Ross Jacobs reviews the 2022 Faux Season projections (Weeks 7-9)
--Our differing opinions on certain teams are starting to show up. Everyone has Buffalo and Miami with winning records, but I am the lone analyst against the Patriots and Chris is alone with the Jets at 5-4 (RC has them 4-5).
I understand the hype around the Jets but I believe it's a little overblown, especially their most recent draft class. They added a great corner true, but their other first round picks were a fairly generic, solid WR and a solid edge rusher. Those guys aren't making the team that much better. The team won 4 games last year. How are they 3-4-5 wins better than that now?
As for the Patriots, I championed them last year after their worst season in quite some time. They spent a ton of money in free agency to drastically shore up many of their weaknesses. They were clearly a better team than they were in 2020. This year I don't see any improvement. For every good player they added they lost another good player at the same position. They are treading water. Now I don't think they are bad, but the early schedule isn't easy either. The only two teams they are clearly better than are the Jets and Bears in weeks 7 and 8. Pitt and Detroit are close enough that they aren't gimmes. Every other team is just better than the Pats. I don't see a 6-3 record coming from that unless Mac Jones takes a big step forward this year. 4-5 seems reasonable though.
--The group has BIG differences of opinion in the AFC North.
Everyone likes the Bengals but I personally think the Cincy love is getting a little out of hand. They were a good, not great team last year and happened to go on a somewhat lucky run in the playoffs. Seems a little premature to assume that they are going to suddenly show that same level of consistency just because they did it in the playoffs. Recency bias.
RC and Xavier don't like the Ravens while Chris and I think they are right in the mix with the Bengals.
The group really seems to hate the Steelers this year. I understand the reasons why...I don't love them either as we'll see, but are they really one of the worst 4-5 teams in the league? The schedule is quite rough and I would probably drop them down a win or possibly two if I could redo it, but I have a hard time seeing them go 0-8 or 1-7.
Xavier is still the lone champion for the Browns at this point because he doesn't think Watson will get suspended (or didn't project it). I think we would all have them with a winning record if so.
--Everything looks fairly regular in the AFC South except for me. I have Indy with a massive 4 game lead (I really like Indy this year) over the Titans who are mired at 3-5. That's another one I would probably give an extra win if given the chance. 3-5 could happen though. It's a tough schedule and the Titans are worse than they were last year.
--RC and Chris are big fans of the Chargers and Broncos apparently. Xavier hates the Broncos. Not sure why. 2-6 seems wild for a Russell Wilson led team. We all think the Raiders are average. And opinions are mixed about how the Chiefs handle a hard schedule.
--Pretty normal views on the NFC East for everyone. Mostly Philly and Dallas leading the way. Chris is the most aggressive with their records. I'm not convinced either team is good enough to only have a loss or two. RC and I think Washington will be in the mix. Xavier and Chris do not.
--The group likes Green Bay in the NFC North with the Vikings not far behind. A certain Vikings fan in the group has it flipped....
RC and I both like Detroit to keep themselves in the mix. They look like a greatly improved team and they already weren't as bad last year as their record showed. That team has some fight in them.
--The consensus in the NFC South is Tampa-New Orleans-Atlanta-Carolina in that order. The only thing I disagree with is Atlanta over the Panthers. I don't care how bad Sam Darnold is. The Falcons have a weak looking team. They've been stripped to the bone of talent. At least the Panthers have a decent defense.
--We're also mostly on the same page with the NFC West. Mostly the Rams with a slight lead over the 49'ers, then the Cardinals close behind SF and finally Seattle bringing up the rear. Chris is very down on Seattle at 0-9. I'm not sure I can go that extreme, but certainly 1-8 or 2-7 is very possible. They look like one of the worst teams in the league for sure. It's just dumb luck that they are 3-6 for me.
Interestingly Chris has the 49'ers with a slight lead in the West at this point and I have to say that looking at it now I'm starting to agree. The Rams didn't really improve from last year and even though they won the Superbowl it's hard to argue they were one of the best 2-3 teams. They felt more in the 5-6 range, very close to the 49'ers who beat them twice.
SF on the other hand did get better this off-season. They added Charvarius Ward to the defense and I simply do not think there's any way that Trey Lance isn't better than Garoppolo. I get why everyone is panicking thinking he's going to be inconsistent and that's certainly possible, but have we forgotten how bad Garoppolo can be? He single-handedly lost a few games because of stupid mistakes. He's not particularly accurate, can't throw deep, and Shanahan clearly didn't trust him.
In what world is Trey Lance going to be worse than that? He has to be better almost by default. If so then I might have just been a year early on my SF love. I think it's definitely on the table for them to be leading the division at the halfway mark, even if only because they have an easier schedule than the Rams.
I reviewed last season's early projections to see if I could find any patterns that might help us when reviewing the 2022 projections. Here's what I found.
--Xavier is now the most accurate in the AFC East. The rest of us were too high on the Bills and Patriots (RC had the Patriots correct). Xavier was a little high on Miami but that's all. Lesson learned? Projecting one or two teams to run away with a division, especially when they didn't do it the year before, is asking for trouble. The Bengals and Chargers come to mind in our 2022 projections.
--RC is the obvious leader in the AFC North. He had it almost spot on. The rest of us were too high on the Ravens and Browns. Ditto what I said above. I really think we should consider rolling back our expectations for the Bengals and Chargers (and I personally should watch my Indy love).
--Xavier is leading in the AFC South. The entire group was far, far too low on the Titans. Are we underrating them again in 2022? Or maybe the Raiders??
--Xavier also led the AFC West at this point. The rest of us were much too optimistic on the Chiefs’ chances in a tough division. I was far too hard on the Chargers although I remember it was due to schedule, not my assessment of their strength. I had them gaining wins late in the season.
--In the NFC East I was closest at this point, quite close surprisingly. I had Dallas with an early lead and the other three teams with losing records. RC and Chris were too high on Washington and Xavier was too high on the Giants. Nothing egregious though.
--Xavier led in the NFC North but RC and I weren't far off. We all were a tad low on the Packers. Again a certain Vikings fan was delusional about the Packers, Bears, and Vikings...we'll have to see what he does the rest of the 2022 season with this division.
--As a group we did a pretty good job with the NFC South. RC was closest but the rest of us weren't too far off, maybe a little too positive on the Bucs. Chris was very down on the Falcons and Xavier down on the Panthers (I think he is in his 2022 projections too. Darnold is bad but not so bad that they can't win games).
--We all missed fairly badly on the NFC West. Some of that had to do with Russell Wilson's injury, but none of us saw the hot start from the Cardinals coming. Chris was the only one onto the Rams as a very good team. I was much, much too high on the 49'ers at that point.
--The biggest thing I'm learning from this review of last year is that predicting too many teams to go unbeaten or have a single loss is foolhardy. The league has so much parity these days that it's very difficult to stand out. The best teams and average teams aren't really that far off and even the worst teams can compete fairly well. Early in the season injuries haven't taken their toll either so the parity is even greater. Staying healthy is a huge part of final records each year and tends to get overlooked.