2022 NFC season preview: Aaron Rodgers set to return to Super Bowl


The NFC has a extra outlined break up than the AFC between the contenders and the remainder of the pack, however there’s quite a lot of intrigue each on the high and the center of the convention.

For the AFC preview and prediction, click here.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles: 12-5

Two sensible, lopsided trades this offseason catapult the Eagles to the highest of the East. WR A.J. Brown and DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson convey severe upgrades at every spot in each talent and angle—the latter of which is simply as essential. It enhances an already sturdy roster that’s nice alongside each traces and deeper than most, too. Jalen Hurts must iron some issues out however has nice expertise at his disposal to do it with, and I’m a believer he’ll get it performed. Touchdown CB James Bradberry helps veteran Darius Slay on the opposite facet do what Slay does finest. It is a very well assembled assortment of expertise that might very properly be the league’s final workforce to lose a sport. Nick Sirianni’s workforce can win in quite a lot of alternative ways. Don’t be shocked in the event that they’re enjoying deep into the postseason.

Dallas Cowboys: 9-8

In Dak Prescott we belief, as a result of the expertise round him might be the weakest it’s been since Dak took over at QB. That’s very true up entrance, the place the Cowboys nonetheless have the potential to be good however aren’t apt to be so dominant. RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR CeeDee Lamb and TE Dalton Schultz can all get issues rolling on offense. The hot button is to have multiple of them having an excellent sport on the similar time. I anticipate some regression from the 2 unbelievably impactful defensive abilities from a yr in the past, CB Trevon Diggs and LB Micah Parsons. They’re each nonetheless good, however anticipating repeats of their phenomenal 2021 campaigns is a idiot’s errand. Can anybody else step up and fill the relative void there? It’ powerful to see that, although the Cowboys should not with out some promising younger choices. It is a high-floor workforce that ought to have an enormous say within the NFC wild-card image.

New York Giants: 6-11

The bones of an bettering Giants workforce are evident. Including Kayvon Thibodeaux to the defensive entrance helps final yr’s second-rounder Azeez Ojulari on the opposite facet and the gifted duo of Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence inside. The secondary lacks sizzle however has some potential. The identical can’t be mentioned at LB, and the power to defend the center of the sphere and the seams seems shaky at finest. These are phrases that usually describe QB Daniel Jones, too. A wholesome Saquon Barkley can solely assist, and including rookie TE Daniel Bellinger is a great match to Jones’ arsenal. Getting something out of free agent flop Kenny Golladay and unstable Kadarius Toney could be a blessing for the passing offense. There are too many “ifs” to really feel snug in these Giants, however they aren’t with out some higher potential than the projected win whole right here.

Washington Commanders: 5-12

There are positively issues to love with Washington, but it surely’s onerous to get previous how overly reliant the protection is on all of the first-round picks on the road to dominate the opponent. The fragility of the technique is uncovered with the perfect of these gamers, Chase Younger, out for the primary a part of the season. Nothing towards Cole Holcomb, Jamin Davis, Kamren Curl, William Jackson and the fellows behind the road, however the protection is designed for the entrance to make them higher, not for them to compensate for the entrance. An offense rolling the cube on Carson Wentz, who has been a colossal disappointment within the final two years, wants extra reliability than what the Commanders are prone to get from the protection. I anticipate just a few video games the place every thing clicks and Washington blows out some groups—even some good ones. That potential is right here. Discovering it persistently with such a inflexible roster development might be troublesome. I think Ron Rivera’s workforce might be among the many most variable outcomes from week to week.

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 12-5

The highest-end expertise in Tampa stays among the many league’s best. Tom Brady throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and now Julio Jones is probably superior. The OL took successful within the center, and no Gronk at TE has some ripple results. The deep steady of RBs would possibly ease some strain there. On protection, a younger secondary constructed round Jamel Dean, Antoine Winfield Jr. and underrated Carlton Davis properly frames a really swift LB corps. EDGE Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is a breakout move rush candidate. Tackling was an issue a yr in the past and can have to be cleaned up. The Bucs aren’t fairly the caliber of contender they’ve been, however make no mistake, it is a harmful, veteran workforce that coach Todd Bowles can steer to quite a lot of success.

New Orleans Saints: 9-8

How the Saints play with out Sean Payton on the sidelines is an enormous thriller, however successor Dennis Allen has a quietly gifted workforce on each side of the ball. Jameis Winston is a high-variance QB, however when he’s on his sport and Alvin Kamara is rolling, whew, it is a enjoyable workforce. Michael Thomas returning at WR with rookie Chris Olave becoming a member of the fold makes New Orleans diversely harmful. The protection is constructed from the again to the entrance, however in grizzled veterans Demario Davis and Cam Jordan, the entrance does have some enamel. The particular groups don’t encourage confidence. Nor does the depth just about anyplace exterior of QB. I had the Saints at 10 wins however knocked it down a notch after the curious commerce of playmaking DB Chauncey Garnder-Johnson not too long ago. That sort of head-scratching monetary resolution might actually backfire on a workforce that’s able to profitable a playoff sport.

Carolina Panthers: 5-12

Carolina is a troublesome forecast. Head coach Matt Rhule in desperation mode is fascinatingly unpredictable. The Panthers are led by unpredictable QB Baker Mayfield handing the ball to Christian McCaffrey, he of the unreliable well being standing. Mayfield does have a powerful cadre of receiving weapons led by underappreciated WR D.J. Moore. The O-line can also be unpredictable with enigmatic abilities like RT Taylor Moton and new RG Austin Corbett, plus rookie LT Ikem Ekwonu. Getting final yr’s first-round choose, CB Jaycee Horn, into the secondary builds up on the defensive power in Charlotte. The move rush simply would possibly work. Getting every thing to return collectively towards what seems to be a brutal schedule to start out the yr is a tricky ask. Don’t sleep on Carolina, however don’t guess on nice success both.

Atlanta Falcons: 3-14

The Matt Ryan period is over, leaving coach Arthur Smith together with his ft firmly in a rebuild. In TE Kyle Pitts and rookie WR Drake London there are weapons for vet QB Marcus Mariota to try to resuscitate his profession. Rookie QB Desmond Ridder appeared prepared within the preseason, so Smith should handle a possible QB controversy too. The OL is succesful if the beginning 5 keep wholesome. The protection, not a lot. Atlanta’s move rush was pathetic in 2021, however GM Terry Fontenot did little to deal with it. Outdoors of CB A.J. Terrell, the secondary is a unfastened assortment of castoffs from unhealthy groups, and the secondary is best than the LBs. Atlanta ought to have the ability to rating some factors, however the Falcons are going to essentially battle to outscore what their protection provides up most weeks.

NFC North

Inexperienced Bay Packers: 14-3

How does a workforce that loses star WR Davante Adams get higher? Protection. For all of the deal with QB Aaron Rodgers and his bizarre offseason, the Packers are a workforce that simply might need the league’s finest protection, and no person ever talks about it exterior of Wisconsin. Inexperienced Bay is loaded in any respect three ranges of the protection and even added some good younger reinforcements in rookies Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt. Jaire Alexander is a superb cowl CB, the safeties are glorious collectively and LB  De’Vondre Campbell is a savvy Professional Bowler in the course of the sphere. Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark, Preston Smith—it’s a well-conceived and deep line that may get after the QB and snuff out the run. Oh yeah, they’ve received that Rodgers man on the opposite facet of the ball. He’s received an incredible RB in Aaron Jones, a stable OL and a artistic schemer in coach Matt LaFleur. It will likely be beautiful if Inexperienced Bay doesn’t have the division sewn up by Week 13.

Minnesota Vikings: 8-9

A rookie head coach and GM take over a largely stagnant roster that underachieved to complete 8-9 a yr in the past. QB Kirk Cousins is efficient at what he does, aided by dynamic WR Justin Jefferson rising as among the best weapons within the league. Versatile RB Dalvin Prepare dinner and a younger OL that includes all first-round or second-round picks since 2018 kind a robust, albeit barely underperforming, offensive spine. A leaky protection is mainly operating it again and including solely LB Za’Darius Smith and a pair of promising rookie DBs of consequence. How the enigmatically gifted present gamers adapt to new schemes and training voices is the distinction between 10-11 wins or seven to eight victories. Something out of that vary appears wildly unlikely.

Detroit Lions: 6-11 

“Exhausting Knocks” uncovered Dan Campbell’s Lions to the broader world this summer season, showcasing the teaching expertise and rising potential in Detroit. Constructed round maybe the NFL’s finest offensive line, QB Jared Goff must be extra assured and cozy in rookie OC Ben Johnson’s extra aggressive scheme. Including WR DJ Chark and rookie Jameson Williams considerably aids the playmaking, although Williams is out for the primary half of the yr. The offense ought to a minimum of be entertaining. The Lions’ rebuild lags behind on protection, although the unit must be higher at dashing the passer with No. 2 general choose Aidan Hutchinson and rising star Alim McNeill up entrance. A younger secondary should make extra performs on the ball and keep higher coordinated than a yr in the past. Security and LB depth is unproven, to be sort. Count on quite a lot of 34-30 forms of video games however for the Lions to be on the unsuitable finish of greater than they win.

Chicago Bears: 2-15

The promise of a brand new regime shortly loses luster when trying on the Bears roster. Anticipating to win immediately with a rookie head coach, rookie GM and creating younger QB in Justin Fields is asking quite a bit. Doing it behind the patchwork OL and with the NFL’s weakest receiving corps is a bridge too far. I like Fields’ long-term potential, however new GM Ryan Poles didn’t do a lot to assist him exterior of enjoyable rookie WR Velus Jones. The perfect defensive participant is an off-ball LB in Roquan Smith who desperately needs out of Chicago. There may be some promise within the younger secondary with high draft selections Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon. The move rush seems anemic exterior of vet Robert Quinn, who produced an unreplicable profession hiccup yr in 2021 with 18.5 sacks—practically the quantity he produced within the earlier 48 video games. It figures to be a really lengthy season in Chicago.

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams: 12-5

The reigning Tremendous Bowl champs convey again so many key items. Matthew Stafford at QB is the catalyst, and his aggressive fashion is a superb slot in Sean McVay’s offense. Including Allen Robinson to the receiving corps is a great acquisition. The road performs higher than it seems on paper, but it surely’s nonetheless a viable query mark. So is the RB spot, the place Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson must co-exist. Having playmakers on protection can cowl up the occasional tough outing from Stafford. None is greater than MVP candidate Aaron Donald within the center. Bringing slot CB Troy HIll again ought to assist the protection. Even after including Bobby Wagner, the LB corps is a query, as is the move rush exterior of Donald. Complacency after success can journey groups up, and it’s one thing to observe for irrespective of how absurd it may appear. It is a workforce that has the aptitude to repeat if the Rams can put on the crown and the bull’s-eye that comes with it properly.

San Francisco 49ers: 9-8

The transition to Trey Lance at QB from Jimmy Garoppolo would be the dominant storyline, however the remainder of the 49ers roster stays fairly darn stable. A powerful line of defense and coordinated move protection behind it make them troublesome to attain upon, which retains the sport conditions the place the patented Shanahan ball management passing and zone operating sport totally in play. Their potential to assault with unconventional or distinctive weapons like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and even FB Kyle Juszczyk may be very troublesome to defend. It makes life simpler for Lance, too. The center-of-field protection has some vulnerability. Forty-year-old kicker Robbie Gould doesn’t have the dependable booming vary anymore, and that might come into play in shut video games. The margin for error in how the 49ers win is slim, however it is a self-aware workforce that does what it does very properly.

Arizona Cardinals: 7-10

Arizona had a story of two seasons in 2021. Sadly for coach Kliff Kingsbury, his customary late-season collapse seems troublesome to flee from getting into 2022. Kyler Murray remains to be a harmful dual-threat QB, however the downgrade in weaponry over time is important. WR A.J. Inexperienced wasn’t near being what he as soon as was, and including oft-injured Marquise Brown and his tiny catch radius received’t assist Murray both. Perhaps throwing to nifty Rondale Moore past the road of scrimmage is a novel idea Kingsbury can embrace. The road—when wholesome—cobbles collectively vets pretty properly, and TE Zach Ertz must be higher with a full yr in Arizona. The protection is affected by gamers who’ve higher identify recognition than precise enjoying potential, most notably at LB. Security Budda Baker remains to be nice. If he will get extra persistently dependable assist in the secondary, these Cardinals might be a troublesome foe. Nevertheless, if Murray isn’t a legit MVP candidate and the revamped run sport isn’t within the high 10, the downward spiral might steepen.

Seattle Seahawks: 5-12

A brand new period begins with the Russell Wilson commerce to Denver. Pete Carroll’s Seahawks now seem like a ball-control offense constructed round the perfect OL in Seattle in years and a deep backfield. Having DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett as downfield weapons is an ideal complement to that, however can the QB mess of Geno Smith and/or Drew Lock rise to the problem? Historical past says they received’t even come shut. The protection is crammed with castoffs from different groups and unproven children exterior of the security tandem of Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, which may very well be one of many NFL’s finest. The specialists are dependable and the ground-heavy fashion of play can hold quite a lot of video games inside attain, but it surely’s onerous to see a lot success within the first yr with out franchise legends Wilson and Bobby Wagner.

Playoff choose: Packers over the Eagles to advance to the Tremendous Bowl

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