Predicting the 3 most likely first to worst NFL teams in 2022: Titans primed for regression
The 2022 NFL season is finally on the horizon. The marathon battle for the Lombardi Trophy begins on September 8 with a matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams. As well as projecting which teams are going to have success this fall, we can also make our predictions for which teams will regress.
With most of the offseason moves in the rearview mirror, it’s time to discuss a few teams that could take a step back in 2022. Among last season’s division winners, there are a couple primed for regression. Could these teams miss the playoffs? Let’s take a look at the teams to target before the season starts.
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The first team that I have circled for regression is the Tennessee Titans. The Titans somehow managed to beg, borrow and steal their way to the No. 1 seed last season. It was a weaker AFC and Tennessee capitalized by winning a terrible division. And while the AFC South still isn’t a juggernaut, the other 3 teams took positive strides forward in the offseason. Houston is still a work in progress, but the Texans looked to improve through the draft. Jacksonville doesn’t have to deal with Urban Meyer, so Trevor Lawrence should be much better in year 2. And the Colts improved on defense, while swapping out Carson Wentz for Matt Ryan.
Even if their division didn’t improve, the Titans got worse. Drafting Treylon Burks is a nice move, but that was after trading A.J. Brown for a subpar return. Additionally, the chatter around Ryan Tannehill this offseason hasn’t been positive and losing a major weapon won’t help matters. If Derrick Henry is anything less than brilliant, those close games Tennessee won last year will turn into losses. I like backing the Colts to win the AFC South and for this Titans team to miss the playoffs.
Best bet: Titans to miss the playoffs (-110)
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For our next team that could be in for some regression, we have the Cincinnati Bengals. I actually think the Bengals did nearly everything right this past offseason. The defending AFC champions took steps to improve their disastrous offensive line from a season ago while using the draft to focus on their secondary. The success of Joe Burrow and Cincinnati’s offense didn’t feel like a fluke to me, and all of the core pieces are still there. With that said, the Bengals were also extremely fortunate a season ago. Baltimore was ravaged by injuries, Cleveland was plagued by inconsistency and the Steelers were trying to win games without a quarterback. Things could be a little more challenging for Cincinnati in 2022.
While the strength of the AFC North could be lessened without Deshaun Watson, the Bengals’ schedule remains difficult. For starters, Cincinnati has out-of-conference road games in New Orleans, Dallas and Tampa Bay. Even outside of the division, the Bengals have games against the Bills, Chiefs, Titans and Patriots in a 6-week span. While I expect Cincinnati to contend for a playoff spot, I prefer backing a fully healthy Ravens team to win the division.
Best bet: Ravens to win the AFC North (+170)
Kansas City Chiefs
To round out our regression candidates, we have the Kansas City Chiefs. Betting against Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid has not exactly been a profitable endeavor in recent years. However, I do think this year’s Chiefs team will be tested more than any other in the Mahomes era. The loss of Tyreek Hill will be felt on offense, as Hill’s game-breaking speed was the engine behind Kansas City’s passing attack. And while Mahomes still has his security blanket in Travis Kelce, the rest of the Chiefs’ receiving corps will be seriously tested without defenses having to pay so much attention to Hill.
Another issue to consider before making a futures bet on Kansas City is the overall improvement of the AFC West. This is the best division in football with possibly the best array of quarterbacks in any division. From top to bottom, each of the 4 teams could make the playoffs, and I wouldn’t rule out a division title from any of them. In my estimation, the Chargers clearly have the most offensive firepower and took significant strides to improve their defense in the offseason. For that reason, fading Kansas City while backing the Chargers is my favorite way to bet this division.
Best bet: Chargers to win the AFC West (+240)
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