The NFL finally released its 2022 schedule via a three-hour televised program in primetime via its home NFL Network on Thursday night. The complete schedule is jam-packed with mouthwatering contests. The schedule release feels like Christmas Eve for some, and football fans around the globe can begin planning nationwide trips to watch their favorite NFL teams in action this fall. As we begin swiftly heading toward the 2022 campaign, analyzing the AFC and its loaded competitors has become an increasingly difficult and fun exercise.
The conference received quite the makeover this offseason, particularly at the quarterback position. Russell Wilson joined the Denver Broncos, Deshaun Watson joined the Cleveland Browns, and the Indianapolis Colts acquired a veteran signal-caller in Matt Ryan. Other superstars now plying their trade in the AFC after stints in the NFC include Khalil Mack, Davante Adams, Chandler Jones, and Amari Cooper, to name a few. The AFC possibly contains more star power now than ever before.
In wake of the league’s schedule release, we’ve compiled some predictions regarding the winners of the four divisions in the AFC.
AFC EAST WINNER: BUFFALO BILLS
PREDICTED RECORD: 13-4
We won’t have to wait long to witness the powerhouse Buffalo Bills signal their intentions for the 2022 campaign in front of nationally televised audiences. Sean McDermott’s Bills will begin the NFL season by visiting the Super Bowl-winning Los Angeles Rams on opening night. The Bills will then receive back-to-back primetime treatment by hosting last year’s No. 1 seed Tennessee Titans at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park on Monday Night Football in Week 2. We’ll find out a lot about the 2022 Bills rather quickly.
The Bills enter the 2022 season with extremely high expectations after capturing two consecutive division titles. The drafting of franchise quarterback Josh Allen has completely transformed a Bills organization that now expects to contend for Super Bowl glory on an annual basis. The Bills have come close to capturing the Lombardi in recent showings, suffering postseason defeats in the wild-card round, divisional round, and AFC Championship game.
Bills General Manager Brandon Beane has added several intriguing pieces to his roster this offseason in hopes of getting over the hump, including Canton-bound pass rusher Von Miller, offensive guard Rodger Saffold, first-round cornerback Kaiir Elam, and pass-catching running back James Cook. The Bills possess far too much firepower for their AFC East rivals to contend with. The New England Patriots experienced a puzzling offseason that seemingly failed to improve the team. The New York Jets are still a young franchise in transition. The Miami Dolphins made several noteworthy moves, but it’s worth seeing how it all comes together before predicting instant success. The Bills could run away with the division crown.
AFC NORTH WINNER: CINCINNATI BENGALS
PREDICTED RECORD: 11-6
The AFC North may lowkey be the most difficult division to predict. We’re leaning toward the Cincinnati Bengals, who surprised the nation by advancing to Super Bowl LVI in 2021. The Bengals haven’t lost any elite contributors this offseason, and head decision-maker Duke Tobin has done an admirable job upgrading their offensive line. Starting quarterback Joe Burrow officially announced his arrival as a superstar signal-caller and should continue taking strides forward in 2022.
The Cleveland Browns should manage to closely contend for the divisional crown after acquiring Watson from the Houston Texans. The Baltimore Ravens have experienced a bit of a strange offseason, but a healthy Lamar Jackson and what appears to be an outstanding draft class could lead the Ravens to double-digit victories. The Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be a team in transition following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. It’s unclear whether Kenny Pickett or Mitchell Trubisky will start under center in 2022, but the presence of head coach Mike Tomlin should keep the Steelers contending on a weekly basis. The Steelers have never been bad under Tomlin, and we don’t expect that to change.
Any of the four AFC North contenders could realistically carve out a path towards the division title in 2022, but the Bengals should be viewed as the early favorites.
AFC WEST WINNER: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
PREDICTED RECORD: 12-5
The AFC West is arguably setting up to become the most competitive division in the NFL going forward. All four contenders absolutely loaded up on high-upside talent this offseason. The Broncos added the aforementioned Wilson under center, and signed pass-rushing stud Randy Gregory, too. The Chargers possess one of the best young quarterbacks in Justin Herbert, traded for Mack, and also signed shutdown cornerback J.C. Jackson. The Raiders hired a new offensive-minded head coach in Josh McDaniels and traded for Adams in a move that reunites him with his college quarterback Derek Carr.
Despite all of this jockeying for position from their fierce contenders, we’re still favoring the Kansas City Chiefs. There’s a reason Kansas City’s three division rivals were overly aggressive this offseason. Catching up to the awfully consistent Chiefs is a difficult mission to take on. The Chiefs are the first team in NFL history to start the season with eight consecutive contests against franchises that had a winning record the previous season. Losing Tyreek Hill was an undeniable blow, but the steadying presence of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes should help the Chiefs capture their seventh straight division title. No organization has dominated their own division like the Chiefs have lately.
AFC SOUTH WINNER: TENNESSEE TITANS
PREDICTED RECORD: 10-7
The Tennessee Titans will open their season at home against the Brian Daboll-led New York Giants at Nissan Stadium in Week 1. It should give the Titans an opportunity to begin their campaign on the right foot as they begin their quest to make it three consecutive AFC South titles. The Titans have undergone an abundance of change this offseason. General manager Jon Robinson stunned Nashville’s faithful by trading disgruntled superstar receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Titans will be debuting a new-look offense in 2022 that no longer features the likes of Brown and Julio Jones, and has added Treylon Burks, Robert Woods, and Austin Hooper.
Picking the Titans was an extremely difficult decision. The Indianapolis Colts have experienced a quality offseason of their own and should contend right alongside the Titans for the division title. One or two wins likely separate these two heavy-hitters at the conclusion of the campaign. We slightly favor the Titans due to their experience and success capturing the division in recent showings.
- May 24, 2022
- May 24, 2022