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Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press
The NFL offseason didn’t disappoint fans hoping to see star players find new homes. But despite all the headline-grabbing moves, we’ve yet to see how things will play out on the field.
So after sifting through every transaction and draft pick, we’re turning our focus to the season—and to teams that won’t meet expectations.
Some contending squads will bite the dust after losing key pieces or because they lack depth. Up-and-comers will fall flat because the team isn’t ready for the challenge.
Our friends at DraftKings have set team win lines and Super Bowl LVII odds. We’ll use both to gauge expectation levels.
These six teams are overrated in at least one metric. We’ll look at each of these baseline expectations and dive into why these squads won’t reach their goal in 2022.
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Jeff Lewis/Associated Press
The Arizona Cardinals are far from being considered a Super Bowl threat despite winning 11 games in 2021. Their win total is set at nine, and they have the 14th-highest odds to win the Super Bowl at +2500.
Expecting them to beat that projection and challenge for a wild card is unrealistic.
The Cardinals raced out to a 10-2 record before their season fell apart last year. Their roster is top-heavy, and it got worse in that regard after it lost edge-rusher Chandler Jones in free agency. They’ll also have to compensate for the loss of DeAndre Hopkins for the first six weeks after the league suspended him for violating its performance-enhancing drug policy.
Outside those two players, this wasn’t a bad offseason for Arizona. Trading its first-round pick for Marquise Brown added a needed deep threat at receiver. Both third-round edge-rushers Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas have great physical tools and were quality values based on predraft expectations that they could land in the second round.
However, the Cardinals’ biggest problem from 2021 wasn’t addressed because of cap limitations: their depth. They won’t be able to withstand injuries to defensive end J.J. Watt, running back Chase Edmonds or offensive lineman Rodney Hudson or any absence from quarterback Kyler Murray. The only position at which they have better depth is tight end.
Arizona may reach nine wins, but it would need excellent injury luck and a red-hot Murray. The best thing it can hope for is a favorable schedule in the six games without Hopkins. An especially hard start to the year would put extra stress on the team to deliver without one of its best players.
That pressure could be enough to knock the Cardinals out of the NFC West race before it even begins.
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Winslow Townson/Associated Press
One AFC North team is in for a rude awakening in 2022. Pinning down exactly which franchise it’ll be is difficult since the Cincinnati Bengals just made the Super Bowl and the other contenders can say they’re improved.
The team with the weakest argument appears to be the Baltimore Ravens.
The Cleveland Browns upgraded their biggest weakness from quarterback Baker Mayfield to Deshaun Watson, and Pittsburgh is hoping its change from Ben Roethlisberger to Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett brings a new energy to the beleaguered offense.
If Watson plays all season for Cleveland, the Browns will be Super Bowl contenders. Pittsburgh is also consistently pesky regardless of how well its quarterback plays.
Baltimore, with a win line of 9.5 and Super Bowl odds of +2200, also has a case it improved. The offensive line will be significantly better thanks to the return of Ronnie Stanley and additions of Tyler Linderbaum and Morgan Moses.
The defense should also benefit from a healthy Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey at cornerback. New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald must prove he’s an upgrade over his predecessor, Don Martindale, but the unit has impressive veteran talent.
Nevertheless, the Ravens look overrated when the Bengals are projected to win 10 games and Steelers are at just 7.5.
Baltimore’s decision to roll into the dead part of the offseason without a true No. 1 receiver is stunning. 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman was a good prospect but was far from a Justin Jefferson-level rookie. Trading Marquise Brown one year before he had leverage for a contract extension capped the ceiling of this offense significantly.
Although Brown had turned into more of a possession threat for Jackson than a consistent deep force, his speed was a factor in loosening up defensive fronts. Everyone within the Ravens’ passing ecosystem benefited from the threat of his speed, much like how the running backs benefit from quarterback Lamar Jackson’s gravity as a runner.
Not a single presence Baltimore can replicate Brown’s track record or skill set.
Instead, the Ravens will trot out the worst receiving corps in the NFL once again. The pressure on Jackson to dominate with a ground-heavy approach is greater than ever. Defenses will key on Greg Roman’s predictable scheme and get enough stops to keep the Ravens from reaching the potential the rest of the roster has.
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It’s possible to be overrated as a bad team. The Chicago Bears, who won six games while trying to compete with veterans in 2021, made clear steps to rebuild this offseason. The majority of the team is young and developing, as the only established starters are running back David Montgomery, edge-rusher Robert Quinn, safety Eddie Jackson and linebacker Roquan Smith.
Everyone else is being evaluated for future roles. It’s hard to imagine the Bears will reach their win-total line of 6.5 considering they took major steps backward in the short-term in order to get better in 2023 and beyond. The offense around second-year quarterback Justin Fields looks particularly concerning.
In a best-case scenario, offseason wide receiver additions Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown can be reliable targets, and Fields builds a great rapport with receiver Darnell Mooney. The offensive line is relying on Lucas Patrick to be a stopgap and 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins to be a franchise tackle.
That’s a lot of “ifs” just for Chicago to reach six wins in a tough NFC North.
Six teams have lower win-line totals than the Bears. The Jets, Jaguars and Lions took significant steps to improve this offseason. And if either Carolina or Seattle acquire Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo, they’ll take a leap in expected wins.
Chicago will be one of the four worst teams in the NFL.
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Lon Horwedel/Associated Press
With the third-highest expected win total at 11 and third-highest Super Bowl odds at +1000, the Green Bay Packers are an oddsmakers favorite despite trading star wideout Davante Adams. The only NFC team with greater expectations is Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Adams was far from the engine that made the entire team win 39 out of 49 regular-season games over the last three years. Head coach Matt LaFleur’s staff and this front office has done a phenomenal job building an elite defensive unit and getting the most out of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Factor in a mediocre NFC North, and it’s not hard to imagine the Packers hitting the over on the 11-win mark once again.
However, they are considerably overrated as Super Bowl threats. Winning regular-season games with system players who have significant limitations is easier than when competition increases and opponents are more able to force you away from your strengths. Rodgers’ only notable offensive weapon worth game-planning for is running back Aaron Jones.
Rodgers will be asked to make magic with one of the NFL’s least intriguing receiving corps. Veterans Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are non-threatening targets for any defense with talent. Rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs will get a chance to star, but it’s rare a first-year receiver is a difference-maker.
Green Bay has a great recipe for hosting home games in the playoffs, but its margin for error is tiny with its current offensive personnel. The Packers defense will be fierce for years, but they’ve overinvested into the unit at the expense of the offense.
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Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
While the 2021 offseason included many additions that helped reshape the New England Patriots’ identity and roster, this offseason had numerous key departures. The Patriots’ spending spree last year locked them into the same core until next offseason.
It’s a solid roster, but losing offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will be massive.
With a win-line total of 8.5 and Super Bowl odds at +4000, the Patriots aren’t expected to be world-beaters. But, the AFC East is ascending around New England while it has largely stood pat. It’s hard to imagine Miami Dolphins castoff receiver DeVante Parker or one of the Patriots’ draft picks turning the offense into an above-average unit.
The lack of wild cards on the roster is especially notable. The players with the most upside to beat their expectations would be 2022 second-round receiver Tyquan Thornton and 2021 third round edge-rusher Ronnie Perkins. Barring a huge return on either that helps transform the identity of either offense or defense, betting on Miami or the New York Jets to overachieve is a better option.
Where New England wins is consistency. Mac Jones isn’t a dynamic passer, and his weapons are mediocre. However, the Patriots have a high floor because of their powerful running game and Bill Belichick’s masterful defensive coaching.
That doesn’t equate to a breakout 2022, though. New England will be a pesky test for poorly coached teams, but more talented rosters with dynamic playmakers should find ways to win.
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Mark Zaleski/Associated Press
The Tennessee Titans were one of the most interesting case studies of last season. They finished 6-2 in one-score games and comfortably won the AFC South. This was despite missing star running back Derrick Henry for nine games and getting a disconcertingly bad season from aging quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
There were more unexpected setbacks beyond those, such as wide receiver Julio Jones and edge-rusher Bud Dupree contributing next to nothing despite headlining the team’s offseason acquisitions. Rookie cornerback Caleb Farley also played in just three games before he tore his ACL. Head coach Mike Vrabel absolutely earned the 2021 AP NFL Coach of the Year Award with so many setbacks.
However, his task appears to have gotten more difficult. Tennessee traded star receiver A.J. Brown for rookie Treylon Burks. The only notable veterans the team added were receiver Robert Woods, who is coming off a torn ACL, and tight end Austin Hooper.
The Titans are hoping Tannehill bounces back and Henry can carry the offense again. Turning 34 this summer, Tannehill took a sharp downward turn in 2021. His touchdown rate dropped to its lowest since his rookie season in 2012, while his interception rate swelled from 1.5 percent in 2020 to 2.6 percent.
Tannehill will need to get back to his 2019 and 2020 self for this team to be serious playoff contenders. Indianapolis got significantly better with its quarterback change from Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan. That move alone should make the Colts division favorites.
Tennessee lacks depth on both sides of the ball. If Dupree and Farley can’t contribute in a considerable way once again, the Titans will be in trouble. Their 9.5-win projection is more of a product of the AFC South being bad than this team being good.
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