Only 20 of the 32 current franchises in the NFL have a Super Bowl victory on their resume. The remaining 12 teams are a mixed bag, to say the least. In this exercise, I will break them down into three separate tiers: “not happening”, “potential playoff teams”, and “legitimate Super Bowl threats”. The premise is pretty straightforward, so let’s get things rolling!
Not Happening in 2022
-The Atlanta Falcons enter 2022 in full rebuild mode. Fans have watched the franchise slowly move on from a core that won 120 games with Matt Ryan at the helm. The final nail in the coffin, so to speak, was the trade that sent Matty Ice to Indianapolis in March. Calvin Ridley was suspended earlier this offseason, and star linebacker Deion Jones is out until the preseason. Marcus Mariota will try his best, but it’s hard to see this roster winning more than 6 games without an all time effort from their rookie class.
-The Houston Texans are another team that traded their franchise quarterback a few months ago, albeit under entirely different circumstances. Regardless, we got a glimpse of what the Texans looked like without Deshaun Watson in 2022, and it wasn’t pretty. Davis Mills did show flashes as the starter, and general manager Nick Caserio did a great job of adding talent at this years NFL Draft. That being said, there’s still a long way to go before the Texans compete for a Super Bowl. Now that they are clear of Watson, fans can finally begin looking forward to the future.
-The Jacksonville Jaguars have been shrouded in controversy ever since the Urban Meyer hire in the 2021 NFL offseason. The signing immediately caused a stir among fans, for a myriad of reasons. After a summer of alienating his players and a slew of in-season distractions, Meyer was fired on December 16th, following a 2-11 start. The front office, led by the polarizing Trent Baalke, continued to look like a clown show this offseason.
Byron Leftwich seemed to be the guy, but reports began to surface that he didn’t trust the leadership in place in Jacksonville. Somehow, the Jags backed their way into a great coach anyway. Doug Pedersen as a Super Bowl pedigree and will do wonders for Trevor Lawrence’s development. Due to the uncertainty above the duo, and a stacked conference, I remain reluctant to get overly optimistic for their chances at contending for a championship in the near future.
-The Detroit Lions were more competitive in 2021 than their record indicates, but even after a great draft class, there is still a ways to go in the rebuild. Jared Goff looked more than serviceable as the placeholder, so much so that the franchise didn’t feel the need to dip into this years pool of rookie quarterbacks. Assuming that Jameson Williams returns to form, the Lions have a dynamic cast of weapons on offense. If Jeff Okudah finds his footing in this league, he and his former collegiate rival — Aidan Hutchinson — serve as great building blocks for the defense. Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell are doing a phenomenal job of trusting the process and building a culture. They are a bit farther along in the rebuild than the previously mentioned teams, but still are in the 6-7 win range, making it unlikely that they win a Super Bowl, let alone make the playoffs.
-The Carolina Panthers are in a weird spot right now. As of this post, their quarterback room consists of Sam Darnold, PJ Walker, and 2022 third-round pick Matt Corral. That is why they find themselves in this tier. Carolina has some real talent on the roster, but injuries have been as much of a detriment as poor QB play the last few seasons. Superstar running back Christian McCaffery has only appeared in 10 games since 2019 and 2021 first-rounder Jaycee Horn missed a majority of his rookie season with a knee injury. In a perfect world, where both of those guys play a full 17 game schedule, could put them in playoff contention. DJ Moore, Jeremy Chinn and Brian Burns are all studs.
First-round pick Ikem Ekwonu looks to be a franchise left tackle that the team has been searching far and wide for. If they trade for Jimmy Garappolo and Baker Mayfield, I’d be willing to push them into the next tier.