NFL
July 13, 2022
BY Lance Cartelli

5 Bold Predictions for 2022 NFL Season

The start of the NFL season is just months away, but it's never too early to start looking ahead. 

We've pulled out our hot take machine and devised five bold predictions for the upcoming campaign. 

Let's start with where Cleveland Browns' quarterback Baker Mayfield lands. 

1. Seattle Seahawks Trade for Baker Mayfield, Win 8+ Games 

The Baker Mayfield trade talks are, as expected, heating up as we head toward the start of the training camp. The two teams most interested appear to be the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. 

The Panthers had failed trade talks with the Browns during the 2022 NFL Draft, but couldn’t quite agree to how much money Cleveland would eat of Mayfield’s hefty salary. But it’ll be the Seahawks who swoop in to steal Mayfield. 

And he’ll have success, too. 

Mayfield might not be an elite QB, but he’s absolutely a league-average passer when healthy. The Seahawks have a better than expected roster and better weapons in the passing game than the Browns had a year ago. 

Mayfield’s chip on his shoulder will be bigger than ever and it wouldnt be a surprise to see the former No. 1 pick shine in Seattle and lead the ‘Hawks to a respectable season. 

2. Pittsburgh Steelers Will Have First Losing Season in the Mike Tomlin Era

Mike Tomlin has been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach since 2007 and his team has never had a losing record, but that changes this season. 

It’s sounding more and more likely that Mitch Trubisky will be the Steelers’ Week 1 starter as rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett adapts to the NFL. 

Will Trubisky be an upgrade over the corpse of Big Ben? Possibly. But the franchise has the worst QB in an improved division, especially if Deshaun Watson isn’t suspended for the entire season. 

The defense is still great, but they’ll need to be more explosive on offense to have a winning record and compete for a playoff spot. 

3. The Jacksonville Jaguars Will Win the AFC South 

The worst team in the NFL in the last two seasons should be much better in 2022. So much so, that they could even compete for the division crown. 

If Trevor Lawrence can make a leap in Year 2 then the Jags could have the best QB in the division and a much-improved roster thanks to Jacksonville’s ill-advised spending spree. 

With upgrades on both sides of the ball, the Jaguars should take a big step under Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson, too. 

It’s not like the AFC South is stacked like their AFC West counterparts, either. 

The Titans could take a step back without A.J. Brown while the Texans are still rebuilding. The Jags’ biggest competition is the Colts, who should be the favorites. But Matt Ryan isn’t getting any younger and Darius Leonard is recovering from back surgery so there’s clearly an opportunity if the Jags put it all together. 

4. Sean Payton is Hired to Replace Mike McCarthy … by Midseason 

The Cowboys’ Super Bowl window is closing fast. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t been able to elevate a roster with blue-chip talent on both sides of the ball while their NFC East rivals all improved this offseason. 

Dallas’ previous mistakes — extending Ezekiel Elliott, waiting to pay Dak Prescott, hiring McCarthy — are all coming back to bite Big D in the, ahem, D. 

The Jones family could reach their breaking point this season. They certainly won’t fire themselves, so McCarthy could easily be the scapegoat.

There just so happens to be the perfect candidate to replace McCarthy on the market. Sean Payton, who earned his stripes as an assistant coach for the Cowboys, left the Saints for big TV money, but there’s little doubt he’ll get the itch to return. 

In fact, he almost coached Tom Brady and the Dolphins this year.

If the Cowboys start slow, then we could see heads roll early. Will the Joneses wait until the offseason to hire Payton? Not according to my bold prediction. They’ll have Payton in place by midseason.  

5. This Will Be Tom Brady's Final Year with the Buccaneers, But Not His Last in the NFL 

Speaking of the foiled Tom Brady to the Dolphins plan, it’s pretty obvious that the G.O.A.T. didn’t want to return to Tampa Bay. But due to his contract status and the Bucs’ unwillingness to trade Brady, he’s back for another run at the title instead of retiring. 

That sets up with most people believe is his final season in the league, but Brady will be a free agent in the offseason and the team that nearly traded for him could have a big opening under center. 

If the Tua Tagovailoa can’t emerge under new coach Mike McDaniel, we could see Brady take his talents to South Beach for the twilight of his career. 

Photo: Getty Images