2022 NFL storylines to watch


Tribune News Service

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, despite being 38 and 45 years old respectively, are still among the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and are expected to help lead their teams to the postseason.

DREW HILL, Opinion Columnist

Another season of football is upon us. The NFL’s first game will be on Thursday, Sept. 8, when the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams face the Buffalo Bills.

The Rams will look to defend their championship with a similar roster to last year. The Rams did see a couple of key players in their championship run leave in receiver Odell Beckham and linebacker Von Miller, but replaced them with Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp will be back to continue one of the best QB-WR combinations in the NFL and put the Rams within striking distance of the Super Bowl.

The Rams’ week one opponents, the Bills, are currently the favorite to win the championship. Miller signed with the Bills after leaving the Rams, bolstering an already great defense. The Bills lost last year in the playoffs to the Chiefs in an overtime game, but will look to bounce back this year behind MVP favorite quarterback Josh Allen.

There are three teams who made the playoffs last year who will have to adjust to life without star receivers. The Kansas City Chiefs traded away Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, but still have quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid to be among the NFL’s championship favorites. They brought in free agents JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to combine with Mecole Hardman to replace Hill’s production. A weak defense may have to improve for the Chief’s to reach their full potential, however.

The Green Bay Packers return back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers, but his favorite target from those seasons was Davante Adams. Adams is now a Las Vegas Raider after the Packers traded him. The Packers chose to replace him with returning veterans such as Allen Lazard and adding three receivers through the draft, including preseason fan favorite Romeo Doubs. Despite a relatively unproven receiving corps, Rodgers will be supplemented by a strong running back duo in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion to try to win 13 or more games for the fourth season in a row.

The Tennessee Titans traded receiver AJ Brown on draft night to the Philadephia Eagles, and drafted Treylon Burks as his replacement. It may take time for the rookie to develop into a great receiver, leaving free agent acquisition Robert Woods as the number one receiver. This has led to some discounting the Titans, but they still have Derrick Henry, one of the best running backs in the NFL, and the defense showed some improvement last season, leaving the Titans as a dangerous playoff threat.

Tom Brady finally retired from the NFL this past season in the spring, only to decide to return to Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His coach, Bruce Arians, retired and did not return, meaning the Buccaneers will move forward under new head coach Todd Bowles. The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl two years ago and will be a threat once again.

The Cincinnati Bengals made a surprising run to the Super Bowl last year behind a young, dynamic offense led by quarterback Joe Burrow. Rookie receiver Jamarr Chase was a dynamic deep threat and will again be joined by receiver Tee Higgins and running back Joe Mixon to keep the defense dangerous. The biggest weaknesses last year were the offensive line and the defensive secondary, and the Bengals addressed both of those this year. One thing that may be a concern is the Super Bowl letdown for teams that lose the Super Bowl during the next season. In 2019, the Rams lost the Super Bowl and missed the playoffs the next year. The same thing happened to the Panthers in 2016 and the 49ers in 2020.

Other teams that could be competitive again this year after disappointing seasons include Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints. The Chargers and Colts both missed the playoffs by losing the last game of the season but upgraded key weaknesses from last year. The Broncos struggled to a 7-10 season, but traded for quarterback Russell Wilson to pair with a young receiving corps and solid defense to try to return to the playoffs for the first time since the Payton Manning days. The Ravens and Saints both were hit hard by injuries and should be improved enough to make the playoffs barring further injuries.

It should be another exciting year in the NFL as we count down to the Super Bowl on Feb. 12, 2023. Super Bowl LVII will take place at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., the home field of the Arizona Cardinals, and will air nationally on Fox.