By: Mike Patt
Original Date: 8/22/22
Hello sports fans, and welcome back to the IE Sports Radio Blog. The 2022 NFL regular season is a little less than three weeks away. Headlines are buzzing as teams progress through training camp and position battles become more and more intense. After what has been quite an eventful off-season, fans are ready for some actual on the field action. The pre-season has provided some of that action, but it’s just not the same. Of course, once we get into the games that count, the major story-lines will take hold. Here are my top divisional stories to watch as the season progresses.
NFC East: Who the Heck Wins?
We start off with a division that has been unpredictable over the past few seasons. I feel confident in eliminating the Giants from this conversation, as I do not believe they have the roster or QB to be a contender. There are arguments to be made for the other three. Dallas has a talented roster and the best QB of the group. Philadelphia added a great piece in AJ Brown and boasts a strong O-line. Washington upgraded the weapons on offense and brought in Carson Wentz, who is not elite but is a significant upgrade at quarterback. This is going to be a fight to the very end.
NFC North: Does Aaron Rodgers still own Everyone?
Green Bay has won the division three years in a row, compiling a 39-10 record in that time under coach Matt LaFleur. Aaron Rodgers has won back to back MVPs, and while playoff success has been minimal, they have completely owned this division. They are 15-3 in divisional games over this span, and have won it by three games or more each year. So the question will be whether anyone can challenge the Packers. Minnesota has a solid team and probably the best chance. Detroit is up-and-coming, but probably not ready to push for a division title. Chicago is…well…rebuilding. Overall, I would say the answer is likely yes.
NFC South: Will there be any Surprises?
As you look at pre-season predictions, you will find that most analysts have this division finishing in the same order. Tampa Bay is universally the favorite, with New Orleans finishing second, Carolina third, and Atlanta fourth. Occasionally, someone will throw in a twist like Atlanta in third or the Saints pulling off an upset. When analyzing the rosters, I came to a similar conclusion. Tampa has the best roster with the best QB and head coach. New Orleans is solid, Carolina is also solid but more volatile, and Atlanta is rebuilding. So what I am watching for is the following; are there going to be any surprises? Let’s hope, because these results would be boring.
NFC West: Another Dog Fight?
Last year, the NFC West was a tight battle right to the finish. The Rams, Cardinals, and 49ers finished within two games of each other, and all three made the playoffs. Seattle was the odd team out, and given their off-season and current roster, I would expect the same this year. Can we expect a similar fight among that trio? The reigning super bowl champs appear to be as good if not better. San Francisco got over their Deebo Samuel drama and is looking good. Arizona is dealing with some drama, and I would label them the most likely of the three to take a step back.
AFC East: Who is Miami?
In this division, we have a good idea about who three of the four teams are. Buffalo is clearly the most talented and heavy favorite. The Jets are rebuilding, and could be significantly better than last year. New England will be decent, but they lack star talent. Then we come to Miami, who is the real wild card. They made a huge splash by trading for WR Tyreek Hill, and added other big names to the roster. However, it remains to be seen how good Tua is, or if they’ve done enough to fix the O-line. They could make the wild card, or collapse, and we won’t know until it happens.
AFC North: Will the Deshaun Drama Dominate?
There are so many headlines that SHOULD be in the spotlight for this division. Will Cincinnati prove that they are not just a one year wonder? Will Baltimore stay healthy enough to return to the playoffs? Will Pittsburgh be able to transition to life after Big Ben? I would love to think that any of these could be the dominant story, but I do not believe that will be the case. Sadly, as has been the case for a large chunk of the off-season, all eyes will be on Cleveland and the Deshaun Watson suspension. How well they do before he returns, and the response when he does.
AFC South: Does Anyone outside of the Division Care?
I do not know if this one needs much explanation. The AFC South contains a small market team that is perpetually rebuilding (Jacksonville), a small market team with one or two star players that is often overlooked (Tennessee), a team formally well reported but now less in the spotlight (Indianapolis), and a rebuilding squad who has recently removed itself from drama (Houston). With the division winner likely the only playoff participant, I do not think this group will get the national attention the rest of the AFC will. Pity, because there are some fun players to watch.
AFC West: How Good are they Really?
The AFC West dominated this past free agency. The Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos all added pro bowl/all-pro level talent through trades, with the Broncos making arguably the biggest upgrade of any team in the league going from QB Drew Lock to Russell Wilson. Kansas City less success, but then had the best draft of the group. Oh, and they still have the best QB and head coach. Top to bottom this is the best division in football. Given the rest of the AFC, it would not surprise me if they sent three teams to the playoffs. Hopefully they don’t beat each other up in the process.
What are the things you are watching for this NFL season. Leave a comment letting us know what you think and how each division will play out. There are a few that are no doubt up for grabs. Tune in to Let’s Wine About DMV Sports with host Mike Patt on Sundays at 9pm est/6 pm pst. Additionally, be sure to tune in to all of the other awesome shows we have throughout the week on IESR. Shout out to all of our patreon supporters, and thank you for continuing to support us as we continue to provide you with fantastic sports news. Thanks for reading, and we will see you next time on IE Sports Radio; your direct feed for ALL that is sports.