2021-22 NFL Preview

CC+BY-NC+2.0

CC BY-NC 2.0

Harrison Kemmer, Sports Editor

The NFL is almost here after an offseason filled with many questions. Most of the questions were about COVID: what will the protocols be like, how will games work if they are moved due to a lack of healthy players, how will vaccinations work, and many more. Protocols are very strict for unvaccinated players and very loose for vaccinated players. Forfeits are on the table for teams that have outbreaks, and all staff members are required to get vaccinated. Players have yet to have that requirement placed upon them. 

There are other, non-COVID related questions as well: are the Los Angeles Rams real contenders with Matthew Stafford at quarterback, is Dak back, and a very important question, will Tom Brady ever age? The Rams are for real and have been launched into contention for the Super Bowl with the acquisition of Stafford; Prescott will be better than ever this year and will lead the Dallas Cowboys back to the playoffs; and no, Tom Brady will never age.

The Cowboys have had a good offseason. They hired defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and were able to bring newly converted linebacker Keanu Neal along with him. They weren’t able to get cornerbacks Patrick Surtain or Jaycee Horn in the draft, so they instead drafted linebacker Micah Parsons out of Penn State. He has had a very impressive camp and has played well in the three preseason games so far. On the offensive side of the ball, Prescott is back and wide receiver Ceedee Lamb has arguably had the best camp out of anyone in the NFL. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has slimmed down, and the offensive line is finally healthy again. The Cowboys are poised for a playoff berth, and they have a real shot at making it to the divisional round this year. 

The turnover in the NFL this year has been abundant, as many big stars have moved teams. Matthew Stafford was traded from the Detroit Lions to the Rams, wide receiver Julio Jones is now a Tennessee Titan, quarterback Carson Wentz has reunited with Frank Reich on the Indianapolis Colts, and offensive tackle Orlando Brown signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. 

The rookie class this year is set to go down as one of the best classes in recent history. Quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Zach Wilson (Jets), Trey Lance (49ers), Justin Fields (Bears), and Mac Jones (Patriots) were all top 15 picks and Lawrence and Wilson are set to start right away. Running back Najee Harris was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and will make an immediate impact on his new squad. Corners Patrick Surtain (Broncos) and Jaycee Horn (Panthers) are cornerpieces on their respective squads, and linebacker Micah Parsons (Cowboys) is the favorite for defensive rookie of the year. Offensive tackle Penei Sewell (Lions) is ready to be the next great lineman in the NFL, and wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase (Bengals),  Jaylen Waddle (Dolphins), and last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith (Eagles), are all going to be in competition to be their team’s leading receiver, and tight end Kyle Pitts (Falcons) is arguably the best tight end prospect in NFL history. 

2021-2022 NFL Predictions

Super Bowl: Buffalo Bills vs. Green Bay Packers, Packers win 

MVP: Running Back Derrick Henry (Titans)

Offensive Rookie of the Year:  Quarterback Zach Wilson (Jets)

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Linebacker Micah Parsons (Cowboys)

Team Predictions

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: 14-3

Bold Prediction: WR Stefon Diggs will record 1,800 receiving yards and win Offensive Player of the Year. 

Team MVP: Josh Allen, QB

Best Rookie: Carlos Basham Jr., DE

Player to Watch: Ed Oliver, DT

 

New England Patriots: 10-7

Bold Prediction: Mac Jones will take over as QB in Week 4 and lead the Patriots to a playoff win, while passing for 3,600 yards. 

Team MVP: Stephon Gilmore, CB

Best Rookie: Mac Jones, QB

Player to Watch: Damien Harris, RB

 

New York Jets: 7-10

Bold Prediction: WR Elijah Moore will have a better rookie season than Justin Jefferson had last year. 

Team MVP: CJ Mosley, LB

Best Rookie: Zach Wilson, QB

Player to Watch: Elijah Moore, WR (rookie)

 

Miami Dolphins: 6-11

Bold Prediction: QB Tua Tagovailoa will throw 35 touchdowns, but 20 interceptions and the Dolphins will be in the QB market next offseason.

Team MVP: Xavien Howard, CB

Best Rookie: Jaylen Waddle, WR

Player to Watch: Myles Gaskin, RB

 

AFC North

Cleveland Browns: 10-7

Bold Prediction: WR Odell Beckham Jr. regains his New York Giant form and is a first team All-Pro this season. 

Team MVP: Odell Beckham Jr., WR
Best Rookie: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB

Player to Watch: Sione Takitaki, LB

 

Baltimore Ravens: 10-7

Bold Prediction: Baltimore finds their No. 1 receiver they have been looking for in rookie Rashod Bateman.

Team MVP: Lamar Jackson, QB

Best Rookie: Rashod Bateman, WR

Player to Watch: J.K. Dobbins, RB

 

Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-11

Bold Prediction: Mike Tomlin has his first losing season as an NFL HC as the offense sputters, and the Steelers prepare for a full on offensive rebuild around RB Najee Harris, WR Chase Claypool, and QB Dwayne Haskins. 

Team MVP: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S

Best Rookie: Najee Harris, RB

Player to Watch: Devin Bush Jr., LB

 

Cincinnati Bengals: 6-11

Bold Prediction: WR Ja’Marr Chase has an underwhelming rookie season, and Cincinnati puts him on the trading block next season. 

Team MVP: Jessie Bates III, S

Best Rookie: Joseph Ossai, DE

Player to Watch: Jonah Williams, LT

 

AFC South 

Tennessee Titans: 12-5

Bold Prediction: With the addition of WR Julio Jones, the Titans average the most PPG and YPG in NFL history. 

Team MVP: Derrick Henry, RB

Best Rookie: Caleb Farley, CB

Player to Watch: Ryan Tannehill, QB

 

Indianapolis Colts: 10-7

Bold Prediction: QB Carson Wentz has a comeback season and is top 5 in passing yards and leads the league in passing touchdowns. 

Team MVP: Carson Wentz, QB

Best Rookie: Kwity Paye, DE

Player to Watch: Michael Pittman Jr., WR

 

Jacksonville Jaguars: 3-14

Bold Prediction: While leading the Jaguars to only 3 wins, rookie QB Trevor Lawrence does only throw 5 interceptions, but gets sacked 60 times. 

Team MVP: James Robinson, RB

Best Rookie: Trevor Lawrence, QB

Player to Watch: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR

 

Houston Texans: 1-16

Bold Prediction: Rookie QB Davis Mills is one of the few bright spots on the team, and solidifies himself as the Texans new franchise quarterback. 

Team MVP: Laremy Tunsil, LT
Best Rookie: Davis Mills, QB

Player to Watch: Jordan Akins, TE

 

AFC West 

Kansas City Chiefs: 12-5

Bold Prediction: The Chiefs lose in the first round of the playoffs for the first time with Patrick Mahomes as the starting quarterback.

Team MVP: Patrick Mahomes, QB

Best Rookie: Creed Humphrey, C

Player to Watch: Mecole Hardman, WR

 

Denver Broncos: 11-6

Bold Prediction: QB Teddy Bridgewater leads the Broncos to the playoffs for the teams first appearance since 2015.

Team MVP: Teddy Bridgewater, QB

Best Rookie: Patrick Surtain II, CB

Player to Watch: Javonte Williams, RB (rookie)

 

Los Angeles Chargers: 11-6

Bold Prediction: QB Justin Herbert leads the league in passing and the Charger’s defense forces the most turnovers in the NFL this season. 

Team MVP: Justin Herbert, QB

Best Rookie: Asante Samuel Jr., CB
Player to Watch: Austin Ekeler, RB

 

Las Vegas Raiders: 7-10

Bold Prediction: This is QB Derek Carr’s last season with the Raiders and HC Jon Gruden gets fired along with GM Mike Mayock. 

Team MVP: Jonathan Abram, S

Best Rookie: Trevon Moehrig, S

Player to Watch: Hunter Renfrow, WR

 

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: 12-5

Bold Prediction: New DC Dan Quinn turns around an awful 2020 defense, as the Cowboys 2021 defense finishes in the top 15 in the NFL. 

Team MVP: Dak Prescott, QB
Best Rookie: Micah Parsons, LB

Player to Watch: Randy Gregory, DE

 

Washington Football Team: 11-6

Bold Prediction: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick leads Washington to the playoffs and is voted into his first Pro Bowl. 

Team MVP: Chase Young, DE

Best Rookie: Jamin Davis, LB

Player to Watch: Logan Thomas, TE

 

New York Giants: 4-13

Bold Prediction: Giants HC Joe Judge is fired after one season. 

Team MVP: Saquon Barkley, RB

Best Rookie: Kadarius Toney, WR

Player to Watch: Daniel Jones, QB

 

Philadelphia Eagles: 3-14

Bold Prediction: The Eagles have the worst offense in the NFL and head coach Nick Sirianni is fired after his first season. 

Team MVP: Fletcher Cox, DT

Best Rookie: DeVonta Smith, WR

Player to Watch: Jalen Hurts, QB

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers: 13-4

Bold Prediction: In QB Aaron Rodgers’ last season as a Packer, he leads his team to a Super Bowl victory. 

Team MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB

Best Rookie: Josh Meyers, C

Player to Watch: Allen Lazard, WR

 

Chicago Bears: 9-8

Bold Prediction: QB Justin Fields replaces QB Andy Dalton as the starter in Week 11, and leads the Bears to a 5-2 record to end the season. 

Team MVP: Allen Robinson, WR

Best Rookie: Justin Fields, QB
Player to Watch: Darnell Mooney, WR

 

Detroit Lions: 3-14

Bold Prediction: The Lions have a top 15 defense, but the 31st ranked offense in the NFL.

Team MVP: Penei Sewell, RT (Rookie)

Best Rookie: Penei Sewell, RT

Player to Watch: D’Andre Swift, RB

 

Minnesota Vikings: 1-16

Bold Prediction: The Vikings have a horrendous year, and they fire Mike Zimmer as HC and promote Klint Kubiak, current OC, to HC. 

Team MVP: Dalvin Cook, RB

Best Rookie: Kellen Mond, QB

Player to Watch: Irv Smith, TE

 

NFC South

New Orleans Saints: 12-5

Bold Prediction: Jameis Winston wins comeback player of the year and leads the Saints to first place in the NFC South. 

Team MVP: Jameis Winston, QB

Best Rookie: Pete Werner, LB

Player to Watch: Marquez Calloway, WR 

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11-6

Bold Prediction: RB Leonard Fournette regains his form from his first two years in the league, and goes to the Pro Bowl. 

Team MVP: Tom Brady, QB

Best Rookie: Joe Tryon, LB

Player to Watch: Vita Vea, NT

 

Carolina Panthers: 7-10

Bold Prediction: QB Sam Darnold, RB Christian McCaffrey, and WR Robby Anderson become a top 5 trio in the NFL. 

Team MVP: Christian McCaffrey, RB
Best Rookie: Jaycee Horn, CB

Player to Watch: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR (rookie)

 

Atlanta Falcons: 4-13

Bold Prediction: Kyle Pitts has the most receiving yards for a rookie tight end in NFL history. 

Team MVP: Calvin Ridley, WR

Best Rookie: Kyle Pitts, TE

Player to Watch: Russell Gage, WR

 

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams: 14-3

Bold Prediction: Newly acquired QB Matthew Stafford will lead the Rams to the NFC Championship game and will throw 50 TD passes this season. 

Team MVP: Matthew Stafford, QB

Best Rookie: Tutu Atwell, WR

Player to Watch: Van Jefferson, WR

 

Seattle Seahawks: 13-4

Bold Prediction: QB Russell Wilson finishes 2nd in MVP voting this year, as he throws for 5,000 yards and 45 TDs.​​

Team MVP: Russell Wilson, QB

Best Rookie: D’Wayne Eskridge, WR

Player to Watch: Will Dissly, TE

 

Arizona Cardinals: 10-7

Bold Prediction: RB Chase Edmonds goes to the Pro Bowl and leads the NFC in yards from scrimmage. 

Team MVP: Kyler Murray, QB

Best Rookie: Zaven Collins, LB
Player to Watch: Chase Edmonds, RB

 

San Francisco 49ers: 9-8

Bold Prediction: Rookie QB Trey Lance takes the reigns in Week 3 and leads all rookie QBs in passing yards and rushing yards. 

Team MVP: Fred Warner, LB
Best Rookie: Trey Lance, QB

Player to Watch: Nick Bosa, DE