With free agency in progress and the 2022 NFL Draft approaching, franchises all have a level of excitement. Some are looking to contend this season, while others just want to move in the right direction. The league is unique in that every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl each season. The NFL can be volatile, and the smallest of breaks could launch a championship run, as exemplified by the Cincinnati Bengals last season. It may be unlikely to happen again, but football is unpredictable for a reason. There is a path for all 32 teams to win Super Bowl LVII.
Today, that path is for teams in the NFC East.
For yet another season, the Cowboys are among the betting favorites to go to the Super Bowl. They have an explosive offense, led by Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb. The offensive line is still among the better units in the league, and they will have the chance to replace La’el Collins during the draft. Ezekiel Elliott may not be what he used to be, but Tony Pollard can more than make up for that. The Cowboys led the NFL in both points and yards, and they could repeat that in 2022.
Defensively, Dallas relies heavily on their stars. Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs had marvelous 2021 seasons, joining the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence. Dan Quinn returns as the defensive coordinator, so the Cowboys have continuity on their side. They might not force 34 turnovers again, but they should force plenty. If Diggs cleans up his errors, he will again be among the NFL’s elite cornerbacks.
However, the biggest strength of the team is their horrendous division. They went 6-0 in the division in 2021, and only one of those games was decided by single digits. If the Cowboys take advantage of their division, the AFC South, and NFC North, they could be well on their way to 13 or more wins. There are few games that they will not be favored in. They could end up as the NFC’s top seed, a massive advantage considering the gauntlet of wild-card teams coming from the NFC West.
The Eagles are in a unique position. With their elite ability to run the football, they have a theoretical trump card over most of the league. However, Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen could lean into the run game more with Jalen Hurts and one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. With much of the league trending toward smaller and faster defenses, the Eagles could roll to another playoff berth off the horses of a strong running game. If the dominoes fall correctly, Philly could face four poor run defenses and win their second Super Bowl.
As currently constructed, the Eagles do not have a great defense, but they have three first-round picks to address that. With some more turnover luck (26th in takeaways in 2021), the Eagles could ease the load on the defense and help out the offense. With some development from the likes of Milton Williams, the Eagles could have a middle-of-the-pack defense that impresses statistically when coupled with a ball-control offense.
The Eagles will be one of the most matchup-dependent teams in the NFL, which could leave them prone to bad losses while opening the window for them to upset better teams. If they take advantage of an easier schedule and slip into the playoffs again, they will be a tough out for several NFC contenders that have shaky run defenses. Philadelphia has a limited ceiling, but the floor could be among the best in the NFL.
With Carson Wentz in the building, the Commanders have likely expanded their range of outcomes to include the playoffs. Wentz might have his ebbs and flows, but he is capable of playing like a top-20 quarterback. The Commanders will have to overcome some of the poor decisions, but Antonio Gibson and a solid offensive line should help. Terry McLaurin is the best receiver Wentz has ever played with, and the Commanders could look to add more pieces in the draft.
The key to the Commanders’ success is the defense moving closer to 2020 form. In 2020, the Commanders finished fourth in scoring defense and second in total defense. They fell 21 and 20 spots respectively in those 2021 statistics. If they move back into the top half of the league, they could take advantage of a weak schedule and make the playoffs. The Commanders have a defensive line that can overwhelm many offensive lines, so the Commanders cannot be slept on.
While Chase Young was suffering through a sophomore slump before his untimely injury, he is one of the best defensive players in the league, and he will be a massive boost to the Commanders in 2022. Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Montez Sweat form an elite defensive front. The defensive backfield is also strong. Kendall Fuller had a stellar 2021, and the safety duo of Bobby McCain and Kamren Curl could blossom into one of the best pairs in the league. William Jackson had a shaky first season in Landover, but with an improved pass rush, he could get back to the form he flashed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
New York Giants
Moving into 2022, the Giants have the easiest schedule in the NFL based on 2021 records. Daniel Jones was reasonably competent for stretches in 2021 (71.6 PFF grade), and the Giants went off the rails with the pair of Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm pretending to be NFL quarterbacks. If Jones comes back from injury and plays at the same level, the Giants will improve from 4-13. Even in 2021, they started 4-7 with Jones before collapsing. If they flip a couple of those losses to wins and have a halfway decent end to the season, the Giants might have been the No. 7 seed rather than the Eagles.
Much of the offense lies on the shoulders of Jones and Saquon Barkley, but Brian Daboll is the key to unlocking them. Jones will have his fair share of weapons including Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and Sterling Shepard as well. The offensive line is far from special, but it has made tremendous progress in recent years. The Giants could nab two Day 1 starters for left guard and center, and they would be set with Andrew Thomas, Mark Glowinski, and Matt Peart. It is not elite, but it would be the best offensive line Jones has ever had.
The defense falls in the same category as the Commanders. If the Giants creep back to where they were in 2020, they will be significantly better. Xavier McKinney flashed like a star in 2021, and the duo of James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson has potential. Azeez Ojulari had his rookie ups and downs on the edge. The pair of Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence is strong. With a better offense, some of the defensive pressure will be alleviated.