NFL: Three Teams Who Could Surprise in 2022
By: Paul Connor, SportsGrid
This year’s NFL schedule features 13 teams who will play at least five primetime games. However, in this article, I want to focus on those clubs potentially overlooked by networks and have a real opportunity to surprise many when the season gets underway on September 8, 2022.
In what was one of the wildest offseasons in recent memory, here are three teams I feel are flying under the radar.
All NFL odds are courtesy of BetMGM.
Super Bowl Odds: +4000
NFC North Division Odds: +280
Coming off a disappointing 8-9 record last season, the Minnesota Vikings are poised to be the NFL’s most improved team in 2022. Minnesota rightfully moved on from head coach Mike Zimmer in the offseason, replacing him with former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. O’Connell inherits a highly-talented Vikings offense, one that features the likes of wideouts Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, running back Dalvin Cook, promising tight end Irv Smith Jr., and say what you will, but I still believe in quarterback Kirk Cousins. With reports expecting a greater shift towards the passing game, Minnesota’s offense could take a giant step forward under O’Connell’s watch.
However, the biggest improvement should come defensively, as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made several moves to address a unit that finished 30th last season. Among the notable additions were the free-agent signings of linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Jordan Hicks, defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, and the drafting of 2022 first-round safety Lewis Cine. Minnesota also re-signed cornerback Patrick Peterson and should have a fully-healthy Danielle Hunter, who has appeared in just seven games the past two seasons due to injury.
The Vikings will still have to topple their nemesis Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, but there is no denying the talent the team possesses on both sides of the ball.
New Orleans Saints
Super Bowl Odds: +4000
NFC South Division Odds: +380
Following the retirement of long-time head coach Sean Payton, the expectation was that the New Orleans Saints were headed towards a rebuild. However, the organization has made some notable moves this offseason that challenge that narrative. Offensively, New Orleans re-signed quarterback Jameis Winston to once again serve as the club’s starter, while also inking free-agent wide receiver Jarvis Landry to a one-year deal. Landry joins a revamped receiving corps that includes first-round pick Chris Olave and three-time Pro Bowler Michael Thomas, who’s expected to return after missing all of last season with a nagging ankle injury. One must also not forget the presence of superstar running back Alvin Kamara, who continues to be one of the most electrifying players in the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, New Orleans welcomed back one of its own, signing star safety and Louisiana native Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu bolsters a Saints defense that finished seventh in 2021 in total yards and should once again rank amongst the league’s best units.
Coupled with the league’s ninth-easiest schedule, the Saints have the talent to be much more competitive than originally anticipated, especially if Winston can continue to make strides in the turnover department.
New York Giants
Super Bowl Odds: +8000
NFC East Division Odds: +700
Yes, I know what you’re thinking; the Giants were a disaster last year, but hear me out. First off, I absolutely love the hiring of former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as head coach, who should do wonders for New York’s offense, particularly quarterback Daniel Jones. We all saw the impact that Daboll had on Bills QB Josh Allen, and while Jones is nowhere near as talented, Daboll’s presence should at least provide the former sixth-overall pick with his best chance of finding success.
Offensively, the G-men are not exactly lacking talent, as players such as Kenny Golladay, Saquon Barkley, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton have all flashed at times during their NFL careers. Like Jones, all Giants skills players find themselves in a much better situation with Daboll at the helm.
New York also had one of the best first-round hauls in this year’s NFL Draft, selecting offensive tackle Evan Neal and edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, who should help a defense that finished last season ranked 21st in sacks.
Playing in a division that could potentially be one of the worst in football, I believe the Giants have a realistic opportunity of going worst to first in 2022.