Six NFL teams that could come as a surprise in 2022 – for better or for worse

With two weeks of preseason action in the books, things are starting to take shape in the NFL – positive for some, and rather sinister for others.

Every year, it seems like several teams pop up out of the blue and push themselves into compliance. In the meantime, it’s not uncommon to see the frontrunners slipping and falling behind expectations.

This year the numbers will be no different. Currently, many in the league believe teams like the Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles have a chance to progress after buying big names in the off-season. Meanwhile, there is some degree of concern that the departure of Tyreek Hill and the simultaneous development of AFC West rivals could threaten the Kansas City Chiefs’ six-year reign in their division.

But each year seems to offer a few surprises. A few smart moves and a few chances will put a team or two on the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals track. Meanwhile, misfortunes can derail anticipated contestants.

Here’s a look at three teams that have a chance to become surprise threats, and three other teams that could be led into unexpectedly disappointing campaigns.

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NFL teams that can make surprising swings

carolina panthers

Matt Rhule needs this to happen worst, and Baker Mayfield is the Cleveland Browns’ 2018 No. Mayfield has always had a chip on his shoulder, but his motivation seems to be running stronger than ever. He wants to prove the Browns got it wrong, and now that he’s healthy, he can help a team fight.

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In addition to increased confidence and decision-making ability as a quarterback, he can provide an edge the Panthers need. Carolina definitely has guns on the offensive (Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr.), but the unit needs to stay healthy and have the right facilitator to give them a shot. As the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints each start again as quarterback and navigate uncertain territory as head coach (Atlanta’s Arthur Smith is still finding their way into Year 2, and former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is in New Orleans’ Sean Payton’s). s), the door is open for a wildcard bid chase after Carolina’s three consecutive double-digit loss seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Things can’t get any worse than last year’s dysfunctional 3-14 campaign under Urban Meyer. And after the hiring of Doug Pederson as head coach and a postseason devoted to building a much more complete team through the free agent roster and draft, the prospects for Jacksonville to make a dramatic leap forward look good.

Pederson and quarterback coach Mike McCoy should be very helpful to 2021 top pick Trevor Lawrence, who seems to have frequently lost in 12 goals, 17 interception campaigns last season. A raised line should also aid the quarterback’s comfort level. As members of the AFC South – the Titans have been revamped to some extent, the Colts are still trying to put everything together, and the Texans’ destiny looks set to be one of the top picks of the 2023 draft – the Jaguars have a sunny look.

Elandon Roberts, number 52 of the Miami Dolphins (right), celebrates with Miami Dolphins number 40 teammate Nik Needham in the first quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on August 20, 2022.

Miami Dolphins

After the controversial end of the Brian Flores era, Dolphins officials followed the lead of the young, creative offensive coordinator, appointing former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel as head coach. The Dolphins hope Kyle Shanahan’s right-hand man can save Tua Tagovailoa’s career and put the quarterback in their top five picks of 2020.

McDaniel operates a playmaker-friendly system, and investments in Tagovailoa’s supporting staff should also make life easier for the young quarterback. If the Dolphins can put up a prolific offense matched by an already skilled defense, Miami could find itself in the middle of things for the rest of the season. The dolphins of course have two formidable AFC Eastern foes to worry about (the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots Patriots). But a suspected offensive staff member in New England could prepare the Dolphins for this surprise nomination by sparking fights for Mac Jones in Year 2.

NFL teams that could disappoint

Tampa Bay Pirates

Tom Brady’s absence mid-camp was odd, but that’s not the most relevant element of the preseason for Tampa Bay. This will be the breakup of the offensive line. Between the off-season exits of Guard Ali Marpet (retired) and Alex Cappa (free agent) and the rash of injuries that began as Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen began tackles with offensive guard Aaron Stinnie and All-Pro’s Tristan Wirfs, the Bucs are on red alert . Brady, who turned 45 earlier this month, is known for his fast-paced output and pocket presence, but a patchwork streak means he may find himself under the most pressure he’s had in a while and run once again in a Super Bowl. Impossible for Tampa Bay.

Green Bay wrappers

The Packers resolved longstanding uncertainty over their alliance with Aaron Rodgers, but after making their quarterback the NFL’s highest paid player, they lost to their top targets Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The revamped and young receiving unit has struggled greatly this pre-season and has even drawn public criticism from Rodgers.

The Packers have dominated three regular seasons under Matt FlaFleur (go 39-10 and win the league each year), but have been short after each season. However, with a lack of proven and reliable targets, they can engage in some offensive combat. As Rodgers and Co. have spent the last 12 seasons futilely trying to get back to the Super Bowl, the lack of continuity and cohesion of potential growing paints this year can be costly, especially late in the season and post-season.

Tennessee Titans

Did the Titans’ best shot in a Super Bowl appearance slip through your fingers in a division-round loss to Cincinnati last winter? This could certainly be so. Gone is Ryan Tannehill’s best offensive gun on wide receiver AJ Brown. Another leading wide shot, Julio Jones, also left off this season. Salary cap restrictions made it harder for Titans to reload. Workhorse is back Derrick Henry missed nine games after breaking a bone in his foot last season, and it’s hard not to wonder when all those miles he’s logged will catch up with him.

After two AFC South titles in a row and three consecutive playoff games, the Titans must prepare to exit Jacksonville and Indianapolis. It’s been a long season, but it looks like the Titans’ window of opportunity is closing.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

This article was originally published on USA TODAY: NFL surprise teams: Can the Dolphins defy luck at Panthers 2022?

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