Loaded with Future Hall of Famers, the 2022 NFL Season Will Be One for the Ages | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Thursday will mark the unofficial start of the 2022 NFL preseason when the Las Vegas Raiders take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Week 1 of the preseason will open August 11, and the regular season will kick off September 8.

In just over a month, what might be the most thrilling NFL season in recent memory will begin.

Recent years have brought plenty of excitement to the league. Patrick Mahomes cashed in with his first Super Bowl win three years ago. Tom Brady won his record seventh in 2020, and the upstart Cincinnati Bengals nearly won their first in 2021—instead, the Los Angeles Rams lifted the Lombardi Trophy in their first season with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Yet, there are multiple reasons the 2022 season could top everything we’ve seen in recent years.

This May Be the Most Talented NFL We’ve Ever Seen

Aaron Donald is one of several future Hall of Famers we’ll see in 2022. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Brady created a huge reason to tune into the NFL in 2022 when he decided to unretire earlier this offseason. The 45-year-old (happy birthday, Tom!) is set to give fans a potential swan song.

Brady insists that talented players haven’t flocked to Tampa in order to play with him.

“Guys choose this team because of the team, not because of me,” Brady said, per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.

With all due respect to Brady—and yes, the Bucs are talented—some players have undoubtedly joined Tampa to play with the GOAT. His commitment to greatness has a certain magnetism, and while not every fan may like Brady, he remains one of the game’s biggest draws.

And he is far from the only future Hall of Famer who will take the field in 2022.

Stars such as Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Donald and Von Miller are virtual locks to land in Canton. TJ Watt, Russell Wilson, Justin Tucker and Travis Kelce are on their way. Then, we have a crop of young, rising stars—one that includes Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen—that is quite likely to produce a Hall of Famer or three.

The reality is that the NFL isn’t what it used to be, and we’re not talking about rules changes or a surge in offensive production. Players go through better training regimens, better dietary programs and more advanced learning than ever.

As a result, we’re seeing guys like Brady playing longer and rookies becoming instant stars.

Consider that a 44-year-old Brady threw for a league-high 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns last season. New England Patriots rookie Mac Jones, 23, threw for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns while joining Brady with a Pro Bowl nod.

Faster starts, longer careers and an emphasis on peak physical conditioning have caused a significant overlap in “generational” players. The result is a leaguewide roster that boasts more talent from top to bottom than we’ve ever seen.

Fans can turn on just about any game in the coming season and see good quality football and highlight-reel plays. Not only is the NFL bigger than it’s ever been, it’s also better.

So many good quarterbacks

Justin Herbert is only one of many Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks we’ll see this season. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

No position is more important than quarterback. Signal-callers handle the ball on every offensive snap, serve as faces of franchises and, more often than not, dictate a team’s potential to win a championship.

Nowhere is the NFL’s glut of talent more apparent than at this position. No, there still aren’t enough high-end starters to man all 32 franchises, but the league is getting close.

Let’s take a quick spin around the NFL for context. Just before the draft, Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport ranked all 32 quarterback situations heading into 2022. Aforementioned Pro Bowler Jones and the Patriots ranked only 19th.

New England had a Pro Bowl quarterback last season, and 18 franchises were deemed to have better QB situations.

Teams ranked below the Patriots include the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Chicago Bears. Each of these five teams features a recent first-round pick—Trey Lance, Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields, respectively—who is still unproven but who has the potential to be great.

Even if players such as Lawrence and Fields aren’t spectacular in 2022, their continued development will be a lot of fun to watch.

In the mix are potential comebacks from Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the first and second picks in the 2015 draft, respectively. Neither succeeded with his original franchise, but both are young enough at 28 to revitalize their careers this season—Winston at the helm of a very strong New Orleans Saints roster, Mariota with the Atlanta Falcons.

Mitch Trubisky could also make noise in a rebound effort with the Pittsburgh Steelers. If he can’t, he’ll open the door for the only quarterback drafted in April’s first round, Kenny Pickett.

While not every quarterback matchup will feature two elite passers, most will bring interest and intrigue.

The Playoff Races Will Be Something Special

Will the defending AFC champion Bengals hold off the rest of the AFC North in 2022? (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

If the 2022 season is going to be historically great, it will have to generate excitement from Week 1 to Week 18.

Early-season exhilaration isn’t difficult to create. Fans have been longing for football for months and will be happy just to see their favorite teams and players take the field. Late-season interest, however, hinges on engrossing storylines and tight playoff races.

This year’s campaign is likely to provide both.

Part of the drama will stem from last year’s expansion to a 17-game schedule and the 2020 expansion to 14 playoff teams. With only one first-round bye at stake and an extra playoff spot in each conference, races are decided far later in the season than in previous years.

Consider the fact that Jacksonville, which finished with the league’s worst record in 2021, wasn’t officially eliminated until Week 14. The Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints were all eliminated in Week 18.

And let’s not forget the regular-season finale between the Raiders and the Chargers, a game that went to overtime, nearly ended in a tie that would have sent both franchises to the playoffs.

“Week 18 was a damn treat,” The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman wrote.

In addition, we’re going to have some tight divisional races in 2022.

The defending AFC champion Bengals will have to fend off the perennial playoff contender Pittsburgh and the Ravens, who should have a healthy Jackson back under center after he suffered an ankle injury late last season. In the AFC South, last year’s top-seeded Tennessee Titans will vie with the Colts, who added quarterback Matt Ryan in the offseason.

In the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills and Patriots were both playoff teams in 2021. The Dolphins were a nine-win squad and added star receiver Tyreek Hill in the offseason.

Over in the NFC West, the Rams, 49ers and Arizona Cardinals all made the postseason a year ago. The AFC’s counterpart could put four teams in the playoffs this year.

Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs remain the ones to beat in the AFC West, but the division’s other three squads loaded up on talent in the offseason. The Broncos added Wilson, the Raiders added Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, while the Chargers added JC Jackson and Khalil Mack.

When tasked with predicting division winners for 2022, Bleacher Report’s panel of NFL experts had only two consensus picks—the Bills in the AFC East and the Bucs in the NFC South.

With the NFL placing an emphasis on late-season divisional games, there’s a whole lot that won’t be decided until the final month.

The Schedule Is Impressive

The Rams and Bills will kick off the season Sept. 8. AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

We’ve established that playoff races will continue to generate excitement throughout the year and that great players and matchups won’t be difficult to find. If fans are looking to catch the best of the best, though? Well, they’re going to have an easy time of it.

Here’s where we give due recognition to the NFL’s schedule-makers. Fans will always gravitate toward their favorite teams on Sunday afternoons, but the league’s slate of prime-time and nationally televised matchups is fantastic.

On the Monday Night Football schedule, fans will be treated to some wonderful games. Wilson will take on his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, in Week 1; the Bills and Titans will do battle in Week 2; and the Rams will face the rival 49ers—who beat them twice in the regular season last year—in Week 4.

Other Monday night games include the Rams vs the Green Bay Packers, the Steelers vs the Colts and the Saints vs the Buccaneers. The Bengals and the Bills will cap the MNF schedule in a game that will have serious playoff implications.

the Sunday Night Football schedule may be even better. Beginning with the Rams and Bills (on Thursday night) to open the season, the slate is loaded with potential postseason previews.

The Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys will face off in Week 1, the Buccaneers and Chiefs will do battle in Week 4, and the Bengals and Ravens will clash in Week 5. Other games on the SNSF schedule include Chiefs-Titans, Chargers-49ers, Bengals-Steelers, Packers-Eagles and Rams-Chargers (subject to late-season flexing).

Even the Thursday Night Football lineup—long a wasteland of subpar games and a way to shoehorn bad teams into prime time—is impressive. It will feature matchups such as Chargers-Chiefs, Bengals-Dolphins, Buccaneers-Ravens, Titans-Packers, Raiders-Rams and Cowboys-Titans.

The league has done a tremendous job of ensuring that fans will get meaningful NFL action multiple days each week, which greatly reduces the risk of oversaturation.

With a great schedule, games that will matter, deep, skilled rosters across the league, loads of quality quarterbacks and a slew of eventual Hall of Famers, the NFL is primed for a potentially historic season. It’s one that will feature sustainably satisfying intrigue and create moments and memories that linger for years to come.

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