The start of the 2022 NFL season is quickly approaching, and we will soon see all of the new faces take the practice field in their new places with the start of training camp. The league looks very different after a dramatic offseason. Quarterbacks switched teams, the wide receiver market was completely reset and there are still extensions to come.
With football right around the corner, let’s attempt to predict the MVP of each AFC team in 2022. The team MVP doesn’t always mean this player or position group is the No. 1 talent on the team, but that this player or position group is absolutely imperative to the franchise’s success this upcoming season. We could list the quarterback as each team’s MVP for all 16 clubs, but we will try to stay away from doing that too much.
Let’s jump in.
It would be easy to list Lamar Jackson here, as he’s the engine that makes the Ravens go. However, a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver would further Baltimore’s case as a Super Bowl contender. Mark Andrews’ record-breaking 2021 campaign seemingly has the Ravens front office not worried about the wide receiving corps, but Bateman breaking out in 2022 could prove them right.
The No. 27 overall pick in last year’s draft didn’t have a great rookie campaign, but he did show some flashes. If he can be a consistent presence in the passing game and not drop the ball as much as Marquise Brown did, then Bateman could be the reason the Ravens find themselves competing for a Super Bowl next year.
Could this be the year of the Buffalo Bill? They have been the stand-alone favorite to win the Super Bowl this year for months now, and their odds have just increased. Allen has already proven that he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but he’s going to need to be even better in 2022. He has a solid wide receiving corps with Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Jamison Crowder, a new intriguing running back in rookie James Cook and a defense that received a facelift with the signing of Von Miller.
The Bills have everything needed to make a Super Bowl run, but Allen is going to have to be the one that puts it all together and remains consistent. Buffalo can’t have any slip-ups against teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and they can’t randomly lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the middle of the season. Consistency is key, and Buffalo will be looking to its quarterback for that.
Joe Burrow or Ja’Marr Chase are easy candidates for “team MVP,” but if the Bengals make another Super Bowl run in 2022, it will be because of the upgraded offensive line. Burrow had to win in 2021 despite his protection. That group allowed 19 sacks in the playoffs, which is the most a quarterback has been sacked in a single postseason. The nine sacks taken against the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round tied a record as well. Cincy wasted no time in free agency revamping the unit, stealing Alex Cappa from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ted Karras from the New England Patriots and also signed right tackle La’el Collins. Those three new starters should help the Bengals in a big way in 2022.
Here’s an interesting one. Many expect Deshaun Watson to be suspended for a certain amount of games in 2022, which means Jacoby Brissett will be charged with quarterbacking this team. Even though Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are gone, he has a very capable wide receiving corps that’s led by Amari Cooper. The former Dallas Cowboys wideout went for just 865 yards last season, but did tie a career-high with eight touchdowns. Just 28, he can still be one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL. If Cooper can establish a rapport with Brissett, this offense will be OK.
Nick Chubb is again going to be one of the best running backs in the NFL, the offensive line is again going to be impressive in both run and pass blocking and Myles Garrett is of course going to do his thing in rushing the passer, but Cooper being a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver will help the Browns in a big way with and without Watson.
Don’t overthink this one. The Broncos have been looking for a franchise quarterback since the Peyton Manning days, and they acquired Wilson via trade because George Paton and Co. want to win the Super Bowl. Wilson’s leadership skills and attention to detail are all his new teammates can talk about. Nathaniel Hackett is installing his offense around the veteran, and he’s been charged with unlocking this young yet talented wide receiving corps. If the Broncos thrive, it’s because of Wilson.
One of the goals for the Texans entering 2022 is to figure out if Davis Mills is the future of the franchise at the quarterback position. If he’s able to prove his worth to the front office, it’s because he found success with Cooks. The frequently-traded asset has long been one of the underrated players in the league, and Houston finally gave him the stability he’s been craving with a two-year extension signed this offseason. Last year, Cooks caught a career-high 90 passes for 1,037 yards and six touchdowns despite inconsistent quarterback play, and he had four 100-yard games. Everyone understands that the Texans aren’t competing for a Lombardi Trophy in 2022, but Cooks is again going to be a focal point on offense.
With Derrick Henry sidelined by injury, Taylor took over as the best running back in the NFL last year. The Wisconsin product led the league in rushing yards and touchdowns, but couldn’t carry the Colts to the playoffs. Indy is again trying a new quarterback with Matt Ryan, but this team won’t go anywhere if Taylor isn’t the star he was in 2021. Michael Pittman Jr. is another candidate for this team MVP award, and Indy is certainly hoping he has a career year in 2022, but Taylor is the player the Colts need to carry them this season.
Lawrence didn’t have a great rookie year, but I don’t know if anyone could have had a good rookie year with all of the drama he and the Jags had to deal with. The Clemson product ranked 17th in passing yards, 28th in passing touchdowns and tied for first in interceptions. You could see Lawrence’s play dip towards the end of the season. I felt as though he was making strides up through Week 4, but then the whole Urban Meyer-in-the-bar thing happened.
You won’t get much out of looking at his box score, but Lawrence made some impressive throws during his rookie season that showed you he’s a legitimate talent. He also clearly took it upon himself to be a leader, although he had to blindly support a coach he probably didn’t consider to be his best friend last year. With Travis Etienne back, the addition of Christian Kirk and then of course a new head coach in Doug Pederson, we should see Lawrence take a big step forward in 2022. Pederson is known for getting the most out of quarterbacks, and he’s going to game-plan around Lawrence moving forward.
Kelce turns 33 in October, but he’s stillin the NFL. Kelce recorded his sixth straight 1,000-yard campaign in 2021 — a tight end NFL record he continues to build on — and he picked up his third first-team All-Pro Selection and seventh straight Pro Bowl bid. A reason he’s going to be important in 2022 is because he’s the key weapon for Patrick Mahomes. There’s no more Tyreek Hill, and the new group consisting of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore is relatively unproven. It’s possible all of the newcomers benefit from Andy Reid’s system, but it’s also possible no one will be able to separate themselves as a true No. 1 wideout. In either case, Kelce will again be called upon to serve as both a leading receiver and security blanket.
The Raiders offense should be much better in 2022 with the addition of Davante Adams, but this team can’t be a contender unless the defense can improve upon its 25.8 points allowed per game from last year. Vegas has a new prospective dynamic duo at pass-rusher with Crosby and Chandler Jones, which could turn this defense into one of the better units in the league. Crosby signed athis offseason after he led the NFL with 101 pressures last year. He was second on the team in sacks with eight and first in tackles for loss with 13. Crosby is a rising star who has also emerged as a leader on this team. Expect another big season from him.
The AFC West got much better this offseason, but there’s considerable hype around the Chargers entering 2022. L.A. got better with the additions of Gerald Everett, J.C. Jackson, Khalil Mack and several defensive linemen, but the NFL world is excited about Herbert as well. The former Offensive Rookie of the Year finished second in passing yards last year with 5,014 and third in passing touchdowns with 38. He earned his first Pro Bowl bid and established himself as a rising star in the league.
The front office re-signed Mike Williams, drafted a new starting offensive guard in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft and improved the defense in a big way. The Chargers are building around Herbert, and they want him to again up the ante in 2022 with a playoff appearance, and possibly more.
The Dolphins were one of the big winners this offseason. We could talk about Tyreek Hill, Ced Wilson Jr. or Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, but something very underrated that Miami did this offseason was revamp the run game. The Dolphins signed three new running backs with legitimate starting experience in Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel and Raheem Mostert. They also still have Myles Gaskin, Gerrid Doaks and Salvon Ahmed. Mike McDaniel is known for his run game, so while we all want to talk about what Tua Tagovailoa will do in 2022, this run game — like his new wide receivers — are going to make life easier on the young QB.
New England Patriots- QB Mac Jones
Jones wasn’t exactly expected to be the best rookie quarterback in 2021, but he was. That doesn’t mean he will go down as the top signal-caller from last year’s class, but it does appear the Patriots have a prospective franchise quarterback. Jones went 10-7 while throwing for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while leading New England back to the postseason. The Patriots like to rely on their stable of running backs, but it was easy to see Jones was getting better as the season wore on. His wide receivers weren’t the best, but with the additions of DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton, they should be improved in 2022.
Another reason Jones is our prediction for 2022 Patriots MVP is because his teammates have seen a difference in him this offseason. Both Jonnu Smith and Jakobi Meyers have spoken about it. If the young QB can take another step forward in 2022, this fanbase will feel even more comfortable about the future.
The 2022 season feels very important for Zach Wilson. The Jets spent this offseason adding key pieces on both sides of the ball, which will give him the opportunity to prove he’s a franchise quarterback. Whether he sinks or swims, there’s one wideout that will make his life easier, and that’s Moore.
The Ole Miss product had an interesting rookie season, as it took him a handful of games before he really broke out, and then a quad injury knocked him out for the year. Moore caught seven passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns in Week 9, eight passes for 141 yards and one touchdown in Week 11 and six passes for 77 yards and one touchdown in his final game in Week 13. While Moore is 5-foot-10 on a good day, he can work on the outside or in the slot. His quick feet allow him to create separation, which means he should be a go-to player for Wilson in the short game. Garrett Wilson and Corey Davis are great wideouts as well, but if Wilson struggles with consistency or just in general, Moore is the player who should shine. He’s someone who can turn a screen into a decent gain, someone who is aware in the scramble drill and a player who can work the middle of the field well.
Pittsburgh Steelers- EDGE T.J. Watt
We aren’t sure how the Steelers’ offense will look in 2022, but expect the defense to be improved. Pittsburgh made key additions at all three levels on defense this offseason. While Stephon Tuitt retired, the Steelers added Larry Ogunjobi to replace him. Pittsburgh also added Myles Jack at inside linebacker and then Levi Wallace at cornerback. A more solid defense will allow their stars to shine, and their best player is Watt. The younger brother of J.J. Watt tied Michael Strahan’s 20-year-old record for most sacks in a single season with 22.5 last year, and made virtually every quarterback’s life tougher. He’s a big reason why the Steelers could bein 2022.
Tennessee Titans- RB Derrick Henry
Many are expecting Henry to take a step backwards in 2022, but people keep forgetting he’s not your typical running back. Henry led the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2019 and 2020, and was on pace to do so before he suffered a foot injury on Halloween. Before that season-ending injury suffered in Week 8, Henry was averaging 124.1 rushing yards per game and over one touchdown per game. He went on an absolute tear to begin the 2021 season, and still finished No. 9 in rushing with 937 yards despite missing nine games!
Henry says he’sto prove he’s the same player he was before his foot injury, and he’s going to have that opportunity as Tennessee’s go-to weapon on offense.