Last week, I made predictions on which teams who did not make the playoffs in 2021 could make the playoffs this year, in 2022. This week, I plan to do the opposite: 2021 playoff teams that will not make it again in 2022.
This time, I’m going to take much more than strength of schedule into account. I’m looking at key roster departures, strength of division and offseason story lines that could ultimately affect a team’s morale.
We all know the cliche’ saying, “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse” and I feel that I’ve identified the four teams that have taken a step back going into 2022.
AFC Non – Playoff Teams
There was no question that the Cincinnati Bengals were last year’s NFL Cinderella story. After putting together a slightly above average regular season, the Bengals were able to put together a great postseason run that lead them to the Super Bowl and ultimately one first down away from the Lombardi Trophy. I agree with most NFL fans that the Bengals’ future looks bright and they have one of the best quarterback receiver combinations in Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. But my reason for the Bengals being on this list is more about the conference and division in which they play.
Historically, the AFC North division is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL and after a down year last year, I fully expect this division to return to form in 2022. Last year, the Bengals won the division handily, going 4-2. But every team in the division got substantially better this offseason. I’m expecting the Bengals to possibly go 3-3 or even 2-4 this season, while also having to play other teams in a stacked AFC.
Not putting the Bengals in the playoffs this year is more about their brutal schedule than it is my view of the talent level on this team.
Last Season Record: 10-7
Toughest Home Games: Steelers, Chiefs, Bills
Toughest Away Games: Ravens, Saints, Buccaneers
New England Patriots
Last year the Patriots started and finished the season with rookie quarterback Mac Jones and in New England’s run heavy offense, he showed flashes to be a high-level processor and have good accuracy down the field. But this team ultimately lacked the offensive weapons that you would like to have surrounding your quarterback, which led to Jones and the offense putting up inconsistent numbers down the stretch.
So, heading into the offseason I, like much of the NFL , felt that it was of the utmost importance for them to find more weapons to help their second-year quarterback. But the Patriots had other plans. Instead of pursuing some of the top wide receiver free agents or taking a swing at some of the top wide receiver prospects in this year’s draft they opted to trade for Devante Parker and draft Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton, both of whom I don’t believe to be true top receiver types.
The AFC is loaded with teams with offensive fire power and other playoff teams in the Bills, Chiefs and Broncos, and I ultimately believe that New England’s lack of offensive production is going to keep them on the outside looking in for this year’s playoffs.
Last Season Record: 10- 7
Toughest Home Games: Ravens, Colts, Bengals
Toughest Away Games: Packers, Raiders, Bills
NFC Non – Playoff Teams
San Francisco 49ers
Last year, the San Francisco 49ers was the surprise team of the playoffs. After going 10-7 in the regular season, they were able to make it into the playoffs as the number seven seed and string together a couple wins to make it to the NFC championship game.
While the results were good and San Francisco was again a playoff team, the process wasn’t. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo continued to show that he is a below average quarterback and that he will turn the ball over in the most crucial moments. Everyone was expecting Trey Lance to take over, but reports are still that he isn’t ready. At this point, that has to worry you as a 49er fan.
There are also reports that offensive gadget player Deebo Samuel is unhappy with his contract and the way things are currently being ran within the organization. So, with the uncertainty at quarterback, them barely making the playoffs last year, along with their best offensive player showing signs that he may want to leave, I think this is a combination that results in the 49ers taking a step back and ultimately missing the playoffs this year.
Last Season Record 10-7
Toughest Home Games: Chiefs, Chargers, Buccaneers
Toughest Away Games: Broncos, Rams, Raiders
Historically, the Kliff Kingsbury era has seen the Arizona Cardinals getting off to a great start immediately followed by them sputtering to the finish line and barely making the playoffs. But I think it will be a little different this year and I don’t think they’re quite of playoff caliber in 2022.
For starters, the Cardinals All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six games of the season. This is significant because last year, after Hopkins was injured, the Cardinals went 1-4 for the rest of the season in his absence. They still made the postseason but were ultimately bounced in the first round by the division-rival Los Angeles Rams due to a lackluster offensive performance by both Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray. So, with no DeAndre Hopkins to start the season, I’m expecting Arizona to lose a couple games during the first part of the season. Those games will likely prove costly come playoff time with the Cardinals just missing the playoffs by a game or two.
Last Season Record: 11-6
Toughest Home Games: Chiefs, Saints, Buccaneers
Toughest Away: Raiders, Rams, Broncos