Ahead of Week 1, every NFL fanbase has some hope for a magical season. Here’s a look at why every team will — or won’t — win the Super Bowl in 2022.
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Why they will: Arizona was one of the most improved teams in the league last season, finishing top 11 in both offense and defense. The NFC West looks more manageable this year with changes at quarterback in Seattle and San Francisco, while the offensive talent remains loaded, led by Kyler Murray and newcomer Marquise Goodwin.
Why they won’t: Murray’s relationships with the team and contract were a potential offseason distraction, and the talent on defense could make fans nervous with the loss of Chandler Jones and issues in the secondary. The Cardinals have also consistently floundered late in the year under head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
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Why the will: Do you believe in miracles? Atlanta has added former Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota to quarterback the team, and he has some interesting young weapons, including Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Tyler Allgeier. The defense also added talent, including Rashaan Evans, Lorenzo Carter, and Casey Hayward.
Why they won’t: Atlanta overachieved last season to finish 7-10 with a more stable quarterback in Matt Ryan, finishing near the bottom of the league on both sides of the ball. Some of the draft picks will excite fans, but the team still has talent deficiencies at nearly every position.
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Why they will: There’s nowhere to go but up with Baltimore’s luck, after losing Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Ronnie Stanley, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and more to injury last season. The team has that group back healthy and has addressed other areas of weakness like the offensive line and secondary while hiring creative defensive mind Mike Macdonald away from Michigan. Baltimore won 35 regular season games in three years before last season, so this group has plenty of ability.
Why they won’t: The Ravens have familiar issues at wideout after trading Marquise Brown, and the questions about Lamar Jackson’s ability to win playoff games will continue until he finally finds success. Some might fear Jackson’s pending contract situation could be a distraction, as well.
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Why they will: Many advanced metrics suggested that the Bills were the best team in football last season, and were a miracle Chiefs comeback away from advancing to the AFC Championship. Josh Allen has become a truly elite quarterback, and the team has given him more help by fixing the offensive line interior and drafting James Cook. The defense also looks better on paper, even after ranking first overall last season, adding Von Miller and first-round pick Kaiir Elam.
Why they won’t: The cliche that it’s hard to repeat is accurate, and in Buffalo’s case, it will be hard to maintain last year’s level of elite play on both sides of the ball. The running game remains a problem for the Bills, and the AFC seems even more loaded than last season.
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Why they will: Carolina has worked to address most of its biggest issues. Baker Mayfield is the new quarterback, Christian McCaffrey is healthy, the offensive line has a legitimate left tackle in Ikem Ekwonu, and the secondary got some veteran leadership to help the youngsters in safety Xavier Woods. Head coach Matt Rhule now enters his third season, which is often the turning point for head coaches.
Why they won’t: Mayfield showed erratic play in Cleveland, so the improvement at quarterback might not be enough. The defense has also been in the bottom half of the league in points in four consecutive seasons, and Rhule’s leadership hasn’t exactly shined over the last two years.
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Why they will: The dynamic Justin Fields has superstar potential, with the ability to run and pass and create his own yards. A new offense might actually be what he needs. New head coach Matt Eberflus takes over a defensive unit that has lost significant talent, but he worked wonders while coordinating the Colts’ defense.
Why the won’t: If anything, the Bears are less talented than the 2021 roster that won six games. The offensive line has problems, the wide receiver room lost Allen Robinson, and the defense lost stars, Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. Fields could be set up for failure in his second season.
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Why they will: Cincinnati came up just short in the Super Bowl, with an offense that quickly became elite behind the heroics of Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins. The defense also showed significant improvement as the season progressed, with a strong pass rush and secondary that got better in the playoffs. Cincinnati worked to correct weaknesses on the offensive line and secondary during the offseason, as well. Another year under the belts of the young stars can only help.
Why they won’t: The Bengals remain in a tough AFC North division, and teams of their ilk that show sudden improvement often regress the following season. Cincinnati will have a target on their backs that they’ve had the taste of winning after five consecutive losing seasons, and that also means adjusting to the offensive talent that the Bengals employ.
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Why they will: Cleveland finally has their quarterback, or so it seems. The Browns acquired superstar Deshaun Watson in the offseason, though he’s set to be suspended for the first 11 games of the season. Still, the Browns have a strong roster that might be able to tread water until Watson returns, and then the sky is the limit with new wideout Amari Cooper, a great running game, and a defense that finished fifth in yards allowed last season.
Why they won’t: Quarterback issues plagued Cleveland last season en route to an 8-9 season, and that’s likely to be the case again for the first 11 games until Watson returns. The playoff prospects could be too far gone in the difficult AFC North when Watson comes back, and there’s also likely to be an adjustment period for Watson after over a year away from football and a new team.
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Why they will: The Cowboy lost Amari Cooper, but they still have plenty of star power on offense from a unit that finished first in points and yards last season. Dak Prescott has all he needs in front of him, including a strong offensive line, great running back tandem, and CeeDee Lamb. The defense also showed vast improvement last season, with Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs becoming instant superstars.
Why they won’t: The questions about Mike McCarthy’s game management dogged the team throughout the offseason, and there should be legitimate fear about what the Cowboys lost in the offseason. Cooper is the headliner, but the team also lost significant depth at wideout, the offensive line, defensive line, and secondary. Simply put, salary cap woes might finally come back to bite the Cowboys.
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Why they will: Since winning the Super Bowl in 2015, the Broncos have been searching for a quarterback. They finally found one in Russell Wilson, who inherits a great set of offensive weapons and a defense that finished third in points allowed last season.
Why they won’t: For most quarterbacks, joining a new team and offense takes time to adjust. Realistically, that’s likely to be the case with Wilson in Denver, but he has no time to waste in what appears to be the toughest division in football with the Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers. The new coaching staff will also have to make adjustments on the fly, learning the new players and teaching schemes.
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Why they will: The Lions were clearly improved late last season, and still have a quarterback who has led a team to a Super Bowl berth in Jared Goff. He has more help this season with wideouts D.J. Chark and Jameson Williams, along with progress in defensive talent led by first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson.
Why they won’t: There’s a huge hill to climb for the Lions after finishing 3-13-1 last season. Goff was inconsistent for another year, and the defense allowed the second most points in the NFL. Fans should enjoy the new young talent, but that doesn’t mean the Lions are ready to be a contender.
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Green Bay Packers
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Why they will: Green Bay has three consecutive 13-win seasons, and have two-time defending MVP Aaron Rodgers, back under center. While he will be missing some offensive weapons, the offensive line looks strong with left tackle David Bakhtiari healthy, the running game is excellent, and the defense remains loaded with talent with Jaire Alexander returning from injury and two first-round picks in Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt.
Why they won’t: Rodgers has continued to hit a wall during the playoffs in the post-Mike McCarthy years, and now has to contend without his favorite target, Davante Adams. The loss of wide receiver talent will undoubtedly take some adjustment for Rodgers.
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Why they will: New head coach Lovie Smith has a proven track record coaching NFL defenses, including the lethal Bears defenses of the 2000s. The Texans defense seemed to perform better than the sum of their parts under his watch last season, and Davis Mills looks like he could be a keeper at quarterback.
Why they won’t: Most of the talent issues from last year’s four-win squad remain intact, as it’s unclear if Mills is the long-term starter, the offensive weapons are lacking behind Brandin Cooks, and the defense has multiple holes at all levels. While Smith has plenty of experience as an NFL head coach, he struggled during his last stop in Tampa Bay and part of his tenure in Chicago.
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Why they will: After adding Matt Ryan, the Colts finally have some stability at quarterback to go along with an elite run game led by Jonathan Taylor and a top 10 defense. A still easy AFC South division with the Texans and Jaguars gives Indy a leg up on a playoff spot, and the additions of Yannick Ngakoue and Stephon Gilmore provide the defensive unit further star power.
Why they won’t: Ryan has clearly lost a step, so it’s unlikely the Colts’ offense will be able to compete with the high-powered units in the league. The loss of defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and an injury that could sideline Shaquille Leonard for the start of the season could cause some defensive regression.
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Why they will: What a difference a head coach can make. There’s evident relief in Jacksonville switching from the Urban Meyer debacle to a proven coach in Doug Pederson. He has a high upside quarterback in Trevor Lawrence to work with along with clearly improved talent in all other areas of the offense after a busy offseason. The defense also has a jolt of talent with first-round picks Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd, along with Darious Williams at corner.
Why they won’t: Meyer wasn’t the only problem with last year’s squad. Lawrence looked like a deer in headlights during much of his rookie season, and the defense allowed the fifth most points in the NFL. There’s only so much a head coach can do in one year, even a Super Bowl winner like Pederson.
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Kansas City Chiefs
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Why they will: For the second consecutive offseason, the Chiefs front office addressed their weaknesses. The team added extensive wide receiver depth, speed in the secondary, and improved the pass rush with Carlos Dunlap and rookie George Karlaftis. Oh, and the combo of Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid has hosted four consecutive AFC Championships.
Why they won’t: The Chiefs have arguably the toughest schedule in the NFL, and generally had great injury luck in 2021. While the wide receiver room has more talent collectively, the loss of Tyreek Hill will almost certainly be felt this season. The inconsistency of last year’s defense also remains a concern with multiple rookies playing key roles.
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Las Vegas Raiders
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Why they will: Vegas made a massive splash in the offseason by not only hiring Josh McDaniels but also bringing in superstar wide receiver Davante Adams to the fold. It’s an exciting development for a team that made the playoffs last season, with Derek Carr playing well at quarterback. The defense also has reason to be optimistic after adding Chandler Jones and Rock Ya-Sin.
Why they won’t: Big weaknesses in the team’s personnel remain. The offensive line has big issues at multiple positions, and the secondary remains a work in progress due to some poor drafting from the former regime. McDaniels also has a mixed history during his last stop as an NFL head coach in Denver, and the AFC West is set to be as brutal as ever.
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Los Angeles Chargers
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Why they will: The Chargers came up just short of reaching the playoffs last season, but clearly improved with an offense that scored the fifth most points in the league led by Justin Herbert. Much of that unit remains the same, while the defense had added impact players Khalil Mack, J.C. Jackson, and Bryce Callahan to a very talented core.
Why they won’t: Even with the additions, it’s a lot to ask of the defense to show substantial improvement after allowing the fourth most points in the league last season. The AFC West will also really test the Chargers again, as the Broncos and Raiders offenses look improved, and the Chiefs remain an elite opponent.
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Los Angeles Rams
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Why they will: The defending champs bring back an elite roster, led by Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald. The team could even get a boost on offense after signing Allen Robinson and getting a healthy Cam Akers at running back. Sean McVay has quickly become one of the elite coaches in the profession with five straight winning seasons, and the path in the division is easier than recent years.
Why they won’t: Repeating is always tricky, and especially for a roster that’s getting long in the tooth. The Rams lost left tackle Andrew Whitworth, along with multiple noteworthy contributors on defense. Their lack of draft capital could also comeback to bite the time if injuries strike.
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Why they will: No team had a more aggressive offseason than the Dolphins, adding Tyreek Hill, Chase Edmonds, Terron Armstead, and many others as they remake the offense under new head coach Mike McDaniel. He also inherits most of what has been a solid offense over the last two seasons, finishing in the top half of the league.
Why they won’t: There will be an adjustment period with a new head coach, and Tua Tagovailoa hasn’t exactly proven himself to be an above-average NFL starter yet. While Miami has back-to-back winning seasons, they’ve also failed to reach the playoffs in both of those seasons and the AFC East remains strong.
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Why they will: Minnesota has outstanding offensive weapons with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook, and has now hired an offensive-minded coach who could bring things together with former Rams assistant Kevin O’Connell. The defense has also brought in much-needed new blood, led by free agent signing Za’Darius Smith.
Why they won’t: It’s a lot to ask the team to adjust to a new coaching staff, particularly for a defense that’s been in the bottom 10 in each of the last two seasons. The secondary remains shaky, as they break in rookies Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth Jr., and Akayleb Evans. There also remain mixed opinions about Kirk Cousins’ ability to beat good teams.
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New England Patriots
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Why they will: Bill Belichick, widely considered the best football coach in the modern era, he continues to win with elite defenses even when the personnel changes. He was masterful again last year, drafting rookie Mac Jones. Jones looked beyond his years in his rookie season, and the running back duo of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson has been excellent in support.
Why they won’t: The loss of long-time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the elephant in the room, as the Patriots will apparently turn to Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to run the offense. They were both unmitigated disasters as NFL head coaches, and have no known experience calling offensive plays in the league. The anxiety over this situation is high.
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New Orleans Saints
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Why they will: The Saints’ defense has been elite over the last two seasons, and arguably looks better with safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye in the fold. The offense should also be vastly improved if Jameis Winston can stay healthy, as he has an impressive trio of wideouts in Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and Chris Olave, along with running back Alvin Kamara.
Why they won’t: The loss of Sean Payton will be felt, even though the bulk of the other coaches remain in New Orleans. Payton established himself as one of the best offensive minds in the league, so it would be a surprise if there’s no clear drop-off. Winston’s history as a starter is also mixed, with significant turnover issues going back to his days in Tampa.
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Why they will: New head coach Brian Daboll worked some magic developing Josh Allen in Buffalo, and perhaps he will be able to do the same with Daniel Jones. Jones has help with a healthy Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson. The defense is also just one year removed from being in the top 10.
Why they won’t: Jones has been a turnover machine since entering the league and could be beyond saving. The defense also showed clear regression last season, and are likely to be without first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux for the start of the year due to a knee injury. While it’s far from a great division, the NFC East does have multiple quality teams for the Giants to jump.
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Why they will: Head coach Robert Saleh remains an acclaimed hire despite the team’s struggles in his first season, and has some intriguing young talent with Zach Wilson, Breece Hall, Garrett Wilson, and multiple new names on defense. The return of Carl Lawson from injury, joining Quinnen Williams and rookie Jermaine Johnson, gives the team a feared defensive line.
Why they won’t: Wilson was lost in his rookie season at quarterback, and could miss the start of the year due to a knee injury. The team also failed to add proven offensive weapons, and have far too much youth to completely turn around a defense that finished last in the league in 2021.
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Why they will: The Eagles surprised last season to make the playoffs at 9-8, getting hot in the second half of the season after leaning on the run. They were busier in the offseason, adding stars like A.J. Brown, Haason Reddick, and James Bradberry to a roster that was already eighth in yard differential last season.
Why they won’t: There remain legitimate questions about Jalen Hurts’ ability as a passer. He has outstanding weapons with Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert, but still has to prove he can lead the team from behind. Quarterback is perhaps the team’s only major weakness entering the season.
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Why they will: Pittsburgh’s elite defensive talent remains intact, and they have clearly addressed last year’s issues with additions at linebacker, cornerback, the offensive line, and most notably, quarterback. Remarkably, Mike Tomlin extended his streak to 15 seasons without a losing record despite Ben Roethlisberger’s limited play last season.
Why they won’t: Even with the changes, the Steelers have some big questions. Quarterback remains the biggest, as Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett likely battle for playing time this year. The team’s offensive line talent remains mediocre overall, and the issues stopping the run could haunt the Steelers again despite Myles Jack and Larry Ogunjobi being added.
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San Francisco 49ers
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Why they will: The 49ers made it to the NFC Championship last season on the strength of their defense and running game. The running game could take a step forward with the mobile Trey Lance, a deep running back room, and Deebo Samuel. Most of the key defensive players are also still around, with the team improving the secondary by adding corner Charvarius Ward.
Why they won’t: Lance looked lost as the starter last season, and his ability to throw the ball down the field is in question despite the presence of Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle. While the division has declined, the Rams remain a considerable obstacle in the NFC West.
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Why they will: Seattle featured an elite running game late last season with the emergence of Rashaad Penny, and their defense ranked 11th in points with a young crew. That young talent will continue to be molded after losing Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson. Pete Carroll’s excellent track record also speaks for itself.
Why they won’t: This is clearly a rebuilding year for the Seahawks, as shown by their lack of effort to adequately replace Wilson. Geno Smith and Drew Lock are unlikely to be the answer at quarterback, and the defense will likely be hurt by the unstable play at the position.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Why they will: Tom Brady is back! The GOAT always gives his team a chance in the Super Bowl conversation, and the Bucs have continued to add elite talent around him. Julio Jones and Russell Gage have been added on offense, while the defense has brought in Akiem Hicks and Logan Ryan. It’s undoubtedly one of the league’s best rosters after winning 13 games last season.
Why they won’t: Is it finally Brady’s time to decline? He’s in unprecedented territory, now at age 45, and has lost several offensive linemen along with Rob Gronkowski. The promotion of Todd Bowles to head coach could also come at the expense of the defense if he has less time to focus on that side of the ball.
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Why they will: Tennessee has six consecutive winning seasons and has won the AFC South twice in a row on the strength of an elite running game and tough defense. Most of that defense remains the same, and Derrick Henry is back healthy after missing much of 2021 with a foot injury.
Why they won’t: Ryan Tannehill already had trouble moving the ball in the playoffs and is now without A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. It remains to be seen if Robert Woods and rookie Treylon Burks will be adequate replacements, but in any case, it’s hard to believe the offense won’t take a significant step back.
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Why they will: Washington has hopefully found an answer to their quarterback issues after acquiring Carson Wentz, and have surrounded him with terrific weapons. While the defense performed poorly last season (25th in points), they are still loaded with talent at all three levels.
Why they won’t: There’s a reason why Wentz has worn out his welcome with two organizations already. He makes almost as many mind-numbing plays as he does great ones, and his leadership has been questioned. The defense has the ability to get back on track, but they will start the season without Chase Young due to injury.