NFL teams have arrived for training camp in preparation for the 2022 season and each of them has high expectations for the year ahead. While there will be plenty of surprise NFL teams this year, a few might already be charting a path toward disappointment.
Quarterback is obviously the most important position in sports and it will impact the upcoming 2022 NFL season. However, having a high-end passer doesn’t guarantee success. If the right supporting cast isn’t in place, even the best NFL quarterbacks can struggle to meet expectations.
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As we look ahead to the 2022 season, there are a few NFL teams who stand out as candidates to fall short of expectations. While the potential outcomes vary for each club, their fan bases could feel underwhelmed by the results when the final whistle blows.
New England Patriots
Skepticism surrounding the New England Patriots in 2022 has nothing to do with quarterback Mac Jones. He showed the tools to be an above-average starter and he is stepping up as a leader who is receiving glowing praise from teammates. The concern has everything to do with what’s around the second-year quarterback.
It starts on the defensive side. After losing J.C. Jackson in free agency, there is an alarming lack of depth and proven talent at cornerback. It’s easier to hide that with a dominant pass rush but there isn’t a great edger rusher in this unit outside of Matthew Judon. If Bill Belichick’s defense can’t get home early with pressure, quarterbacks can easily exploit this secondary.
There are just as many concerns regarding the offense. While Belichick might be confident in Matt Patricia calling plays, nothing in Patricia’s background suggests he is qualified for the role. Even players are concerned about the offensive coaching staff. Combine that with a below-average cast of pass-catching weapons and this team could fall short of a .500 record.
The Washington Commanders are more confident than anyone else regarding quarterback Carson Wentz. They took a gamble on a player the Indianapolis Colts couldn’t wait to dump and multiple NFL coaches have now expressed similar frustrations from dealing with Wentz. It begs the question, why will this suddenly work in Washington?
There are a few reasons for optimism. Washington’s offensive line should hold up well, providing Wentz with time to throw to a talented cast of weapons headlined by Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. However, it’s not like the former Pro Bowl quarterback hasn’t had a great supporting cast before. Wentz’s history of poor decision-making and resisting criticism for his mistakes all suggest he will keep repeating the same mistakes.
As for Washington’s defense, it’s not a group that inspires a lot of confidence right now. The talent on the defensive line is undeniable, but much of it was still there last year. The Commanders’ secondary was one of the worst in the NFL last year and dumbfounding mistakes kept hurting this team. Given no changes were made and Jack Del Rio remains in place, it’s hard to see this being a top-20 defense. Pair that with Wentz’s erratic play and eight wins feels too optimistic.
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Betting against Mike Tomlin feels risky. Since taking over as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach in 2017, this team has never had a losing record. Posting a 154-85-2 record in 15 seasons is absurd, especially when factoring in some of the chaotic things Tomlin has gone through. While he should be viewed as one of the best coaches in his era, the state of the Steelers roster could also mean he coaches one of the most disappointing NFL teams in 2022.
The ceiling with either Kenny Pickett or Mitch Trubisky as the starting quarterback isn’t high. It’s only made worse by the fact either signal-caller will be lined up behind an offensive line ranked 30th in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. You can like the receiving corps and running back Najee Harris, but the truth is Pittsburgh is weakest at the most important positions offensively.
There also shouldn’t be a lot of optimism on the defensive side. Pittsburgh’s defensive front will create a ton of pressure, creating opportunities for sacks and takeaways. However, the Steelers are a mess at inside linebacker and there isn’t a boundary cornerback anyone can have confidence in against high-end No. 2 receivers or better. At best, this looks like an eight-win team and even that might require Tomlin to pull off a miracle.
New Orleans Saints
Projected to win at least eight games in 2022, it’s understandable why many expect the New Orleans Saints to compete for a playoff spot. The return of Michael Thomas means this will be the Saints’ best receiving corps in years and they have a top-10 defense. All of that is great on paper and it will keep games close, but there are a few red flags.
The salary cap is real and it’s why rookie Trevor Penning is starting at left tackle instead of Terron Armstead. That’s an alarming downgrade at a valuable position, especially considering left guard Andrus Peat (20.1 PFF pass-blocking grade in 2021) proved to be a turnstile last year. Even if the right side of the line is strong, opponents will have no issue collapsing the left side.
There’s also the looming Alvin Kamara suspension, which might sideline him for at least six games. Take out one of the best playmakers in the NFL and suddenly there is even more pressure on quarterback Jameis Winston in his first year without Sean Payton. If all of that isn’t enough to warrant skepticism for the Saints, this is also an alarmingly thin roster and that means things will get ugly when injuries strike.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones already put the pressure on Mike McCarthy. If this team doesn’t go on a playoff run, Sean Payton will receive phone calls from Dallas. As if coaching one of the most iconic NFL teams didn’t apply enough intensity from the hot seat, the heat is squarely under McCarthy this season.
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Dak Prescott can save the McCarthy and become a hero in Texas. If the version we saw of Prescott in the first six games shows up – 1,813 passing yards, 16-4 TD-INT ratio and 115 QB rating – this could be one of the best NFL teams in 2022. There are just a lot of ways for things to go wrong.
An inconsistent Cowboys offense likely won’t be bailed out by the defense this season. Dallas generated takeaways at a rate that is improbable to repeat and it’s not like this unit didn’t allow a ton of big plays. Regression in the turnover department and a worse pass rush mean this unit likely takes a step back this fall.
Assuming that happens and McCarthy’s mistakes hurt the offense, there’s at least a scenario where Dallas doesn’t even make the playoffs. Even if they sneak in, a first-round exit feels like destiny. If history repeats itself, the Cowboys will be among the NFL teams looking for a new coach next offseason.