The 2022 NFL Season is almost upon us. It’s a glorious time when there is hope for 32 fan bases, not to mention all the fantasy players convinced they’re about to strike gold. I’m not different. I’ve spent the off-season crunching the numbers, looking at the options, and making my picks and predictions. Below are ten bold predictions—some fantasy related, some playoff-related—for the 2022 NFL Season. Enjoy, and let’s look back together in January… or try to forget. I’ve also got my AFC and NFC Championship Game matchups and Super Bowl Matchup below.
Fantasy Football Predictions
Trey Lance will finish outside the Top 15 at QB
About: The 49ers bet big on Lance, who seems to have all the raw talent in the world. He started two games in 2021, finishing as QB20 in Week 5 and QB10 in Week 17. I’m going to split the difference and say he ends his first full year as a starter below QB15. Lance has rushing upside, but he’s a raw prospect as a passer. I believe there will be growing pains for Lance and the 49ers. He’ll be OK but not spectacular. By the way, none of the other first-year quarterbacks in the 2021 draft class finished above QB18 in their first year as a starter.
Travis Etienne finishes outside the Top 25 at RB
About: I know there’s plenty of optimism about Etienne going into 2022. He missed his rookie season due to injury, but now he’s sitting at RB19. The hope is he’s going to be a three-down workhorse. I don’t see it. First, I don’t believe Doug Pederson’s system favors rushers. In 2019, Miles Sanders finished as RB15. That’s one of Pederson’s best finishes and likely encouraging. He did with 179 carries and caught 50 balls. It’s possible for Etienne, but the second reason I’m skeptical is his competition, James Robinson. By all accounts, Robinson is ahead of schedule and due to be ready at the start of the season. With a split in the backfield and an offense, I think is still developing, I don’t see enough production—or touchdowns—for Etienne to crack the Top 25.
Christian McCaffrey plays in at least 15 games
About: We’ve never doubted the talent; it’s about availability. McCaffrey is a beast on the field, but the on-the-field part has been rough. He’s suited up for just ten games in the last two seasons. But, in his first three seasons, McCaffrey played in all 16 games each season. I think he gets back on track in 2022 and makes it through at least 15 games. Fantasy players everywhere can now rejoice.
Hunter Renfrow finishes Top 20 at WR
About: Renfrow’s perceived value has taken a giant hit. Sure, the Raiders acquired star receiver Davante Adams, who figures as a target hog. But there is enough to go around in the Raiders’ offense. Last season the combination of Zay Jones, Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, and DeSean Jackson saw 184 targets. Renfrow saw 128 and finished as WR11. He’s currently going as WR31. Even if Adams sees 180 targets, Renfrow will get his, and we’ve seen he is productive when he does.
Jaylen Waddle will outproduce Tyreek Hill in Miami
About: Call this a bit of intuition. I know the acquisition of Hill, who has been a super-star with the Chiefs, was a big deal this off-season. He’s a talented receiver, no doubt. But Miami already has a talented receiver in Waddle, who as a rookie saw 140 targets and finished as WR14. Waddle has a connection with Tua Tagovailoa, and I think he’ll maintain his target share and production. Hill will still be solid, but I believe both finish as WR2s, with Waddle the higher of the two.
Michael Pittman will finish as well as a Top 10 WR
About: Last season, with Carson Wentz at the helm, Pittman finished as WR21. The Colts added quarterback Matt Ryan this season, which portends good things for the pass offense. Behind Pittman are a lot of questions. Can Parris Campbell stay healthy? Can Alec Pierce produce as a rookie? How many targets will Nyheim Hines see? Will a tight end be viable?
Meanwhile, Pittman remains rock steady atop the depth chart. That’s an excellent place to be with Ryan at the helm. In 2019, Julio Jones finished as WR3 with Ryan at the helm. In 2018, Jones was WR4, and in 2017 Jones was WR7. It wasn’t just Jones; Ryan has consistently placed receivers in the Top 10 when he’s played. In 2012, Roddy White was WR9, while Jones was also Top 10 in 2014, 2015,
Dalton Schultz will see 150 targets and finish Top 3 at TE
About: I love Schultz. I’ve been on his hype train for a couple of seasons, and in 2021, he took off. He saw 104 targets, scored eight touchdowns, and finished as TE4. The Cowboys chose to give him the Franchise Tag this off-season and let Amari Cooper go to the Cleveland Browns. CeeDee Lamb is still part of the equation, but Michael Gallup is returning from injury, James Washington has a broken foot, and the rest of the Cowboys’ receivers are raw. Cooper vacated 104 targets and eight touchdowns from 2021. While Lamb should see an increase on his 120 targets from 2021, so, too, will Schultz. I think he can easily get to 150 targets and likely ten touchdowns. From there, the sky’s the limit. I’m taking that all day for a guy whose ADP is TE6. I think he has a chance to finish as THE TE1 if things break right. In short, I’m all in.
The New Orleans Saints will make the Playoffs
About: The Saints were achingly close in 2021. When Head Coach Sean Payton retired this off-season, most thought it would be tough for the Saints to rebound. But along the way, the team got a boost on offense with a healthy Jameis Winston, a healthy Michael Thomas, and the addition of Jarvis Landry and rookie Chris Olave. I’m not saying the Saints are great, but that defense is still solid, and the offense boasts Alvin Kamara in the backfield—it should be better. I think the Saints can get to nine or ten wins and make the field as a Wild Card.
The Philadelphia Eagles will make the NFC Championship Game
About: I think the Eagles are a team on the rise. They grabbed A.J. Brown at receiver, which grabbed all the headlines, but they also improved their defense. I don’t think they’ll be a dominant squad, but one who can take advantage of the right breaks. I see a path for the Eagles to be the surprise team to come out of nowhere and make the NFC Championship Game. It comes down to Jalen Hurts, but I’m starting to believe.
The Denver Broncos will make the AFC Championship Game
About: The Broncos have had a better roster than their record for a couple of years. The big problems have been coaching and having no answer at quarterback. This off-season, the team moved to acquire Russell Wilson to bring stability to the quarterback position and brought in a new coach Nathaniel Hackett. I’m encouraged and excited, and I think the Broncos are ready to make a move for the first time since winning Super Bowl 50.
NFC Championship Game – Buccaneers Over Eagles
About: This is probably the last ride for Tom Brady. The Buccaneers have been a top team in the NFC throughout his tenure, and I think they find a way to make it back to the Super Bowl one last time for Brady.
AFC Championship Game – Bills Over Broncos
About: One of my earliest distinct playoff memories as a Broncos fan was watching John Elway lose to Jim Kelly in Buffalo in the playoffs. I’m excited about the Russell Wilson era, but the Josh Allen era has had me pumped for a while. I think the Bills make it back to the big game.
Super Bowl – Bills Over Buccaneers
About: It’s the Bills’ time. I think Allen and company will get it done this season, and it could be one heck of a championship game.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.