and even though the AFC is stacked, we have seen crazier things happen. Let’s look at which teams are most primed for a breakthrough in 2022.
The league is full of talent right now with many teams that could contend for the Super Bowl. The AFC has perennial contenders like the Chiefs, Titans, Ravens, and Bills, but they have several others who have positioned themselves for success. Of the teams in the AFC that did not make the playoffs, the Dolphins, Colts, Chargers, and Broncos seem to have the best chance to make it to the playoffs. Each of them has made critical moves to put themselves in a position for success.
As for the NFC, there is much less competition than in the AFC. It is very top-heavy with teams like the Buccaneers, Packers, and Rams ruling the conference. That leaves plenty of opportunity for teams in the NFC to rise to the top.
Leap Frogging The Leaders In The AFC
It is going to take quite a bit to make any headway in this conference, but there are a few teams who can make the jump. Of the teams that did not make the playoffs last year, the Ravens, Colts, Broncos, Chargers, and Dolphins have done the most to put themselves in a position to challenge the status quo in the AFC. However, I do not feel like all of these teams are positioned well enough to make a playoff appearance. The Ravens, Chargers, and Colts have been in the hunt recently, so I will leave them out of it for now. Let’s focus on the Broncos and Dolphins.
The Broncos have been able to make major moves this offseason in acquiring the former-Seahawks QB, Russell Wilson. They have been able to add a Hall of Fame-caliber QB to an offense already stocked with weapons. Having also added former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, the Broncos should have a new-look offense to keep up with the rest of the AFC West.
The Broncos will have some difficult games on their schedule this year, but there is no reason they shouldn’t be in the thick of it. The rest of the league will be on high alert with their top-ranked defense lining up. Look for the Broncos to make a run at a Wild Card spot this year.
Miami has been in the headlines recently with the release of Tyreek Hill’s new podcast. However, he is a true game-changer for the offense. Adding The Cheetah to Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, and the Dolphins’ stacked running back room makes their offense one of the most lethal in terms of playmakers. The true question mark here is whether or not Tua can take advantage of the talent he has around him.
If Mike McDaniel can help Tua get there this offseason, the Dolphins will be a challenge for any opponent. The AFC East doesn’t have too bad of a schedule as a whole and it is even better for the Phins. Don’t be surprised if McDaniel is able to activate this offense to the tune of ten or more wins.
Rising To The Top Of The NFC
Now, this landscape is much more conducive to change. The NFC is seemingly wide open when it comes to the wild card spots. The divisions could very well have repeat winners across the board in the Rams, Buccaneers, Cowboys, and Packers. As for the rest of the teams, that have a chance to flip the script, I have my eyes on the Vikings and the Saints.
The Vikings have mostly maintained the status quo when it comes to their roster. The big advantage here is going to be the coaching change. Mike Zimmer and his staff had been coming up short even with all of the talents the roster has on it. Now that Kevin O’Connell is in the head coach spot, he can bring out the very best in their offensive talent.
In Los Angeles, O’Connell was able to manage some fantastic talent. This season, he will be able to implement his offense with stars like Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook. Not to mention, Irv Smith will be back in the fold ready for a breakout. If this team is able to step it up on defense with the return of Danielle Hunter, they could finally get over the playoff hump.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs and potentially a run in them as well. We all saw what they could be with Jameis Winston under center before he suffered a season-ending ACL injury. With the additions of Chris Olave in the draft and Tyrann Mathieu and Macus Maye in free agency, they were able to re-tool an already talented roster.
Knowing the Saints will also have their All-Pro receiver, Michael Thomas back in the fold is a nice boost of confidence for the offense as well. Considering the Saints narrowly missed a playoff appearance last year with backups under center most of the season, a healthy roster will do them a ton of good. I expect Dennis Allen to lead this squad back to the playoffs this year, capturing one of the three wild card spots.
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