2022 NFL Super Bowl Outlook

Story posted September 2, 2022 in Sports by Sam Kirk

As another year of exciting football gets set to begin, here’s a look around the NFL to see which teams could have a great shot at the Lombardi Trophy in February.

Last season, two No. 4 seeds were able to reach the big game. Cincinnati came out of nowhere in the AFC, riding star quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase all the way to the Super Bowl.

The Rams, representing the NFC, were looking to return to the dance, after falling to the Patriots just two years prior in the Super Bowl. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a coach as talented as Sean McVay without a championship, and that was exactly what he earned with his star-studded roster last season.

Both Los Angeles and Cincinnati should be in the mix yet again, but let’s take a look at potential challengers from both conferences who can dethrone the Rams.

The AFC compared to last year is very interesting, to say the least. The AFC West alone might have four super bowl contenders.

The Chargers added cornerback J.C. Jackson and pass-rusher Khalil Mack, which will no doubt boost a defense that held the team back last season.

The Raiders signed wide receiver Davante Adams to a huge contract, reuniting him with his college quarterback, Derek Carr.

The Chiefs lost the “cheetah,” Tyreek Hill, but replaced him with ex-Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and rookie wideout Skyy Moore. The new-look offense may deal with some growing pains, but eventually will challenge the rest of the division.

Miami and Indianapolis are both teams to keep an eye on after making some big offseason moves.

The Dolphins added Hill, giving quarterback Tua Tagovailoa the best weapon he’s ever played with.

The Colts battled last year with quarterback Carson Wentz under center, and now will be led by a more experienced quarterback in Matt Ryan.

The AFC North, meanwhile, will not be as deadly as it has been in the past. With Deshaun Watson's suspension and Lamar Jackson’s contract disputes, this division will really be up for grabs. If Pittsburgh can shore up its offensive line and give new quarterback Mitch Trubisky time, it should be right in the playoff picture.

The NFC as a whole has a lot of teams who could sneak into the playoffs this season. The top teams are pretty set in stone; Tampa Bay, Green Bay, and Los Angeles will be the class of the conference.

Beyond those three are fringe teams like San Francisco, Dallas, Arizona and Philadelphia, who all need big seasons out of their quarterbacks to become a Super Bowl contender.

The Saints and Vikings are two potential dark horses in this conference. Quarterback Jameis Winston seems to have finally found a good fit for home and will get his top wideout Michael Thomas back after he missed last season.

For Minnesota, receiver Justin Jefferson proved to be one of the league's best players last season. He should get even more opportunities in a new pass-heavy system brought in by coach Kevin O’Connell.

For a team to stop Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Matthew Stafford, they will most likely need an MVP candidate that completely breaks out. As for who I have coming out of the NFC, I’m going to pick the San Francisco 49ers.

Coach Kyle Shanahan should have a Super Bowl win under his resume, and there is no doubt he thinks he can get that chance back with quarterback Trey Lance. If Lance makes the jump we have seen from quarterbacks like Justin Herbert, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, the 9ers will be an opponent nobody wants to play in the NFC Playoffs.

As for the AFC, for Kansas City to get back to the title game without Hill will be a challenge. Buffalo went neck-and-neck with them last season in a game that no one will forget. Quarterback Josh Allen has proved he is one of the best players in the league and has built a culture that players want to play for. Pass-rusher Von Miller will reach his second straight Super Bowl and coach Sean McDermott will finally get his big break.

Sam Kirk is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email sjk6325@psu.edu.