With the NFL season creeping up on us, it’s time to look at the teams that could win each division. TWSN analysts Matt Levine and Marissa Myers pick their 2022 division winners and give some breakdown as to why:
Matt: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-The Buccaneers may be the best overall team in the NFL. They have Tom Brady back into the fold and he seems on a mission to win another Super Bowl after coming up short a year ago. They added in some extra talent on the offensive side of the ball including Kyle Rudolph and Julio Jones, which will help an already explosive offense. The key for Tampa Bay is health but if they can stay healthy, they will be a force to be reckoned with. Their defense will also be somewhat of a question mark, but they have overcome this, and I expect them to do so again. They still have some of the better linebackers in the league paired together so the defense will be anchored by them. In the division, the Saints pose the only real threat and while it’s fair to say that Tampa has yet to beat New Orleans in the regular season with Brady, I think the trend gets broken this season. Give me the Buccaneers to win this division once again.
Marissa: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-With Tom Brady back after a very short-lived retirement, the offense will be able to stay consistent with what it was last season. The offense has a good supporting cast, starting with the run game Leonard Fournette is back to be the workhorse, and they have a new receiving back that they drafted in Rachaad White. For the receiving portion, it is a dominant group that features Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, and newly signed Julio Jones. The main concern with the Buccaneers is their pass defense. Jordan Whitehead is now on the New York Jets, and while they still have Carlton Davis III, and Sean Murphy-Bunting both missed time last season with injuries. The strongest portion of the defense will continue to be the linebacking group that consists of Devin White and Lavonte David. The team most likely to compete with the Buccaneers is the New Orleans Saints that Brady is yet to beat in his regular-season career as a Buccaneer. All in all though, the Buccaneers are the most complete team, and as long as the defense can stay healthy they should be the favorites to win the division.
Matt: Washington Commanders
The Eagles are a trendy pick within this division but until Jalen Hurts proves that he can win the big games, I’m not leaning on that. Something just feels like the Commanders will break through and win the division this season behind new quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz has a familiarity with the di vision after spending time with the Eagles earlier in his career. He gives this team some stability at the positions, something they have lacked in recent years. If Wentz can even be somewhat steady for them, they will have a great chance to win this division. I believe that their strong defense will bounce back from a poor showing a season ago as well. They still throw out one of the best defensive lines in all of football and will be a problem for opponents. The Cowboys got worse over the offseason and the Giants still likely won’t be able to compete at a high level so for me it’s the Eagles or Commanders. Give me Ron Rivera and Washington to come out on top this season.
Marissa: Philadelphia Eagles
As a first-year head coach, Nick Sirianni was able to help lead this Eagles team to the playoffs with a 9-8 record. This was also in Jalen Hurts’ first year as a full-time starter, now he will have that experience under his belt and an improved supporting cast as well. In addition to DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins, the Eagles now have A.J. Brown. Hurts will be able to keep defenses honest with his rushing ability, and he has reliable running backs as well. While Miles Sanders missed some time last year he still had a 754-yard season. There is also Kenneth Gainwell who showed his elusiveness both as a runner and pass catcher out of the backfield. A huge area they needed to improve was their defense which struggled to get to the quarterback and allowed a league-high 69.4% completion percentage. So, they added to their front seven with Haason Reddick in free agency and Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean in the NFL Draft. To help out Darius Slay on the backend, the Eagles ended up signing James Bradberry. If everything comes together with an improved pass rush and Hurts taking the next step in his development, the Eagles should be in good shape to win the division.
Matt: Los Angeles Rams
The Super Bowl champions will be looking to repeat as both league champions and division champions. They bring back almost entirely the roster that won the Super Bowl last season and added some pieces as well. Allen Robinson comes over to help with the receiving core and creates a strong duo with superstar Cooper Kupp. They brought in linebacker Bobby Wagner to help with the defense, and he should be motivated to prove that he isn’t washed up just yet. This team is experienced and can now rely on the fact that quarterback Matthew Stafford can win the big games. He looked good during their playoff run a year ago and will be another main key again this season. Los Angeles had been missing stable quarterback play for years and the first year they got it, they won the Super Bowl. San Francisco and Arizona will give the Rams a run for their money, but the Rams come out on top in the division once again.
Marissa: San Francisco 49ers
If there is any team that is going to contend with the Los Angeles Rams for the division it is the San Francisco 49ers. Expecting a huge year from Trey Lance in his first year as a starter may be a lot, but in a Kyle Shanahan offense, he should be able to excel right away. With a first-time starting quarterback having a reliable run game is key and the 49ers have that. With breakout star Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, Kyle Juszczyk, and Tyrion Davis-Price there are plenty of options. In the receiving game there is still Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk as well. The 49ers had the third-best defense in the NFL last season despite allowing the third highest completion percentage of 68.3% and the third-fewest defended passes with 55. The secondary is solid with Jimmie Ward back and dependable players in Emmanuel Moseley and Charvarius Ward. Luckily for the secondary, the 49ers have one of the more dominant front-sevens in the NFL. With players like Nick Bosa, rookie Drake Jackson, Arik Armstead, Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and Azeez Al-Shaair. This 49ers team has some of the best players at their position, and if Lance can elevate the offense with his talent, they are in a prime spot to take the NFC West.
Matt: Green Bay Packers
The Packers enter the season in a weird spot. They still have Aaron Rodgers but lost Devante Adams during the offseason. The wide receiving core is a bit of a question mark but with Rodgers, you can never count them out. The defense should be better with their offseason additions and draft picks as well. After a disappointing end to the season last year, the Packers will be out to try and make another run towards a Super Bowl with Rodgers under center. The division will be better as the Vikings pose a strong threat to them and the Bears and Lions both will be tougher wins. However, Rodgers is the best quarterback in the division, if not league, and will help Green Bay grab another division title.
Marissa: Minnesota Vikings
Out with the old school and in with the new school is what the Vikings did this offseason. Mike Zimmer is no longer the head coach and instead, it is an offensive-minded one in Kevin O’Connell who is coming from the Los Angeles Rams. With the system that the Vikings will be running this should get the best out of Kirk Cousins this year. This offense has the supporting cast to help as well with star wide receiver Justin Jefferson along with Adam Thielen if he can stay healthy. There is also K.J. Osborn who made an impact as a rookie with 655 yards and seven touchdowns. With this new offense, they will also be running a more mid-zone scheme but Dalvin Cook will still be able to excel. The defense will be different as well. Instead of a 4-3 scheme, they will be running more of a 3-4 scheme. The Vikings were able to generate a pass rush last season as they had 187 pressures and turned those into 51 sacks. Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith form a great duo to keep generating that pressure in 2022. The Vikings also needed help in the secondary and got that by drafting Andrew Booth Jr. and Lewis Cine. With the Green Bay Packers losing talent as they did, it should allow the Vikings to sneak past them and win the division.